JUPITER, Fla. -- Opening Day is 22 days away, and thus far, Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill is encouraged by what he's seeing in Spring Training.
As expected, the pitching overall has been promising. The offense, which finished last in the Majors in runs scored a year ago, is showing signs. It may not be the most feared lineup in the game, but there are signs of improvement.
Giancarlo Stanton belted his first homer of the spring on Sunday, and he is off to a hot start. And on Saturday at Lake Buena Vista, Casey McGehee homered at the Braves. He then added single in his first at-bat on Sunday. Last week, Jarrod Saltalamacchia connected on a go-ahead home run.
"So far, our pitching has been very strong, as we expected it to be," Hill said. "Offensively, we're seeing some things. Some guys are still working on some things, but they seem to be getting closer. I like the overall depths of our lineups, and the way we're playing the game."
Finding ways to manufacture runs is a priority. In hopes of doing so, heavy emphasis has been placed on baserunning. Not just stealing bases, but going from first to third, or scoring from second on a single.
"We've been running the bases aggressively, which is outstanding," Hill said.
There have been some rough days in the field, like last week, they committed five errors against the Twins, yet won the game, 4-1.
"The defense is a little bit of a weird one, because they haven't been tough plays, they've been weird plays," Hill said. "I know our defense is going to be a strength for us."
Opening Day is on March 31 against the Rockies at Marlins Park.
"We're just getting ready," Hill said. "There is a positive air. Guys feel good about where we are. We're looking forward to keeping it going."
Koehler making case for fifth rotation spot
JUPITER, Fla. -- A frontrunner appears to be emerging for the Marlins' fifth starter spot.
Tom Koehler, the incumbent, is certainly helping his cause. On Sunday, the right-hander held the Tigers in check for four shutout innings, striking out four, while allowing only a first-inning single to Miguel Cabrera.
Koehler's day was done after 47 pitches, with 35 strikes.
"We talked about opportunity and we talked about guys wanting it, and he's gone out there and pitched the way that he needs to pitch," manager Mike Redmond said. "That spot is going to be big for us, and he's definitely gone out there and done what he's needed to do at this point."
It's just two starts, but Koehler's thus far given up one run on four hits with six strikeouts and one walk over seven innings.
"Tommy pitched great. He has all spring," Redmond said. "He looks like a different guy from last year to this year."
Stuff has never been an issue for Koehler, whose fastball runs up to the mid-90s.
Establishing fastball command is his primary objective in every bullpen he throws, and now every game.
Thus far, he's been able to do that, which appears to have given him the inside spot to be in the rotation. Brad Hand, Kevin Slowey and Brian Flynn are among the others in contention for the fifth spot.
"I did a good job of getting ahead, and locating all my pitches for a strike," Koehler said. "Really, it's just getting ahead. That put me in position to expand the zone a little bit in certain counts."
After Cabrera's two-out single in the first inning, Koehler retired the final 10 he faced.
Cabrera's hit was a fastball away.
"He's one of those guys that you almost feel like he is one step ahead of you," Koehler said. "You've got to really make sure you execute all your pitches. If you make a mistake, you know that mistake can become a souvenir pretty quickly. That's why he's been as good as he's been the last couple of years. You don't win the Triple Crown based on luck.
"It was a pitch that I'd throw again. It's a lot better seeing him on first base than slapping five with his teammates."
Bullpen competition starting to heat up
JUPITER, Fla. -- It's about to get interesting for a couple of bullpen openings at Marlins camp.
There are a number of candidates for what may ultimately be two or three spots.
At the mid-way point of Spring Training, manager Mike Redmond is sending a reminder that the time is now to show something.
"Every outing is big for guys," Redmond said. "Camp now, is so short. We have so many pitchers, and we're trying to get a look at so many different guys. Honestly, I think every time they get the ball is important. There are not enough innings out there for guys to kind of ease into it.
"I've never been a guy who kind of eased into it. I want to see what you've got. I'm trying to make an evaluation. I want to take the best  guys we can. If guys are holding back for something, it's probably not the time to hold back."
Up for grabs are a right-handed setup role, long relief, and possibly a second lefty spot.
The club is expected to carry seven relievers, and 12 total pitchers.
"We have a bunch of guys really fighting for those spots," Redmond said. "We're looking for guys to step up."
In the mix for spots are Carter Capps, Arquimedes Caminero, Henry Rodriguez, Brad Hand (either starter or reliever) and Kevin Slowey (also a starter and relief candidate). Carlos Marmol is signed to a guaranteed contract, and Sunday was his first scheduled appearance.
Marmol is basically a lock.
Rodriguez is a non-roster invitee who struck out three and issued a hit on Saturday in one inning against the Braves. Command is key for Rodriguez, who throws in the upper 90s. He was throwing 98-99 mph in his first inning.
What impressed the Marlins is he was getting strikeouts on sliders.
Some of the lefties getting a look are Dan Jennings, Josh Spence and Edgar Olmos.
Secured of spots are closer Steve Cishek, A.J. Ramos, Mike Dunn and Marmol.
There are some starters who may wind up in bullpen roles, like Tom Koehler, Hand and Slowey.
The Marlins are looking for relievers to replace the innings logged a year ago by Ryan Webb and Chad Qualls, who are with the Orioles and Astros, respectively.
"Where are these guys going to fit?" Redmond said. "Like I said, we lost Webby and we lost Qualls. We need guys to step up, and fill those innings. It's going to be an interesting battle to see who can be the most consistent and earn it. The bottom line is, these guys have got to earn it."
Marlins may be locked into lineup early
JUPITER, Fla. -- Barring something unforeseen, the starting lineup on Sunday is what the Marlins project will be out there on Opening Day.
Aside from the designated hitter being used in Spring Training, there also is a strong likelihood the batting order was also intact.
The order was: Rafael Furcal (2B), Christian Yelich (LF), Giancarlo Stanton (RF), Garrett Jones (1B), Jarrod Saltalamacchia (C), Marcell Ozuna (CF), Casey McGehee (3B), Greg Dobbs (DH), Adeiny Hechavarria (SS).
"Going into Spring Training, I targeted right around this time to start ramping guys up, and getting them in there back-to-back days," manager Mike Redmond said. "We have quite a few new guys. I want guys to get a feel for playing together as soon as possible."
Spring Training was a week longer a year ago due to the World Baseball Classic, which gave players more opportunities for innings and at-bats.
"This year we don't really have that luxury," Redmond said. "I want guys to get in there, get comfortable, and get going as soon as we can."
• Furcal, whose wife delivered a baby boy on Friday, returned to the team on Sunday and he was back in the starting lineup, playing second base and leading off.
• Jose Fernandez will throw a simulated game on Monday morning, instead of facing the Mets at Port St. Lucie. Hand will start against New York. And on Tuesday, Nathan Eovaldi will throw in a simulated game on a back field at Roger Dean Stadium, instead of pitching in Fort Myers against the Red Sox. Brian Flynn will start in his place.
• The Marlins have announced who will start against the Yankees in Panama on March 15-16. Hand will start on Saturday, and Eovaldi will start on Sunday. The team is arriving in Panama on Friday night, and leaving after Sunday's game. Stanton, Yelich, Jeff Mathis, Hechavarria, Jones, Derek Dietrich and Jake Marisnick are going. The relievers include Cishek and Ramos.
• The Marlins will face the Mets on Monday in a 'B' Game at 10 a.m. ET on a back field in Port St. Lucie. Slowey will start, and Cishek is among the relievers who will be there.