STL@MIA: Nolasco shuts down Cardinals through six

JUPITER, Fla. -- As a final tuneup for his Opening Day assignment, Ricky Nolasco took the mound on Wednesday afternoon on a back field at the Roger Dean Stadium complex.

On a sunny and windy day, the Marlins' ace threw four innings in a Triple-A scrimmage against the Cardinals.

In his previous Grapefruit League start, Nolasco threw 98 pitches, and the aim was to be around 60 pitches during the Minor League outing. Getting the work in was primary, and results secondary.

With the wind blowing out, Nolasco surrendered a pair of two-run homers, and he struck out four.

"It was good to scale back a little bit. It's been a long spring, and we've been grinding it out," the 30-year-old right-hander said. "You can't worry about the elements, the field or anything. You try to get your work in, and get outs, and that's it."

The extended Spring Training, which was about a week longer than usual, was to make room for the World Baseball Classic.

The regular season is five days away, and Nolasco has officially concluded his spring. His next start will be on Opening Day, set for Monday in Washington.

"I'm excited," Nolasco said. "These past two weeks, I told myself, 'Now it's time to turn it up a notch.' I've been able to do that in my last few starts. Now it's for real."

Everything is about to change.

For the most part, it's been a productive spring for Nolasco, Miami's all-time wins leader with 76. The right-hander was 2-2 with a 3.48 ERA in 20 2/3 innings. He struck out 21 and walked just five.

Nolasco had one rough outing, where his mechanics were off. It was in a 9-4 loss to the Astros on March 12.

"It It was just one day," Nolasco said. "It's not like I battled. It was one day that I didn't feel well. Everything feels good now. I'm staying closed now. I used my lower body a lot better today. It's a good feeling going into the year."

Solano back on field, excited for Opening Day

MIA@NYM: Solano turns two on Davis grounder in first

JUPITER, Fla. -- After missing a little more than a week with a tight lower back, getting on the field on Wednesday afternoon was certainly a big relief for the Marlins second baseman Donovan Solano.

"I had a big smile," Solano said.

In a Triple-A game at the Roger Dean Stadium complex, Solano played four innings, and he went 1-for-3.

"But no ground balls," Solano said. "They didn't hit any ground balls to me."

That was about the only disappointment for the Colombian native.

"I'll play tomorrow," Solano said. "I'm ready to go."

Solano has been one of the most productive Marlins in Spring Training. In 15 Grapefruit League games, he is 18-for-44 (.409).

The minor setback is causing Solano to play a little catch up to get his timing back.

"I don't feel the same way as when I stopped for a couple of days, when I was seeing pitchers," said Solano, who added that his swinging isn't that far off.

Quietly, Solano is becoming one of the unsung players in the organization. On March 20, Solano was scratched from the lineup after he tweaked his back while working out in the weight room. An MRI taken a few days ago showed there was nothing serious.

Solano is scheduled to play for the Marlins in their Grapefruit League finale on Thursday against the Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium.

Miami faces its Triple-A New Orleans affiliate on Saturday in New Orleans, and Opening Day is Monday in Washington.

"I definitely don't want to miss Opening Day," Solano said.

Worth noting

• Reliever Chad Qualls, who is making the Opening Day roster, threw one inning on Wednesday in a Double-A game at Roger Dean Stadium. Qualls is scheduled to throw a bullpen session on Thursday. He is getting his final days of work in before Monday's opener. The right-hander has been scheduled to throw in back-to-back games, but he's had the misfortune of traveling with the team during rain-shortened games.

• Matt Downs, who was sent down to Minor League camp on Tuesday, belted a home run in a Triple-A game against the Cardinals on Wednesday. Kevin Mattison also hit a home run in the same game.

Jose Fernandez, Miami's top prospect, threw in a Double-A game on Wednesday. The hard-throwing right-hander's fastball was clocked between 93-96 mph.