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Turner takes step toward Marlins rotation spot

Right-hander throws two scoreless innings, works on improving his timing

Turner takes step toward Marlins rotation spot play video for Turner takes step toward Marlins rotation spot

JUPITER, Fla. -- Establishing a consistent rhythm is taking some time for Jacob Turner. An encouraging sign came on Tuesday morning, as the 21-year-old right-hander took a step in the right direction.

Turner threw two scoreless innings in a B game against the Mets on Field 2 at the Roger Dean Stadium complex. Of his 23 pitches, he threw 13 strikes, walking two and striking out one. Turner capped off his morning by throwing some more pitches in the bullpen.

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"I think every time out, you're just trying to get a little bit better," Turner said. "I felt more comfortable this time out. I felt there were a couple of times I may have got a little out of sync, timing-wise. Other than that, I threw a lot of good, quality pitches that I wanted to throw."

There is still plenty of time before the season starts to get Turner right.

So far, it's been a work in progress. In Turner's lone Grapefruit League appearance -- last Thursday against the Cardinals -- he gave up six runs on six hits with three walks and a hit batter in one-third of an inning.

Since the start of Spring Training, Turner has been considered a front-runner for a top rotation spot. Performance will dictate where he lines up.

"We're counting on guys like him to go out there and pitch in that rotation, and pound the strike zone and give us a chance to win ballgames," manager Mike Redmond said. "I think it's very important for those guys to go out there and establish the strike zone. At the same time, too, they're young. He's a young guy, too. You always have to keep that in the back of your mind."

Turner and catcher Rob Brantly were the centerpieces in the Marlins' trade with the Tigers last July. In the deal, Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante were sent to Detroit.

"He's got great stuff," Redmond said of the rangy right-hander. "We've got time through Spring Training to get him pounding the strike zone. We feel confident that he is going to do that."

Turner was pleased that he got ground balls with his fastball, including one that was turned for a 4-6-3 double play to end the second inning. His velocity topped at 91 mph on Tuesday.

In recent days, Turner has been trying to improve his timing.

"We're working," pitching coach Chuck Hernandez said. "His bullpens are coming along. They're getting more positive every time he's out there. It's just taking him a little more time to get himself right.

"He has very good stuff. I'm going to kind of reserve my judgment until I see him a little bit farther, a little bit longer this spring."

Redmond has yet to announce the Opening Day starter, or any other spot in the rotation.

It's widely been regarded that Turner will be in the top four. The fifth-starter spot is wide open, with Wade LeBlanc, Kevin Slowey, John Maine and Tom Koehler in contention.

Ricky Nolasco, Nathan Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez are considered locks for the rotation. And they may line up as Nos. 1, 2 and 3, in that order.

"I would say we're close to being set," Redmond said. "There are still a couple of question marks. It is hard to say. We're still evaluating these guys. There is still competition out there for a few spots. I've only seen them a couple of times on the mound. The things we're focused on are consistency, and can this guy pound the strike zone enough to get guys out and use our defense? That's going to be huge for us. There is still time for this thing to play itself out."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"event":["spring_training" ] }
{"event":["spring_training" ] }