Chen, Nicolino get work vs. Minor Leaguers

Chen, Nicolino get work vs. Minor Leaguers

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Before the Marlins faced the Mets on Monday in Grapefruit League action at Tradition Field, Opening Day starter Wei-Yin Chen and left-hander Justin Nicolino each had an active morning pitching in a Minor League game on Field 4 of the Roger Dean Stadium complex in Jupiter, Fla.

Rather than have Chen see the Mets, a team he is expected to oppose in early April at Citi Field in New York, the 30-year-old pitched against Miami's Double-A Jacksonville team. Nicolino, who is competing for a rotation spot, also threw in the same game.

More than results, the Marlins wanted both to keep building up their pitch counts. Chen threw 78 pitches (54 strikes). 

Spring Training: Schedule | Tickets | Complete info

With Chen working on a back field, right-hander Jarred Cosart, in the mix for one of two rotation spots, started against the Mets on Monday.

"We want to make sure Wei-Yin gets up and down enough," manager Don Mattingly said, meaning simulating each inning. "He's a step further than [Cosart] at this point. We want to give Cozy his day where he is on the big field, seeing guys. We want to make sure he gets his opportunities."

The Marlins on Sunday named Chen their Opening Day starter instead of Jose Fernandez, who will pitch in the second game.

On the back field, Chen got his work in, throwing to catcher Jeff Mathis.

Nicolino, meanwhile, will head to the Triple-A New Orleans rotation if he doesn't win a big league rotation spot.

Although Nicolino doesn't have overpowering stuff, he has enjoyed success at every Minor League level, and the Marlins are confident the 24-year-old southpaw will eventually perform in the Majors.

Nicolino's impressive outing

"He's a guy who just gets results," Mattingly said. "That's one thing we've noticed. He gets his outs. That's impressive. That means he understands who he is. There is a confidence about Nico that you like, the way he handles himself. The way he goes about his business. This guy is going to be a winner in the big leagues."

With a fastball in the 87-90 mph range, and without big strikeout numbers, Nicolino relies on pitching savvy and the ability to keep hitters off stride.

In an age of power arms, Nicolino doesn't fit the prototype for young starters.

"Not nowadays when everybody is throwing 95, 96, 97," Mattingly said. "There is a lot of emphasis on that. But there is a guy named Jamie Moyer out there that pitched a long time at about 82.

"He has to understand who he is, and make sure he knows how to use his stuff. Again, he's a guy who just gets results. He's a guy you like what you see from him."

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.