Ruggiano leaves practice early with a stiff lower back; starting pitching rotation set for first week of Grapefruit League action
JUPITER -- Center fielder Justin Ruggiano left practice early Thursday with tightness in his lower back and it is unclear if he will be ready to go when the Marlins open Graperfruit League action Saturday at Roger Dean Stadium against the Cardinals.
"My lower back kind of tightened up a little bit fielding ground balls," said Ruggiano, who hit .313 with 13 homers and 36 RBI in 91 games for the Marlins last season -- arguably the best surprise in a disappointing season.
"Instead of pushing it today being so early in camp I came in to see if we can't get it settled now. It's not fun. It's annoying. I'm frustrated and angry. I don't have a hold on why it keeps happening."
Ruggiano, a favorite to land the starting center field job, battled lower back pain last season. He also banged up his shoulder and didn't play again after Sept. 21.
"I know it's not that anything is wrong with my back," he said. "I had an x-ray and MRI on that so I know it's nothing structural. It's muscular.
"As soon as I can get back out there, I'm getting back out there."
SPRING ROTATION SET
Redmond has set his pitching rotation for the first eight games of the spring. Here is a look at the starters for each game:
John Maine will start Saturday against the Cardinals in Jupiter. Henderson Alvarez goes Sunday against Washington in Viera and March 1st against the Twins in Jupiter. Wade LeBlanc will pitch Monday against the Braves in Orlando.
Ricky Nolasco, Miami’s projected opening day starter, will then pitch Tuesday against the Mets in Jupiter and again March 2nd against the Mets in Port St. Lucie. Nathan Eovaldi will go Wednesday against Washington in Viera and March 3rd against the Mets in Jupiter. Jacob Turner goes Thursday against the Cardinals in Jupiter.
> Redmond said former Marlins teammate Mike Lowell is scheduled to arrive in Jupiter Feb. 28. Lowell has agreed to serve as a guest assistant coach for a three-game stretch from then on. Redmond said he's still working to get Luis Castillo, the team's all-time leader in hits, to come and serve as a guest assistant coach, too.
"Luis is going to be a game-time decision," Redmond said. "He's either just going to show up someday or we're going to have to go down and get him."
> The Marlins wrapped up the second of two days worth of simulated intrasquad games. Shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria tripled off Alvarez and scored. Second baseman Donovan Solano had a couple of hits.
"A couple of those guys look like they're ready to go for opening day already," Redmond said. "I don't know how they do that. They come out swinging.
"We had a lot of good at-bats. I thought we pitched well, too. It was good to see [Braulio] Lara go up there and throw strikes. [Arquimedes] Caminero threw some nasty pitches. [Kevin] Slowey pitched well. Alvarez [did too]."
JUPITER -- Logan Morrison's first steps toward getting back into a Marlins uniform begin this morning.
The first baseman, who had a second surgery five months ago to repair a torn patella tendon in his right knee, will start running on a treadmill for the first time in eight months on Thursday. Doctors, Morrison said, don't want him hitting or doing any other baseball activities yet. Just the treadmill.
"It's not going to be like 20 minutes first time. It's going to be like a minute," said Morrison, who will wear an anti-gravity bubble below his waist to put less weight on the knee. "Probably just like a jog with half my body weight."
Morrison said the treadmill work will progress for about a month -- assuming there aren't any setbacks. His agent told The Miami Herald earlier this week the hope is Morrison will be game ready by April 15th. Morrison said Thursday that remains the hope.
"I just know I'm running today on the treadmill and then after that I don't know what's going on," Morrison said. "They don't want me hitting right now because if it does get sore they want to know what is making it sore."
Morrison said the opportunity to get fully healthy is exciting. He admits he tried to rush his way back on the field too early after the first surgery in Dec. 2011.
"It's not always about being the tough guy, the guy who is going to be out on the field. It's about being able to help your team. If you're not able to do that, why be out there?" Morrison said.
"It was painful and a mental grind just to get out of bed [last season]. To go and face major league pitching wasn't fun either. I think the first time you go through it you think you're bullet proof. 'Yeah, it hurts, but it will get better.' Or, 'Yeah it hurts, but I can still play through it, still help the team win.' I wanted to help the people out on my team, but it didn't work out well."
JUPITER -- Marlins All-Star right fielder Giancarlo Stanton was in good spirits Thursday morning -- and feeling better -- a day after being struck in the back of the head by a Jose Fernandez fastball.
"It all checked out fine," Stanton said of the precautionary x-rays taken on his neck after practice Wednesday.
"I was pretty loopy I must say yesterday. But for the most part I feel fine. [I'm] back. But we're going to see how much activity [I do] in the weight room. I'd like to at least get some hitting in today. It's probably smarter not to do much. I'll go according to what I'm feeling and what makes sense."
Stanton said Wednesday his vision was blurry for a few hours after getting plunked. The 23-year-old slugger said the ball got him just below the helmet, between the base of his skull and the top of his neck. But eventually, he said, that blurriness went away.
Stanton said he expects to play in the Marlins spring opener Saturday against the Cardinals.
Asked about the ball that hit him, Stanton joked: "I don't know. I think it's like half of a baseball now."
As for Fernandez, the Marlins' top prospect, he said he feels relieved Stanton is fine.
"It's still kind of tough, but I feel better that it's not that bad," Fernandez said.