JUPITER -- This wasn’t the way Justin Nicolino wanted to start the spring.
Unbeaten FIU — using wooden bats as opposed to the aluminum ones the Panthers are used to — jumped all over one of the Marlins’ top prospects Thursday afternoon. The Panthers scored five earned runs on seven hits off Nicolino before manager Mike Redmond came out to get him after only only 1 2/3 innings.
Nicolino threw 49 pitches, 27 for strikes and had a wild pitch lead to a run. The Marlins eventually rallied for six runs in the sixth and a 9-5 victory over the Panthers in their final tune-up before Friday’s Grapefruit League opener against the Cardinals. FIU produced 14 hits.
“I just kind of have to tip my cap to them,” Nicolino said. “They came out with an approach, and I was working on a few things, and they beat me.
“It’s good to see where I was at [Thursday]. Obviously, not the start I wanted. Like I said the other day, anybody can get beat on any given day. It doesn’t matter who it is, college or pro guys. It happens. I liked my [fielding] plays. I take positives out of it.”
Tabbed the fourth-best prospect in the organization by Baseball America and the seventh-best left-handed pitching prospect in the game by MLB.com, Nicolino, 22, was disappointed with how he finished last season in Double A Jacksonville (3-2, 4.96 ERA, 31 Ks, 12 BBs in nine starts). He went 5-2 with a 2.23 ERA, 64 Ks, 18 BBs in 18 starts (96 2/3 innings) in Single A Jupiter before that.
• Credit Ty Wigginton, a nonroster invitee, with the first home run of the spring for the Marlins. He took FIU freshman starter Chris Mourelle deep to left with two outs in the bottom of the second. It was the only hit Mourelle, a Miami Southwest High grad, gave up.
• Redmond was impressed with FIU catcher Aramis Garcia, a top prospect out of Pembroke Pines Charter. He finished with two hits and two runs scored and threw out a runner at second on an attempted steal.
“They got a little bit of everything — some speed, some power,” Redmond said. “They’re obviously 9-0 so they have a chance. The catcher has a pretty good arm and idea of what he’s doing behind the plate.”
Marlins closer Steve Cishek was looking forward to watching Survivor this season. Not anymore.
Marlins president David Samson was the first of 18 castaways on the reality TV show to get voted off the island by his peers just an hour into the 28th season’s debut show. Although many Marlins players said they don’t watch the show regularly or even at all, some said they did tune in Wednesday to see how Samson would do.
“It was quick,” relief pitcher Chris Hatcher said. “I never really watched Survivor, but I thought he would have lasted a little longer than that.
“Honestly, what’s the key to the show? Is it MacGyver skills? Is it knowledge? Is it brute strength? I couldn’t figure it out. If it’s internal politics, I’d be the first one out, too.”
Samson got to the island and was quickly elected the “Brain Tribe’s” leader. But it didn’t take him long to lose support and be dubbed “a schemer.” He was eliminated in a close vote and left the show saying he thought he played the game the way he thought it should be. Cishek said Samson getting voted off “drove me nuts.”
“I don’t know if I’ll watch it again,” Cishek said. “I can’t believe that other girl made it through two rounds. She’s a nuclear engineer, and she can’t even put two blocks together. It’s kind of ridiculous. Put me on Wipe Out or something where I can control my own destiny.”
• Redmond said pitcher Henderson Alvarez, who had an infection in his right shin drained recently, looked better Thursday and was walking around camp without his crutches. “I take that as a positive sign,” Redmond said.
• Right-hander Angel Sanchez, the lone remaining piece in the Ricky Nolasco trade with the Dodgers, didn’t give up any runs over two innings in Wednesday’s 5-2 win against the University of Miami. But he wasn’t exactly happy with his effort. Sanchez, expected to begin the season in Double A Jacksonville, struck out two, but walked a batter, gave up two hits and made a fielding error.
“I thought I could have done better,” he said. “But in the end I did my job. I didn’t let anyone touch home plate. I was just working on my breaking pitches, hitting the strike zone and putting my fastball through the strike zone.”
• Friday: Marlins RHP Jose Fernandez vs. Cardinals RHP Carlos Martinez, 1:05 p.m., Jupiter, MLBN.
• Saturday: Marlins RHP Nathan Eovaldi vs. Cardinals RHP Lance Lynn, 1:05 p.m., Jupiter; Marlins RHP Kevin Slowey vs. Mets LHP John Lannan, 1:10 p.m., Port St. Lucie.