Koehler tests pitches, deflects stats in debut

Marlins righty tinkers with changeup, falls behind in 1 2/3 innings of 3-run ball

Koehler tests pitches, deflects stats in debut

JUPITER, Fla. -- You can't always judge a Spring Training outing by the stat line. Tom Koehler's 1 2/3 innings start on Thursday is a prime example, because the Marlins right-hander was experimenting with different pitches in certain counts.

So what you saw from the 29-year-old in a 4-3 Marlins loss to the Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium isn't necessarily what you'd see in the regular season.

Koehler gave up three runs (two earned) on three extra-base hits, with two strikeouts and a walk. He threw 41 pitches, 25 for strikes.

Spring Training: Schedule | Tickets | More info

"The line is obviously not what I want to see, but at this point, I'm not too concerned about that," Koehler said. "I'm working on some things and trying some stuff in different counts that I may not do, even come two starts from now."

More than the results, Koehler was focused on testing pitches in different counts. For example, he was tinkering with his changeup, and sometimes he'd fall behind in counts in the process.

"I felt I executed a lot of pitches," Koehler said. "In reality, I left maybe two balls up, and they both went for extra bases. One was a changeup. Other than that, I feel like I threw the ball well today."

Miami's most durable starter the past few seasons, Koehler has essentially locked down a rotation spot. At least, he's been given a vote of endorsement from the front office.

The right-hander was 11-14 with a 4.08 ERA in 187 1/3 innings last year. And in 2014, he threw 191 1/3 innings.

Jose Fernandez, Wei-Yin Chen and Koehler are the three starters the team is firmly committed to.

"With the guys we know are here too, it's hard to judge, too, because in a sense they're trying to get their work in and not make a club," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "But you don't want it to look like that."

The way Koehler looks at his status, he hasn't heard anything official yet.

"Nobody has told me anything," the right-hander said. "I haven't sat down with anybody, and they said, 'Hey, you're on the team.' As far as I'm concerned, there are two pitchers that have secure spots on this team. I view it as I'm still battling for one, whether that be the case or not."

If the Marlins are to contend this year, the rotation will have to step up.

"They always say pitching and defense is what wins championships," Koehler said. "When we pitch, and we're on, we're as good as anybody. It's the nights that we're off that we have to find a way to keep the team in the game.

"We have two guys, I feel can match up with anybody. They're as consistent as it comes. The rest of us have to step up and search for consistency. Really, take that ball, and keep the team in it and not try to do too much."

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.