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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]."

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