JUPITER -- This wasn't the way Justin Nicolino wanted to start the spring.
Unbeaten FIU -- using wooden bats as opposed to the aluminum ones they are used to -- jumped all over one of the Marlins' top prospects Thursday afternoon. The Panthers scored five earned runs on seven hits off Nicolino and chased him after only 1 2/3 innings.
"I just kind of have to tip my cap to them," Nicolino said. "They came out with an approach and I was working on a few things and they beat me. It was good. It's good to see where I was at today. Obviously not the start I wanted. Like I said the other day, anybody can get beat on any given day. It doesn't matter who it is, college or pro guys. It happens. I liked my [fielding] plays. I take positives out of it."
Tabbed the fourth-best prospect in the organization by Baseball America and the seventh-best left-handed pitching prospect by MLB.com, Nicolino, 22, was disappointed how he finished last season in Double A Jacksonville after having a strong showing for High-A Jupiter.
He went 3-2 with a 4.96 ERA, 31 Ks, 12 BBs in nine starts (45 1/3 innings) in Double A and 5-2 with a 2.23 ERA, 64 Ks, 18 BBs in 18 starts (96 2/3 innings) in Single A.
Nicolino threw 49 pitches, 27 for strikes on Thursday.
"The way I look at it's two innings. My pitch count ran up," he said. "I was throwing too many pitches, putting myself in situations that weren't in my favor. When I saw Red I was disappointed in myself. It's never good to see Red before you're supposed to."
> Credit Ty Wigginton with the first home run of the spring for the Marlins. He took FIU freshman starter Chris Mourelle deep to left with two outs in the bottom of the second. It was the only run Mourelle surrendered over four innings.