JUPITER -- The Marlins will play a rare Grapefruit League night game tonight at Roger Dean Stadium against a team many expect to be in the thick of the playoff hunt in the National League: the Washington Nationals.
"I know [Stephen] Strasburg is coming back. We saw how he finished up last season. They added [All-Star Gio] Gonzalez to the rotation. Adam LaRoche is back healthy at first. They have some guys coming off really good years, too. -- Mike Morse. They're a good club. Like I said before I believe the NL East is the toughest division right now from top to bottom."
Left-hander Wade LeBlanc, acquired in a trade this off-season with San Diego for catcher John Baker, will make his first Grapefruit League start opposite Strasburg for the Marlins tonight. The fact the Marlins get a chance to see the 23-year old hard throwing right-hander this early in spring training is a good thing players say.
Last September, Strasburg faced the Marlins twice in his return from Tommy John surgery and allowed just one earned run over 12 innings against them. He struckout 13 Marlins and walked just two of them.
"All the hype is real. He's a solid starting pitcher. Great arm, good command, looks very composed on the mound. He's a promising young star," Dobbs said.
"It's fairly difficult [seeing the ball off his hand], not impossible. He's got such good arm action on all his pitches and everything looks pretty much the same. It's tough to pick up -- especially when he starts throwing his curveball for strikes and starts mixing it up. It's pretty tough."
OTHER NEWS AND NOTES
> The Marlins' next three Grapefruit League games will be on TV: Saturday's game against the Cardinals at 1:05 p.m., featuring starters Josh Johnson and Kyle Lohse, will be on Fox Sports Florida. Sunday's game in Port St. Lucie against the Mets, featuring starters Mark Buehrle and Johan Santana, will be televised on MLB Network at 1:10 p.m. Monday's game in Fort Myers against the Red Sox -- Ricky Nolasco is starting for Miami -- will be broadcast on ESPN. That game starts at 1:35 p.m.
> Both Chris Coghlan and Dobbs were scratched from Friday's lineup with minor injuries. Coghlan said he tweaked his back testing his vertical jump on Friday. Dobbs said he tweaked his left hamstring against FIU on Wednesday. Both are taking a few days off to rest.
> Logan Morrison said he was supposed to get his first start of the spring at first base Thursday against the Mets in Port St. Lucie, but was scratched from the lineup because his right knee (scoped in November) was a little sore. "If it was the season I'd be playing right now," Morrison said.
> Pitcher Anibal Sanchez, who experienced tightness in his throwing shoulder a week ago, threw a bullpen session on Friday and said he felt great. He will throw to live hitters on Sunday and hopes to make his first Grapefruit League start Wednesday in Port Charlotte against the Rays.
"We'll wait until Sunday to see how I feel," Sanchez said. "But I have nothing bothering me in my shoulder right now."
> Reliever Jose Ceda, who was clocked throwing at 95 miles per hour against the Mets Thursday, doesn't want to talk about how much weight he's lost in the offseason because he hopes to announce the grand total on Opening Day -- should he make the team.
"I'm still working on my weight," Ceda said. "Hopefully, I'll earn a spot on the big league team. Then, I'll let you know."
> Nationals (3-2): 1. Ian Desmond SS, 2. Steve Lombardozzi 2B, 3. Jason Michaels LF, 4. Tyler Moore 1B, 5. Anthony Rendon 3B, 6. Jesus Flores C, 7. Rick Ankiel DH, 8. Brett Carroll RF, 9. Roger Bernadina CF. P Stephen Strasburg
> Marlins (2-2): 1. Jose Reyes SS, 2. Emilio Bonifacio CF, 3. Hanley Ramirez 3B, 4. Giancarlo Stanton RF, 5. Gaby Sanchez 1B, 6. Omar Infante 2B, 7. John Buck C, 8. Bryan Petersen LF, 9. Kyle Skipworth DH. P Wade LeBlanc