Conley dominates in bid for rotation spot

Conley dominates in bid for rotation spot

JUPITER, Fla. -- Six up, six down via strikeouts. Those were just several more examples of why Adam Conley appears on the brink of solidifying a rotation spot.

The emergence of Conley has been one of the biggest stories of Spring Training for the Marlins. The 25-year-old left-hander simply dominated on Saturday, striking out all six Tigers batters he faced before rain cancelled the Grapefruit League game at Roger Dean Stadium.

Officially, none of the statistics counted. But to the Marlins, and in the progression of Conley, the day absolutely mattered.

In the first inning, Conley fanned Anthony Gose with a 95-mph fastball before catching Justin Upton looking at a 94-mph fastball. J.D. Martinez struck out swinging. In the second, Nick Castellanos, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and James McCann each went down swinging.

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Saturday was a continuation of what Conley has shown pretty much every time he has pitched. Entering his outing, he had allowed one run on three hits over 4 2/3 innings.

"He's just a guy right now who looks like he knows what he wants to do on every pitch, and pitching confidently," manager Don Mattingly said. "That's a big thing. Just the way he's gone about his business."

All spring, Conley has been all business. Against the Tigers, a team he doesn't anticipate facing in the regular season, he decided to showcase all of his pitches and see what would happen.

What happened was impressive: 29 pitches, 22 strikes. His fastball topped out at 96 mph, and he also missed bats with changeups and sliders. Five of the six strikeouts were on swings and misses.

As dominant as he was, Conley is the first to admit he was far from perfect.

"In bowling, if you bowl 300, you can't do it any better," Conley said. "In baseball, you don't have that. Even in a perfect game, your stuff could be better -- more swings and misses, all of that stuff. So there is just a never ending pursuit to be better."

Conley on scrimmage outing

The club has yet to announce its rotation, but it's hard to image Miami will break camp without Conley secure in one of the five spots.

Is Conley on a mission?

"I've been on one for a long time," Conley said. "Obviously, the results were great today. For me, the pursuit is not to strike out the first six guys in the game."

More than results, Conley is striving to get better.

Conley may have just 67 big league innings of experience, but he has been around long enough to know throwing two perfect innings is far from completing a game.

"Had I pitched the rest of the day, I might have found the second time through the lineup I couldn't get those guys out," Conley said. "I'm not going to get tied up and caught up in what the results were.

"For me, the mission has been to have the best stuff that I can possibly have. That's something I can't ever achieve that. I can't ever be the best. There are a million ways you can improve."

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.