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Maine happy to get start in Saturday's spring opener against the Cardinals

JUPITER -- John Maine hasn't pitched in a big league game since May 20, 2010.

Starting Saturday's spring training opener against the Cardinals won't count as ending that streak, but it's a step in the direction Maine wants to go.

"I appreciate them letting me do it," Maine said Wednesday, a couple days after manager Mike Redmond told him he would get the chance to start the Marlins' first spring game. "I'm excited to pitch... we'll see where it takes us. It's going to take a couple outings to really find a groove. But I feel fine. I expect to do nothing but go out and pitch well."

Maine, 31, is trying to come back from two shoulder surgeries. His wife had to talk him out of retirement in 2011. With the fifth starter spot up for grabs in camp, Maine knows the opportunity is there to get back into a rotation. But there is plenty of competition: left-handers Brad Hand and Wade LeBlanc and right-handers Alex Sanabia, Mitch Talbot, Kevin Slowey and Tom Koehler.

As for his shoulder, Maine said he still feels occasional soreness. But after throwing live batting practice Monday he felt "no pain, nothing."

He expects to throw two innings Saturday.

STANDING THEIR GROUND

Marlins catchers on Tuesday took multiple turns squatting and catching relay throws will getting smacked by a weighted cylindrical bag on their blind side to simulate a collision at the plate. 

Redmond said while the drill might not be fun it's necessary. He expects all of his catchers to stand their ground and block the plate -- regardless of what happened to the Giants' Buster Posey in 2011 when then Marlins outfielder Scott Cousins knocked him out for the rest of the season.

"I think we try to tell our catchers how to protect themselves," Redmond explained Tuesday. "I blocked the plate and never got hurt. We try to teach guys to try to avoid going down to their knees. If you're a little guy and you go down to your knees it makes you even smaller and you don't have a base. I think we try to square guys up and try to give them the tools where they can protect themselves in case they do get run over."

Veteran catcher Jeff Mathis had a few ribs busted a couple years ago in a collision at home with the Rangers' Chris Davis. But he too believes the catcher's job is to protect the plate.

"It was unfortunate what happened to Buster," Mathis said. "But it's part of baseball. I've been hit, ran into and stuff like that. But that's our job. Our job is to protect that plate and try to keep runs from crossing that plate. That's the way I feel about it."

> The Marlins agreed on 2013 contracts with nine players Wednesday morning: right-handers Arquimedes Caminero, Jose Ceda, Sam Dyson, Nathan Eovaldi, Chris Hatcher, A.J. Ramos; left-handers Brand Hand and Braulio Lara and outfielder Marcell Ozuna.

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