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Marlins Chen Has Solid Spring But Home Runs Remain An Issue

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JUPITER (CBSMiami/AP) — The Miami Marlins are looking to take a step forward in 2017 and have seemed pleased with the overall play of the pitching staff.

Some things are much improved from a year ago but some problems remain.

The same issue that plagued Wei-Yin Chen during his first season with the Marlins continues to trouble him.

Chen allowed two more homers in Miami’s 3-0 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday. The solo shots for Yadier Molina and Dexter Fowler made it six homers allowed by the left-hander during spring training.

“I think I’m ready for the season but still I’ve got the same problem of allowing home runs,” Chen said through an interpreter. “I missed spots there but other than that I feel that everything is pretty fine.”

A fly-ball pitcher who surrendered 28 homers in 31 starts during his final year with Baltimore, Chen signed with Miami as a free agent prior to the 2016 season. The hope was the more spacious Marlins Ballpark would turn some of those drives into long outs.

Not so much so far.

Chen allowed 22 homers over 22 starts last season on his way to a 5-5 record and a 4.96 ERA. He is 0-3 in Grapefruit League play this year.

“He challenges the strike zone, that’s one thing,” manager Don Mattingly said. “He’s going to come after guys. He’s not walking people. He’s not really giving up that big hit. The solos? You kind of live with it. If they get to be three-run homers or something, if there’s people all over the place, that’s something different. But he’s been fairly efficient and he’s been on the attack so I’m happy with the way he’s throwing the ball.”

Two positive takeaways for Chen concerning those spring home runs: They are all solo shots, and they represented the only spring runs he had allowed until St. Louis plated an unearned run in the fifth.

Chen tossed five innings of seven-hit ball against the Cardinals, throwing 58 of his 83 pitches for strikes.

Chen’s biggest highlight Sunday might have come at the plate. With two outs and a runner on first in the fifth, he grounded a Mike Leake offering back up the middle. Aledmys Diaz fielded the ball behind second and tried unsuccessfully to get the lead runner with a backhanded flip. The play was ruled a hit.

Chen is 0 for 50 at the plate in his career.

“When I came off the field and got in the dugout, (Miami pitcher Tom Koehler) came over and told me he’s got the ball and he’s going to put it in my locker,” Chen said.

Chen expects to make one more exhibition start, against Detroit on Saturday, before starting the fourth game of the regular season at the New York Mets.

“I think (being) healthy is the main thing, him staying healthy and being able to give us his outing every fifth day,” Mattingly said.

NOTES: The Marlins scratched SS Adeiny Hechavarria because of back tightness. Following Sunday’s game, Hechavarria’s name was already written on Monday’s lineup card. … St. Louis manager Mike Matheny expects pitcher Lance Lynn to make his scheduled start in the Cardinals’ exhibition at Triple-A affiliate Memphis on Thursday. Lynn exited Saturday’s game against Miami after only one inning because he felt a kink in his back. Jhonny Peralta is dealing with soreness after fouling a ball off his left knee in Saturday’s game and received Sunday off.

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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