Notes: Tankersley one step closer

Notes: Tankersley moves one step closer

JUPITER, Fla. -- Left-hander Taylor Tankersley threw a light toss on flat ground before Sunday's game, moving one step closer to pitching off a mound again.

Tankersley, who has been sidelined with shoulder inflammation, threw for the first time in more than a week. He called it a "simple game of catch" with pitching coach Rick Kranitz, but it was enough to get him excited about the possibility of taking the hill for the Marlins.

"It was pain-free and felt normal -- as normal as you can feel after 12 days off," Tankersley said. "Opening Day is a real possibility if I keep progressing this way. If there's any setbacks, it will be tough."

Tankersley threw with Kranitz for 10 minutes on the flat grass on the practice fields at Roger Dean Stadium. He did not throw any pitches -- just threw lightly -- and did not want to hurry things.

"Neither I nor the organization want to rush it for Opening Day, and risk me getting hurt two weeks later again," said Tankersley, who will have another light throwing session on Sunday.

Kranitz said the session went "better than expected" and that Tankersley had "good life on the ball."

Tankersley, 6-foot-1 and 220 pounds, has been mentioned for the closer job, along with Kevin Gregg, Matt Lindstrom, Henry Owens and Randy Messenger.

"Realistically, he's probably not, because he's going to be behind, inning-wise," Kranitz said. "We just want him pitching the seventh, eighth or ninth. We want him back and healthy."

Tankersley, 24, was 2-1 with three saves and a 2.85 ERA in 49 games during last year's rookie campaign. He had a team-high 22 holds.

Nolasco's back: Right-hander Ricky Nolasco, making his first start of the spring, allowed one run on three hits and two walks and struck out two in 2 2/3 innings in Sunday's 5-2 loss to the Dodgers. He threw 48 pitches, 25 for strikes.

More important was the fact that his back, which began spasming on March 2 and forced him to miss Monday's start against the Orioles, felt fine.

"I didn't feel tired," Nolasco said. "I could have kept going if I wanted to."

Bench coach Carlos Tosca, filling in as manager for Fredi Gonzalez -- who was with the squad in Vero Beach -- was encouraged despite a shaky second inning in which Nolasco threw six straight balls to the first two batters.

"He got a little out of whack, but some of those pitches just missed and could have gone either way," Tosca said.

Nolasco, who threw two scoreless innings of relief on Feb. 28, said that the spasms had gotten progressively better since Tuesday. To ensure they do not return, he does stretching exercises every day. But he was more concerned with his pitching performance.

"From here on out, the main thing is just throwing the changeup and having command of my fastball," he said.

Nolasco started strong, throwing 19 pitches (13 strikes) in the first inning, but in the second inning, he fell behind to every batter, and got out of the inning with two men left on base.

The 24-year-old, who went 11-11 with a 4.82 ERA as a rookie in 2006, has been projected to be the Marlins' fourth starter.

Mitre ready for action: Right-hander Sergio Mitre, taking the mound in a Grapefruit League game for the first time in 2007 on Sunday, will be limited to 35 pitches and will most likely not go more than two innings. Yusmeiro Petit is set to follow Mitre on the mound. The Marlins will try the same Mitre-followed-by-Petit combination in their March 16 night game against the Mets in Jupiter.

"We're going to be building up both Mitre and Petit," Kranitz said. "We'll see. [Mitre] hasn't thrown a pitch yet. A lot will take place in the next few weeks."

Mitre, who went 1-5 with a 5.71 ERA in 15 games (seven starts) last season, missed most of 2006 with right shoulder inflammation. He was first placed on the 15-day disabled list on May 15, and on the 60-day DL on May 26. After being reinstated on Aug. 8, he made his remaining eight appearances as a reliever, going 0-1 with a 10.50 ERA.

Seeking his swing: Eric Reed knows that he will have to produce better at the plate if he wants to win the highly contested center-field job. In fact, he is so aware, it's the first thing he talked about when asked about his chances to be in center field on Opening Day.

"It's pretty obvious what needs to be done," Reed said. "I've just been playing hard, trying to worry about myself and go out every day and have good at-bats. Defensively, I'm OK, so I need good at-bats."

Reed was the starting center fielder as a rookie in 2006, going 0-for-2 on April 3 at Houston. He appeared in 42 games last year, batting just .098 (4-for-41), but he hit .303 in 95 games at Triple-A Albuquerque.

The 6-foot, 170-pound Reed, who also stole 20 bases at Albuquerque, is also probably the fastest and best defensive player of those hoping for the center-field job. Reed, Reggie Abercrombie and non-roster invitee Alex Sanchez are getting the strongest looks early in Spring Training. If none of them seizes the spot, the fallback plan is to give Cody Ross and Joe Borchard a chance. Abercrombie made a nice diving catch and running catch in the second inning on Saturday to help keep the Dodgers scoreless.

"This year there's more competition," Reed said. "It's going to come down to whoever puts up the numbers and who the Marlins like the most."

Scary play: Second baseman Robert Andino collided with shortstop Alfredo Amezaga behind second base while the two were trying for a ground ball up the middle in the seventh inning. Andino's upper body went into Amezega's legs, sending both players to the ground. Amezega was up after 30 seconds and returned to second base, but Andino, who lay on the field for a few minutes, had to be taken off the field in a golf cart. Jason Wood came in to play shortstop. Andino had a stiff back and Amezaga a stiff neck. Andino normally plays shortstop but was getting some work at second. Amezaga was pinch-hit for in the eighth. Both are day-to-day.

Strange play: With two outs in the first inning, Josh Willingham hit a screamer down the line that was backhanded by Andy LaRoche at third base. LaRoche's throw forced first baseman Fernando Tatis toward the line and into Willingham. The ball went into foul territory, allowing Miguel Cabrera to score from first base. Tatis was shaken up but remained in the game.

Volstad OK: Right-hander Chris Volstad gave up three earned runs on five hits and one walk in three innings of work against the Dodgers in Vero Beach. The Marlins' top prospect, who was making his final spring appearance after being told he'll be sent down on Monday, left the game after being hit in the hip by an Andre Ethier comebacker. The 20-year-old is fine and is expected the open the season at Class A Jupiter.

Short hops: The team batting average enterting Saturday's split-squad games was .206. ... With the bases loaded with two out in the top of the fifth, right fielder Jeremy Hermida made a nifty sliding catch at the foul line to end the inning. ... After Dan Uggla's impressive offensive performance on Saturday in Vero Beach, he has something else to celebrate on Sunday -- his 27th birthday.

Up next: Mitre, who appeared in just 15 games in an injury-plagued 2006 season, will make his first start of the spring at 1:10 p.m. ET on Sunday as the Marlins play the Mets at Port St. Lucie. He goes up against veteran lefty Tom Glavine, who is hoping to reach 300 wins this season.

Faran Fagen is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.