Notes: Cabrera adjusting to elbow pad

Notes: Cabrera adjusting to elbow pad

JUPITER, Fla. -- As the driving force in the Marlins' lineup, Miguel Cabrera is taking every precaution to make sure he remains healthy.

One equipment change the 23-year-old slugger has made is always wearing protective padding on his left elbow when he is at the plate.

A year ago, Cabrera was struck four times near that elbow, causing concern.

The most painful experience came in the third inning on Aug. 30, when he was plunked by Cardinals right-hander Jason Marquis. Cabrera was removed in the bottom of the inning, and he didn't play the following day.

At the time, the Marlins were riding a nine-game winning streak, and had they won on Aug. 30, they would have reached the .500 mark. Florida watched a four-run lead disappear that evening as the Cardinals scored 12 unanswered runs and cruised to a 13-6 win.

St. Louis also won the following night with Cabrera out of the lineup.

"I've got to be careful if they pitch me inside," said Cabrera, who didn't previously wear padding on his left elbow since his rookie season in 2003. "I'm doing this because I don't want to miss any games like I did last year."

Cabrera actually played in 158 games, and he remains one of the most durable players on the team. His .339 batting average in 2006 was second in the National League to Pittsburgh's Freddy Sanchez.

Cabrera wore padding during the final month of 2006, and he continued using it this past offseason playing winter ball in Venezuela.

"I'm using it here now. I'm feeling more comfortable with it," he said.

In 2006, Cabrera was hit 10 times, which was tied for the 34th most in the Major Leagues with Barry Bonds, Michael Cuddyer, Adrian Beltre, Carlos Delgado, Chris Duffy, Shawn Green and Austin Kearns.

Josh Willingham topped the team in being hit by a pitch a year ago with 11.

As expected, Cabrera is off to a terrific spring. His three-run homer on Tuesday helped lift the Marlins to a 4-1 win over the Orioles.

The shot to left-center was a mammoth drive that landed on the Marlins' building located behind the left-field wall. The homer bounced and hit near the office of general manager Larry Beinfest.

Cabrera is 11-for-29 (.379) with one home run, one double, one triple and seven RBIs this spring.

Amezaga, Andino healing: Alfredo Amezaga was back in the starting lineup Tuesday, three days after enduring a nasty collision with teammate Robert Andino.

Amezaga played the entire game on Tuesday.

The two ran into each other trying to field a grounder up the middle against the Dodgers. Amezaga, who was playing shortstop, took a knee to the back of his head, and he had been resting a stiff neck.

Andino, playing second at the time, suffered a stiff back. He remains day-to-day, but he isn't sure exactly when he will play again.

"Andino is another day or two," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He got the worst end of that deal."

Sanchez sensational: Anibal Sanchez is solidifying his projected No. 2 spot in the rotation. The right-hander was brilliant on Tuesday, limiting the Orioles to one hit over four scoreless innings.

In three spring starts, Sanchez is 1-0 with an ERA of 1.08 (one run in 8 1/3 innings).

"His command was outstanding," Gonzalez said.

The Marlins have yet to announce their rotation, but it is lined up to be Dontrelle Willis, Sanchez, Scott Olsen, Ricky Nolasco and whoever wins the fifth spot.

Unsettled spots: Without giving any specific date, Gonzalez did indicate that the unsettled center field job may be filled sooner than the closer role.

The Marlins now are looking at three primary center field choices: non-roster invitee Alex Sanchez, along with Reggie Abercrombie and Eric Reed.

Sanchez is believed to have the inside edge.

As for the closer, Matt Lindstrom is a front-runner, along with Henry Owens, Kevin Gregg and Randy Messenger.

Gonzalez says the closer spot could go down close to Opening Day.

Tankersley update: Taylor Tankersley extended his throwing schedule on Tuesday, this time long-tossing to 120 feet. Again, it was a successful session. He began throwing on Saturday and Sunday at 60 feet. He is scheduled to throw again on Wednesday.

If everything keeps progressing, the lefty reliever is slated to throw off the mound on Saturday.

Bothered by shoulder inflammation, Tankersley says he will need about six or seven innings of Spring Training work to be ready for the start of the season.

Even if Tankersley isn't slated to go by the April 2 opener at Washington, the team hasn't ruled out using him sometime in that first series.

Tankersley is the club's primary left-handed reliever, and he may end up factoring into the closer mix as the season progresses. At least for now, the organization is leaning toward keeping him in a lefty setup spot, mainly because he is so valuable in that role.

Fish bites: Willingham, who had two stolen bases in the regular season a year ago, stole his first base of the spring in the second inning Tuesday. ... Friday is the last day National League teams can use designated hitters against NL opponents. The Marlins face the Orioles that day at Roger Dean Stadium. After that, pitchers will begin hitting. ... Wednesday's game at Fort Lauderdale Stadium will be broadcasted on flagship radio station 560 WQAM. ... A Marlins scout was observing Diamondbacks reliever Jorge Julio on Monday as a possible closer candidate. ... Mascot Billy the Marlin was in attendance on Tuesday.

Up next: The home-and-home series with the Orioles resumes on Wednesday, this time with the Marlins traveling to Fort Lauderdale Stadium for a 1:05 p.m. ET contest. Scott Olsen gets the call for Florida against Baltimore right-hander Jaret Wright.

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