Adam Conley’s pitching results this spring haven’t been pretty.
They’re far from what they looked like a year ago when the Marlins’ left-hander earned his way into the starting rotation.
But Conley, who went 8-6 with a 3.85 ERA and flirted with a no-hitter three times in his first full season in 2016, is focusing on the big picture.
“It’s hard to look at the performance and say ‘he’s not that far off [from getting better],’ but that’s how I feel right now,” Conley said. “Spring training is a means to an end for me. I’m here to get my work in, get ready for the long season, take the ball 33 times and win a lot of games.”
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Conley started 25 games last season, at one point set the club record for consecutive scoreless innings by a starter ( 11 1/3), and threw 133 1/3 innings in a season that was cut short in mid-August after he injured the middle finger on his pitching hand.
Over the final seven weeks of the season, Conley made only one brief, three-inning start.
Conley, whom the Marlins drafted in the second round in 2011 out of Washington State University, started 11 games and appeared in 15 during his rookie season in 2015, compiling a 4-1 record and a 3.76 ERA.
He followed that with a stellar spring in which he compiled a 1.86 ERA in 9 2/3 innings.
It’s been the complete opposite so far this spring — at least in terms of results — for Conley, who has a 9.35 ERA in 8 2/3 innings. During those three starts (four appearances overall), Conley has allowed 16 hits, 12 runs (nine earned), walked three, struck out eight, but not allowed any homers.
During his latest outing Sunday in Jupiter, Conley gave up seven runs (four earned) and threw 79 pitches (including 37 in the first inning) in 2 2/3 innings.
The Marlins haven’t set their starting five, but Conley figures to be in, along with Edinson Volquez, Wei-Yin Chen, Tom Koehler and Dan Straily.
Conley, 26, is the youngest of the group and someone the Marlins feel still has plenty of upside.
“I know he’s long-levered trying to sync everything up,” manager Don Mattingly said. “It hasn’t really looked synced up for most of camp. There’s a little bit [of concern]. We have a number of guys fighting for a spot in that rotation. You want to take spring training as, ‘OK, guys are getting ready,’ but you want to see some type of results.
“It’s just not the consistency you’re looking for [from him], but there’s still some time left in camp so we’re hoping for that.”
Conley, a lanky 6-3, 200 pounds, has been working on some subtle changes, and has fallen behind in counts to hitters, which he credits as a major reason for the higher pitch counts and unfavorable results.
“It might be hard to see but I actually feel like I’m extremely close to being really, really good,” Conley said. “Another tweak here or there and then I am at 0-1 [to a hitter] instead of 1-0 or 2-0 and everything changes about the whole game.”
Conley’s fastball velocity has topped at 92 mph this spring and dipped to the high-80s at times, which is down from last spring when it was consistently in the mid-90s and topped out at 97.
Conley, who could make at least two more exhibition starts, says it’s part of his effort to build up for the season.
“Last year, it was a situation where I was pitching for my life out there, really trying to earn a job,” Conley said. “It’s not that I’m not out there trying to earn a job or a spot in the rotation, but as I mature, I’m starting to understand that spring training for me is about preparing for that long season, so that I’m a better pitcher in August than I was in April or March.”
▪ Tuesday: Marlins LHP Wei-Yin Chen vs. Astros RHP Mike Fiers, 1:05 p.m., Jupiter.
▪ Wednesday: Marlins RHP Scott Copeland vs. Mets LHP Steven Matz, 1:10 p.m., Port St. Lucie.