Top Marlins prospect Fernandez dazzles in debut
Righty enters in relief, throws two scoreless frames in first Grapefruit League game
VIERA, Fla. -- Even in an unfamiliar role Saturday, Marlins top prospect Jose Fernandez was as sharp as ever.
The powerful young right-hander cruised through two innings of work against the Nationals, recording two strikeouts and allowing just one single. All of Fernandez's 25 appearances last year were starts, but pitching the sixth and seventh innings of Miami's split-squad game in Viera didn't faze him much.
"I was asking, 'When do I warm up? Can I warm up now? Can i get ready now?'" Fernandez said. "But it's not a big deal. Just another step of the way."
Fernandez, ranked as the Marlins' No. 1 prospect and No. 7 overall in all of baseball, induced groundnuts from Chris Snyder and Corey Brown, and struck out Carlos Rivero looking with a sharp curveball in the sixth. Fernandez struck out Micah Owings in the seventh before Carlos Maldonado singled. That was the only damage against the young righty.
"I was thinking about going out there, keeping the ball low, throwing a lot of strikes," Fernandez said. "Obviously, that's a very good team that we're facing."
Fernandez, 20, was the Marlins' first-round pick (14th overall) in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, and split last season between low Class A Greensboro and high Class A Jupiter. He went 14-1 with a 1.75 ERA overall in 25 starts (134 innings), averaging 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings and leading the Minors in WHIP (0.93), finishing second in ERA and fourth in batting average against (.191).
"He's really pitched the ball well this spring," said bench coach Rob Leary, who made the trip to Viera. "He's got a lot of poise, and a guy that attacks the zone. He showed you again today with two really good innings. We really like where he's at right now. He's really coming along real well."
Turner takes step in right direction for Marlins
JUPITER, Fla. -- Roughed up by the Cardinals nine days ago, Jacob Turner was back on the mound Saturday looking to find his stride.
The 6-foot-5 right-hander took a step in the right direction, throwing three scoreless innings against St. Louis in Miami's 2-0 loss at Roger Dean Stadium.
Getting Turner going is huge for the upstart Marlins, who are counting on the 21-year-old to solidify a rotation spot.
Until Saturday's solid, 49-pitch performance, there were some questions. On Feb. 28, Turner was tagged for six runs (five earned) in one-third of an inning while facing the Cardinals. Since then, Turner tossed two scoreless innings in a B game against the Mets, and in front of 4,219 at Roger Dean Stadium, the right-hander was more inspired.
"It looked like he had a little more sense of urgency out there, and it looked like he was getting after it a little better," manager Mike Redmond said.
Turner attacked the zone better. His fastball was in the 91-94 mph range, compared to barely touching 90 nine days ago.
"I think any time you're kind of off the tracks a little bit, you need an outing that kind of gets you going in the right direction, and lets you build momentum," Turner said. "I think I've done that in my last two outings."
It was announced a few days ago that Ricky Nolasco would be Miami's Opening Day starter on April 1 at Washington. The other four spots have yet to be announced. Nathan Eovaldi, Henderson Alvarez and Turner are expected to fill three of them. In which order, the Marlins haven't said.
"We're counting on [Turner] to be in that rotation, so definitely a good sign today," Redmond said. "Hopefully, he's on track, pounding the strike zone and doing the things he needs to do to be in that rotation."
In the first inning, Turner topped at 94 mph. He did allow a one-out walk to Oscar Taveras and a two-out double to Matt Adams, but he retired Ty Wigginton on fly ball to right.
Turner worked a perfect second inning. In the third, he allowed a leadoff single to Tony Cruz, but was able to set down the next three.
"Obviously, I felt a lot better," Turner said. "I think it showed in the command of the pitches and just how sharp they were. It's definitely a step in the right direction."
An adjustment he's made is with his timing, getting his upper body to work more in tune with his lower half.
"Every time I go out there, it's going to feel a little bit better," Turner said. "Even today, it felt better in the third inning than it did in the first inning. You start trusting your stuff more and more."
