Notes: Julio takes pressure off 'pen
Closer yields one run on three hits to Cards in Marlins debut
JUPITER, Fla. -- The acquisition of Jorge Julio not only gives the Marlins an experienced closer, it helps take some of the pressure off the rest of the bullpen.
Julio made his Marlins debut on Thursday against the Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium. Getting back on the mound for the first time in five days, the 28-year-old gave up one run on three hits with a strikeout in one inning of a 4-4 tie.
His first pitch, a cutter that got away, broke in on the left-handed-hitting Skip Schumaker and went to the backstop.
"I'm fine; I'm working on all my pitches right now," Julio said. "When we start the season, it will be different."
Julio has 99 career saves, including 16 in 2006 with the Mets and Diamondbacks.
Since the offseason, the club felt the necessity to find a veteran with closer experience. Julio fit the profile, and he became available because Arizona was committed to Jose Valverde to close and Brandon Medders is slotted as the primary setup reliever.
Now in uniform for the Marlins, Julio is assuming the closer role, which enables rookies Henry Owens and Matt Lindstrom to be groomed in setup roles. Also, Kevin Gregg and Randy Messenger won't be asked to take on the role of closer, something they haven't done at the big-league level.
The Marlins obtained Julio from the Diamondbacks for right-hander Yusmeiro Petit on Monday.
"I want to retire with 200 saves in the Major Leagues," said Julio, the subject of persistent trade rumors for much of Spring Training. "Closing is not easy; it's harder than the setup man. When you are closing, you are the man in the game."
The trade came as a relief for Julio, who admitted it was a distraction trying to block out speculation he would be moved.
"Every day there was a different rumor -- or something like that -- about a trade," Julio said. "I was going to San Francisco, Marlins, Boston, Cardinals. Sometimes you've got it in your mind."
A native of Caracas, Venezuela, Julio has known fellow Venezuelan natives, Miguel Cabrera, Anibal Sanchez and Renyel Pinto for years.
Marlins bench coach Carlos Tosca was the third-base coach in Arizona in 2006.
"He has a live arm. He throws 95-97 [mph]," Tosca said. "He's very resilient. He can throw three, four days in a row. ... He wants to close games."
A former manager with the Blue Jays, Tosca feels experience is important for a closer.
"I think there is no substitute for experience, and it's tough to pitch in that [closer] role," Tosca said. "It's a difficult role to pitch in, and most of the people who have had success doing that have pitched in the seventh [inning] for a while and pitched the eighth for a while, and then they've gone into that spot. That part of experience is important, too."
Tosca sees Julio's presence as a benefit for the rest of the bullpen.
"I think what it does is it puts everybody in their right order in our bullpen," Tosca said. "Not to say those guys do not have the ability to close Major League Baseball games, but it kind of gives us control on when we feel they'll be ready to do that, as opposed to the game dictating to us, 'This is what you have, so you have to use this.' It is going to help us, and help [manager Fredi Gonzalez], with their development to their highest potential."
Olsen, Sanchez performances: As Anibal Sanchez was throwing six innings against the Cardinals on Thursday, Scott Olsen was throwing five innings in a Minor League game on a back field at Roger Dean Stadium.
Olsen, who will pitch the second game of the season on Tuesday at Washington, threw 54 pitches and gave up one run on two hits while facing Dodgers Minor Leaguers.
The 23-year-old Olsen clearly is ready for the season to begin.
"I want to get out of here," Olsen said. "I want to get down there [Miami]; I want to get the lights on top of us [in a big-league park] and get going. It's been a long Spring Training. I'm ready to go."
Sanchez, meanwhile, gave up three runs on nine hits with six strikeouts and a hit batter. The right-hander tossed a spring-high 97 pitches.
"This is my longest start, and I'll be ready for the third game," Sanchez said.
Rehabbing update: When the season starts, and the team heads to Washington to face the Nationals, several of the injured players will remain in Jupiter to continue their rehab work.
Outfielder Jeremy Hermida is recovering from a deep bone bruise to his right kneecap. Right now, he isn't doing any baseball-related activities.
Josh Johnson is moving closer to beginning throwing again. Out with an irritated nerve to his right biceps, Johnson is doing a series of strengthening exercises for his shoulder and forearm.
He is simulating his throwing motion with a medicine ball, and he is optimistic to start throwing off flat ground in the not-so-distant future.
Matsuzaka memorabilia: Shortly after the final Grapefruit League game at Roger Dean Stadium on Thursday afternoon, two pitching rubbers were dug up to commemorate Boston's Daisuke Matsuzaka's spring debut.
Matsuzaka faced the Marlins on March 6, marking his first game against a big-league club. MLB asked for the pitching rubber, which is being authenticated. Roger Dean Stadium is taking the bullpen rubber that Matsuzaka warmed up on, and that will be auctioned off by the stadium.
Spring attendance up: Thursday's crowd of 5,790 at Roger Dean Stadium raised Florida's spring attendance to 78,309 in 16 home games -- an increase of 17 percent over a year ago.
Fish bites: Ricky Nolasco will pitch in relief on Friday against the Mets. ... Sergio Mitre will start on Saturday against the Reds in Dayton, Ohio. ... Former Marlins reliever Tim Spooneybarger, who last pitched for the organization in a Minor League game in 2004, is recovering from multiple Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgeries and is hoping to hook on with another team.
Coming up: In their Grapefruit League finale Friday afternoon at 1:10 ET at Port St. Lucie, Fla., against the Mets, Minor Leaguer Ricardo Rodriguez will start for Florida, while Scott Schoeneweis gets the nod for New York.
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.