I was fortunate enough to spend my Saturday watching the Marlins Spring Training game at Ft. Lauderdale Stadium. Despite the 4-2 final score, things were looking good for the Fish.
Ricky Nolasco looked great on the mound today, starting the game off with six strikes. I mean they were hammered in the zone. But after getting Oriole Nick Markakis to pop up, Marlins left fielder Jeremy Hermida got turned around too many times and suddenly Markakis is sliding into second with a double. Add insult to injury, the very next batter did the same to Hermida and before you know it the O’s pull to a 2-0 lead. And the fans let him have it. You wouldn’t believe it was a Spring Training game and the player the fans were booing was learning the position.
“We’ve been getting a lot of work in, shagging and batting practice,” Hermida explained after the game. “Just making sure I’m getting balls off the bat. But there are certain balls that you don’t get sometimes during batting practice that aren’t quite at game speed. Just a work in progress.”
Nolasco shrugged off what could have been an inning-ending pop fly and continued to pitch two more innings and run his pitch count to 54 (40 strikes). “It’s what we’re here for,” Nolasco said. “Work out the kinks. Everybody’s going to get better so you can’t get upset about things that are go during your first game of spring training.”
Then entered Josh Johnson. Both starters are capable of getting the ball on opening day and you got to imagine whoever has the better spring would get it (with an edge going to Nolasco for being lights out last season.) But whatever ground Nolasco earned, Johnson gained the same. Here are their lines:
Nolasco: 3 IP, 5 hits, 3 ER, 3 K’s
Johnson: 3 IP, 3 hits, 0 ER, 1 K
Near identical. So if you’re interested in what could be called the “Race To Standing on the mound during the National Anthem of Game One” so is manager Fredi Gonzalez. “ I thought they were outstanding, “Gonzalez said. “JJ was nails and Ricky was good. I think you just have to look at the overall: health. See how we are. It’s Spring Training and we still have a long 29 games left.”
Taylor Tankersley, who is fighting for a spot in the bullpen, struck out the side in the eighth inning. Tank appeared in just 25 games last season just after posting a career high 67 games in 2007. Kiko Calero pitched a scoreless seventh.
On the offensive side of the ball, Cam Maybin had some solid cuts despite going 1 for 4 at the plate. Hermida got a hold of a Radhames Liz pitch for a homer in the fourth inning. Wes Helms was a perfect 3-3 on the day, starting at first while Jorge Cantu played at 3rd. Alfredo Amezaga got the start at 2nd and was recorded an error on a grounder he charged very aggressively (probably would have waited back on it).