JUPITER, Fla. -- Each day Rafael Furcal is not on the field puts in doubt whether the veteran will be ready for Opening Day.
Furcal aggravated a left hamstring strain on March 15, and he is doing limited baseball activities. The Marlins are hopeful that the 36-year-old will soon begin his running progression.
With the opener March 31 against the Rockies at Marlins Park, it appears the club could be close to seeking other options at second base.
"We're all still hopeful he will be available for Opening Day," manager Mike Redmond said. "But we're not sure."
Derek Dietrich started at second base on Thursday against the Cardinals. Dietrich and Donovan Solano are the likely candidates to fill in if Furcal isn't ready.
"Really, it kind of depends on how his running goes over the next several days, to see if he will be available for Opening Day or not," Redmond said.
What is likely is Furcal will not play in any more Grapefruit League games. By playing from this point on forward in Minor League games, the veteran could be placed on the disabled list retroactive to March 21. In that scenario, he could return as early as April 5.
Furcal has appeared in seven Grapefruit League games, and he is 3-for-18.
"We definitely will have him play in some Minor League games when he starts playing in games, to make sure he is ready to go in a regular game," Redmond said. "We're still a few days away."
Dietrich exits game after fracturing top of nose
JUPITER, Fla. -- A bad hop led to an unfortunate break for Marlins second baseman Derek Dietrich on Thursday afternoon.
Dietrich sustained a non-displaced fracture to the top of his nose in the Marlins' 4-3 win over the Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium.
The injury occurred in the fifth inning, when Jon Jay's sharp grounder redirected and clipped Dietrich on the top of the nose. The 24-year-old was taken to the hospital for X-rays, which revealed the fracture.
The Marlins are listing the left-handed-hitting infielder as day to day. The team also will explore a protect guard for Dietrich to wear.
"It's a broken nose, but it's non-displaced, so no surgery or anything like that," Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. "It will heal naturally. We'll look for something protective for him to wear."
Initially, it appeared the injury would be much worse.
Marlins right-hander Jose Fernandez got Jay to rip a hard grounder that Dietrich was getting into position to turn into a double play. But the ball took a bad hop, and smacked the second baseman in the face.
Dietrich went down immediately, and he stayed there for about a minute. A small stream of blood trickled down his nose. Assistant trainer Mike Kozak and manager Mike Redmond dashed towards Dietrich. A towel was retrieved, and after Dietrich got to his feet, he immediately headed to the clubhouse.
"He hit that pitch pretty hard; that was a bullet, one-hop right off my noggin," Dietrich said jokingly while looking at Fernandez. "You don't see that a lot, especially on a Major League field. It just took a tricky hop. It might have hit something. I kept the ball in front of me, gave it a chance. Right, Jose?"
Dietrich is trying to make the team, and he's enjoying a strong Spring Training, batting .361.
With Rafael Furcal recovering from a strained left hamstring, Dietrich has been in position to win a starting spot at second. How much time he misses will determine whether it hurts his chances of breaking camp with the club instead of starting off in Triple-A New Orleans.
Donovan Solano is another candidate to play second base.
"I do have a small fracture on the top of the nose, but it's nothing serious," Dietrich said. "I'm going to ice it. We're taking it day to day. It's not serious. I think I can get back in there pretty soon."
Dietrich wasn't wearing sunglasses, which as it turned out, was a good thing. A small cut didn't require stitches.
"The doctor said it would have been worse if I had them on," Dietrich said. "A lot of times, that could cut around the eye. Obviously, I have a cut. They were on the top of the hat. They flew off. I got lucky ... . We'll see where I am at tomorrow."
Koehler makes strong effort for final rotation spot
JUPITER, Fla. -- A back field in a Minor League game isn't the ideal setting to determine who makes the club. In Tom Koehler's case, he didn't do anything to hurt his chances throwing in a scrimmage-like atmosphere.
While the Marlins were off on Wednesday, Koehler stayed on his throw date and pitched on a back field at the Roger Dean Stadium complex. The right-hander worked 4 1/3 scoreless innings, and he was finished after 75 pitches. The big number for him in the outing was 55, the amount of strikes he threw.
Koehler pretty much has pitched his way onto the team. Whether it will be as the fifth starter or long reliever has yet to be determined. Other factors could come into play.
Brad Hand, for instance, also is enjoying a terrific Spring Training. The lefty threw one inning of relief on Wednesday, but on Saturday, he will start in Viera, Fla., against the Nationals.
