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Casey Kotchman will probably start at first base to begin the season as the Marlins wait for Logan Morrison to return healthy.
Virtual locks: Rob Brantly, Greg Dobbs, Adeiny Hechavarria, Casey Kotchman, Placido Polanco, Kyle Skipworth, Donovan Solano, Wilson Valdez.
Virtual locks from Jan. 8: Brantly, Dobbs, Hechavarria, Jeff Mathis, Logan Morrison, Polanco and Solano.
While this may be the team's infield come Opening Day, a pair of Marlins returning from injuries could change the complexion by the beginning of May.
For starters, Morrison is still recovering from right knee surgery, (patella tendon) for the second time in less than a year, from back in September. If he makes a full recovery in time, he'll make the Opening Day roster; the Miami Herald reported Morrison could return as early as April 15. Realistically though, Morrison will probably play some first base in the minors and return to the Marlins on May 1, Morrison told MLB.com. But until then, Morrison is expected to start the season on the disabled list.
As insurance, the Marlins signed Casey Kotchman to a minor league deal shortly after the start of camp. Thus far, Kotchman has been terrific, hitting .415 (17-of-41) with one home run and six RBI.
Then there's backup catcher Jeff Mathis. He's out six weeks, thanks to a fractured right collarbone Feb. 23, and is expected to also start the season on the disabled list. Mathis told MLB.com he figures he will be rehabbing the injury in April and be ready by the beginning of May. Until he returns, former first-round pick Kyle Skipworth is considered the frontrunner to replace Mathis.
As long as everyone else stays healthy, Brantly will start at catcher, Hechavarria at shortstop, Polanco at third base and Solano at second base.
Recently, Polanco has been hitting clean-up as the Marlins continue their search to provide protection for right fielder Giancarlo Stanton. Keep in mind Polanco has hit just 103 home runs in his 15-year career, and his career-high is 17 homers with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2004.
“I don’t think they expect me to be hitting home runs because I’m hitting fourth. I assume that’s what spring training is for, to try different things,’’ Polanco told the Palm Beach Post.
Besides Skipworth, the other infielders will probably be Dobbs, who will provide a valuable left-handed bat off the bench, and Valdez, who will be used in an utility role.
The thinking here is if Nick Green or Chris Valaika had proven he was capable of being the team's utility infielder, then management would not have signed Valdez to a minor league deal a day after the defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants released him.