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Eddie Altamonte

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Notes: Willingham comfy at cleanup

03/09/2007 6:10 PM ET

By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com


JUPITER, Fla. -- Preparation and determination are two key components in the makeup of Marlins left fielder Josh Willingham.

The 28-year-old isn't your prototypical cleanup batter. Yet, at every level, Willingham has shown middle-of-the-order power.


As a rookie in 2006, Willingham swatted 26 home runs and drove in 74 while batting .277. Batting behind Miguel Cabrera means he will have plenty of chances to hit with men on base.


The Florence, Ala., resident fully understands he isn't a slugger to rival Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz or Ryan Howard.


"We have Miguel," Willingham said of Cabrera being the driving force in the lineup. "We don't have an Ortiz or somebody to come behind him. We have to have that consistency throughout.


"I'll never be one of those [Ortiz] guys. That's where I think my preparation comes into play. I have to know what to expect from the opposition. I have to know when I'm feeling good, because I have to make the best of my opportunity."


The Marlins do have pop in their lineup, but it is well distributed from Hanley Ramirez (17 homers in 2006) leading off through No. 8 hitter Miguel Olivo, who went deep 16 times a year ago.


"We need to do what we did last year, no doubt," Willingham said. "We need to hit some homers and drive in runs. I need to drive in more runs than I did last year. It's just one of those things, if we do well, we're going to need to have the whole lineup do what it did last year. From Hanley to whoever hits eighth.


"I've always felt that if I've gotten the at-bats, the numbers would be there -- whether it be 18 home runs, 28 or 30. I've always felt the power will be there, because it's always been in the past."


Roster moves: Friday marked the first day of roster moves as six players were reassigned to Minor League camp.


Heading to the Minor Leagues are catcher Chris Ashby, and pitchers Jacob Marceaux, Ryan Tucker, Travis Bowyer, Sean West and Aaron Thompson.


"All of them handled themselves with professionalism, and they mixed in with everyone," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. Marceaux, Tucker, Thompson and West are likely going to wind up at Class A Jupiter, while Ashby will be in Triple-A. Bowyer likely will spend the season rehabbing from shoulder surgery last year.


The organization is leaning towards switching Marceaux from a starter to reliever.


"I wasn't getting a lot of work here, so I'm going down," Marceaux said. "The experience was great."


West didn't get to pitch because he is nursing a left shoulder ailment. He is scheduled to have the shoulder examined by Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., on Monday. He says the visit is more precautionary.


Olsen changes pace: An example of how Grapefruit League statistics are basically meaningless is the outing Scott Olsen turned in Friday afternoon.


After giving up two runs in 3 2/3 innings to the Cardinals, Olsen fell to 0-3 with a 5.87 ERA. But that doesn't tell the story of what the 23-year-old lefty is accomplishing.


Coming off the mound after his 60-pitch outing, Olsen was all smiles because he is getting more comfortable with his third pitch.


A year ago, Olsen pretty much enjoyed a successful rookie season throwing predominantly all fastballs and sliders. Now, he is mixing in his changeup more, even though he hung one changeup to Albert Pujols, who swatted it for an opposite-field RBI double in the first inning.


"You really need a third pitch to be a successful starter, I think," Olsen said. "To go out and win 18 games, you need three pitches. To me, that's huge."


He joked he had 2 1/2 pitches a year ago.


"I threw changeups very, very sparingly last year; only when I had to," Olsen said, adding it is better now than it ever has been. "Usually it was just a show pitch. I would go after guys with my fastball and slider. This year, I'm hoping I can get that ground-ball pitch working and get out of innings a little quicker."


Olsen said he expects to start the Marlins' third game of the regular season, at Washington. While the team has yet to announce the rotation, it is leaning toward using Dontrelle Willis, Anibal Sanchez, Olsen, Ricky Nolasco and whomever wins the fifth spot.


Lindstrom impressive: Matt Lindstrom continues to build his case that he should be the closer on Opening Day.


Although the race is deemed wide open, Lindstrom is believed to have gained the edge based on his performances. Friday, he had an opportunity to work 1 1/3 innings, and he struck out one and walked one.


Four of his fastballs were clocked at 98 mph and four more at 97 mph. He struck out Pujols in the fifth inning on a fastball away that had the slugger off stride with a weak swing.


"He came in and faced some pretty good hitters," Gonzalez said. "The swing Pujols took off [him], the last one, I don't remember that guy taking swings like that very often."


Lindstrom says he is working on tightening his slider and refining his secondary pitches.


As for the closer competition, he said: "It's wide open. My first intention is to just make the team. I want to break camp with the Marlins, and do the best I can. If Fredi wants to put me in that closer's role, that's fine with me. There are a ton of great arms in camp. It can go a lot of ways."


Garcia resting: Bothered by some elbow inflammation, right-hander Jose Garcia has not seen action since tossing two shutout innings on March 2 at Fort Lauderdale Stadium.


Then facing the Orioles, Garcia's fastball ranged from 84-87 mph.


The right-hander has been one of the candidates for a rotation spot because of Josh Johnson's biceps problem. However, Garcia was considered a long shot. He gives the team versatility because he can start or pitch out of the bullpen.


Garcia is slated to begin throwing off flat ground early next week.


More stadium support: Momentum keeps building for the Marlins to secure a new home in South Florida.


Miami-Dade County commissioners voted unanimously on Thursday to support the team's effort for a retractable-roof stadium. The county commissioners vote follows up an 11-1 approval for a new park by the Miami City Commission earlier in the week.


Like the city, the county officials are making their approval for a site yet to be determined.


Initially, negotiations have been ongoing to place the park just south of the Miami Arena. Local leaders, however, are leaning toward the site being on the Orange Bowl property.


The Orange Bowl area is coming more into play as the University of Miami football team, which has been at the Orange Bowl for decades, is being talked about to move into Dolphin Stadium.


While there are questions about the site, the funding plan is becoming more into focus. Currently, South Florida officials are trying to secure another $60 million in the form of a sales tax rebate from the state of Florida.


Fish bites: Taylor Tankersley is expected to play catch on flat ground on Saturday, his first time throwing in more than a week because of shoulder inflammation. ... Within the next five days, the team hopes to have a better indication of when Johnson will begin throwing again. ... Aaron Boone made a terrific diving, backhanded stop and then threw out So Taguchi to end the fourth inning. ... Joe Borchard threw out two bases runners from his right-field spot Friday.


Up next: Saturday is the final split-squad day of the spring, and both games are against the Dodgers. Nolasco makes his first start of the spring, after skipping a turn because of back spasms. The right-hander is slated to throw 45 pitches or no more than three innings in the 1:05 p.m. ET game at Roger Dean Stadium. Mark Hendrickson gets the nod for the Dodgers. In the game at Vero Beach, also at 1:05, Chris Volstad gets the start, while the Dodgers are going with Jason Schmidt.

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What were the Mets thinking? Lindstrom is doing well, and if I recall correctly, Owens has yet to yield a run in Spring Training. Can anyone recall any specific hitters that Owens has faced this Spring? Just wondering if his numbers have come against major leaguers, or minor leaguers.

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