LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- If there was a Cy Young Award for Spring Training, former Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said a year ago, it would have gone to Wade LeBlanc. The left-hander had a 1.31 Grapefruit League ERA, allowing just 10 hits and striking out 19 in 20 2/3 innings.
LeBlanc was at it again on Monday, starting against the Braves and throwing two perfect innings in the Marlins' 7-6 loss at Champion Stadium. He was happy with his outing, but kept it in perspective.
"Where'd that get me last year? It got me three months in [Triple-A] New Orleans, that's what it got me. We'll see how it works this year," LeBlanc said with a laugh.
When LeBlanc was eventually called up, he bounced back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen and went 2-5 with a 3.67 ERA.
This spring he's competing for the fifth spot in the rotation, and that's fine with him.
"I think I'm always going to have to earn what I get, and that's how I want it," he said. "I feel like the minute somebody gives something to me, I'm not going to appreciate it once I get it. So if I were to perform this spring and end up in that fifth slot, I'd appreciate it, because I'd know that I earned it. That's the big thing for me. I don't want anything given to me."
This time around he has a couple of things going for him -- the first four starters who are penciled in are right-handed, and he's out of options. Still, he knows he doesn't have the luxury of just going out and working on things. He has to show results.
"If he pitches like he did today over the course of Spring Training, that will put a lot of pressure on us to keep him on the team," said manager Mike Redmond. "We've been talking about guys being aggressive and pounding the strike zone. That's exactly what we were looking for. That was pretty much [the Braves'] 'A' lineup, so it was a good test for him."
Said LeBlanc: "I think the last two or three years, I've figured out how to approach every game like it's a regular-season situation while still improving on things and building toward [Opening Day]. That's the goal, and I think that's a product of me having to compete every year for the last six Spring Trainings. So I think you reach a point where you know what you need to do to get ready for the season while at the same time competing and trying to earn a spot."
And as long as he has a spot in the Major Leagues, he doesn't care what his role is.
"If anybody tells you they like bouncing around, they're lying to you," he said, "but I think the personality that I have allows me to be able to do whatever they need me to do moreso than some guys. I'm not the kind of guy who needs a full day to focus on getting into game mode like some guys do. Everybody's different."