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March 25, 2013

Polanco batting fourth, Solano takes BP


JUPITER -- Veteran Placido Polanco has done a lot of things over the course of his 15-year career in the Majors, and after Monday’s 6-3 loss to the Detroit Tigers, he can add ‘batting fourth’ to the list.

When he’s told that he’s been in the four-spot seven times, he’s in disbelief.

“Seven times? Really?”

Since returning to play from his strained oblique, the third baseman has been primarily batting second in the order. It makes sense, considering Polanco has batted second in the order during the course of his career over 5,100 times.

"It's one of those things where we're going to have a lot of different guys hitting in a lot of different spots. I like Polanco there," manager Mike Redmond said. "He gives you a veteran bat, a guy who puts the ball in play, he can hit behind runners, he can hit and run...it might be a nice fit behind [Giancarlo] Stanton."

As Redmond continues to express that the order is always subject to change based on the situation at hand, it won't be Polanco's last time hitting fourth.

"We'll maybe throw him back there a couple of days and see how it goes. We've hit him second most of the time because I really wanted to get him more at-bats," the manager said. "At this point, I want to see how that works and see how the lineup responds to him being a little lower in the order."

The 37-year-old went 1 for 3, doubling in his first at-bat. 

He can remember back to 1998, in one of his first games with St. Louis, when he hit ninth in the order, behind the pitcher.

“I remember [Tom] Pagnozzi telling me, ‘Are you going to take that?’’ Polanco said. “I said, ‘I have two days in the big leagues, I’m extremely happy with that.”

That same season, Mark McGuire hit 70 home runs and drew 162 walks as Polanco’s teammate on the Cardinals.


Redmond is eager to get second baseman Donovan Solano back into play, and feels he can fill the two-spot when he's ready to return. A stiff back has held Solano out since last Wednesday.

"I kind of like him there. He's progressing, he's feeling a lot better," Redmond said. "He's out on the field today which is huge. I feel much better about that."

Solano will likely see a game with the minor league side of camp to get his at-bats in before taking on a Grapefruit League game as the season comes to a close in Jupiter on Thursday. 

Before the Marlins were rained out in Kissimmee on Sunday, Jacob Turner battled in a tough test for a spot in the rotation. Miami lost 4-1 in five innings of play. The right-hander gave up four earned runs on five hits, with four walks and a strikeout.

A rough spring has put the 21-year-old's abilities to help the major league rotation in question, but a decision when the clubhouse opened on Monday morning hadn't been made.

"We met this morning and we're still going over it," Redmond said. 

He had hoped to have his announcement post-game, but instead the meetings were back in session.

Left-hander Wade LeBlanc, one of the candidates in the mix, worked five innings, allowing seven hits and four earned-runs in the loss. He struck out four Detroit batters.


The rotation might seem the easiest decision of the ones to be made. Four non-roster invitees and an optionless Gorkys Hernandez were in the same batting group during Monday's pre-game activities. Infielders Matt Downs, Nick Green and Kevin Kouzmanoff are awaiting their fate, along with outfielder Jordan Brown.

"The rest of the utility guys, that might be a couple of days off," Redmond said.

Decisions must also be made five days prior to Opening Day with Article XX(B) free agents Chad Qualls, Austin Kearns and Casey Kotchman. The three represent 33 players in the league who must be placed on the 25-man roster, released outright, or given a $100,000 bonus if they are sent to the minors.

Last season, current Marlins’ left fielder Juan Pierre was on that list.

Is anything written in stone at camp? Redmond laughs when he offers up that Steve Cishek is a certainty in the bullpen. The rest will be down to the wire, but he plans to carry 12 pitchers on his staff.

Historically, the Marlins haven't been afraid to add to the Opening Day roster late. On Mar. 30, 2010, they acquired LHP Nate Robertson from the Tigers for minor leaguer Jay Voss and cash considerations, just six days before the season opened. 

Robertson's time with the Marlins was short lived -- he was designated for assignment on July 21, and later released.

The previous year on Apr. 1, Miami took on Ross Gload from the Kansas City Royals for a player to be named later. The Marlins opened on Apr. 6 with the new left-handed pinch hitter.

There's a place for extra parts all over the roster, as proved by the late addition of Wilson Valdez. Valdez played second base in Monday’s contest, and was 0 for 3.

The Marlins could be looking into help behind the plate until Jeff Mathis has recovered, to avoid opening with two young, left-handed hitters in Rob Brantly and Kyle Skipworth taking on full-time duties.


Starting lineups:

Marlins: 4 Valdez, 7 Coghlan, 9 Stanton, 5 Polanco, 2 Brantly, 8 Ruggiano, 3 Kotchman, 6 Hechavarria, 1 LeBlanc 

Tigers: 8 Jackson, DH Hunter, 5 Cabrera, 7 Tuiasosopo, 6 Peralta, 4 Infante, 2 Avila, 2 Pena, 9 Russo (RHP Rick Porcello starting)

--Steph Rogers