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After rough start, LeBlanc knows what needs work

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JUPITER, Fla. -- As a finesse pitcher, it is imperative for Wade LeBlanc to repeatedly hit his spots.

On Wednesday, in Miami's 7-5 loss to the Nationals at Roger Dean Stadium, LeBlanc was effective when he was changing speeds, keeping the ball down and working both sides of the plate.

That was his pattern in the first, second and fourth innings.

When he missed up in the zone or fell behind in counts, the results were costly. The flip side occurred for him in the third and fifth innings, resulting in a mixed-results day. In each of those frames he allowed three runs, making for an overall disappointing day.

"He's a guy who is not able to rely on his [velocity]," manager Mike Redmond said. "He's got to move the ball in and out, and he's got to change speeds. When he does that, and we've seen him do that, he's really good. And he's able to eat up some innings for us."

Not overpowering with an 87-mph fastball, LeBlanc still gets outs when he is on the mark with his pitches.

After Bryce Harper's two-run double in the third inning, LeBlanc retired six straight, with three consecutive strikeouts. He also had a perfect fourth inning.

"The fourth, I feel like is more of who I am and definitely who I need to be," LeBlanc said. "Get ahead, establish strikes early, stay aggressive. That's how I was for the first, the second and the fourth. The third and the fifth, I lost it, and they capitalized."

Aside from Ricky Nolasco pitching on Opening Day against the Nationals, Redmond has not announced the rest of the rotation.

LeBlanc is in the mix for a spot in the back of the rotation, and there is a possibility the lefty could be the fourth starter.

Henderson Alvarez and Nathan Eovaldi are projected to be the second and third starters, but the team hasn't announced in which order. If, say, Eovaldi pitches third, LeBlanc could follow in the fourth spot because he is a hard thrower.

"I like having a lefty in there," Redmond said. "I think he fits in that rotation. It gives you a different look, especially if you bring him in after a power guy, like Eovaldi. I like that."

His start against the Nationals aside, LeBlanc has enjoyed a solid Spring Training. He came into Wednesday not having allowed a run in nine innings.

The Nationals brought a number of their regulars to Jupiter, giving an indication of what the regular season will look like.

"That's who I'm going to be facing during the season," LeBlanc said. "I'm glad they brought those guys over, to see what I need to work on and see what works. And just try to improve on the rest of the stuff."

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" ] }
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