Eovaldi's outlook positive as season nears

Eovaldi's outlook positive as season nears

JUPITER, Fla. -- If Saturday was Nathan Eovaldi's final Grapefruit League start, the Marlins' right-hander has plenty to be encouraged about as he readies for the regular season.

Eovaldi turned in another strong showing, giving up three runs in six innings in Miami's 6-5 win over the Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium.

On a steamy 82-degree afternoon, Eovaldi stretched his innings and pitch count. For the most part, he was effective in his 83-pitch effort.

"He did a good job, again," manager Mike Redmond said. "He gave up that early run, but settled in, and made his pitches. I think he kind of ran out of gas in that last inning. I'm very happy, once again, with his performance, and the way he pitched -- great tempo. He pounded the strike zone and gave us a chance."

The day started out a little shaky, and Eovaldi fell behind by a run in the first inning.

Three batters into the game, and the Cardinals were ahead on Matt Holliday's RBI double.

In the sixth, Eovaldi began to fade a bit, as he fell behind in counts. Five of his nine hits allowed came in that inning.

"It didn't feel too hot out there," Eovaldi said. "For the most part, I was working quick innings, and got ahead of guys. The sixth inning, I started getting behind in every count."

Eovaldi's solid spring has earned him Miami's No. 2 starter spot behind Ricky Nolasco. He is lined up to face the Nationals on April 3.

In six Grapefruit League games, the right-hander is 3-0 with a 3.65 ERA, logging 24 2/3 innings.

Although Nolasco has been tabbed the No. 1 starter, a case can be made that Eovaldi has the best overall stuff in the rotation. His fastball is in the mid-to-upper 90s, and he has shown improved command this spring.

"I've been locating my fastball better than last year," he said.

A change from a year ago is Eovaldi's throwing a wider variety of pitches. His changeup and curveball are more effective than before.

"I'm not just a fastball, slider guy," he said. "I've been using my changeup and curveball a lot."

When and where Eovaldi throws next has not been determined.

If he goes in five days, Eovaldi could again face the Cardinals in Miami's Grapefruit League finale. Or, he could be used in a Minor League game that day, because he only needs a few innings to be ready for the season.

"We're at a point where I feel all our guys, we're ready," Redmond said.

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter