Outlook: Alvarez offers solid sleeper potential

JUPITER, Fla. -- With a bounce back in his step, right-hander Henderson Alvarez is expected to throw off the mound on Monday, and he could be joining the rotation by the end of next week.

Alvarez has been dealing with an infection in his right shin that is causing him to miss his start on Sunday against the Nationals in Viera, Fla.

Earlier in the week, he was hobbling around on crutches, but on Friday he was moving better and played catch.

There is an outside chance that Alvarez, Miami's projected No. 3 starter, could throw a bullpen session on Sunday, but manager Mike Redmond sounded as though he and pitching coach Chuck Hernandez were leaning more toward Monday.

"We'll start to ramp him up as far as playing catch and long-tossing, and getting him back up and running," Redmond said. "If everything goes well, Chuck and I were talking about plugging him in there late next week. That's kind of the plan."

Alvarez is a major part of the Marlins' rotation after going 5-6 with a 3.59 ERA in 17 starts last season.

And he saved his best for last, throwing a no-hitter against the Tigers in the season's final game.

The Marlins haven't officially announced their rotation, but the top four are shaping up to be Jose Fernandez, Nathan Eovaldi, Alvarez and Jacob Turner.

Keeping the group healthy is the foremost priority in camp.

The way Alvarez is feeling now has the team comfortable that he could in the rotation next Friday against St. Louis. The next couple of days will be telling.

"We'll see how it goes," Redmond said. "He's moving around pretty good. I'm anticipating him being out there next week sometime."

Eovaldi mixing up a repertoire of pitches

MIA@STL: Eovaldi strikes out Peralta in the first

JUPITER, Fla. -- When you are accustomed to bringing heat, it's an adjustment to offer a change of pace.

Finding the right balance is one of Nathan Eovaldi's objectives this spring.

Projected as the Marlins' No. 2 starter, Eovaldi, 24, tends to be fastball-happy, and for good reason, as he's one of the hardest-throwing starters in the Majors. According to Fangraphs.com, his heater averaged 96.2 mph last season.

With that pitch being such a weapon, Eovaldi tended to rely heavily on it. Fangraphs.com tabulated that 70.6 percent of his pitches a year ago were fastballs.

Still, to develop into a more consistent and imposing pitcher, Eovaldi is aiming to lower that percentage and increase his use of sliders, curveballs and changeups.

"You have to be smart with it," Eovaldi said. "I'm a fastball pitcher. I'm going to establish that first-pitch strike with my fastball, regardless. I've still got to be able to on, 0-1, 0-2, be able to put them away with offspeed pitches."

Eovaldi had his first chance to mix things up on Saturday, when he threw two innings, giving up one unearned run, in the Marlins' 5-4 win over the Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium. He threw 35 pitches, 27 of them strikes. He estimated that about 10 of his pitches were offspeed. His fastball topped at 97 mph.

"He's got a great arm, a great fastball," manager Mike Redmond said. "We've all seen that. We saw some games where he was dominant, and some games where his fastball was up a little bit, and he got hit around a little bit. The challenge for him is really going to be his secondary pitches. That's the key."

In the first inning, he retired Jon Jay on a changeup. The ball was hit pretty well, to deep right field, but Giancarlo Stanton had enough room to make the grab near the wall.

Eovaldi had one strikeout, getting Jhonny Peralta swinging through a slider.

"I have four pitches, and I barely threw my changeup last year," Eovaldi said. "I want to get that more in the mix. Not just fastball-slider. I want to throw my curveball more this year. I felt like that second half was a lot better when I threw my curveball more."

Slowey's spring off to strong start

MIA@NYM: Slowey rings up No. 3 in the second inning

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Right-hander Kevin Slowey's quest to re-create last spring's magic got off to a strong start on Saturday afternoon.

Slowey, 29, who last pitched in a game seven months ago, made his return with two shutout innings against the Mets at Tradition Field.

"After being hurt last year, this is the day I looked forward to every day of the offseason, knowing that I would get another chance to go out and compete," Slowey said.

Slowey gave up three runs -- two earned -- without recording an out at Coors Field on July 25, 2013. He went on the disabled list on July 27 (retroactive to July 26) with tightness in his right forearm and was transferred to the 60-day DL on Sept. 1.

Last spring, Slowey claimed a spot on the Opening Day roster as a non-roster invitee and took over the rotation's third slot. This spring he is once again a non-roster invitee whose versatility could earn him a job in either the rotation or the bullpen.

On Saturday he needed just 25 pitches (20 of them strikes) to retire six of the seven hitters he faced. He gave up a one-out, first-pitch single to Kirk Nieuwenhuis to left in the first. He struck out four batters, including the side in the second.

His fastball consistently ranged from the high 80s to low 90s, and topped at 91 mph on his fifth pitch.

"I'm thankful that that's there, at least," he said. "Something I can hope to have for the rest of the year."

His ability to attack the strike zone troubled Mets hitters. Chris Young popped out to the catcher in foul territory to lead off the game. Lucas Duda flied out to left to end the first. Slowey's first two strikeouts of the second were looking.

"I've been playing long enough to understand my strengths and weaknesses," Slowey said. "There are a handful of both that I'm pretty aware of. For me, throwing strikes is important, especially commanding the fastball in the zone.

"Coming into today and really early every Spring Training of my career, I've tried to establish my ability to command a fastball for a strike, because my other pitches build off of that."

Marlins reach terms with 28 pre-arb players

Redmond talks expectations for Fernandez's start

JUPITER, Fla. -- All 40 players on the Marlins' roster are officially signed. The team on Saturday announced that all 28 of their pre-arbitration players reached agreements on contracts for the upcoming season.

The list includes Jose Fernandez, Henderson Alvarez, Nathan Eovaldi, Christian Yelich, Tom Koehler and Marcell Ozuna.

Fernandez, the 2013 National League Rookie of the Year, signed for $635,000, a franchise high for a player coming off his rookie season.

Fernandez was compensated for being an All-Star, Rookie of the Year, finishing third in the Cy Young Award voting and twice being Pitcher of the Month.

Yelich, who became the everyday left fielder in late July, signed for $505,000.

The MLB minimum is $500,000.

Worth noting

• The rotation is setting up, with Brad Hand getting the start on Sunday in place of Alvarez in Viera, Fla. Turner gets the nod on Monday (vs. Houston), Koehler on Tuesday (vs. Minnesota), Fernandez on Wednesday (at Mets), Eovaldi on Thursday (vs. Boston) and possibly Alvarez on Friday at St. Louis.

Rafael Furcal made his Grapefruit League debut on Saturday, getting two at-bats and leading off against the Cardinals.