VandenHurk inches closer to starting

VandenHurk inches closer to rotation

JUPITER, Fla. -- Rick VandenHurk keeps making a claim to secure a rotation spot. The 22-year-old from the Netherlands certainly increased his stock on Saturday afternoon.

In the Marlins' 7-6 win over the Orioles, VandenHurk gave up three runs on two hits in four innings. He exited after 63 pitches -- 40 of which he threw for strikes -- and a no-decision.

Still, he left a strong impression during a time the club is looking to secure its rotation.

"He was outstanding," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He mixed his changeup with his fastball. That was a very good outing by Rick.

"I wouldn't say he locked up [a spot], but he's putting himself in position for us to have a tough decision to make."

The Marlins plan on starting the season with a four-man rotation. Because they don't need a fifth starter until April 13, the team plans on carrying 12 total pitchers, including eight relievers.

In four spring outings, VandenHurk has made three starts, and is 1-1 with a 5.25 ERA. He has thrown 12 innings, second most on the club behind Andrew Miller's 13.

"It's their decision," VandenHurk said. "I feel like I've been throwing the ball well. I'm trying to pitch as good as I can every single time out. We'll see what they decide to do."

Numbers can be deceiving this early in the spring, and with a lucky break, VandenHurk's performance on Saturday could have looked a little cleaner.

After throwing three perfect innings, VandenHurk walked Brian Roberts to open the fourth. He threw a full-count breaking ball that he thought was a strike, but home-plate umpire Angel Hernandez ruled ball four. Jay Payton doubled, putting runners on second and third with no outs.

Jay Gibbons ripped a hard liner at second baseman Dan Uggla, who made the catch. With Payton well off the bag, Uggla tried doubling him up at second; however, the throw was well off the mark, and two runners ended up scoring.

Kevin Millar followed with a home run, making all three runs earned.

"Millar, I started him off with a changeup, and I threw a fastball that ran back over the plate," VandenHurk said. "You can't do that to him; he's a good hitter. He hit it out."

A year ago at this time, VandenHurk wasn't even in big league camp. But due to injuries, he was called up and made 17 starts in 18 appearances with the Marlins. He compiled 81 2/3 innings at the big league level before being shut down.

The Marlins' objective is to get all the starters to the 90- or 100-pitch level before the season starts. VandenHurk took a stride in that direction.

"I felt real good today," he said. "I'd say this was my best [outing] so far."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.