CIN@PIT: Valdez's perfect throw nails Tabata at third

JUPITER, Fla. -- Nine days before the Marlins open at Washington, the team is giving at least one veteran a quick look.

Wilson Valdez, 34, signed a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training on Saturday. The veteran utility player was released Friday by the Giants, where he batted .194 in 36 Spring Training at-bats.

Valdez learned he was headed to Miami about 11 a.m. PT on Friday, and he traveled cross country and was ready for batting practice Saturday.

With a young pitching staff, the Marlins are trying to put as solid a defense together as they can.

"Obviously, we'd love to have a guy who can really hit, too," manager Mike Redmond said. "But at the same time, having our pitching staff as young as it is, we're going to have to play defense. We're going to have to get every out. That's probably going to be the No. 1 thing.

"We're probably going to play a lot of close games. Every mistake that we make could be costly. We definitely have got to secure the ball and get every out that we can."

The Marlins are in the process of finalizing their roster, and they are weighing their utility infield options.

"I want to show them that I can play, and hopefully they give me a chance," Valdez said.

Valdez joins the mix with Nick Green, Chris Valaika and Matt Downs.

The Marlins open April 1 at the Nationals, and the team is hoping to have the roster pretty much set by the middle of next week.

This will be Valdez's second stint in the Marlins' organization. As a prospect in 2004, he was traded to the White Sox for reliever Billy Koch.

Valdez has spent parts of seven seasons in the big leagues. From 2010-11, he was with the Phillies, and a year ago he appeared in 77 games with the Reds.

With the Phillies, Valdez was a teammate of current Marlins Placido Polanco and Greg Dobbs.

"It feels familiar," Valdez said of being back in Marlins' camp.

In 439 big league games, Valdez is a career .236 hitter.

The Marlins are seeking as much depth as possible in the infield. Currently, second baseman Donovan Solano is resting a sore back. Polanco missed time this spring with a strained right oblique.

"I'm looking for an opportunity," Valdez said. "I am trying to do the best I can, and let them make their decision."

Eovaldi's outlook positive as season nears

Outlook: Eovaldi needs to improve W-L ratio in 2013

JUPITER, Fla. -- If Saturday was Nathan Eovaldi's final Grapefruit League start, the Marlins' right-hander has plenty to be encouraged about as he readies for the regular season.

Eovaldi turned in another strong showing, giving up three runs in six innings in Miami's 6-5 win over the Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium.

On a steamy 82-degree afternoon, Eovaldi stretched his innings and pitch count. For the most part, he was effective in his 83-pitch effort.

"He did a good job, again," manager Mike Redmond said. "He gave up that early run, but settled in, and made his pitches. I think he kind of ran out of gas in that last inning. I'm very happy, once again, with his performance, and the way he pitched -- great tempo. He pounded the strike zone and gave us a chance."

The day started out a little shaky, and Eovaldi fell behind by a run in the first inning.

Three batters into the game, and the Cardinals were ahead on Matt Holliday's RBI double.

In the sixth, Eovaldi began to fade a bit, as he fell behind in counts. Five of his nine hits allowed came in that inning.

"It didn't feel too hot out there," Eovaldi said. "For the most part, I was working quick innings, and got ahead of guys. The sixth inning, I started getting behind in every count."

Eovaldi's solid spring has earned him Miami's No. 2 starter spot behind Ricky Nolasco. He is lined up to face the Nationals on April 3.

In six Grapefruit League games, the right-hander is 3-0 with a 3.65 ERA, logging 24 2/3 innings.

Although Nolasco has been tabbed the No. 1 starter, a case can be made that Eovaldi has the best overall stuff in the rotation. His fastball is in the mid-to-upper 90s, and he has shown improved command this spring.

"I've been locating my fastball better than last year," he said.

A change from a year ago is Eovaldi's throwing a wider variety of pitches. His changeup and curveball are more effective than before.

"I'm not just a fastball, slider guy," he said. "I've been using my changeup and curveball a lot."

When and where Eovaldi throws next has not been determined.

If he goes in five days, Eovaldi could again face the Cardinals in Miami's Grapefruit League finale. Or, he could be used in a Minor League game that day, because he only needs a few innings to be ready for the season.

"We're at a point where I feel all our guys, we're ready," Redmond said.

LeBlanc likely to start at No. 3 rotation spot

Redmond looking forward to Nolasco's veteran presence

JUPITER, Fla. -- Barring a change of thinking, the Marlins are leaning toward splitting up their rotation with left-hander Wade LeBlanc.

Manager Mike Redmond said Saturday that the team was leaning toward starting LeBlanc on April 4 at Washington, the third game of the season.

For now, the projected rotation for the first series is Ricky Nolasco, Nathan Eovaldi and LeBlanc.

"As of right now, it would go Eovaldi [second] and LeBlanc, who is set up to pitch that last game," Redmond said. "That could change. We're still trying to piece it together."

The picture will be cleared after Jacob Turner's start Sunday in Grapefruit League play against the Astros in Kissimmee.

Turner is competing for the fifth spot, along with non-roster invitees Kevin Slowey and John Maine.

The Marlins open at Washington on April 1, with Nolasco matched up against Stephen Strasburg.

On April 3, Eovaldi will pitch against Gio Gonzalez.

A primary reason Redmond is planning on throwing LeBlanc third is because LeBlanc would offer a completely different look to the Nationals from the hard-throwing Eovaldi.

LeBlanc is a soft-throwing left-hander who changes speeds and relies on control.

Henderson Alvarez is the tentative choice to face the Mets at Citi Field on April 5.

The Marlins are planning to use all five starters from the start of the season, even though they had some flexibility to shuffle the rotation because of off-days April 2 and April 11.

Worth noting

• Solano had an MRI exam on his back Saturday, and it did not reveal any structural damage. The second baseman tweaked his back Wednesday. He is hoping to return in a couple of days.