VIERA, Fla. -- Pound the strike zone and force the action were Henderson Alvarez's objectives heading into his first Grapefruit League start.
Facing the Nationals on Sunday at Space Coast Stadium, Alvarez was spot on in what he was hoping to do. Of his 22 pitches, 19 were for strikes.
Alvarez posted a highly efficient and encouraging outing. The right-hander tossed two scoreless innings, striking out two while allowing one single.
"All my pitches fell in the strike zone," said the Venezuelan native through an interpreter. "My plan was to go out there, get my pitches in the zone and get the batters to swing."
Acquired from the Blue Jays as part of the 12-player trade in November, Alvarez got swings and misses from left-handed hitters with his sinker. He mixed in a changeup and worked at a quick pace.
Known for throwing strikes, Alvarez's performance came as advertised. With the Blue Jays last year, he walked 54 in 187 1/3 innings. Per nine innings, he averaged 2.59 walks.
"Sometimes it is a challenge, maybe your first outing you're a little bit amped up," manager Mike Redmond said. "I thought for a young guy he was completely under control out there. Obviously, the numbers speak for themselves with the amount of strikes that he threw."
At least for the first half of Spring Training, Alvarez is getting a brief look by the Marlins. His next start will be Friday against the Twins at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Fla.
Two days later, he will be exiting the team for a few weeks to join Venezuela for the World Baseball Classic.
Starting pitchers will be facing a maximum of 65 pitches in the Classic.
"It's a huge honor to play for my country and have my country's name on my chest," Alvarez said. "It's also an honor to play with All-Stars from my country, such as Miguel Cabrera. It's going to be great to pitch against other countries like Puerto Rico.
"I am healthy. Everything has been fine. I'm looking forward to it."
With the Marlins, Alvarez isn't trying to replace Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle. He is welcoming his new opportunity.
"In Major League Baseball, they make moves," he said. "In November, the Marlins made the trade, sending two All-Star [pitchers] to Toronto. I'm here to give 100 percent to the team, and do my best."
Marlins exploring options after losing Mathis
VIERA, Fla. -- The search for a backup catcher has already begun.
The Marlins are exploring all avenues for depth now that Jeff Mathis is out for at least six weeks with a fractured right collarbone.
The club is combing through other rosters, exploring possible trade options and trying to figure out which teams have a surplus.
Losing Mathis so early in Spring Training is a tough blow, but time is working in the team's favor.
Had it occurred closer to Opening Day, there would be more urgency to make a quick move.
Mathis suffered the injury after absorbing a foul tip off the bat of St. Louis' Matt Holliday on Saturday at Roger Dean Stadium. He took himself out of the game after feeling discomfort while throwing.
An X-ray revealed a non-displaced fracture.
In all likelihood, Mathis will be out more than six weeks because that is the estimated time for the bone to heal. The injury is preventing him from throwing and swinging a bat for more than a month.
Over the next few weeks, the Marlins will look at their internal options.
The candidate closest to being big league ready is Kyle Skipworth, the team's first-round pick in 2008.
Skipworth spent the past two seasons at Double-A Jacksonville, and the 22-year-old has 444 games of Minor League experience.
Skipworth will be making the start on Monday against the Braves at Lake Buena Vista.
"I like him," manager Mike Redmond said. "He's a big, physical guy for a catcher. He's going to get a chance [Monday] to catch. Obviously, we're looking for one of those young kids to step up. Any time you get guys playing time in big league Spring Training, you see what you've got. You see how they handle the pressures."
Jake Jefferies got a chance to play on Sunday in Miami's 2-2 tie with Washington.
If Miami carries Skipworth on its Opening Day roster, they would have two left-handed hitting catchers.
Rob Brantly, the projected starter, also bats lefty.
"Obviously, there is an opportunity there for someone," Redmond said. "We'll see how that plays itself out."
Kotchman takes part in simulated game
VIERA, Fla. -- Before the Marlins faced the Nationals in Viera on Sunday, several players remained back at the Roger Dean Stadium complex to take part in simulated games.
First baseman Casey Kotchman was one of them.
Kotchman, who received four stitches to his left ring finger last Monday, took some at-bats for the first time in six days.
The veteran first baseman sliced his finger after colliding with the machine that flipped infield pop ups in a drill.
"Kotchman, he's progressing," manager Mike Redmond said. "He threw and he hit. He had a couple of at-bats in a simulated game today. He swung the bat. It's kind of on him when he feels ready to go out and play in a game. He's [moving] pretty quickly for a guy who had four stitches in his hand.
Redmond expects Kotchman could be in games soon.
• Returning to Viera seemed like old times for Redmond. When Redmond broke into professional baseball with the Marlins, the team had Spring Training at Space Coast Stadium. The area has grown tremendously since the 1990s. "When I was a 21-year-old kid, driving down this road, there was nothing," Redmond said. "It was just pitch black. No houses. No nothing. There were a couple of deer. They might have been full-grown deer, but they looked like little dogs."
• Some of the regulars traveling to Lake Buena Vista, Fla., on Monday to face the Braves are Giancarlo Stanton, Donovan Solano, Adeiny Hechavarria, Joe Mahoney and Chris Coghlan. Wade LeBlanc will be the starting pitcher.
• On Sunday afternoon, reliever Evan Reed had an impressive outing. The right-hander threw two scoreless innings, including striking out the side in the bottom of the eighth.