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Despite shaky outing, Turner making strides

Right-hander pitched three scoreless before tiring in fourth vs. Cardinals

Despite shaky outing, Turner making strides play video for Despite shaky outing, Turner making strides

JUPITER, Fla. -- Progress is coming in incremental stages for Jacob Turner.

The Marlins are hoping the 21-year-old right-hander can make up ground in a hurry, as Spring Training moves into its final stages.

Tuesday was a step in a positive direction, even though the numbers weren't entirely pretty.

In the Marlins' 5-4 loss to the Cardinals, Turner gave up four runs on seven hits with one walk and two strikeouts in five innings.

More than the bottom-line numbers, the encouragement is based on his first three innings, which were all scoreless.

"Turner was much better today," manager Mike Redmond said. "His first two innings were really good. He was pretty good in the strike zone, threw a lot of strikes, and mixed in his offspeed pitches. Those fourth and fifth innings, he just got the ball up a little bit. You could see he was starting to give up some long fly balls, and finally gave up a home run."

Allen Craig belted a solo homer to open the scoring in a two-run fourth inning.

In the fifth, St. Louis jumped on Turner for two more runs. His afternoon was finished after 64 pitches, 42 for strikes.

"I felt good about it," Turner said. "My mechanics felt good. I was able to throw pitches where I wanted to. I think there were some pitches in the middle innings I left up more than I would have liked. Other than that, everything was very good."

Since the start of Spring Training, Turner has struggled to establish consistency. He had flaws in his delivery, mainly timing-related, that he's been trying to iron out. For the most part, he has. Next on the list is getting sharper.

The big picture question regarding Turner is how he fits into the Marlins' plans.

Entering camp, he was considered a strong frontrunner for a rotation spot. While that's still expected, it's not guaranteed. He must earn his place.

"Personally, I've felt I've gotten better every outing, mechanically," Turner said. "Mechanically, I feel good."

Some coincidences also have factored into Turner's spring.

By chance, in all three of his Grapefruit League starts, Turner must feel like he's seeing red. That's because he has faced the Cardinals all three times. (St. Louis and Miami share a Spring Training facility in Jupiter.)

The first outing was a tough one, as Turner gave up six runs in one-third of an inning on Feb. 28. On March 9, Turner met up again with the Cardinals, tossing three scoreless innings. In all, he's 0-2 with a 10.80 ERA for the spring.

"I joke around about it," Turner said of repeatedly facing St. Louis. "As a pitcher, you feel like they know you, but also you feel like you know them.

"And [also], they've had a different lineup every time I've faced them. It's a little different when they've got different guys in there every time."

Additionally, Turner has seen some game action on back fields in Minor League scrimmages.

"I'm just going out there competing," he said. "Obviously there have been times in this camp where I would have liked to pitch better than I have. At the same time, I'm going out there competing and giving it everything I have. I'm not really worried about pressure or anything like that."

What the Marlins are looking for from Turner is consistency in the strike zone.

"Progression. Getting better in the strike zone," Redmond said. "Throwing strikes, and commanding his pitches. His first outing, he was all over the place with his command. He just looked really uncomfortable. He looked much better today. He looked more confident. He was around the zone all day."

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.

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