KISSIMMEE -- Before the Marlins sent Donovan Solano down to the minors last spring, manager Ozzie Guillen was hoping he could keep the 25-year old utility infielder as an important fill-in on the 25-man roster.
A year later, new manager Mike Redmond is talking about Solano as a valuable part of the Marlins' lineup, one the team sorely needs to be healthy for Opening Day.
"Right now I'm not as worried about the four-hole hitter as I'm worried about getting Solano in there," Redmond said Sunday when asked who he might be considering to bat behind All-Star Giancarlo Stanton. "That's a guy we need in our lineup and kind of makes our whole lineup come together."
Solano, who injured his back Wednesday working out, had an MRI performed on Saturday and it appears the results were encouraging.
"He's progressing," Redmond said. "The trainer said he was doing much better [Sunday] and is going to play some catch. We're hoping Wednesday-Thursday maybe get him back in a game. It's definitely good news. He's getting better. We're hopeful he's on board for the start of the season.
In the result Solano isn't ready, the Marlins are looking at several utility infielders as backup options. Veteran journeyman Wilson Valdez, signed Saturday after being released by the Giants, is getting a start today at shortstop after playing third on Saturday. Nick Green, who has been with the Marlins all camp and is hitting the best of the bunch at .263, is getting the start at second base. Matt Downs (.128) is at third. Chris Valaika, another infield option hitting .220 this spring, made the trip up for today's game and will likely enter the game late.
ROTATION COULD BE SET BY MONDAY
Right-hander Jacob Turner will make an important start today against the Astros -- his last chance to win the fifth spot in the starting rotation.
Redmond said Marlins brass will meet tonight after the game to decide on the rotation and potentially bullpen jobs as well. If Turner doesn't impress them enough he will begin the season in Triple A. The Marlins would then likely insert veteran right-hander Kevin Slowey into the rotation and make John Maine their long reliever.
"Slowey has started. He's stretched out. He can go multiple innings. If he were to go in the rotation he's ready to go," Redmond said. "If not, he could fill that long role as well."
Redmond said he would like for left-hander Wade LeBlanc, the only lefty in the Marlins rotation, to pitch third in the rotation.
"It's nice to have a lefty in there, especially a guy who can pitch and eat some innings," Redmond said. "He fits in there for me. We're waiting on today to have it all set by tomorrow."
> When camp started the Marlins had 74 players on the team. Redmond said he's enjoyed the process of whittling the roster down.
"With 74 guys it was right into the fire so to speak," Redmond said. "It's been a lot of work, but it's been good. Part of my goal was to get to see as many guys as I possibly could. I got to see a lot of our young kids, our prospects and see the pitchers and position players. I've learned a lot this spring."
> How is Logan Morrison doing? "He's still the same. He's progressing," Redmond said. "He's swinging off the tee and still running on that treadmill thing."
It's likely Morrison -- penciled in as the Marlins cleanup hitter -- won't be in game shape until May.
> Marlins (11-14-2): 1. Juan Pierre LF, 2. Wilson Valdez SS, 3. Giancarlo Stanton RF, 4. Greg Dobbs DH, 5. Justin Ruggiano CF, 6. Rob Brantly C, 7. Matt Downs 3B, 8. Casey Kotchman 1B, 9. Nick Green 2B. RHP Jacob Turner
> Astros (11-14-2): 1. Jose Altuve 2B, 2. Brett Wallace 1B, 3. Carlos Pena DH, 4. Rick Ankiel CF, 5. Fernando Martinez RF, 6. Carlos Corporan C, 7. Matt Dominguez 3B, 8. Trevor Crowe LF, 9. Ronny Cedeno SS. RHP David Martinez.