MIAMI -- Last April didn't treat Marlins left-hander Mike Dunn too kind.
Dunn, then in his fourth season, held a 9.53 ERA through eight games, allowing seven runs (six earned) on eight hits with six walks. It was punctuated by an effort in which he surrendered three runs in 2/3 innings against the D-backs.
As a result, the Marlins sent him to Triple-A New Orleans to work on his delivery.
"It puts everything into perspective," Dunn said. "In the heat of the moment, you don't realize what you have to do and you're sent down -- you got sent down for a reason and you've got to figure it out and make changes and adjustments. Last year was getting my mechanics back."
Other than a rough September when he gave up eight runs in seven innings, Dunn's return to the Majors included solid summer months: a 0.00 ERA in June, 2.25 in July and 2.00 in August.
Over his 12 appearances this season, the 27-year-old has maintained that momentum with a 2.45 ERA -- third-lowest on the team -- with just three earned runs in 11 innings. He has struck out 12 while walking only three.
More importantly, the southpaw has improved his numbers against left-handed hitters.
They have just five hits (two for extra bases) in 23 at-bats for a .217 batting average. In 2012, lefties went 27-for-92 (.293) with seven doubles and two home runs.
"It's from throwing more strikes with all my pitches, not just my fastball," Dunn said. "Last year I was throwing strikes with my fastball but nothing else. Everyone was just waiting for my fastball and if I missed a spot, I got hit. This year if I'm not hitting my spots with my fastball, I've got my breaking stuff and it helps out a lot."
Injured Hechavarria, Alvarez, Mathis making progress
MIAMI -- Several Marlins, including shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, continue to make promising steps on their roads to recovery.
According to manager Mike Redmond, Hechavarria -- out with a bruised right elbow -- swung the bat on Saturday and felt good. Unless the 24-year-old arrives to the ballpark on Sunday sore, he will rehab in Jupiter, Fla., on Monday and Tuesday.
If everything goes well there, he will travel with the team on its seven-game trip to Philadelphia and San Diego and could be reinstated from the disabled list on Thursday.
"It's a good sign for us and for him," Redmond said. "He looked good swinging the bat and said everything feels good. Just stay on course."
Right-hander Henderson Alvarez, who began the season on the disabled list with inflammation in his shoulder, threw 45 pitches while facing hitters in a simulation game. The 23-year-old will start his rehab assignment on Thursday in Jupiter.
The plan is for him to start at 60 pitches and build his count up to around 90-95 by the time he's big league ready.
"After being gone for awhile, we've got to take care of him and not run him out there for 110 pitches his first start," Redmond said. "We've got to make sure we take care of him, sort of like we would a guy out of Spring Training. See how he does and go from there. Protect him for the long haul."
Backup catcher Jeff Mathis, who broke his right clavicle in late February, is also scheduled to start his rehab next week.
"It's good news," Redmond said. "We're starting to get some guys back close to healthy, at least starting the process of getting back to playing."
Redmond stacks struggling lineup with righties
MIAMI -- With yet another southpaw on the mound against the Marlins on Saturday night, manager Mike Redmond stacked as many right-handed hitters in the order hoping to spark a struggling offense.
On the season, Miami entered Saturday hitting .231 against lefties, with three of its seven total home runs.
Facing Cubs southpaw Travis Wood, Austin Kearns started in left field for Juan Pierre, who is batting just .198. In Friday night's game, Kearns drew a pinch-hit walk in the seventh inning.
Catcher Miguel Olivo gave left-handed hitter Rob Brantly a day off before Sunday afternoon's series finale.
"Like I said, we've been mixing and matching all year," Redmond said. "Trying to find a lineup that produces more than two runs. We've talked about it. It seems like whatever combination we use it seems to be producing the same thing."
Justin Ruggiano started in center field a night after Chris Coghlan got the nod against righty Scott Feldman.
"Throughout this whole year, we're looking for a spark and somebody to come in and get a big hit," Redmond said. "It could be a walk, a jam shot. With a couple guys on, I'd take anything right now.
"Guys are battling and they're staying positive and I know some guys are frustrated. Obviously they look at their numbers and their averages and we're all human. They look at that stuff, but at the same time, too, we've got to grind it out and focus on one at-bat at a time."
Christina De Nicola is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.