JUPITER -- Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez still believes Mike Stanton will be ready for Opening Day. But it's going to be at least another week before the 21-year old slugger returns to spring training action with his teammates.
Rodriguez said Wednesday morning he would be surprised if Stanton, who strained his right quadriceps running out a ground ball on Feb. 27, was back with the team next week as Stanton had originally anticipated. Instead, Rodriguez said, it's more likely Stanton will be back for the last 7 to 10 days of Grapefruit League play (give or take March 20 or 22) following a short stint in the minors.
"We're probably going to send him to the minors so he can face some light pitching," Rodriguez said. "We just want to make sure everything feels alright. We want to see how he runs on the field."
Stanton took batting practice again Tuesday and was playing catch in the outfield at Roger Dean Stadium on Wednesday morning.
> Rodriguez is not quite ready to say Matt Dominguez has won himself the starting third base job. But the 21-year old's hot start this spring hasn't gone unnoticed by the skipper.
Through seven games, Dominguez is hitting .400 (6 for 15) and leads the team with two homers and 10 RBI. Sure, some of it has come at the expense of minor league pitching. But Rodriguez said he's still been impressed.
"If he was striking out at this stage we would be wondering 'Well, he's not even facing good pitching yet," Rodriguez said. "But he's walking and talking like he belongs here. He's handling himself very well. I think most of his RBI have been clutch RBI, with two outs, two men on. He's doing very, very well."
> Rodriguez was equally impressed with Elih Villanueva's start in Lakeland Tuesday in place of Alex Sanabia (sore right elbow). Villanueva tossed three scoreless innings against the Tigers, surrendered two hits and two walks to go with two strikeouts. Villanueva had a stellar season in Double A last year and is likely heading back to the minors. But Rodriguez said he can see Villanueva pitching at the big league level in the not-so-distant future.
"It was first time I actually saw him pitch," Rodriguez said. "They were telling me he was off today. But to me he was fine, throwing all his pitching for strikes. It was good to see him do that.
"There's so many players in the big leagues that have been in the big leagues for 10 years and if you look at them and their tools, they're not up to par. But they know how to pitch. Villanueva knows how to win, how to pitch. I think he's going to be in the big leagues for many, many years."
By the way, Rodriguez said Tuesday that Sanabia's soreness was the result of using a new grip -- something he's been working on with pitching coach Randy St. Claire.
> Rodriguez said he heard Ricky Nolasco's bullpen session went well Tuesday and that he's probably still on track to make his first Grapefruit League start Sunday. Nolasco is on track to pitch in a simulated game Thursday morning.
> When will we see Chris Coghlan in the everyday lineup? Rodriguez said probably after the Marlins return from their trip to the west coast of Florida on Monday and Tuesday.