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Dobbs returns, Ozuna having "much better at bats" lately, Furcal still working his way back

LAKE BUENA VISTA -- Greg Dobbs, whom the Marlins will be paying $1.7 million this season to serve as their primary left-handed pinch-hitter, is back in the lineup today after missing two weeks with a strained left quad.

Dobbs hasn't played in a Grapefruit League game since March 11, but had been getting at-bats in minor league games as a designated hitter over the past two days. He's only had 13 Grapefruit League at-bats thus far and is hitting .231 this spring.

Dobbs turns 36 on July 2nd and hit just .228 last season and .208 (10 for 48) as a pinch hitter. Dobbs hit .275 and .285 his first two seasons with the Marlins.

"He understands what he has to do to prepare himself and get himself ready to play," manager Mike Redmond said. "It's been a while since he's played in a regular game. But Dobber knows how to hit. So I'm not too worried about him."

> Redmond said the Marlins will officially announce the rest of the starting rotation (only Jose Fernandez's start on Opening Night has been declared) after left-hander Brad Hand pitches in Thursday's game against the Cardinals in Jupiter. At this point it would be very surprising if the rotation after Fernandez wasn't Nathan Eovaldi, Henderson Alvarez, Jacob Turner and Tom Koehler.

> It's looking more and more like Marcell Ozuna might be the Marlins' Opening Day center fielder after all. Ozuna, hitting just .180 this spring entering Wednesday's game, has been having "much better at bats... over the last week to 10 days," according to Redmond.

Ozuna had the game-winning RBI double in Tuesday's 6-5 victory over the Cardinals and is 4-for-13 (.307) over his last four games with a pair of home runs and four RBI. He's struckout 16 times this spring and walked eight times.

While the Marlins are happy Ozuna has drawn those walks, they also would like to see 23-year old slugger be a little more aggressive and not take fastballs he should be swinging at. 

"Sometimes for young guys spring training can be tough because you're working on stuff too. Not only are guys competing and trying to win spots, but they're also working on their games, trying to tighten up their swings," Redmond said.

"Sometimes it takes a little bit to get going. His at-bats have been much better. We just want to continue to see him be aggressive at the plate. That's the big thing for him."

> Second baseman Rafael Furcal (hamstring) remained in Jupiter Wednesday and played in a minor league game for the third day in a row. Redmond said Furcal was scheduled to play five innings of defense, the first time he's done so since aggravating his hamstring on March 15.

Mike Hill, President of Baseball Operations, said Tuesday the Marlins still hadn't made a decision yet if Furcal will begin the season on the disabled list or not.

"He says its feeling better," Redmond said of Furcal's hamstring."But still at the end of the day, he hasn't played that much. We'll see how he feels after the game today and have a plan of attack going forward the last few days of spring training."

Furcal has only had 18 Grapefruit League at-bats, and if he doesn't play in another spring game he would be eligible to come off the disabled list on April 5th -- after the Marlins' first five regular season games. But Hill said if the Marlins feel Furcal is close to returning they would get him into a Grapefruit League game.

The Marlins play the Cardinals Thursday in Jupiter and then close out the spring with back-to-back games in Tampa against the Yankees.

> Redmond said there's no reason to worry "right now" that shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria (groin tightness) might not be ready for Opening Night. "He said he's feeling better," Redmond said. "So we'll see tomorrow how it is, how it's doing. We'll make sure he's feeling good [before putting him in another spring game]."

> Miami’s pitching staff comes into Wednesday's game with the lowest team ERA in the National League this spring at 3.35 (257.2 IP/96 ER), ahead of Pittsburgh (3.57). The staff has recorded a total of 219 strikeouts, second in the NL behind Chicago (230) and fifth overall behind Oakland (228), the Yankees (227) and Cleveland (223). Miami has the best road record among NL clubs, going 10-3 away from Jupiter. The team is also 6-2 in one-run games.

> The Marlins are scheduled to use LHP Mike Dunn, RHP Chris Hatcher, RHP Carlos Marmol and RHP Henry Rodriguez out of the bullpen today. Minor League RHP Justin Jackson is also available. Hatcher has yet to allow a run in nine innings this spring, striking out eight and walking just two in that time. Marmol has gone 5 1/3 innings this spring without allowing a run, and has two strikeouts in three of his five outings.


> Marlins (17-10-2): 1. Christian Yelich LF, 2. Reed Johnson RF, 3. Marcell Ozuna CF, 4. Derek Dietrich 3B, 5. Jeff Baker 2B, 6. Greg Dobbs 1B, 7. Ed Lucas SS, 8. Jeff Mathis C, 9. Nathan Eovaldi RHP

> Braves (11-17-3): 1. Jason Heyward RF, 2. Tyler Pastornicky 2B, 3. Freddie Freeman 1B, 4. Chris Johnson 3B, 5. Justin Upton LF, 6. Ryan Doumit DH, 7. Evan Gattis C, 8. Andrelton Simmons SS, 9. Jordan Schafer CF, RHP Julio Teheran