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Alvarez pounds strike zone in efficient outing

VIERA, Fla. -- Pound the strike zone and force the action were Henderson Alvarez's objectives heading into his first Grapefruit League start.

Mission accomplished.

Facing the Nationals on Sunday at Space Coast Stadium, Alvarez was spot on in what he was hoping to do. Of his 22 pitches, 19 were for strikes.

Alvarez posted a highly efficient and encouraging outing. The right-hander tossed two scoreless innings, striking out two while allowing one single.

"All my pitches fell in the strike zone," said the Venezuelan native through an interpreter. "My plan was to go out there, get my pitches in the zone and get the batters to swing."

Acquired from the Blue Jays as part of the 12-player trade in November, Alvarez got swings and misses from left-handed hitters with his sinker. He mixed in a changeup and worked at a quick pace.

Known for throwing strikes, Alvarez's performance came as advertised. With the Blue Jays last year, he walked 54 in 187 1/3 innings. Per nine innings, he averaged 2.59 walks.

"Sometimes it is a challenge, maybe your first outing you're a little bit amped up," manager Mike Redmond said. "I thought for a young guy he was completely under control out there. Obviously, the numbers speak for themselves with the amount of strikes that he threw."

At least for the first half of Spring Training, Alvarez is getting a brief look by the Marlins. His next start will be Friday against the Twins at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Fla.

Two days later, he will be exiting the team for a few weeks to join Venezuela for the World Baseball Classic.

Starting pitchers will be facing a maximum of 65 pitches in the Classic.

"It's a huge honor to play for my country and have my country's name on my chest," Alvarez said. "It's also an honor to play with All-Stars from my country, such as Miguel Cabrera. It's going to be great to pitch against other countries like Puerto Rico.

"I am healthy. Everything has been fine. I'm looking forward to it."

With the Marlins, Alvarez isn't trying to replace Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle. He is welcoming his new opportunity.

"In Major League Baseball, they make moves," he said. "In November, the Marlins made the trade, sending two All-Star [pitchers] to Toronto. I'm here to give 100 percent to the team, and do my best."