JUPITER, Fla. (AP) Henderson Alvarez went into his comically exaggerated crouch before the first pitch, as per his custom, and then threw with typical efficiency to help the Miami Marlins beat the New York Mets' split squad 8-7 Saturday.
''It had been a long time, but it felt normal,'' the Venezuelan said through a translator. Alvarez allowed one hit and struck out one, and 16 of his 22 pitches were strikes.
''He crushed that ball,'' Miami manager Mike Redmond said. ''If that wind wasn't blowing like it was, I don't know where that thing would have gone.''
Alvarez is the Marlins' ace until Jose Fernandez returns from elbow surgery, probably at midseason, and will likely receive their opening day assignment.
''It would be a thrill for me if I get it,'' Alvarez said.
The right-hander went 12-7 last year with a 2.65 ERA, sixth-best in the NL. Given his success, it's no surprise his unusual motion to start games has become a crowd-pleaser in Miami.
''The guy brings flair to the mound,'' Redmond said.
Matz struck out two and allowed only one baserunner - when his first pitch hit Dee Gordon on the arm.
''I was a little jittery,'' Matz said. ''I was excited to be out there, and it got the best of me. But I was able to settle down.''
Matz was the Mets' organizational pitcher of the year in 2014, and his spring training debut drew 20 friends and relatives. He faced a lineup that included 10-time All-Star Suzuki and $325 million slugger Stanton.
''Going over the hitters before the game, it was interesting,'' Matz said. ''To see Ichiro in there, he's one of the greatest hitters, and Stanton. It was little nerve-racking in the beginning.''
Dillon Gee, who will likely start the season as a reliever, came out of the Mets bullpen to throw 2 2-3 scoreless innings. His most recent regular-season relief appearance was in 2011.
Marlins right-hander Jarred Cosart is scheduled to make his first start of spring training Sunday against the Cardinals in Jupiter. Cosart went 4-4 with a 2.39 ERA in 10 starts after Miami acquired him last July from Houston.
PACE OF PLAY
Union head Tony Clark visited Marlins camp and said that while he hopes players develop new habits to improve the pace of games, the union will monitor recent rule changes for any potential negative effects.
''Anytime you start tinkering with rules that directly affect the game itself, you're playing with fire,'' Clark said. ''We're very sensitive to how anything that may be in place here moving forward is going to affect the guys.''
Clark said he's encouraging players to let the union know about things they don't like regarding the changes.
''These pieces that were put in place for `15 are pieces that put us right up to the line of that danger zone of affecting the way the guys play negatively,'' Clark said. ''If at the end of the day the players can't perform up to their ability because they're thinking about a lot of extracurricular stuff or people are pointing at them or screaming at them, that's a problem.''