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Pierre upbeat about Opening Day

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JUPITER, Fla. -- For the first time in weeks, there are signs that Juan Pierre may indeed be in the Opening Day lineup.

Not wanting to jinx anything, though, Pierre isn't saying anything definite about the season opener on Tuesday against the Braves at Dolphins Stadium.


But on Thursday, Pierre was upbeat for the first time in weeks, and he talked about his progress in returning from a right calf strain.


The only player in baseball to participate in every inning of every game a year ago, Pierre pushed himself in pregame drills. He ran without any difficulty, did some baserunning and shagged balls in the outfield.


Out since March 7, Pierre will be reevaluated Friday morning. If he's feeling fine, the speedy center fielder is scheduled to play in a minor league game Friday afternoon.


The plan from there is to play another minor league game on Saturday, and play Pierre on Sunday when the Marlins face their low Class A affiliate, the Greensboro Grasshoppers, on Sunday in North Carolina.


It's been a difficult few weeks for Pierre, who says he became so distraught that he stopped talking to even some of his closest friends. He wasn't answering his phone, and became withdrawn.


"I kept telling myself I wasn't hurting," Pierre said. "Then I realized when I kept going out there that I was hurt for the first time ever. I've had nagging stuff, but I've always been able to bounce back quick. I was hurt this time."


Pierre said he drew inspiration from stories about people with serious physical setbacks. Recently, a teenager from Zebulon, N.C., who uses a wheelchair visited the Marlins, watching a game in the dugout. Pierre had known 15-year-old Will Privette for a few years, dating to when the outfielder was playing minor league ball in Zebulon.


"We had that little guy in our dugout that one game," Pierre said of Privette. "When you see things like that ... people are worse off than me.


"It's not that bad over the whole scheme of things," he said. "Even if I am not ready for Opening Day, as long as I get healthy for the rest of the season, it's fine. It's not a must that I have to play. I'd like to play every game, but it's not a key thing to play every inning. That's my main goal, to be healthy to help the team make it to the World Series. That's all I'm looking for."

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