The weather was about as nasty as it could be Saturday afternoon around 2 p.m. at Roger Dean Stadium.
Adam Conley was so zoned in, it might as well have been a sunny day.
In a game that was halted and later cancelled after two scoreless innings due to a severe thunderstorm, Conley struck out all six Tigers batters he faced as he continued to increase his chances of landing one of the team’s available spots in the starting pitching rotation.
“Adam was very good again and that’s what we’ve been seeing all spring,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “He’s been on the attack pitching off his fastball with no hesitation in what he’s trying to do and that shows real confidence.
“For a young guy that had a good year last year and maybe the breakthrough that he needed, that confidence is carrying over to this season so far.”
Conley was remarkably efficient, throwing 29 pitches with 22 for strikes. Five of his strikeouts were swinging.
“Basically all spring there’s been a progression beginning with establishing the fastball for strikes early, throwing it for strikes late, getting ahead and expanding the zone and progressing speeds with the changeup,” Conley said. “I pitched to our minor-league affiliate team last time I threw. In this case, it was an AL team that I’m not going to see a lot. So it gave me the freedom to throw my best stuff all day and make guys miss.”
The Marlins were hoping for potentially a four-inning outing closer to the 70 pitch mark. Conley said he’ll likely target a start of about five innings to compensate for Saturday.
Conley handled the unpredictable situation very effectively as the weather began to deteriorate even before he threw his first pitch.
“I was trying to stay in the present moment,” said Conley, who was born in Redmond, Washington and pitched at Washington State University. “I’m no stranger to the rain. More or less my entire 2013 season in the minors, every game I pitched had some sort of rain delay or was affected by rain. I grew up in the northwest and played baseball with rain all the time. It’s just something that you just roll with it.”
Conley, 25, entered the spring in competition for likely the fifth spot in the rotation with Edwin Jackson, David Phelps, Jose Urena, Kendry Flores.
Conley’s dominance and consistency have made him the favorite to join a rotation likely shaping up to consist of Jose Fernandez, Wei-Yin Chen, Tom Koehler, Jarred Cosart and him in an order to be determined.
Conley appeared in 15 games in his rookie season last year and made 11 starts, going 4-1 overall with a 3.76 ERA in 67 innings. Conley had a 3.68 ERA as a starter in 58 2/3 innings and finished with 59 strikeouts and 21 walks overall.
Mattingly described Conley as “being on a mission” the entire spring so far.
“I've been on [a mission] for a long time,” Conley said. “Obviously, the results were great today. But for me, the pursuit is not to strike out the first six guys in the game.
“It’s the never-ending process of no matter how many pitches I throw or how many swings I see I will always learn from it.”