FORT MYERS -- With Logan Morrison in left, Chris Coghlan in center and Mike Stanton in right, Marlins outfield coach Joe Espada is pretty confident he's going to have one of the most talented and athletic young trios in baseball this coming season.
So far, through the first few weeks of spring training, the only time all three have been on the field together in a game has been the first two innings of an exhibition loss to the University of Miami on Feb. 27 -- before Stanton strained his right quadriceps running out a ground ball. The big guy has been out ever since.
Coghlan, meanwhile, has hardly broken a sweat in his new outfield position as the Marlins have tried to ease him back in following off-season surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. Adding to the woes for Coghlan has been a sore throwing shoulder. He hasn't played in the outfield since March 7, serving only as the designated hitter in his last three games.
Manager Edwin Rodriguez said Sunday he expects Coghlan to begin playing regularly in center when the Marlins head back to Jupiter on Wednesday. But Stanton, who could begin participating in live batting practice and simulated games down in the minors later this week, probably won't be back for Grapefruit League games until the final week of spring, assuming there are no setbacks.
So will the Marlins new outfield really have enough time to gel before games start to count? Espada and Rodriguez think so.
"For me, it's not a concern," Espada said. "They do get out there together when we do our pregame work and they do a lot of talking during [batting practice] when they live shag, so it's not a concern. But I would like to see them out there more in game speed situations.
"Hopefully we'll have all three of them out there on the last day of spring and play them eight, nine innings together to see how it goes."
Rodriguez said the key before Opening Day is simply establishing how much ground infielders and outfielders have to cover to get to fly balls.
"One thing about these guys -- Logan Morrision, Chris Coghlan, Michael Stanton -- is they're makeup. They're not afraid of a challenge. They go for it," Rodriguez said. "I remember last year after [Coghlan] played one game in left field. He came up and said 'You're never going to hear me because I made that error in left field.' That shows a lot. That goes with Morrison and Stanton. There's no excuses for them."
Coghlan is confident he and his two young teammates will be ready.
"It hasn't gone the way we drew it up," Coghlan said. "There's been some nicks. But you can't control that. That's just the reality of it.
"I don't know when Mike will be ready. That's his protocol. But Mike's a good outfielder. He covers a lot of ground. He knows where he's at. We'll just communicate in our early work, what we want to do, our plan of attack. And you'll see a difference the last week. Our energy will be ramped up because it will be more game-like situations. We'll work on how we're going to position ourselves with the hitters and the teams we'll be playing. There will be a difference. We'll be ready."
A FEW MORE TIDBITS
> Alex Sanabia's one inning of work against the Twins Monday wasn't spectacular. He gave up a run on three hits as a substitute starter for Javi Vazquez. But consider Sanabia, who was scratched in his previous scheduled start last Tuesday, a continuing work in progress. Pitching coach Randy St. Claire has spent most of the spring trying to tweak his grip.
"We're just trying to keep his front side in and his hand on top of the baseball," St. Claire said before Monday's game. "He has kind of a lower arm slot anyway. He'll get real low on the ball. It's more this way and the ball tails, it doesn't sink. When he stays with his fingers on top of the ball, behind the ball, then he gets that downward action, which is what you want. Then, he can throw a slider. When he's around it, he flips open and that's where he gets the elbow strains. His last couple sides he's been staying on top of the ball. He's looked good.
Sanabia, 22, went 5-3 with a 3.73 ERA in 12 starts for the Marlins last year. But he's expected to head back to the minors before camp breaks.
> I'm fully expecting Anibal Sanchez to get scratched from Tuesday's scheduled start against the Rays in Port Charlotte. The Marlins were waiting to hear how Sanchez looked upon inspection by trainers in Jupiter Monday morning. He was still limping around after taking a line drive off his right shin in his previous start the Thursday. The cautious approach seems like common sense.
"He's coming off shoulder [surgery in 2009]," St. Claire said. "When you can't use that drive leg, that push leg and everything or your legs in general, your arm starts taking the brunt of it. If he can't grind and push the way he needs to, we'll just move him back."