STL@MIA: Dietrich nailed in the face by a ground ball

JUPITER, Fla. -- The masked man wearing No. 32 and playing second base on the back field Monday morning was none other than Marlins infielder Derek Dietrich.

Sporting a clear, protective mask, Dietrich saw his first game action since fracturing the top of his nose Thursday.

Dietrich, competing for a roster spot, expects to wear the protective face guard for about 10 days. He's only using it in the field, not when he is batting.

"I'll wear it the next 10 days or so, and then I should be good to go without it," the left-handed hitter said.

Dietrich is expected to return to Grapefruit League action Tuesday against the Cardinals.

If Rafael Furcal (left hamstring) opens the season on the disabled list, Dietrich is a candidate to fill in.

Furcal may begin season on disabled list

Furcal transitioning from shortstop to second base

JUPITER, Fla. -- Being ready for Opening Day is the goal, but staying healthy over the long haul is Rafael Furcal's objective.

So if the 36-year-old doesn't feel physically ready, he would welcome a short disabled-list stint as opposed to risking a long-term injury.

Furcal on Monday morning saw game action as a designated hitter in a Marlins' Minor League game on a back field at the Roger Dean Stadium complex.

Opening Day is a week away, and Furcal is taking steps to get his strained left hamstring ready.

It's appearing more likely that Furcal, who has 18 Grapefruit League at-bats, will open the season on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to March 21. In that scenario, he would be eligible to return as early as April 5.

"I don't want to play one day and take five days [off]," Furcal said. "They know. Everybody knows. We have a lot of good guys who can start. But I don't want to be on the field and not be able to do something because of my hamstring. No excuse.

"I prefer to lose a couple of days and not lose a month or 15-20 days. Now that we're at the end of Spring Training, you have to take it for what it is. If I can't go, they've got to put in somebody else."

Derek Dietrich, Donovan Solano and Ed Lucas are second-base options if Furcal isn't ready for the March 31 opener against the Rockies at Marlins Park.

"Make sure I'm 100 percent," Furcal said.

The veteran has not ruled out being ready for Opening Day. But it will depend on how he feels.

"I'm interested to watch and just see how he moves," manager Mike Redmond said. "We've got to see him extend out, and be able to run, and turn it loose. That's what we're looking for."

Monday was not ideal to test his legs sprinting, because Furcal was playing through a steady drizzle.

He wasn't pushing it on the bases.

Defensively, he has been taking ground balls. And he's been hitting in the batting cages. So he doesn't feel he is playing catch-up in those two areas.

It's about having that burst of speed running.

"I want to be healthy. I'm hungry to play," Furcal said. "That way is the only way I can help the team. That's the only way I can help the team, play every day. I want to be on the field every day."

In tough spot, Koehler able to limit damage

Redmond talks about Koehler's productive day

JUPITER, Fla. -- So much of Spring Training has been a breeze for Tom Koehler. On Monday, the Marlins right-hander found himself in a bit of a grind.

"From pitch one," Koehler said. "I threw over 40 pitches in the first two innings. Knowing I had a 90-pitch pitch count, I just tried to get ahead and get as many quick outs as I could."

Finding a way to minimize the damage was another reminder of how far Koehler has progressed this Spring Training.

The bottom line is Koehler allowed two runs on five hits in six innings in Miami's 4-1 loss to the Nationals at Roger Dean Stadium.

The plus is, even at less than his best, Koehler was able to keep his team in the game. And he got his pitch count up to 91.

Koehler has one more start left, Saturday against the Yankees in Tampa, Fla. It's the club's final Spring Training game.

Miami has yet to announce its fifth starter, but Koehler remains on course to get the nod.

"It's easy to go out there and feel good about outings when you have your best stuff, and the game is a breeze," Koehler said. "To go out there and know you're going to be pretty much battling from pitch one, and to give your team six innings, and keep them in the game -- that's what can make or break a team."

Koehler has been one of the pleasant surprises in camp, posting a 1.50 ERA over 18 innings, with 12 strikeouts and four walks.

To show how locked in Koehler has been, he was the only player on the field in the sixth to know how many outs there were.

In a light moment, Danny Espinosa bounced into a 3-6-3 double play. Because the ball was hit to first base, Koehler raced to first to cover the bag, if necessary. But first baseman Garrett Jones returned to the bag, completing the double play.

All the players ran off the field, and even the Nationals hitters headed to the dugout. The problem is, there were only two outs.

Only Koehler remained on the field, realizing the inning wasn't over.

"Had Tom not said something, they probably all could have walked off the field, and nobody would have probably noticed," Marlins manager Mike Redmond joked. "I think we're at that stage of Spring Training where people are just looking at the scoreboard and trying to get the innings going as fast as you can."

Added Koehler: "We sold it. It's almost like we were working on it. ... Nice little moment of levity in the game, that's for sure."

Hechavarria dealing with tight groin

STL@MIA: Hechavarria steals second to set up run

JUPITER, Fla. -- The Marlins plan on giving shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria a couple of days off to rest a tight groin, which he tweaked in Monday's 4-1 loss to the Nationals at Roger Dean Stadium.

Hechavarria felt some discomfort while running the bases in the third inning. As a precaution, he was replaced in the top of the fifth by Austin Nola.

"Hech has a little bit of a tight groin, so we got him out of there," manager Mike Redmond said. "He should be fine. We'll give a day or two to make sure everything is all right."

Hechavarria is winding down an impressive Spring Training, where he is batting .319 in 47 at-bats. He singled in the third and slid awkwardly into second base, advancing on Tom Koehler's sacrifice bunt.

"He felt it a little bit when we bunted him over," Redmond said.

The Marlins face the Cardinals on Tuesday in Jupiter, and on Wednesday they travel to Lake Buena Vista, Fla. It's doubtful Hechavarria would make the long bus ride. So Thursday could be his targeted return date.

Donovan Solano and Ed Lucas are candidates to replace Hechavarria.

"We'll give him a couple of days off, and he should be ready to go," Redmond said.

Worth noting

• For the rest of Spring Training, the Marlins have set their rotation: Tuesday vs. Cardinals (Jose Fernandez), Wednesday at Braves (Nathan Eovaldi), Thursday at Cardinals (Brad Hand), Friday at Yankees (Jacob Turner), Saturday at Yankees (Koehler). Henderson Alvarez will throw a Minor League game on Thursday. Alvarez projects as the No. 3 starter.

• Catcher Kyle Skipworth was reassigned to Minor League camp Monday.

Marcell Ozuna, removed from Sunday's game due to left leg cramps, is expected back in Grapefruit League action Tuesday.