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Stanton heads down, but leaves impression

FORT MYERS -- The Marlins sent ultra-talented 20-year old outfielder Mike Stanton back down to Double A Jacksonville Wednesday. But the question isn't why the organization's top prospect is heading back to the minors. Rather, it's how long will Marlins fans have to wait to see him in the bigs.

If you go off manager Fredi Gonzalez's remarks from this morning, it might not be very long at all. 

Mike Stanton "We sent him down, but he'll let us know when he's ready," Gonzalez said Wednesday before his team began warming up to take on the Minnesota Twins at Hammond Stadium. "It's just a matter of him getting some at-bats and putting up some numbers or decapitating somebody down there. Maybe the league president will say get this guy out of here before he hurts somebody."

Stanton hurt a few big league pitchers in his second spring with the big league club. In 24 at-bats, he showed the raw power that made him Baseball American's third best prospect in the game, slugging three home runs and driving in eight RBI while hitting .333 in seven games played. He also made an impression on Gonzalez with his defense and his work ethic.

"Big strides," Gonzalez said comparing Stanton's first spring to this spring performance. "This guy has great recognition of the strike zone. He's gotten so much better in the outfield from last year. It's just a matter now of getting some at-bats, more game time, more experience because he is close to being a major leaguer, real close."

> BAKER IN NEED OF AT-BATS: Catcher John Baker will get four much-needed at-bats this afternoon against the Twins as a designated hitter before getting a start at catcher up the road Thursday against the Red Sox. Baker, hampered by a right forearm strain for most of the spring, has only caught two games to date -- the exhibition opener against the University of Miami and a game against the Washington Nationals Saturday. A few hours after his return, he came down with a strong stomach virus late Saturday night that caused him to drop between 10 to 15 pounds and left him weak when he returned to camp Tuesday.

John Baker "My stomach feels much better today than yesterday," Baker said Wednesday. "Yesterday I was having a tough time just sitting on the bench, my stomach was bothering me.

"I'm definitely ready to feel healthy and play baseball. This spring training has sucked for me... I've been really frustrated. This is what I love to do and I haven't been able to play."

Baker estimates between simulated games and a few in the minors he's been able to put together 17 at-bats. According to his Grapefruit League stats, he's two for four. He said he'd like to play in six to seven of the Marlins final spring games so he can get to about 50 at-bats, the same number he had a year ago.

"It's more about getting your timing down," Baker said. "I spent three days a week in the offseason catching with Tim Cousins. It's not like I showed up not having played since the season ended. I feel comfortable behind the plate... And it's just all about making sure I'm ready to play nine innings. That's where I want to be, not frustrated, out on the field, playing pain free baseball that's my goal."

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