JUPITER, Fla. -- So much of Spring Training has been a breeze for Tom Koehler. On Monday, the Marlins right-hander found himself in a bit of a grind.
"From pitch one," Koehler said. "I threw over 40 pitches in the first two innings. Knowing I had a 90-pitch pitch count, I just tried to get ahead and get as many quick outs as I could."
Finding a way to minimize the damage was another reminder of how far Koehler has progressed this Spring Training.
The bottom line is Koehler allowed two runs on five hits in six innings in Miami's 4-1 loss to the Nationals at Roger Dean Stadium.
The plus is, even at less than his best, Koehler was able to keep his team in the game. And he got his pitch count up to 91.
Koehler has one more start left, Saturday against the Yankees in Tampa, Fla. It's the club's final Spring Training game.
Miami has yet to announce its fifth starter, but Koehler remains on course to get the nod.
"It's easy to go out there and feel good about outings when you have your best stuff, and the game is a breeze," Koehler said. "To go out there and know you're going to be pretty much battling from pitch one, and to give your team six innings, and keep them in the game -- that's what can make or break a team."
Koehler has been one of the pleasant surprises in camp, posting a 1.50 ERA over 18 innings, with 12 strikeouts and four walks.
To show how locked in Koehler has been, he was the only player on the field in the sixth to know how many outs there were.
In a light moment, Danny Espinosa bounced into a 3-6-3 double play. Because the ball was hit to first base, Koehler raced to first to cover the bag, if necessary. But first baseman Garrett Jones returned to the bag, completing the double play.
All the players ran off the field, and even the Nationals hitters headed to the dugout. The problem is, there were only two outs.
Only Koehler remained on the field, realizing the inning wasn't over.
"Had Tom not said something, they probably all could have walked off the field, and nobody would have probably noticed," Marlins manager Mike Redmond joked. "I think we're at that stage of Spring Training where people are just looking at the scoreboard and trying to get the innings going as fast as you can."
Added Koehler: "We sold it. It's almost like we were working on it. ... Nice little moment of levity in the game, that's for sure."