Ross, De Aza to platoon in center
Top prospect Maybin to open season at Double-A Carolina
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- It will take more than a bone bruise to keep Cody Ross from being ready for Opening Day, but whether he gets the starting nod in Monday's opener with the Mets at Dolphin Stadium is up to Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez.
When the Marlins optioned 20-year-old prospect Cameron Maybin to Double-A Carolina on Monday, Ross and Alejandro De Aza became the frontrunners for the Marlins' center-field job.
Gonzalez confirmed that he is leaning toward a platoon situation with Ross and the left-handed-hitting De Aza.
With the Mets starting lefty Johan Santana on Monday, Ross says he has every intention to be ready, despite hyper-extending his left knee while attempting a steal last Friday in an exhibition game against the Astros.
"I'm going to [play on] Opening Day, no matter what," Ross said. "My leg has to be falling off."
Ross had an MRI on his knee on Monday, which revealed a bone bruise to the side of his left knee. Ross said the bruise is unrelated to his kneecap, a problem that plagued teammate Jeremy Hermida a year ago, and caused him to miss more than a month.
"This won't be a month," Ross insisted.
Ross took batting practice on Tuesday, and the plan is to get him back in the lineup on Thursday.
"I'm real optimistic with him," Gonzalez said of Ross being good to go on Opening Day.
The rest of the Marlins' roster is also falling into place.
Gonzalez noted that Jorge Cantu will be the team's starting third baseman come Opening Day. The path was cleared for Cantu to win the job when Dallas McPherson was optioned to Triple-A Albuquerque on Tuesday.
As things are shaping up now, Cantu will be backed up by Alfredo Amezaga and Jason Wood, who is expected to make the team as a backup corner infielder.
Amezaga also is an option to play some center field. For now, however, the plan is to keep him working in the infield.
Amezaga told his manager that all he needs is a few days of fielding fly balls in practice at center field and he will be ready for the regular season.
"He told me that, and I believe him," Gonzalez said.
Hermida, meanwile, took batting practice, did some running and playing the outfield drills on Tuesday.
Hermida has been nursing a sore left hamstring, and there is a chance he will open the season on the disabled list, retroactive to March 21. If that is the direction the Marlins go, then Hermida would be eligible to come off the DL on April 5.
If Hermida indeed starts off on the DL, 40-year-old Luis Gonzalez is the favorite to play right field for the first time in his career.
Gonzalez could also be making his 18th straight start on Opening Day.
"My teammates were surprised when I told them I had never played right field," Gonzalez said. "I'll do what I have to. It doesn't faze me. I've been getting fly balls out there."
Even facing a tough lefty like Santana doesn't bother Gonzalez.
"I don't worry about that," said Gonzalez, who has 2,502 career hits. "I've got enough at-bats in my career."
In light of injuries to Hermida and Ross, Gonzalez said: "If it's going to happen, it's better to have it now, instead of later on in the season. Obviously, you want to go into the season with everybody healthy."
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.