VIERA, Fla. (AP) — Dan Haren knows no one is going to confuse his fastball with the overpowering pitch thrown by Stephen Strasburg.
That’s why Haren’s control and ability to set up hitters are so important.
He struggled with his command in the first inning of his Nationals spring debut Wednesday, but was much better in the second of what turned out to be a 5-1 loss to the Miami Marlins.
“My fastball usually hovers around where Strasburg’s changeup is,” Haren joked Wednesday.
Miami starter Nathan Eovaldi, meanwhile, couldn’t have been happier with his performance. The Marlins right-hander faced the minimum six hitters in his first start, walking one and striking out three.
While he didn’t throw any curveballs in his 26 pitches, Eovaldi did work in a few changeup which is something he has been working on this spring to help compliment his two best pitches — the fastball and slider.
“I need to be able to use that pitch more, slow everything down and get (the batters) out on that front foot,” Eovaldi said. “I threw a few first-pitch changeups and they felt good coming out of the hand.”
Eovaldi attributed his leadoff walk to Washington’s Denard Span to being a little jittery in his first spring start. But once he got his shoulders back in line with home plate, he was able to come back and strike out Washington’s Bryce Harper on a slider and get Jayson Werth looking. Span was running on that last pitch and was thrown out at second by Marlins catcher Kyle Skipworth for a double play.
“You try to be quick (to the plate), give (Skipworth) the best chance,” Eovaldi said. “It’s 3-2 . I’m assuming (Span is) going to be running at some point. I was just working on making a good pitch. He did the rest. Perfect throw. It was awesome.”
Miami prospect Christian Yelich had a triple leading off the game and scored on a sacrifice fly by Donovan Solano, who had two hits and score a run.
Derek Dietrich added an RBI double, Chris Coughlin had an RBI and Eric Lucas had a two-run single for the Marlins.
The Nationals managed just three hits despite having Werth and first baseman Adam LaRoche in the lineup for the first time.
“It was a lackluster day, a dog day,” Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. “(Having) my big guys in there slows us down.”
Haren, who signed a one-year, $13 million contract with the Nationals, threw mostly fastballs and cutters and gave up two hits and one run, while striking out three. He is trying to work on throwing inside more this season, particularly to right-handers.
“That’s got to be a part of my game this year,” Haren said. “I started doing it in September last year. I was just getting beat out over the plate too much. I came in dedicated to working that side of the plate this year.”
With that in mind, Haren repeatedly shook off Nationals catcher Kurt Suzuki before throwing a 2-1 pitch to Miami’s Gorkys Hernandez in the second inning and had to reset himself. He missed inside with that pitch, but struck out Hernandez on the next pitch.
Haren told reporters he is not the “easiest guy to catch” because of the way he likes to game plan hitters, but praised Suzuki for his effort.
“It’s not a thing where I’m going to throw 95, but one pitch is going to cut and one pitch is going to sink, but they’re going to look the same,” Haren said. “Then maybe getting a hitter to back off the plate and going away. It’s a cat-and-mouse game for me rather than an overpowering game.”
NOTES: RHP Chris Young and RHP Rafael Soriano both threw batting practice sessions. Johnson said Young will likely follow Ross Detwiler on March 3 and then take his spot in the spring rotation once Detwiler leaves for the World Baseball Classic. . Soriano’s spring debut will likely come March 5. Johnson said the right-hander will make eight appearances this spring, including one set of back-to-back games. Soriano has said he doesn’t want to face any division opponents. . Harper was originally in the starting lineup for Thursday’s game against the Mets, but Johnson has decided to give the NL Rookie of the Year the day off. The manager said Harper is not injured . RHP Henry Rodriguez is expected to throw Thursday . RHP Tyler Clippard is scheduled to make his first spring appearance on Friday . The Marlins will play the Cardinals in Jupiter on Thursday with RHP Jacob Turner getting the start. The teams will also play a “B” game with RHP Jose Fernandez expected to throw, followed by LHP Adam Conley and RHP Doug Mathis among others. . Rule 5 Draft pick Alfredo Silverio served as the Marlins DH on Wednesday and went 0 for 3. Redmond said there is still no word on when the outfielder will be able to play defense. . Yelich continues to impress in his first big league camp. He started in left field and went 1 for 3 with a triple Wednesday and is 4 for 8 this spring . Former Marlins 3B Mike Lowell will be a guest instructor from Thursday through Saturday. Lowell was a teammate of Marlins manager Mike Redmond on the Marlins’ 2003 World Series championship team.