Nicolino's fastball command, offspeed stuff sharp

Nicolino's fastball command, offspeed stuff sharp

JUPITER, Fla. -- On an afternoon when Justin Nicolino established his fastball to both sides of the plate, it was a perfectly executed changeup that solidified his strongest outing of Spring Training.

Nicolino struck out Yoenis Cespedes with a changeup to strand a runner on second base in the third inning on Wednesday in the Marlins' 6-2 win over the Mets at Roger Dean Stadium.

"I've faced him enough to know that you've got to mix it up to him," Nicolino said. "When you face him multiple times later on in the game, he might start swinging at that first pitch. The biggest thing was not making a mistake to him over the heart of the plate."

Getting Cespedes swinging was the lone strikeout in three scoreless innings for Nicolino, who scattered three hits.

"He's been pretty good his last couple of outings," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "It was good to see him sharp."

Nicolino, who is competing for a rotation spot, exited after 52 pitches, but he finished up his afternoon by throwing about 20 more pitches in the bullpen. So the lefty is built up to around 75.

"I felt really good," Nicolino said. "The first two innings, it was basically fastball in and out. Everything else worked off of that. I was able to throw in some good curveballs and good changeups. The cutter played up well. I was really happy with the fastball command."

Nicolino doesn't dazzle with an overpowering fastball, but his velocity was a steady 90-92 mph. He made 18 appearances and 13 starts for the Marlins in 2016, going 3-6 with a 4.99 ERA in 79 1/3 innings. As he gears up for the season, which could likely start off at Triple-A New Orleans, the left-hander is spending time refining his mechanics.

That's what he's been working on mostly during his bullpen sessions.

"It's been more mechanical stuff than anything," Nicolino said. "Just staying more upright."

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.