Early in his career, there was a question about Nathan Eovaldi's command. The Marlins right-hander has addressed that, and he's throwing strikes while cutting down his walks.
Next, many wondered if Eovaldi could miss bats. The 24-year-old is starting to do that, too, as he comes off a career-high 10 strikeouts against the Mets.
On Saturday, Eovaldi will have the challenge of facing one of the toughest bats in the Padres' organization. Chase Headley, who turned 30 on Friday, is set to be reinstated from the disabled list and ready for the third game of this four-game series.
"That's the plan," Padres manager Bud Black said Friday. "All indications are he'll be ready to go and be with us tomorrow. He feels good physically."
For an offense that has struggled to bunch hits and runs together this season -- although the Friars did score a season-high 10 runs Friday night -- Headley's return will certainly be welcomed, though he was struggling like many other hitters in the lineup when he landed on the DL on April 25 with a strained right calf.
Strong starting pitching has paved the way in the Marlins' surge the past few weeks. Eovaldi is one of the young power arms who is continuing to make strides.
In 45 1/3 innings, the right-hander has 45 strikeouts. He's also boasting a 2.78 ERA and a WHIP of 0.99.
"I'm just trying to get ahead and not get too deep in counts, where guys are always fouling it off," Eovaldi said. "Like last year, I'd have two or three at-bats where they were 10 or 15 pitches, where they were just fouling pitches off, and you can't put them away. This year, I'm just trying to locate the fastball and locate pitches."
The Padres lineup against Eovaldi becomes stronger with the return of Headley. The third baseman, who two seasons ago led the league in RBIs (115), was hitting .186 in his first 70 at-bats. Three days before he got hurt, he had two hits, including a home run, in an April 22 victory over the Brewers.
Headley had two hits in his first eight at-bats on a Minor League rehabilitation stint with Class A Lake Elsinore, and he reported no pain whatsoever in his calf.
"He's in a good spot, mentally and physically," Black said. Headley and Co. will try to support lefty Eric Stults, who took the loss in Miami on April 4 in his first start of the season.
Marlins: Capps factoring into back end of bullpen
The Marlins are in the market for a veteran late-inning reliever. As the club surveys the market for available options, it feels it has an internal candidate to mix into the back end.
Carter Capps continues to impress. The hard-throwing right-hander worked a perfect seventh inning in Thursday's 3-1 win over the Padres in 11 innings. Capps' fastball touched 100 mph.
"He's earned that by the way he's pitched," manager Mike Redmond said. "He's definitely a guy we're feeling comfortable to use him, whether it's the seventh inning or eighth inning."
The way the back end is shaping up, A.J. Ramos and Mike Dunn are the primary seventh- and eighth-inning relievers, depending on matchups.
Capps now enters the mix.
"If somebody got jammed up, you also feel like he could come in to get a couple of guys in the eighth inning as well, the way his fastball is," Redmond said.
Padres: About that Kennedy home run
Pitcher Ian Kennedy's big night Thursday against the Marlins was notable on several fronts.
First, Kennedy blasted his first career home run, a 400 foot shot to left-center field in the second inning. Then he matched his career high with 12 strikeouts in a no-decision.
With his outing, Kennedy became the third pitcher in franchise history to record 10 or more strikeouts on the mound as well as hit a home run, joining Joey Hamilton on Aug. 18, 1996, against the Mets (10 strikeouts, one home run) and Tim Lollar on April 23, 1982, against the Braves (also 10 strikeouts and a home run).
Kennedy also became the sixth Major League pitcher since the 1985 season to record 12 or more strikeouts on the mound and hit a home run, and the first since Madison Bumgarner did so on June 12, 2012, against the Astros.
• Giancarlo Stanton singled in the sixth inning Friday night, extending his hitting streak to 11 games.
• The Marlins have had trouble making contact in the series. They struck out 17 times on Thursday, and San Diego starter Tyson Ross had eight strikeouts in seven innings on Friday.
• Jedd Gyorko's grand slam off Jose Fernandez was the second slam of his career.