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Promising Nicolino won't be rushed by Marlins

JUPITER, Fla. -- The business of the game brought Justin Nicolino closer to home. In time, his talent will elevate him to the big leagues.

A highly touted left-hander, Nicolino certainly has plenty of promise and potential.

The Marlins have high hopes for the 21-year-old who resides in Palm Harbor, Fla. They just want him to continue his progression in the Minor Leagues.

Miami is building toward a brighter future, and the organization isn't looking to rush its top prospects.

That's why Nicolino is not yet on the 40-man roster, and he will not be with the big league club when it begins Spring Training on Feb. 12 at the Roger Dean Stadium complex in Jupiter.

Nicolino isn't taking any chances of jeopardizing his budding career, which is one reason why he declined an opportunity to pitch for Italy in the World Baseball Classic. Born in Orlando, he has Italian heritage.

The Marlins acquired Nicolino from the Blue Jays as part of the 12-player blockbuster trade on Nov. 19.

Opting to get younger after two straight last-place finishes, Miami brought in seven players from Toronto in exchange for Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Emilio Bonifacio and John Buck.

A second-round pick by Toronto in 2010, Nicolino is expected to open the season at Class A Jupiter.

"I'm just going to go about my business the same way I've done the past two years," said Nicolino, who has already been in Jupiter getting ready for Minor League camp to begin.

Nicolino brings plenty of accolades with him to the Marlins. On's 2013 Top 100 Prospects list, he ranks 72nd. Among left-handed pitching prospects, he rates seventh.

"There's always going to be hype about everyone, and more so for some guys," he said. "I want to come in here this season, and do what I do best -- continue to work hard. I'm not going to change anything. I'm not going to be anybody different. I'm going to try to go about my business the right way."

Although he is new to the Marlins, Nicolino certainly has familiarity with several people in the organization. At Jupiter, he likely will be joined in the rotation by Anthony DeSclafani, who was also part of the Toronto trade.

In 2011, when Nicolino was promoted to low Class A Lansing toward the end of the season, his manager was Mike Redmond, Miami's new manager.

"I'm excited about it," the left-hander said. "To be given this opportunity, coming to this organization and knowing a few guys. Mike Redmond being the big league manager, it helps out."

At Lansing, Nicolino gained playoff experience, and he picked up pointers from Redmond, a former big league catcher.

"It was great," Nicolino said. "[Redmond] was a big league catcher for 13 years. He knew what he was talking about. He knew how to go about the game. He knew how to help the pitchers out. That was something I took into my game very seriously. I hope one day it helps out in the big leagues."

If his first two Minor League seasons are any indication, Nicolino could find himself making an impact for the Marlins in a year or two.

At Lansing last year, the left-hander was 10-4 with a 2.46 ERA, and he struck out 119 in 124 1/3 innings.

Nicolino relies on a lively fastball, clocked in the 89-91-mph range.

A pitch that sets him apart is his devastating changeup. He also throws a two-seam fastball, and he is transitioning from throwing a curveball to a slider.

"Besides the fastball, the changeup is my favorite pitch," he said. "I have confidence to throw it early in the count, or late in the count. Sometimes I will even attack hitters with it. If I know they have a weakness, or they have a few holes in their swing, I'll attack it with my changeup. That's the thing that's helped me out so far, I'm not afraid to throw it."

The effectiveness of his changeup is a reason why Nicolino draws comparisons to Philadelphia lefty Cole Hamels.

"It's a good honor -- to say that I pitch like some [established] guys," Nicolino said. I look at that as just motivation to get there, to the big leagues. You hope that someday some guys in the Minor Leagues will be saying, 'I want to be like Justin Nicolino.'"

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

Miami Marlins