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Choate hoping to make spring debut next week

JUPITER -- Randy Choate usually comes in and out of games so quickly it's often easy to miss him if you aren't paying close attention. Well, we all sort of missed him.

Turns out the 36-year old left-handed specialist has yet to pitch in any games this spring because of a strained right lateral muscle near his abdomen. Choate said it happened two weeks ago when he was "taking hacks" in the batting cages and after getting it checked out, the Marlins told him to take time off to rest it before the season.

Saturday, he threw his first bullpen since sustaining the injury and felt no pain. He says he's now on target to pitch another bullpen Monday before facing live hitters Wednesday. The hope is he'll get into a game by Friday or Saturday.

The fact he usually comes in to face just one or two hitters a game shouldn't delay his season debut.

"It was so early in spring we decided to take the time to knock it out so we wouldn't have to deal with it again," Choate said. "I'll have a week and a half, almost two weeks to get ready for the season and when you're preparing basically for one guy an outing [it should be easy]. It's not like a starter who has to build up arm strength. My arm feels so good hopefully there won't be any issues."

Choate went 1-1 with a 1.82 ERA in 24 2/3 innings last season. He retired 59 of the 74 left-handed hitters he faced in 2011, giving up just 10 hits.