The Marlins shook up the rotation a bit for Saturday's split-squad day. Henderson Alvarez was originally set to start at Roger Dean Stadium against the Mets, and Kevin Slowey was to start in Viera. Now, Alvarez will start in Viera, and Slowey also is scheduled to pitch.
Hand will make the start in Jupiter.
As for Koehler, he continues to build off the success he has enjoyed, dating back to the later part of last season. This spring, he's given up one run in 12 innings with 11 strikeouts and two walks.
"I think Tom Koehler has done a great job. He's been very consistent," manager Mike Redmond said. "If you look at where he was last year at this time to where he is now, he's probably been our most improved guy. This guy has gone out there and improved. I think a lot of that has to do with confidence, and him getting a lot of starts last year. He's continued to improve and he's really picked up where he's left off last year. He's had a great spring."
Koehler has options, while Hand doesn't. Slowey is a non-roster invitee.
There is room for two of them, with one being the fifth starter and the other pitching long relief.
The Marlins have had success grooming young pitchers, a number of them breaking into the big leagues at young ages. Jose Fernandez made it as a 20-year-old last year.
Koehler is 27, and he appears now to be finding his stride.
"Last spring, I came in really trying to show I belong here and I'm a big league pitcher," Koehler said. "I came out and tried to do so much. It ended up hurting me. Right now, it's more of just knowing what I'm capable of doing, and staying within myself, and trusting that the strikes I throw are quality enough strikes to put me in position to get guys out.
"Last year, I came in with a chance probably to win a job. This year, I feel I've come in thinking, these are my teammates. These are the guys I want to be with the rest of the year and years going forward, and help turn this organization back to the winning organization that it's been. It's no more just for experience. Now it's about getting ready for the season and doing what we're all capable of doing."
Marlins discuss pitcher safety after Chapman's injury
JUPITER, Fla. -- Aroldis Chapman's injury on Wednesday night once again sheds light on the topic of pitcher safety.
In the sixth inning, the Reds' closer was struck on the face by a line drive off the bat of Kansas City's Salvador Perez. Chapman sustained a fracture above his left eye, and the incident prompted the game to be suspended at that point.
MLB is exploring a type of protective liner that fits into a cap. Such a hat, however, wouldn't guard a pitcher's face.
A number of Marlins pitchers said they'd only consider wearing a helmet-like liner if it were perfectly comfortable.
"Initially, I'd say no," left-hander Mike Dunn said. "If it fits just like a regular hat, then yeah, why not? But I haven't seen it yet."
Dunn recognizes there is risk in the game, and he doesn't know how many measures could be taken to prevent head/face injuries.
"It's part of the game. It just happens you see it more recently," Dunn said. "It's not like it's never happened before these last few years. It's unfortunate that it did happen.
"I've had balls go right past me, and you're like, 'Thank goodness.' You have zero chance of doing anything about it."
Nathan Eovaldi, the hardest throwing starter on the Miami staff, says a pitcher's mindset is on attacking hitters and getting outs. The last thing they are thinking about is getting hit by a line drive.
"You're thinking ... you're going to strike them out or get them out, not about a comebacker," Eovaldi said. "You don't want to be timid. But for that to happen to anybody is sad."
Miami manager Mike Redmond, a catcher in his playing days, was behind the plate during one of the most frightening moments ever to happen a Marlins pitcher.
In 2003, against the Red Sox at Fenway Park, Kevin Olsen was struck over the right ear by a Todd Walker liner.
Redmond was the first to the mound, where he saw Olsen on the ground, eyes closed, and blood coming from his ear.
"It felt like that ball slowed down," Redmond said. "That messed him up. He really wasn't the same after that. I didn't know what I'd get when I was out there. My first reaction was to just get out there. It was scary. There is just nothing you can do. It happened so fast."
Redmond notes he worries about a pitcher's safety whenever slugger Giancarlo Stanton steps to the plate.
"It's scary," Redmond said. "Believe me, I think about that every time Giancarlo gets up there and hits. You think about it, how hard he hits the ball. You just don't have the reaction time if he hits it back up the middle. Not even just him, anybody.
"If they could come up with something that could be comfortable for pitchers to wear, then I'd be all for it, protection-wise. I just don't know what they can do. You don't see it a lot, but it takes one time to be super scary."
• Ed Lucas (left hamstring) traveled to Port St. Lucie, Fla., on Thursday to get some at-bats as the designated hitter in a Minor League game. If that goes well, Lucas could be ready to play the field in Grapefruit League games this weekend. Lucas is competing for a utility infield spot.
• Greg Dobbs (left quadriceps) is doing limited baseball activities. There is no clear timetable for when he will be ready for games.