Marlins' Top Spring Performers Just Miss The Cut





MIAMI—Early in spring training, big league manager Ozzie Guillen said teams don't cut players. It's the players who cut themselves. While true in most cases, this year's camp left Guillen rethinking that adage.

Utility infielder Donovan Solano and lefthander Wade LeBlanc arguably were the Marlins' top Grapefruit League performers. For their efforts, they received plane tickets to Triple-A New Orleans.

Acquired in the offseason from the Padres for catcher John Baker, LeBlanc held opposing batters to 10-for-72 (.139) with two walks, a hit by pitch and 19 strikeouts. The 27-year-old's spring concluded with a 1.31 ERA over 21 innings.

"He did everything he had to do," big league pitching coach Randy St. Claire said. "He mixed everything really well, moved the ball in and out, executed his pitches, worked quick. Everything you wanted him to do, he did."

LeBlanc earned the so-called sixth starter job. Miami wanted him stretched out and ready to go when the need arose for another rotation arm.

Solano, whom the Marlins signed as a minor league free agent, pushed incumbent Donnie Murphy to the brink. The 24-year-old hit .429 in 42 spring at-bats and showed enough defensive versatility to gain considerable support among the club's field staff.

As was the case with LeBlanc, the Marlins thought they were better served with Solano playing regularly in the minors rather than seeing sporadic time in the majors.

"I'm happy for the opportunity they gave me," Solano said. "That happens in this business. I'll wait for the chance and the opportunity, which is going to come.

"I just have to keep doing the same thing during the season I did in spring training, keep playing my game and stay at the same level and wait for that callup."

The Cardinals signed Solano as a 17-year-old out of Colombia in January 2005, and he's attempting to become the 11th player from that country to reach the big leagues, joining the likes of Edgar Renteria, brothers Orlando and Jolbert Cabrera, Ernesto Frieri and Julio Teheran.

"I had a good preparation back home, running in the gym and working my mind," Solano said. "I got here and felt great physically. I surprised myself. I got to the level I wanted to be."

FISH BITES

• Righthander Jose Ceda will miss the 2012 season after having Tommy John surgery. He also missed the entire 2009 season after shoulder surgery.

• In addition to LeBlanc, the New Orleans rotation will feature righthanders Alex Sanabia, Tom Koehler and J.D. Martin as well as lefty Brad Hand. Righty Elih Villanueva and lefty Sean West began the season in the bullpen and on the disabled list, respectively.