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Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez talks Coghlan, Nolasco, rotation, leadoff

JUPITER -- A couple news and notes collected over the last couple days from talking to manager Edwin Rodriguez and players:

Edwin Rodriguez > Even though a week ago at Fan Fest he said was thinking about hitting Omar Infante lead-off this season, Rodriguez said Friday Chris Coghlan will bat first for the Marlins on April 1st -- assuming his health is in order.

Although, that won't necessarily be the case this spring. Rodriguez said he plans on having Coghlan bat leadoff in Sunday's exhibition against the University of Miami and then will likely alternate him with Infante.

"This week we're going to be very careful with Cogs," Rodriguez said. "We have to be very careful. He hasn't played in seven months."

Coghlan, who tore the meniscus on his left knee in late July, said following Thursday's practice he's felt a little stiffness in his knee. "But that's just me standing around so much," Coghlan said. "That's just standing around for five hours in cleats. There's just nothing you can do to prepare for that. My knees completely healed, completely fine. It's just getting acclimated with playing every day."

Rodriguez said he's been getting positive reports from special assistant Andre Dawson, who is monitoring Coghlan closely as he makes the switch from left to center field.

"Even before this week, we've been watching him in centerfield doing the drills, we have a very good idea how he plays in center field," Rodriguez said. "We saw it during batting practice. We have seen his instincts. I'm 100 percent sure he'll be fine there in centerfield. Plus, we have Andre Dawson telling us he's going to be fine. I'm not going to argue that. I had Coghlan for three years in the minor leagues and I know for a fact he'll be fine."

> Ricky Nolasco may still end up pitching against the Mets on April 2nd, but it's looking more and more like the Marlins are okay if he doesn't. Nolasco, who injured his right thumb about a week before coming to camp, has played catch each of the last three days and played long toss on Thursday.

"He's very excited, bouncing around better now," Rodriguez said. "That's a very good sign of how he feels."

Rodriguez said he expects Nolasco to begin throwing bullpens next week and should see spring training action before March 13th or 14th. As long as he meets that deadline, Rodriguez said, he should be able to pitch at the end of the Marlins rotation once the season begins. As it stands, the Marlins open the season with three games against the Mets and have a day off. Conceivably, they could wait until the second time around the rotation to insert him.

"There's no reason to rush," Rodriguez said. "We can go and form the rotation for the first game. If he's not feeling good, there's no reason to rush. Bottomline, we're not going to put him out there until he's 100 percent."

> As it stands, Javi Vazquez will start for the Marlins Sunday against UM. Anibal Sanchez will start Monday vs. St. Louis; Chris Volstad will start Tuesday against the Cardinals and Josh Johnson will start Wednesday against the Nationals in Viera. Johnson is also scheduled to pitch in a two-inning simulated game on Sunday morning.

Alex Sanabia is then expected to take Nolasco's spot in the rotation next Thursday when the Marlins play against the Astros in Kissimmee.

> Rodriguez said he will put what he hopes will be his Opening Day lineup on the field Sunday against UM and get each of his starters at least two at-bats. Catcher John Buck, however, will only catch three innings Sunday. Third baseman Matt Dominguez could end up playing longer.

As for Dominguez, expect the Marlins to give him up until the final few days of camp to make the team. 

"We don't have a deadline on Matt Dominguez," Rodriguez said. "If he shows he can handle it, he'll be playing for us. We're going to be able to tell if he can or can't make the adjustment. We're going to be very patient with Matty and give him all the opportunity to make the club especially late in spring training where the team is pretty much set and he's going to be facing big league pitching. We're going to be very patient with him."

The two most impressive things Rodriguez said he's seen so far at camp -- the improvement of closer Leo Nunez's slider/cutter and reliever Ryan Webb, picked up in the Cameron Maybin trade with the Padres.

"He has a really, really good arm with really good sink on the fastball and changeup," pitching coach Randy St. Claire said Friday. "Slider, curveball are still a little inconsistent right now, which is normal for breaking balls at this time of the spring. But he has a real good arm with movement to the fastball."

> Scott Cousins, competing to become the fourth outfielder on the team, said he had endoscopic sinus surgery in November and it has helped him a lot.

"Now, I can breathe," Cousins said. "I'm taking in more oxygen than normally. I'm catching my breath so much quicker now. It's awesome. I'm not as tired. Last year and in year's past I'd be in the outfield yawning because I was starving for oxygen out there. I just grew accustomed to it. I got the point where I was just so sick of it and I had the means to take care of it, so I did. I elected to do it. I'm definitely not regretting that. It's just so awesome to breath through both my nostrils. It's something a lot of guys take for granted. I know Brett Hayes is struggling with it to. A few guys have been asking me about it because they're thinking about doing the same thing. Being able to just breath and take in the proper amount of oxygen, being such a long game, it's huge, it's very important."