Notes: Alcantara twirls gem; Dunand at 1B

March 17th, 2021

JUPITER, Fla. -- While the Marlins may not be ready to formally announce their Opening Day starter, incumbent put together his best outing of the spring in the club's 3-2 walk-off win over the Mets on Wednesday afternoon at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium.

Alcantara, who walked five batters his last time out, issued no free passes and struck out nine batters, including six in a row at one point, in five scoreless innings. He scattered three hits on 64 pitches (45 strikes).

"I think Sandy has matured obviously with his stuff," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said during a Zoom call. "Talked about him over the last couple of years a lot. I feel like the progression has been really good and continues to be good. Still see a little inconsistency -- last time out he walks five, this time he's just filling up the strike zone. So obviously that's this time of year. But Sandy's a guy that's on the move, his stuff is great. He's got a lot of pitches, obviously just a lot going for him in his game. He's really good now, and he's going to keep getting better."

The 25-year-old right-hander has yet to give up an earned run in 12 2/3 innings spanning four Grapefruit League starts. He is scheduled for two more outings this spring. As things line up, Alcantara would be in prime position to toe the rubber on April 1 for Opening Day against the Rays at Marlins Park.

In Wednesday's start, Alcantara reached a maximum velocity of 98.5 mph and used his four-seam fastball most among his five-pitch arsenal. Six of his nine strikeouts came on the breaking ball, which sat around 91-92 mph.

"I think that's one of the best pitches that I have, and I've got to use it in the game," Alcantara said during a Zoom call. "I was seeing results today, and I was throwing it for strikes."

Infielder Joe Dunand, who went deep for the second straight game to cap Wednesday's walk-off victory, saw action at a new position for five frames in Tuesday night's contest. The 25-year-old Dunand, primarily a shortstop and third baseman, had never appeared at first base until appearing there twice in the Dominican Republic Winter League this past offseason. That was done to make room for Vladimir Guerrero Jr. while keeping Dunand in the lineup.

According to Mattingly, all of Miami's infielders have put in first-base work with coach Trey Hillman, including super-utility player . Dunand's time at the position is a way to get him at-bats and also ease the reps for prospect , and .

"I've been working on it a lot, and you know the more I play it, the more I'll get more comfortable," Dunand said during a Zoom call. "Any time you do something new, you feel a little uncomfortable with growing pains. But I didn't feel too uncomfortable there. I felt actually pretty good. It's catching the ball and being where I've got to be."

Return to the mound
Flamethrower flashed high-octane velocity as well as inconsistent command, both of which have been fixtures during his Minor League career, during his Grapefruit League debut in Miami's 4-3 win over the Nationals on Tuesday night at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.

Holloway's first pitch of the outing -- a 98 mph fastball -- went for a strike before he brushed back superstar Juan Soto. The at-bat ended with a groundout into the shift in shallow right. The next batter, Josh Bell, sent a 97 mph fastball well over the left-center-field fence. Starlin Castro followed with a walk before the runner came out of the basepaths and was ruled out on a comebacker that ricocheted off the mound. Holloway closed out his 22-pitch, 13-strike outing by fanning Yan Gomes swinging to end the frame.

Groomed as a starter, Holloway made the Marlins' 2020 Opening Day expanded roster out of the bullpen. He appeared in one game before landing on the injured list with COVID-19, giving up two hits and issuing one walk in one-third of an inning. The 24-year-old right-hander, ranked as the organization's No. 27 prospect prior to the ‘20 season, had never pitched above the Class A Advanced level, where he went 4-11 with a 4.45 ERA in 21 starts in 2019. He posted 7.3 hits, 0.6 homers, 6.3 walks and 8.8 strikeouts per nine innings. According to MLB Pipeline, Holloway's fastball and curveball have grades of 70 and 60, respectively, on a 20-80 scale.

"Obviously you see stuff," Mattingly said. "This is a big league arm, big league stuff. And then just more consistency. I think that's the biggest thing, and just kind of keeping himself under control, using all his pitches. Just being able to -- like we try to do with all our starters -- making sure they can get themselves in good counts, and then be able to work there, use all their pitches.

"We're just kind of continuing to get him down that road. Get the ball on the plate, your stuff's plenty good. And then the last piece I think is just experience for him, even though he got a cup of coffee last year."

Teasing the upcoming season

Don't forget the green

Up next
Pablo López will make his fourth start at 6:05 p.m. ET against the Cardinals on Thursday at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium. St. Louis will serve as the home team.