Marlins welcome back Ruggiano to lineup
JUPITER, Fla. -- Justin Ruggiano's return to the lineup gives the Marlins a much-needed power threat.
The 30-year-old strained his lower back early in Spring Training, and Saturday was his first Grapefruit League game.
Ruggiano played five innings, getting two at-bats, which both resulted in strikeouts against Adam Wainwright. The outfielder is expected to play on Monday when the Red Sox visit Roger Dean Stadium.
Ruggiano is one of the frontrunners to start in center field. Chris Coghlan and Gorkys Hernandez are other possibilities.
"I'm not even worrying about that," Ruggiano said. "I'm worried about me being at my best when Opening Day comes, and I'll let them make those decisions. I don't think anyone in here has solidified themselves enough from what they did last year. I don't think that is important."
Although he was one of the bright spots for Miami last season -- batting .313 with 13 homers in 91 games -- Ruggiano realizes he has to prove himself in the final weeks of Spring Training.
"What I did last year is not going to guarantee me anything for this year," Ruggiano said. "I'm not going to take anything for granted."
Foremost, Ruggiano is looking to stay healthy and get into playing shape.
The Marlins are looking for power bats to help protect Giancarlo Stanton in the middle of the order.
"He just needs to go out and play his game, and do what he does, and that will be enough," manager Mike Redmond said. "He gives us a guy with a little pop we can hit anywhere in that lineup, in the top part of that order. That's definitely an area that we're looking at, somebody to hit behind Stanton. He's definitely a candidate for that."
Physically, Ruggiano is ready. He is confident in his rehab program and the maintenance involved.
It's the mental side that he is adjusting to.
"Really, it's going to be me having the trust that my back is fine," the outfielder said. "If you're apprehensive to do something, because you're worried in the back of your mind that [another injury] is going to happen, then it's likely going to happen. I know my back is strong. I can do all the exercises with flying colors. That's not the issue."
Sanabia enjoys chance to compete for starting gig
VIERA, Fla. -- Healthy, and with an opportunity in front of him, Alex Sanabia is relishing every chance he gets to fight for a spot in the Marlins' 2013 rotation.
The right-hander, making his fifth appearance of the spring (second start) on Saturday against the Nationals, surrendered four runs on five hits and one walk while striking out two in 2 2/3 innings. He threw 54 pitches, 29 for strikes.
After making 12 starts for the Marlins in 2010 and two more in '11, Sanabia spent half of 2012 battling a left oblique injury that sidelined him for the second half. In 2013, he could work his way back into the starting rotation.
"I definitely have been stoked about getting opportunities," Sanabia said. "Two starts this spring. Definitely take it into consideration and look forward to it. It's given me an opportunity to show something."
Sanabia was sharp early, but ran into trouble in the second and third innings against a vaunted Nationals lineup. He surrendered a walk, hit a batter and gave up a single against Washington's 7-8-9 hitters in the second, and gave up three straight singles to begin the third.
"He was executing his pitches," said bench coach Rob Leary. "I liked the rhythm he was pitching in. He got into a little bit of trouble in that [second] inning, but I liked the way he kept his poise and kept getting back on the mound and attacking hitters. It looked just like maybe he lost a little bit of execution at that time and ended up going out and finishing the inning and doing a good job."
• Third baseman Placido Polanco is making progress, but there still is no set return date for the 37-year-old. Polanco has been resting back spasms for about a week. The Marlins are confident Polanco will be ready, but Greg Dobbs and Donovan Solano are third-base options if he isn't.
• Chris Coghlan, competing for the center-field job, played mostly third base and second base in the Minor Leagues. The Marlins, at this point, have no intention of giving him a shot at third base due to Polanco's back issue.
"We haven't really talked about that," manager Mike Redmond said. "We know he can play infield. But we haven't really talked about him moving to the infield, right now. We've just been focusing on him getting some reps out in the outfield and seeing where we're at from there."
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. Joey Nowak is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joeynowak. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.