Koehler relieved after being struck by liner

SportsBaseballTom KoehlerKevin SloweyMiami MarlinsCasey KotchmanState University of New York

Tom Koehler felt fortunate to avoid injury when a line drive back to the mound Friday drilled him in the back beneath the right shoulder blade.

The Marlins right-hander went on to complete six innings, matching his career high, in a no-decision against the White Sox, who won 4-3 in 11 innings.

It did bring back the unpleasant memory of his first college start for SUNY Stony Brook when a similar smash came back a bit higher and hit him in the side of the head.

"I had to get like 10 stitches to keep my ear on over here," he said, pointing to the right side of his head. "I had to get the back of my ear sliced open to get fluid out."

This time Koehler not only escaped unscathed but got an out on the play as Jeff Keppinger's liner ricocheted to second baseman Derek Dietrich.

Koehler said Saturday that he felt nothing more than usual day-after soreness and will be ready for his next start. He pitched two days after the more serious injury in college.

"I probably had a concussion, but they didn't really test it. I ended up pitching two days later out of the pen. My coach was like, 'I want to throw you back out there so you shake the rust off,'" Koehler said.

That bounce-back outing was in California against USC, where he recalls serving a home run to Lucas Duda, now of the Mets, and dodging another liner back up the middle.

While the close calls are sobering, Koehler said he doesn't dwell on the peril that comes with every pitch. Earlier this month, Toronto's J.A. Happ had his skull fractured by a liner.

"I've probably thrown millions of pitches, and it's happened one time. so it's kind of like you winning the lotto or getting struck by lightning. If it happens, it happens. You can't really think that it's going to happen," he said.

"Anytime it's hit back like that you realize you're pretty close to taking one off the face. You more gather yourself to get ready to make the next pitch than you really do to shake off the pain of getting hit in the shoulder."

Slowey OK

Right-hander Kevin Slowey said the tweak in the area of his left lat that prompted a premature exit from his last start is improved, and he expects to make his next one Tuesday at Tampa Bay.

Slowey said he felt fine after throwing a bullpen session before Saturday's game.

Getting healthy

The Marlins appear close to getting some much-needed reinforcements. Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (shoulder inflammation) was strong in his first rehab start Saturday for Class A Jupiter, striking out five in five innings while allowing one run and four hits to Palm Beach, a Cardinals affiliate.

Logan Morrison, coming back from knee surgery, played nine innings at first base for the Hammerheads on Friday. Barring a setback he was expected to head to Jacksonville in the next few days for some games with the Double-A Suns.

Morrison is eligible to be reinstated from the disabled list Thursday, but will likely need more time to get his groove back after not playing for 10 months. He was hitting .188 (3 for 16) in his first four games for Jupiter.

First baseman Casey Kotchman (hamstring), also rehabbing with Jupiter, appears closer to being ready. Joe Mahoney, another first baseman, had a setback in his hamstring recovery and is taking a couple of days off.

Rookie impact

Through Friday, Dietrich had reached base in each of his first 13 games, the second-longest stretch for a Marlin to begin a career since Kevin Millar had a 17-game on-base streak in 1998-99.

Marcel Ozuna had a career-high nine-game hitting streak through Friday. He was batting .294 (11 for 34) with two double, a triple and four RBI during the streak. Ozuna has 24 hits this month, most by any rookie in the majors.

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