FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Following Monday's game against the Twins, the Marlins have 10 games remaining on their Grapefruit League schedule. It is looking like the team will use all of them to figure out the situation in center field.
Justin Ruggiano played a good deal of center in the second half of 2012 and performed well there. The 320 plate appearances he had last season were also by far a career high for him, and he has been slowed this spring with back trouble, collecting just 11 at-bats thus far.
Chris Coghlan, looking to bounce back to his 2009 Rookie of the Year form, has had a strong spring, hitting .318 over 44 at-bats. He played 65 games in center in 2011, but just 13 a year ago.
Then there's Gorkys Hernandez, who came to the Marlins by way of last July's Gaby Sanchez deal. Hernandez was in Monday's starting lineup against the Twins, driving in two with a single during the Marlins' four-run second inning and showing his usual gliding defense in center. He's hitting .303 with four steals after Monday's 1-for-2 performance. He's also out of options on his contract.
"Those guys have been battling for playing time out there," manager Mike Redmond said. "That might be one that comes down to the last day."
The Marlins will most likely keep just two of the three outfielders on the 25-man roster. It is not just how the trio performs at the plate that will determine who wins the competition. Marlins Park has a lot of territory in center, and Redmond wants to make sure whoever is out there can handle patrolling it.
"That's the challenge," Redmond said. "It's a big outfield in Miami. We're hoping whoever's out there is going to cover the most ground they can possibly cover."
It is quite possible that the duo that makes the club will end up sharing center field. Coghlan is a left-handed hitter, while Hernandez and Ruggiano both hit right-handed, so a platoon situation is not out of the question.
"That could end up being our best option," Redmond said. "We could definitely go that route. That way we make sure we don't wear one guy out. We don't have a ton of depth out there, so we have to keep everybody healthy."
The best option might be one that's not quite ready. Marlins prospect Christian Yelich, No. 13 on MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects list and No. 2 on the Marlins' Top 20 has had a tremendous spring, hitting .381 following Monday's rain-shortened game. He picked up two more hits against the Twins, including a long homer, his fifth of the spring.
"You get a feel for what I think about him because I play him all the time," Redmond said of Yelich. "I love him. He's had a great spring. He's done everything we asked of him. At the end of the day, he's never had an at-bat above A ball, and we want to make sure we're doing the right thing for him and the organization."
After shaky start, Eovaldi settles down vs. Twins
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The rain kept the Marlins and Twins from playing all nine at Hammond Stadium on Monday, but starter Nathan Eovaldi was at least able to get all of his work in.
While it has not been officially announced, all signs point to Eovaldi being the Marlins' No. 2 starter behind Ricky Nolasco when the season gets under way. He threw five innings for the second straight outing, allowing two runs on five hits. He walked two and struck out three.
"It was good to see Eovaldi out there," manager Mike Redmond said. "At least he got his innings and work in before the rain. He did a nice job. He gave up a couple of runs, but it was good to see him grind through it and get his command back and finish up strong."
Eovaldi struggled through a two-run first, walking leadoff hitter Aaron Hicks before serving up a two-run homer to Brian Dozier. After a Joe Mauer single, he was able to escape further damage, though some of the outs were hit sharply.
After that, he really settled down, allowing single hits in the third, fourth and fifth innings, and the Twins were unable to push any more runs across the board.
"I couldn't really find it the first inning," said Eovaldi, whose spring ERA now stands at 3.38 ERA over 18 2/3 innings. "Everything was going too fast, and I wasn't really able to slow it down. I was just out there throwing, basically. After that first inning, I was able to regroup, let the first inning go and start all over. I was able to lock it in after that."
At this point, with a rotation spot all but officially guaranteed, Eovaldi is ramping up to being ready for the start of the season. He is no longer working on specific pitches, instead focusing on his game plan, throwing strike one and letting his four-pitch repertoire work for him.
"It's just working ahead," Eovaldi said. "I have four pitches to my advantage, so it's really just going out there and attacking [hitters] with what's working for me today.
"With my fastball, if I'm able to locate it, it helps everything else out. They have to respect the fastball. You throw all your other pitches off your fastball, too, so if you're locating that, working ahead in counts, it makes it a little easier out there."
Redmond faces Twins in familiar setting
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The last time Mike Redmond was in Hammond Stadium for a Major League game, he was a backup catcher for the Minnesota Twins. That was in 2009 in what turned out to be his final year with the organization. He returned Monday for the first time since, this time as the manager of the Marlins.
It was a happy homecoming for Redmond, who spent five springs calling Hammond Stadium his home.
In 2010, Redmond moved on to the Cleveland Indians for the swan song of his 13-year big league career before moving into the dugout for good. Redmond managed in the Midwest League in 2011, then got some time managing Dunedin in the Florida State League in 2012 before landing the gig with the Marlins.
"It's great, it's exciting," said Redmond, who served as Joe Mauer's backup from 2005-09. "I got the chance to talk to [Justin] Morneau and Mauer, see the coaches. It's a lot of good guys. A lot of great memories here, a great group of players and great fans. We had some good teams in there, too. The Twins are a great organization. Terry Ryan, I have so much respect for him, [manager Ron Gardenhire] and all those guys. It's fun to come back and see everybody and say hi."
Redmond will get the chance to return to Minnesota as well when the Marlins visit the Twins for a two-game set April 22-23.