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New slider in tow, Nicolino hoping to make roster

Left-hander, who is out of options, scrapped cutter in offseason
MLB.com @JoeFrisaro

JUPITER, Fla. -- It's a make-or-break Spring Training for Marlins lefty Justin Nicolino.

Out of options, the 26-year-old needs to make the Opening Day roster; otherwise, he could be let loose by the organization. Nicolino is in the mix for a rotation or bullpen role, and he has a refreshed mentality -- and one fewer pitch at his disposal -- in hopes of sticking with the club.

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JUPITER, Fla. -- It's a make-or-break Spring Training for Marlins lefty Justin Nicolino.

Out of options, the 26-year-old needs to make the Opening Day roster; otherwise, he could be let loose by the organization. Nicolino is in the mix for a rotation or bullpen role, and he has a refreshed mentality -- and one fewer pitch at his disposal -- in hopes of sticking with the club.

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"It's one of those things where I look at it like I'm still young," Nicolino said. "For me, I'm in a situation of whatever happens, happens. All I can do is go out there and do my job, whatever job that is. Whatever is asked of me. That's been my mentality since I showed up.

"It was either worry about it [and] let it affect my Spring Training, or keep doing what I've been doing but making it better and not worrying about it."

Nicolino has been off and on with the Marlins since 2015, jumping from the Minors to the big leagues. He made 20 appearances with eight starts last season, posting a 5.06 ERA in 48 innings. In his career, he is 10-13 with a 4.65 ERA in 201 1/3 innings.

The most dramatic difference with Nicolino this spring is that he's scrapped throwing his cutter, replacing it with a slider.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

"I became, I guess, cutter-happy," Nicolino said.

Often, the results of the pitch were rough. According to Statcast™, opponents batted .355 off of Nicolino's cut fastball in 2017.

"We've never been a fan of the cutter," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "The cutter, it seems like when he made mistakes, it got hit hard. Obviously, you can't force a guy to do anything. But we've been talking about trying to get rid of that cutter for two years now."

In breaking down the pitch, Nicolino discovered the cutter tended to sweep across the plate rather than break downward.

"I made some mechanical adjustments, and it's helped a lot. I think what happened when I was throwing the cutter the previous two years, I was getting on the side of the baseball with everything. Now I'm just gripping it and ripping it."

Players union meeting

The Marlins had their annual meeting with MLB Players Association officials on Friday morning. The players met for about two hours.

MLBPA executive director Tony Clark acknowledged afterward to reporters that in late February, the union filed a grievance against four clubs, including Miami.

"We filed a grievance against the concerns that we have related to revenue sharing, and the obligations in the CBA," Clark said. "We're looking to address those concerns and the obligations we believe the team has."

The Marlins were one of the most active teams in the offseason, trading high-profile players like Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, Christian Yelich and Dee Gordon.

New team ownership has repeatedly said the Marlins are building from the bottom up.

"As we have done since the day we took over in October," Marlins chief executive officer Derek Jeter has stated, "we will continue to do everything we can to build a foundation for sustained success and improve this organization -- which has not made the postseason since 2003 and has gone eight seasons without a winning record."

Video: Mattingly on Prado, Riddle injury updates

Injury update

Shortstop JT Riddle (left shoulder) got six at-bats in a Minor League game on Friday. Third baseman Martin Prado (right knee) could start playing in gamelike situations on the back fields next week. With less than three weeks until Opening Day, the Marlins are hopeful both will be ready by then. If not, they could open the season on the disabled list.

"Obviously, we're going to do what's best for these guys, make sure they're fully ready to be ready," Mattingly said. "Once you get to the season, then you can't just be playing guys five innings and taking them out of the games when you've got four guys on your bench or five or whatever it is. You're playing a regular game, so at that point, they've got to be ready for nine innings."

Quotable

"You don't expect to give up two hits in an inning and face the minimum in an inning, that's for sure. … It's good to see the stuff we're working on in Spring Training is going to get outs and is going to be an effective tool, and not just something to kill time in Spring Training." -- Marlins starter Dan Straily, who picked off Christian Vazquez at second base and Sam Travis at first, in a second inning where he faced just three batters

Up next

The Marlins face the Cardinals at 1:05 p.m. ET on Saturday at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium, live on MLB.TV. Miami is the visiting club. Rule 5 pick Elieser Hernandez is getting the start for Miami against St. Louis' Michael Wacha. Catcher J.T. Realmuto, scratched from Friday's game due to a bruised left knee, expects to be back in the lineup.

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.

Miami Marlins, Justin Nicolino