Building endurance key for Conley at camp

Starter focusing on 'preparing for long season'

Building endurance key for Conley at camp

JUPITER, Fla. -- Subtle changes being made in Spring Training could pay dividends for Marlins left-hander Adam Conley over the course of the season. Along the way, his results may be uneven.

Sunday's performance is an example, as Conley gave up seven runs, with four earned, in 2 2/3 innings in a 10-4 loss to the Nationals at Roger Dean Stadium.

With many moving parts in his long, lanky delivery, Conley found himself behind in counts, and he finished the first inning with 37 pitches. He had 79 before exiting with two outs in the third.

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"It might be hard to see, but I actually feel like I'm extremely close to being really, really good," Conley said. "But when you're 2-0 on a lineup like that, it's really hard to get outs."

In Grapefruit League action, Conley now has a 9.35 ERA in 8 2/3 innings.

"We know he's that long-levered, trying to sync everything up," manager Don Mattingly said. "It hasn't really looked synced up, pretty much most of the camp."

Conley is considered a frontrunner for a rotation spot, but the starting five has yet to be set.

"Obviously, there still is always competition for spots, and we've got a number of guys fighting for a spot in that rotation," Mattingly said. "You want to take spring [in stride]. At some point, guys are getting ready, but also you want to see some type of results."

For Conley, this is a different story from last Spring Training, when the left-hander won a rotation spot and was one of the standout performers overall in camp. In 2016, Conley posted a 1.86 ERA in 9 2/3 innings. His fastball was in the mid-90s, occasionally touching 96-97 mph.

"My intention is to be a great starting pitcher in the Major Leagues, late in the season and get better as the season goes, and get stronger as the season goes," Conley said. "Those are my intentions, despite how it looks. That's what I'm working on right now."

This spring, Conley's fastball has been clocked regularly at 88-92 mph. Physically, he's fine. He's just building up.

"Last year, it was a situation where I was pitching for my life out there, really trying to earn a job," Conley said. "As I mature in my career, it's not that I'm not out there trying to earn a job, or what spot in the rotation, whatever it is, but as I mature, I'm starting to understand, Spring Training for me is about preparing for that long season, so that I'm a better pitcher in August than I was in April or March."

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.