MIAMI -- Neither the moment nor the opposition intimidated rookie left-hander Justin Nicolino in Miami's 5-4 win over the Red Sox in 10 innings on Tuesday at Marlins Park. The 23-year-old left-hander may not have been involved in the decision but he showed promise and poise against a tough lineup.
Called up from Triple-A New Orleans after Jose Fernandez (right biceps strain) was placed on the disabled list, Nicolino gave up four runs in 5 2/3 innings. He was one out away from a quality start, but surrendered an RBI triple to Rusney Castillo in the sixth.
"I think there were a lot of jitters tonight, just coming back for this start," the lefty said. "I made some pitches when I needed to."
When Nicolino exited, the bullpen picked up the slack. It didn't allow a baserunner over 4 1/3 innings, and Miami was able to overcome a four-run deficit to celebrate a walk-off win.
"You've got to look at it as a great team win," Nicolino said. "Guys picked me up right there. That's all you can ask for."
Ranked by MLB.com as Miami's No. 3 prospect, Nicolino made his third big league start on Tuesday, and his first since June 26. He's spent a majority of the season at New Orleans, where he was 7-7 with a 3.52 ERA in 20 starts.
Not a big strikeout pitcher, Nicolino scattered nine hits on Tuesday and he didn't fan a batter. In 115 innings, he has struck out 63 and walked 29.
"First and foremost, the way he mixed his pitches," manager Dan Jennings said. "I thought he utilized his pitches. I think he can use his changeup a little more.
"I just thought that he spotted his fastball and he mixed so well. They couldn't get timing off of him. Even though he gave up nine hits, when he needed to execute a pitch, he was able to do that."
In the past, the Marlins haven't hesitated to promote pitchers who excel at the Double-A level. In the case of Fernandez, he was promoted in 2013 directly from Class A.
In Nicolino's case, the organization has been patient. In 2014, the lefty was the Southern League Pitcher of the Year on Double-A Jacksonville's title team.
He made 20 starts in Triple-A before being brought back to the big leagues.
"For me, every day is a learning process, whether it is side work, flat ground," Nicolino said. "Whatever I can do to get better and take it out there every five days, that's what I want to do.
"Everything I've done since I've started my pro career, I feel prepared me for these moments. To face guys like David Ortiz and [Pablo] Sandoval. Growing up watching them was really cool. But actually facing them and seeing them in the batter's box was pretty cool, too."
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.