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Marlins pitching coach talks Hand, LeBlanc, Nolasco and Big Z

JUPITER -- Caught up with Randy St. Claire this morning before the Marlins split squad game with the Twins at Roger Dean Stadium (Ozzie Guillen and the rest of the staff went up to Viera for the other game with the Nationals).

Here are a few thoughts from St. Claire on his pitching staff with a little over two weeks to go before the start of the season:

> St. Claire said nobody has over exceeded his expectations, but he's happy with what he's seen from left-handers Brad Hand and Wade LeBlanc, who was acquired in the John Baker trade with the Padres, and his bullpen. 

Hand is 2-0 and has yet to give up a run in three relief appearances, scattering three hits over 5 2/3 innings, striking out four and walking two. Last season when Josh Johnson was shelved, Hand came up and made 12 starts for the Marlins, going 1-8 with a 4.20 ERA. He had almost as many walks (35) as strikeouts (38). But St. Claire said the 22-year old former second round pick -- who in his opinion was called up too early last season -- has shown signs of improvement this spring because he's maintained the same arm on his delivery.

"He has to tendency to float between breaking ball, changeup and fastball. So he's been more consistent with that," St. Claire said. "The more he pitches the more consistency is going to come out of it... I think when he gets that figured out I think [he'll do well] because his stuff plays in the zone."

LeBlanc, who was called the Cy Young of the Marlins staff this spring by Guillen earlier this week, has given up just one hit over 10 1/3 scoreless innings with nine strikeouts and no walks.

"He's a quick worker, aggressive and goes after guys," St. Claire said. "What he's shown me this spring is the same stuff I saw when he was on the other side [with the Padres]."

> Carlos Zambrano, who will make his third Grapefruit League start for the Marlins Sunday, has watching videos of his early days with the Cubs per St. Claire's orders "to get back to the style he threw when he was really good."

"Last year he got into some bad habits and he's been working on it ever since his first BP with us," St. Claire said. "Every outing we're working on the video. He's getting closer and closer and closer to getting to where he was in his earlier years. He's been very good, a pleasure to work with. He's intense, does everything well on the field."

St. Claire said Zambrano (6.75 ERA in 5 1/3 innings) was "opening up real early in his delivery, showing the ball real early" last season.

"When guys open up, the hitters see the ball a lot longer," St. Claire said. "That usually drops your arm slot and arm angle and you don't get as much velocity. Your breaking ball gets sweepy. It can create a lot of bad things.

"We'll see. So far he's worked really hard and looks really good. He's not where we want him yet, but he's studying it, focusing on it, doing good."

> Saturday starter Ricky Nolasco has given up three earned runs and three hits over 3 1/3 innings (8.10 ERA) in his first two Grapefruit League starts, but St. Claire said he likes what he's seen of the 29-year old right-hander thus far.

"He's been very good so far. He's one of those guys that's in the zone all the time, doesn't walk guys. He's going to make guys hit the ball and he's probably going to have those [rough] starts where if he's not dead on he's going to scuffle a little bit.

"Well, what do you do? Start picking around [the plate]? For me, I'd rather have a game or two that he gives up more than you want than to start every game with walks and picking around the zone. I'd much rather have a guy go after people and he's always that. He attacks the zone."

Nolasco is scheduled to throw 70 pitches today according to St. Claire. He threw 54 in his last start.


> Marlins vs. Twins (Saturday in Jupiter): 1. Jose Reyes SS, 2. Omar Infante 2B, 3. Hanley Ramirez 3B, 4. Terry Tiffee 1B, 5. Austin Kearns RF, 6. Chris Coghlan LF, 7. Aaron Rowand CF, 8. Brett Hayes C, 9. Ricky Nolasco P.

> Marlins at Nationals (Saturday in Viera): 1. Emilio Bonifacio CF, 2. Donnie Murphy SS, 3. John Buck C, 4. Gaby Sanchez 1B, 5. Brian Petersen LF, 6. Scott Cousins RF, 7. Donovan Solano 2B, 8. Matt Dominguez 3B, 9. Tom Koehler P.


> Marlins vs. Cardinals (Sunday in Jupiter): 1. Jose Reyes SS, 2. Emilio Bonifacio CF, 3. Hanley Ramirez SS, 4. Gaby Sanchez 1B, 5. Omar Infante 2B, 6. Chris Coghlan LF, 7. John Buck C, 8. Bryan Petersen RF, 9. Carlos Zambrano P.