Around the NL East: Spring training update

Around the NL East: Spring training update
March 3, 2014, 9:00 am
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Matt Williams mic'd up

Miami Marlins 

It was a big week for ace Jose Fernandez who was both named the team's Opening Day starter and received a raise from the team. The first was expected, as Fernandez is clearly their best pitcher, but the second was a bit of a surprise. The Marlins didn't have to pay Fernandez any more than $500,000 this season, but instead chose to hand him $635,000. Fernandez, 21, is under control of the Marlins through 2018.

Henderson Alvarez, the Marlins' expected No. 3 starter, missed Sunday's game against the Nationals due to a nasty shin infection. The 23-year-old has been treated at a local hospital in Jupiter, Fla. and has suspended his throwing program. It doesn't sound too serious, but it sure sounds gross.

Atlanta Braves

Already with a strong crop of catching depth, the Braves added another to the mix over the weekend by signing Cuban backstop Yenier Bello to a minor league deal. Bello will join the Braves in spring training to work out for the 2014 season, and will likely begin in the minors. The 29-year-old has an interesting backstory including a failed attempt to escape from Cuba in 2012. His capture resulted in a suspension from baseball in the country and his passport revoked.

Prospect Tommy La Stella, a second baseman who spent most of 2013 in Double-A, is an early standout for the Braves in spring training. The 25-year-old is a career .327 hitter in the minors and could earn a call-up to Atlanta this season. He may be a name to watch With Dan Uggla's contract running out in two years.

[RELATED: Doug Fister 'erratic' in Nats debut]

New York Mets

It's shaping up as a two-man race for the Mets' fifth starter spot as Daisuke Matsuzaka and former Nat John Lannan have already separated themselves. Youngster Jenrry Mejia is the third candidate, but it's already looking like the veterans have the advantage. Both Dice-K and Lannan have shined early in camp, Lannan debuted over the weekend with two scoreless innings and three strikeouts against the Marlins.

For Mets pitchers this spring, all eyes are on top prospect Noah Syndergaard. The former first round pick with a career 2.64 minor league ERA will make his first spring start on Monday against the Braves. He is said to touch 98 with his fastball and bring a curveball Terry Collins has dubbed the "hook from hell."

Philadelphia Phillies

The early story in Phillies spring has been all about pitchers getting injured, specifically with shoulder problems. Though Cole Hamels is progressing and should begin throwing soon, reliever Ethan Martin has been shut down with a strained shoulder capsule. They also had an injury scare with third baseman Cody Asche on Sunday after he took a pitch off his right wrist against Pittsburgh. He should be fine, however.

There has been a mixed bag from their new starting pitching additions this spring with Miguel Gonzalez struggling early on. He was not sharp in his first bullpen session, prompting many to speculate whether he was ready to start in the majors on Day One. Then, on Saturday, Gonzalez had a rough outing in his debut with the team. A.J. Burnett, on the other hand, was solid in his first game pitching against the Pirates, his former team.

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