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Notes: Bullpen roles will evolve

Notes: Bullpen roles will continue to evolve

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JUPITER, Fla. -- Spring performances will ultimately determine how the Marlins bullpen shakes down.

One thing Taylor Tankersley feels strongly about is that roles will evolve throughout the season.

"I do believe our bullpen will shift throughout the season, and it might not even get set until halfway through the season," Tankersley said. "That might also include the closer spot. However we start, and whatever adjustments we make, if it helps us win, that's great. We'll just see how it shakes down."

Tankersley, a versatile lefty, is well aware change is inevitable in building bullpens.

A year ago he was in big-league camp, but he opened the season at Double-A Carolina. By early June, he emerged at the big-league level and became the primary eighth-inning setup man.

Tankersley, who turns 24 in March, is in the mix for the closer spot. He appeared in 49 games with Florida last year, and was 2-1 with a 2.85 ERA. He struck out 46 in 41 innings, walking 26.

A couple of other closer frontrunners are Kevin Gregg, Matt Lindstrom and Henry Owens.

Manager Fredi Gonzalez and pitching coach Rick Kranitz have opened the competition and are in the evaluation process. The team hopes to have a closer in place by March 20.

Regardless of where the parts to fit together, Tankersley maintains that the Marlins have talented reliever candidates.

"The arms are here," he said. "The pieces to the bullpen are here. Where those pieces fit together, nobody knows. I don't even think Fredi and Kranny know right now. But they will, and we will. The roles will be filled, and we will get people out and do our job. As a group and as individuals, we will be successful."

Adjusting to first: Wednesday officialy begins full-squad workouts for the Marlins.

But a number of position players have already been in camp. And on Tuesday, Aaron Boone was on the field working on some basic footwork and drills at first base.

A career third baseman, Boone will see action at first this season, providing backup relief for Mike Jacobs.

Along with a group of first baseman, Boone was gaining pointers from respected infield coach Perry Hill.

"Because he's an athlete and because he's a baseball player, I see him making adjustments easy for him," Hill said. "My main problem will be not to mess him up.

"First base is all footwork. You have to get your feet right to the base, and right on your throws."

"[Hill] says a lot of meaningful stuff, and when you get out there, some guys will say things that you can tell me," Boone said. "Everything [Hill] says has a purpose and a meaning. And he explains, and you think, 'Oh.' I feel like I'm already better having one session with him.

"I think people think, 'Oh, just throw him at first, and he'll be all right.' The idea is to be good at first. Hopefully, I'll do that."

Curveballs for Olivo: A notorious first-pitch fastball hitter, catcher Miguel Olivo has worked hard in the offseason on hitting breaking pitches.

In the batting cages these past few days, Olivo worked on hitting curveballs off a pitching machine.

"I've been working on that all offseason," Olivo said.

An aggressive hitter, Olivo belted 11 of his 16 home runs in 2006 on the first pitch. Showing more plate discipline is one of Olivo's objectives.

Gonzalez on the mound: The young pitchers weren't the only ones throwing off the mound on Tuesday.

Gonzalez stepped in an threw some batting practice to the catchers in camp at the end of workouts.

A lot of big-league managers don't throw batting practice. But in his first year, Gonzalez wants to remain on the field whenever he can. He was a popular batting practice thrower when he coached third base in Atlanta.

Throughout his professional coaching career, Gonzalez regularly tossed BP.

Gonzalez said he told hitting coach Jim Presley, "I'm available every single day."

"My thing is I like to be out there on the field," Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez also has a passion for motorcycles. He drove to Spring Training on Tuesday on a bike.

He's had some conversations with team owner Jeffrey Loria about not riding a motorcycle.

"He told me to be real careful, and pick your spots," Gonzalez said. "You'd hate to start a new career and have something happen."

Matsuzaka mania: The way things are lining up, Daisuke Matsuzaka mania appears headed to Roger Dean Stadium on March 6.

The Marlins face the Red Sox that day, and Boston right now is planning on starting Matsuzaka.

The Japanese sensation is slotted to pitch on March 2 against Boston College in Fort Myers. So if he makes that March 6 start in Jupiter, the Marlins would be the first big-league club Matsuzaka will face.

Most likely, Hanley Ramirez, the 2006 National League Rookie of the Year, would be the first MLB opponent to face Matsuzaka. Adding to that potential storyline is the fact Ramirez came up in the Red Sox system.

Already, that March 6 game has just standing-room only seats available.

Kensing update: Logan Kensing remains hopeful but realistic. Recovering from Tommy John ligament replacement surgery performed in August, the right-handed reliever has set a goal to return in July.

Whether he can meet it, he's still not sure.

Right now, Kensing is on a schedule of tossing on flat ground every other day. He still hasn't advanced beyond throwing past 45 feet.

Asked if he expects to pitch in 2007, Kensing said: "I hope so. I want to. But it's up to them."

The medical staff, and how Kensing responds to regular throwing, will ultimately decide when the right-hander makes it all the way back.

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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