Koehler takes liner off his backside, tosses 4 1/3 scoreless against Cardinals Triple A team Wednesday
While most of his Marlins teammates enjoyed their first day off of the spring, Tom Koehler spent his afternoon Wednesday pitching in a Triple A game on a backfield behind Roger Dean Stadium as his quest for a job in the starting rotation continued.
Facing a lineup which featured Cardinals' top prospects Oscar Taveras and James Ramsey, Koehler tossed 4 1/3 scoreless innings, giving up four hits and one walk while striking out four before his pitch count got too high.
"I would have liked to have gone a little deeper especially coming off five [scoreless] innings the other day [against the Mets]," said Koehler, who threw 74 pitches, 54 for strikes.
"But considering the circumstances where my pitch count got up with some foul [balls], some good at-bats, I'm still happy where I'm at right now."
Koehler, who in 12 Grapefruit League innings has given up just one earned run and seven hits while striking out 11 and walking two, had a bit of a scary moment in the fourth inning when Cardinals minor leaguer Chris Swauger smacked a line drive back to the mound.
Luckily, the ball struck Koehler right below his buttocks, high up along his right thigh. He recovered, picked up the ball and tossed it to first base for the put out. Koehler then waved a trainer off saying he felt fine.
"I'll tell you if that's one place it's going to get me that's the best spot," Koehler said. "Those are the type of plays people tend to panic on. That's the one that if I was thinking too much I would have picked it up and thrown it down the right field line and allowed the run. I found it, threw it. It didn't hurt."
After going 5-10 with a 4.41 ERA and making 23 starts for the Marlins last season, Koehler came into camp expecting to compete for the fifth spot in the rotation with left-hander Brad Hand and veteran right-hander Kevin Slowey.
Hand has been equal to the task, going 2-0 with a 0.75 ERA, nine hits, 15 strikeouts and two walks over 12 innings. But it looks like the Marlins could be leaning toward Koehler especially since Hand was only asked to pitch an inning of work in another minor league game on Wednesday.
What's been the difference for Koehler this spring?
"It's honestly just knowing what I'm capable of doing," said Koehler, who went 2-1 with a 3.14 ERA, 1.15 WHIP in five starts last September. "I showed myself a lot in September of last season. I'm kind of trying to build off that.
"I belong here and I know that. It's never been about stuff with me. It's always been about minimizing the damage and trying to stay within yourself and not try to do too much. I'm really focusing more on relying on my ability, throwing strikes and letting stuff play out. As soon as it comes out of my hand -- they hit a double or a home run -- so be it. Onto the next pitch. As of right now it's working and it's something I think is going to do a nice job of carrying over into the season."
JUPITER -- Already armed with some of the best young pitching prospects in baseball, the Marlins appear to be in prime position to land another can't miss arm heading into the June draft.
Now it's just a matter of who the Houston Astros want with the first pick and who will fall to the Marlins with the second. Either way, it looks like a can't lose situation for the Fish.
North Carolina State left-handed pitcher Carlos Rodon, who led the nation in strike outs last season (184), has long been considered a lock to be the No. 1 overall pick. Big bodied at 6-3, 234 pounds, Rodon owns a mid 90s fastball and a plus-plus slider in the high 80s.
But there's an intriguing prospect in the Astros' backyard -- 6-5, 250-pound high school right-hander Tyler Kolek -- who is being dubbed the next great right-handed high school pitching prospect to come out of Texas. He's probably going to be the next Josh Beckett, Roger Clemens or Kerry Wood. Could Houston pass on such a talented kid only an hour drive north of the city?
According to a recent Yahoo Sports article, Kolek has recorded 35 strikeouts and just one walk over 15 innings in three starts for Shepherd High School. The more impressive statistic? Nobody's gotten a hit off him yet. Kolek's fastball has topped out at 99 miles per hour and he's got a mid 70s power breaking ball.
The Houston Astros, who visited Roger Dean Stadium on Tuesday and got crushed by the Marlins 8-1, would love it if they had the first two picks. But they're only going to be able to take one of these guys. The Marlins will probably take the other.
Here's a look at both top notch pitching prospects.