Notes: One-two combo early focus
Marlins pitchers emphasizing command of fastball, changeup
JUPITER, Fla. -- In these first few games, Florida's pitchers have been relying almost exclusively on fastballs and changeups.
It's by design. Pitching coach Mark Wiley is stressing the importance of establishing the fastball while at least introducing the changeup.
After leading the National League in walks allowed last year with 661, the Marlins are looking for ways to reduce that number. By being able to spot the fastball to get ahead in the count, and then flash an occasional changeup, the hope is that the pitchers will have a better chance of keeping hitters off stride.
"If you take their other breaking ball away, sometimes they appreciate [the changeup]," Wiley said. "Sometimes they get some easy outs with it. It can change how a guy pitches the rest of his career,"
In their first two Grapefruit League games, Wiley said the pitchers threw 57 changeups, with only 21 being called balls.
"We gave up three hits -- three cheap singles on changeups," Wiley said. "We got a lot of outs with them and we threw a high percentage of strikes with them."
After their first appearances of the spring, the pitchers will phase in their other offspeed pitches. Not every pitch has been fastballs and changeups. A few pitchers sprinkled in a slider or two in the first couple of games. But a majority have been throwing solely fastballs and changeups.
Hendrickson steady: Getting back into game situations gave Mark Hendrickson the chance to shake off some jitters.
Admittedly, he was a bit "jumpy" in the first inning Friday against the Orioles. Hendrickson surrendered a leadoff double to Brian Roberts, who promptly stole third and scored on Melvin Mora's single.
Overall, it was a steady first outing, as the 6-foot-9 lefty worked two innings and threw 22 of his 30 pitches for strikes.
"A lot of strikes," said Hendrickson, who was throwing strictly fastballs and changeups. "It's always good to get back out there and get a feel for it. The first hitter, I felt a little jumpy. Overall, I was pretty pleased with it, I threw quite a few strikes. It's no secret we're throwing fastballs and changeups. It kind of forces you to execute pitches."
Hendrickson was somewhat startled that Roberts swiped third in the first inning, considering most of the players are striving to find their rhythm.
"I wanted to yell at him, and go, 'What are you doing? Getting your legs in shape?' He steals a lot, and that's his game. It's one of those things, that you go, 'Ok.' I don't know. We'll work on that [holding on runners] when it's time to work on that.
"That's part of his game, so more power to him. But with everything going on out there, you are trying to focus as pitcher. The first step is throwing strikes. You're trying to work within the strike zone. And all that stuff that goes on within the game, that's what you'll work on. It's something we'll probably get more comfortable with as the spring goes on."
McPherson progressing: Dallas McPherson is progressing toward being game-ready Sunday or Monday at the latest.
The left-handed-hitting third baseman, who is competing for a starting spot with Jose Castillo and Jorge Cantu, suffered a minor muscle pull to his right oblique.
After missing all of last season due to his recovery from back surgery, McPherson stressed that his discomfort is not at all back related.
"I had a lot of swings that first week, and it got a little fatigued," he said. "We're just resting it for a couple of days. Nothing major. Nothing to worry about."
McPherson said he hopes to play Sunday when the Marlins face the Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium. If the team is playing it safe for another day, he would be in line to go Monday against the Red Sox.
He continues to swing in the batting cage.
Trahern's start: From being a 34th-round Draft pick to getting his first big league Spring Training start.
On Saturday, 22-year-old Dallas Trahern is taking the mound for the Marlins in their Grapefruit League contest against the Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium.
Acquired from Detroit in December, Trahern is a highly respected prospect who may end up being in the rotation sometime during the season.
He has come a long way since being the 1,003rd overall pick in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft.
"I'm going to approach it like every other start," Trahern said. "I'm going to go out there, try to throw strikes and get my arm ready for the season. I'm just going to go out there and try to compete with the Cardinals."
Last year at Double-A Erie, Trahern was 12-6 with a 3.87 ERA in 26 starts, including three complete games. He also was 1-0 in one 6 1/3-inning start with Triple-A Toledo.
Fishbites: Ramirez has launched his own Web site, www.hanleyramirez.com. ... Scott Olsen is slated to make his second spring start Sunday against the Cardinals. ... For information on how to purchase bullpen coach Steve Foster's book, "Lessons From Little League and Life," e-mail SunshineMountainPress@yahoo.com. ... Alejandro De Aza, who belted a grand slam in the ninth inning of Thursday's game against the Orioles in Fort Lauderdale, also went deep to lead off the game against the Nationals on Friday at Viera.
Coming up: The Marlins on Saturday play host to the Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium. While both clubs share the complex, Florida is the home team. Trahern will start for the Marlins as Todd Wellemeyer gets the call for St. Louis.
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.