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Notes: Healthy Smith impresses; 'Steck' ready

Marlins monitoring Alfaro (left oblique); Kintzler struggles with control
@cdenicola13
February 28, 2020

JUPITER, Fla. -- A healthy Caleb Smith pitched two scoreless innings in his Grapefruit League debut in the Marlins' 6-4 loss to the Astros on Friday at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium. Smith, who projects as the club's No. 2 starter, finished 10-11 with a 4.52 ERA in 28 starts last

JUPITER, Fla. -- A healthy Caleb Smith pitched two scoreless innings in his Grapefruit League debut in the Marlins' 6-4 loss to the Astros on Friday at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium.

Smith, who projects as the club's No. 2 starter, finished 10-11 with a 4.52 ERA in 28 starts last season. But his splits tell another story: Before experiencing left hip inflammation, he had a 1.01 WHIP. Upon his return, it ballooned to 1.41 in the second half.

"I think we've seen, when he's healthy, what it looks like," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "After the hip thing, it seemed like he never really got back on track the same way. And I think that he was behind coming into spring last year because of the lat [surgery], so probably didn't have the same type of work in the winter. [I'm] confident that, with a full winter of health and now getting him into the season, hopefully we're going to get that healthier guy all year long."

Facing an Astros lineup with most of its regulars, Smith worked around a pair of walks and a single in the second. Of his 35 pitches, 19 went for strikes.

Keeping with a trend that began upon his arrival in the Marlins' organization, two of Smith's three strikeouts came via his slider. That pitch has led his repertoire in putaway percentage in each of the past two seasons.

"It's huge," Smith said. "That's my strikeout pitch, aside from my fastball. Those two pitches, they're going to be huge for me this season. Working on getting my changeup back -- my changeup has always been my best secondary pitch. Recently the past two years, it went more toward my slider, just because I've been throwing that more often. I'm trying to get back to that and where it needs to be."

Latest in relief
Late-inning option Drew Steckenrider will make his Grapefruit League debut on Saturday after throwing live batting practice sessions on the back fields. Right elbow inflammation limited the 29-year-old to 15 games last season.

Jeff Brigham, meanwhile, has yet to appear in a game and he is a little behind schedule due to a right biceps issue. The righty posted a 1.53 ERA over his final 16 outings of his rookie campaign in 2019.

"He was actually getting into the rhythm and it was still there, so we said, 'Let's get on top of this now,'" Mattingly said of Brigham. " ... Steck's on schedule. We're just doing a slow build with him."

Alfaro update
According to Mattingly, there won't be an update on catcher Jorge Alfaro, who was scratched from Thursday's starting lineup due to a tight left oblique, for a couple of days.

While Alfaro won't be swinging and may stay away from throwing during that span, he will be able to run and do activities to stay in shape.

"We feel like it's something we caught it early enough," Mattingly said. "He didn't keep swinging, try to keep playing. Hopefully we're on top of it and it turns into a three-, four-, five-day thing instead of a three-week thing. But we'll see. Those things are a little tricky because you start feeling better, you stay swinging and then here it comes again. We'd like to try and stay on top of it, and hopefully get him where he can start playing regularly when he starts playing."

Kintzler struggles
In his second spring outing, projected closer Brandon Kintzler was unable to record an out in the third inning. He walked the first four batters he faced before a slow roller stayed fair for an RBI infield hit. Of his 22 pitches, just six were strikes.

"I don't think it was anything health-wise going on, but it was a little rough, right?" Mattingly said. "After the last hitter, he said, 'I finally figured it out,' but I'm not going to let him throw 35-40 pitches. Hopefully we can just put that one in the books and move on."

Up next
Sandy Alcantara, who projects to be the Opening Day starter, will make his second spring appearance at 1:05 p.m. ET on Saturday, when the Marlins visit the Orioles in Sarasota, Fla. Prospects Jesús Sánchez, Monte Harrison and José Devers will be in the starting lineup. The game can be heard live on Gameday Audio.

Christina De Nicola is a reporter and game producer for MLB.com based in Miami. Follow her on Twitter @CDeNicola13.