After 0-3 start, five things for Marlins to focus on

Offense must heat up and protect Stanton after early struggles vs. Braves

After 0-3 start, five things for Marlins to focus on

MIAMI -- No one saw this coming. The Marlins entered the season beaming with optimism, only to be blindsided by the Braves.

Miami expects to be listed at or near the top of the standings, not sitting dead last in the National League East at 0-3. Disappointed? Yes. Discouraged? No.

"You come into Spring Training, that's an adjustment," manager Mike Redmond said. "When the season starts, that's another adjustment. You go from a really relaxed atmosphere, and guys preparing themselves for the season, to all of a sudden every pitch is huge. Every situation is huge. It's all about winning."

Redmond on Koehler's outing

Off Thursday, the Marlins are back at it Friday night at home against the Rays.

To get in gear, here are five things worth tracking:

1. Starting pitching
All things considered, two out of three quality starts isn't bad. Henderson Alvarez and Tom Koehler each had a loss to show for their respective strong outings against Atlanta. If both keep throwing like they did this week, they should be rewarded more often than not. Alvarez gave up two runs in seven innings on Opening Day, and Koehler allowed two runs in six-plus innings Wednesday. Both promising.

Koehler's strong start

2. Mat Latos
The most alarming part of the 0-3 start was Latos' career-short stint Tuesday. He lasted just two-thirds of an inning, giving up seven runs. Is he healthy? Latos insists he is. Still, the organization will be looking closely at his next outing, set for Monday at Atlanta.

3. Ice-cold bats
Hat tip to the Braves' pitchers. They limited the Marlins to three runs in the series. Miami's slash line was .202/.265/.234, including just 3-for-12 (.250) with two RBIs with runners in scoring position.

4. Bottom of order
The seventh and eighth spots -- shared by Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Adeiny Hechavarria and Jeff Mathis -- were 0-for-19 with eight strikeouts and two walks. Toss in the pitchers, and the three bottom of the order spots were 1-for-22 (.045) with 10 strikeouts.

Morse's three-run home run

5. Protecting Stanton
Giancarlo Stanton may have gone 1-for-8 (.125), but he did draw four walks, giving him a .417 on-base percentage. Atlanta wasn't giving in to Stanton, increasing the need for Michael Morse, Martin Prado and Marcell Ozuna to produce. Those three were 9-for-34 (.265) with no RBIs in the series. Middle-of-the-order protection is going to be crucial in terms of getting Stanton more pitches to hit.

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.