JUPITER, Fla. -- A major step for any player is reaching the point where he truly believes he belongs in the big leagues.
Tom Koehler gained that validation after the 2013 season. The 27-year-old Marlins right-hander finished up on a high note, going 2-1 with a 3.14 ERA in five starts last September.
The solid final month capped his season at 5-10 with a 4.41 ERA in 29 games, with 23 starts. The right-hander logged 143 innings, and he put himself in solid position to claim the fifth-starter spot this Spring Training.
"With September, I felt I showed myself, 'Hey, I can do this.' It was against some quality teams, too," Koehler said.
Koehler's first Grapefruit League start on Tuesday certainly helped his status. In two innings in a 3-1 win over the Twins at Roger Dean Stadium, the right-hander gave up one run on three hits with one strikeout. He threw 36 pitches, 23 for strikes.
A challenging moment came in the second inning, when Koehler loaded the bases with no outs, and he minimized the damage by allowing just one run.
The Marlins maintain they will take the best starting five for their rotation. Even if he doesn't open the season in the rotation, Koehler could make the club as a reliever.
"Come April, I'm going to be pitching somewhere," he said. "I can't tell you where. I hope it's here. For me, the mindset is to go out there and be as ready as I can when the bell rings come April."
A year ago, Koehler got into a pattern of throwing some solid innings, but the outing would be derailed by one rough inning. Eventually, he sat down with manager Mike Redmond to talk about it.
"I had a little meeting with Red, and we talked a little bit," Koehler said. "It kind of helped put some things in perspective and it helped my mindset out. I realized things shouldn't change whether it's the fifth inning of the game or if it's the first inning. Being able to finish strong showed myself -- and hopefully showed them -- that this is a guy who can go out there and help us win games and really compete."
Solano-Lucas utility infield battle a close one
JUPITER, Fla. -- Deciding the Marlins' utility infield spot could come down to: "Can you top this?"
Donovan Solano and Ed Lucas are frontrunners for the position, and choosing between the two will be one of the toughest decisions by management.
Being able to play shortstop is a necessity. Both can do that.
"You've got Solano and Lucas," manager Mike Redmond said. "These are guys who have a lot of versatility. Solano can play short. We didn't see him playing a lot at short last year. This year, we're trying to get him out there at short as much as possible. Eddie Lucas, we know, can play short as well."
Most of Solano's experience is at second base, and he can also play shortstop and third base.
Lucas also plays short, third, second and first base. He also can play left field and would be an emergency catcher.
The starters are pretty much set. Garrett Jones is at first base, with Rafael Furcal at second, Adeiny Hechavarria at shortstop and Casey McGehee at third.
Jeff Baker can play first, third and second, as well as some outfield. He signed for two seasons, which makes him a lock to win a backup spot.
"It's going to be one of those tough decisions," Redmond said. "We have to have somebody who can back up Hech, in case anything happens to him."
The team hasn't ruled out using Furcal at shortstop, if necessary. The veteran is a career shortstop, but he is making the transition to second base. But Furcal hasn't taken any reps at shortstop this Spring Training.
"That's his natural position," Redmond said. "That would be an option for us."
If possible, the club would like to stay away from using Furcal at short.
Menechino, Marlins preach patience at plate
JUPITER, Fla. -- A handful of games is hardly enough time to form a true sample size. But early on, the Marlins can tell if their players are offering a good approach.
New hitting coach Frank Menechino is stressing patience and not missing pitches to hit.
Thus far, there has been mixed reviews. The first few games, the club did a solid job in that area. It wasn't so much the case in Monday's 4-0 loss to the Astros. In the first two innings, the Marlins were retired on 17 pitches.
In the second inning on Tuesday against the Twins, a couple of two-out quality at-bats led to a run.
Greg Dobbs delivered a two-out single to center, putting runners on the corners. Ed Lucas slapped an RBI single to right.
"Frank has talked a lot about approach, and taking pitches and trying to work deep into counts," manager Mike Redmond said. "I think the first few games, we've done a nice job with it. [On Monday], we didn't do very well at that. We were aggressive, and kind of came out of our game plan.
"But that's going to happen in Spring Training. The first week or so is always an adjustment for guys. They know they're only going to get a couple of at-bats. Hitters are working on their swings. Sometimes you get so mechanical, you forget about the approach side of it."
After finishing last in the Majors in runs scored last year, the Marlins are seeking every way possible to generate more offense. It starts with the basics.
"We've really been preaching the approach and getting good pitches to hit and working counts," Redmond said. "That's key for us, to get guys on base for the middle of the order. If you get yourself in a better count, you'll get a better pitch. At the end of the day, that's really the bottom line."
• The Marlins are going to play a "B" game on Wednesday against the Cardinals at 10 a.m. ET on Field 2 at Roger Dean Stadium. Andrew Heaney, Anthony DeSclafani, Justin Nicolino, Colby Suggs, Jose Urena and Grant Dayton are each scheduled to throw one inning.
• Henderson Alvarez is on schedule to make his first Grapefruit League start Friday against the Cardinals. Alvarez missed his first start because of an infection on his right shin.
Henry Rodriguez will throw in a simulated game on Wednesday, and based on that performance, the reliever could be available for a Grapefruit League game this weekend.
Carlos Marmol, who left camp a few days ago to deal with a visa matter in the Dominican Republic, is scheduled to return on Wednesday night and be on the field on Thursday.
Jeff Mathis will catch Jose Fernandez on Wednesday at Port St. Lucie, Fla., and Jarrod Saltalamacchia will be behind the plate on Thursday to face his former team, the Red Sox. Nathan Eovaldi will start for Miami. Allen Webster will get the start for Boston.
• Minor League camp opens on Wednesday. Typically when camp opens, it means the first rounds of cuts are near.