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Koehler appears to have slight edge over Hand for fifth starter's spot

JUPITER -- If you look at the way the Marlins are lining up their starting rotation as we head toward the final stretch of Grapefruit League play it appears Tom Koehler owns a slight edge over Brad Hand to win the fifth starter job.

When manager Mike Redmond released the team's pitching rotation Tuesday morning for the next few days he indicated Koehler would get the start -- and six innings of work -- in Wednesday's minor league game on a backfield here in Jupiter. Hand, who tossed five innings in a no-hitter Saturday, is also pitching Wednesday. But he'll only throw one inning in that minor league game.

Both pitchers have been stellar this spring, posting nearly identical numbers. Koehler, a 27-year old right-hander, is 2-0 with a 0.75 ERA, seven hits allowed, two walks and 11 strikeouts over 12 innings. Hand, a 23-year old left-hander, is 2-0 with a 0.75 ERA, nine hits allowed, two walks and 15 strikeouts over 12 innings.

It's anticipated at this point both players will find a spot among the 12 pitchers the Marlins plan on taking into the regular season with them with the loser for the starting job serving as the team's long reliever. 

Asked how close the Marlins are to finalizing their rotation, Redmond said Tuesday: "I think we're close, but pitching always come down to the last couple days."

"There's going to be some tough decisions out there. We have guys battling. But I think we feel pretty good with what guys can do," Redmond continued. "It just feels like most times those decisions are made for you. I think it's going to be interesting these next couple weeks to see how these guys do with a little bit of pressure. As a catcher I like to see that. I like to see those guys with a lot at stake to go out there and pitch and see how they handle it."

> Redmond said Opening Day starter Jose Fernandez will make his next start Thursday in Jupiter against the Cardinals. Nathan Eovaldi will pitch Friday in Kissimmee against the Astros. In Saturday's split squad double-header, Henderson Alvarez is slotted to pitch at home Saturday against the Mets with Kevin Slowey pitching on the road at the Nationals. 

> Right-hander Jacob Turner, slotted to be the Marlins' fourth starter, had another encouraging start Tuesday against the Astros. He walked three, struckout three and gave up only two hits and one earned run over five innings.

The first-inning run he allowed was aided by yet another bad throw by Turner on a pickoff attempt at first base. He did the same against the Tigers in his previous start, when he gave up four hits, two runs (one earned) over four innings.

"He looks stronger this spring definitely," Redmond said before Turner's start Tuesday. "I think he's throwing the ball harder. I know velocity wise we've seen some mid 90s fastballs out of him, which we didn't see last year. I think he came into spring training in shape. He was ready to go. We're definitely seeing the results of that."

> Redmond said it looks like utility man Ed Lucas will play in a minor league game Thursday.

"He'll get some at-bats, start moving around," Redmond said. "He'll probably be the first one out of that [injured] group to start playing. I wouldn't expect [Greg] Dobbs to be that much longer... I would expect Ralfy [Furcal] to be [next] after Lucas."