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Notes: Mitre working his way back

Notes: Mitre working his way back

JUPITER, Fla. -- Coming out of Spring Training a year ago, Sergio Mitre had emerged as the Marlins' No. 2 starter behind Dontrelle Willis.

The right-hander pitched the second game of the season and came up on the winning end against Andy Pettitte and the Astros. That day, Mitre tossed six scoreless innings.

From that point, Mitre's 2006 spiraled downhill, largely because of a shoulder problem that landed him on the disabled list almost the entire season. He finished 1-5 with a 5.71 ERA, appearing in 15 games with seven starts.

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"Last year was my first big opportunity and I went down," Mitre lamented.

Obtained from the Cubs as part of the Juan Pierre trade, Mitre was looking to seize his chance in Florida. While with the Cubs, he would bounce back and forth from the Minor Leagues to the big leagues. Sometimes he was used out of the bullpen, while other times he started.

Now, Mitre's shoulder is healthy, but he remains a little bit behind the other pitchers in Spring Training. He started throwing off the mound in January, so he's not as stretched out as other pitchers in camp.

"He's throwing [bullpen sessions]," manager Fredi Gonzalez said.

In the new few days, Mitre will throw live batting practice and a simulated game. He should start being filtered into the mix of pitchers seeing action in Grapefruit League games in about a week.

The main thing is he's healthy, and if he keeps progressing, he could factor into the mix to be in the opening rotation, should righty Josh Johnson not be ready.

Mitre, Yusmeiro Petit, Jose Garcia, Wes Obermueller and Chris George are leading candidates to be spot starters.

"It's frustrating to me just because I've shown glimpses of what I am capable of doing," Mitre said. "[Last year] was my first true chance of getting up and doing something. It was going to be my ball and everything, and then I went down. Before with the Cubs, I'd get the ball and go back to Triple-A and then get called up."

Now, his shoulder feels strong. It's just a matter of working up his arm strength and refining his mechanics.

"My shoulder feels great," he said. "I'm in good health right now. I've been throwing the ball real well.

"Yeah, I'm anxious, but at the same time I've got to be careful. I can't rush back too soon. Spring Training is very important, but at the same time you don't want to rush back and get hurt in spring. It's kind of hard when you missed almost the whole season."

No-throw for Johnson: Exactly when Johnson begins throwing again is unclear.

Bothered by a sore triceps, the right-hander is on a no-throw schedule.

Gonzalez on Sunday said it was "doubtful" that Johnson would be ready by Opening Day.

Volstad vs. Hurricanes: Had he not signed with the Marlins, Chris Volstad was committed to pitch for the University of Miami.

On Tuesday, Volstad gets to face the Hurricanes.

The 20-year-old Marlins prospect has been tabbed the starter against the Miami Hurricanes in the exhibition game that will begin at 3:05 p.m. ET at Roger Dean Stadium.

"I guess I'm a little bit surprised. I'm happy to have the honor," said Volstad, who grew up in Palm Beach Gardens. "It's definitely a great thing getting to start the first game of Spring Training. I'm just excited."

Expected to open the season in Class A Jupiter, Volstad is regarded as the top prospect in the organization. The 6-foot-7 right-hander is on the fast track to the big leagues.

A year ago, Jason Vargas started against the Hurricanes. And in 2003, Dontrelle Willis burst on the scene for the Marlins by starting in the annual exhibition with UM.

"Hopefully I can follow anywhere near the footsteps [Willis] had," Volstad said. "I'll take that."

Volstad has a familiarity with a number of Miami players.

"The players who are there now as sophomores, I went on recruiting trips with," Volstad said. "They all would have been in my class."

Spring starters: After the exhibition vs. the Hurricanes, the Marlins' rotation is laid out for the first few Spring Training games.

Lefty Scott Olsen will start the Grapefruit League opener on Wednesday against the Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium. The Marlins are visitors that day. On Thursday, Obermueller will get the call against the Orioles in Jupiter. And Willis will pitch on Friday on the road against the Orioles at Fort Lauderdale Stadium.

Anibal Sanchez will start on Saturday against the Cardinals, and Olsen will come back on short rest Sunday against the Cards. Ricky Nolasco will start on Monday at the Orioles.

Gonzalez said the starters will pitch no more than two innings.

Four-man rotation? While the team has yet to officially announce its rotation for the regular season, some indications are surfacing as to how the starters will line up.

Based on off-days on April 5 and April 12, the team may even consider going with a four-man rotation for a couple of weeks.

Everything is pointing to Willis starting on Opening Day, April 2, at Washington. With the D-Train pitching Friday, the left-hander falls right in line to start the opener.

The rest of the rotation projects to have Sanchez pitching the second game, followed by Olsen and then Nolasco.

If the team wanted to take advantage of two early off-days, it could go with four starters pitching every fifth day until April 17 at Houston. That would be the first stretch where a fifth starter would be necessary.

Obviously, so much can happen before then, and other starting options may surface throughout the spring. But last year, the team opened with a four-man rotation because of early off-days. Eventually, Olsen was added as the fifth starter on April 15.

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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