JUPITER, Fla. -- Building some positive momentum for Justin Nicolino and Jose Urena was the biggest takeaway from the Marlins' 8-5 loss to the Nationals on Friday afternoon at Roger Dean Stadium.Miami is seeking as much pitching depth as possible, and the two are expected to be counted on this
JUPITER, Fla. -- Building some positive momentum for Justin Nicolino and Jose Urena was the biggest takeaway from the Marlins' 8-5 loss to the Nationals on Friday afternoon at Roger Dean Stadium.
Miami is seeking as much pitching depth as possible, and the two are expected to be counted on this season.
Nicolino gave up one run in two innings, and worked out of a first-inning jam, to finish on a positive note. Urena threw two scoreless innings of relief, striking out four while allowing two hits and a walk.
What was the organization hoping to see?
"I think it's confidence for both of those guys," manager Don Mattingly said. "You need confidence first. And Nico, just knowing what he wants to do with his stuff. He wants to use his mix. He's not going to overpower you, but he's got to be able to control his mix, and keep guys off balance."
The left-handed Nicolino threw a number of fastballs and cutters, in the 86-90 mph range.
Urena is a hard-throwing right-hander who touched 95 and mixed in some changeups and breaking balls.
"Jose can make a few more mistakes because he's got the power, but he still has to learn to use his stuff," Mattingly said. "Guys are going to hit the hard stuff. He's still got to be able to get his secondary stuff over, and change speeds enough to keep teams off balance."
This is a big Spring Training for both starters, who spent much of last year in the rotation at Triple-A New Orleans.
Urena is out of options, so he has to make the Opening Day roster or risk being lost on waivers. Nicolino has an option, so he could start off with the Baby Cakes if he doesn't make the big league club.
In 2016, Nicolino made 13 starts and appeared in 18 games with the Marlins, going 3-6 with a 4.99 ERA. Urena was 4-9 with a 6.13 ERA in 28 appearances, with 12 starts. But at Triple-A, he had a 3.17 ERA, and he possesses a 95-plus mph fastball.
The two enjoyed more success in their second Grapefruit League outings. The first time out, in a loss at the Twins, Urena allowed two runs in one inning. Nicolino was tagged for five runs (four earned) in one-third of an inning.
Allowing three straight hits to open the game wasn't an ideal scenario for Nicolino. But the lefty regrouped, got Brandon Snyder to bounce into a 6-4-3 double play and worked around a two-out double in the second.
Nicolino had four ground-ball outs.
"That double play was really huge for me as in momentum," Nicolino said. "I was really ticked off that it took me so far in the lineup to get there, because I felt I made quality pitches. Stuff didn't go that way. That double play kind of set the tone."
Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.