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Solano, Marlins' young infield show promise

NEW YORK -- The Marlins gave third baseman Placido Polanco a day off on Sunday and spotted Chris Valaika into the lineup for the first time. Manager Mike Redmond said he's been happy with his infield defense so far but that he needs to make sure Polanco gets a rest from time to time.

"We talked all spring about how we need him for the long haul," he said. "I had this planned out, playing the day game after a night game -- a quick turnaround -- to give him the day off. A long trip home and get ready for Opening Day tomorrow night. He means a lot to this team, and we've got to take care of him. We don't want to overdo it. We want to make sure we have him for the course of the season."

Polanco, one of the few veterans on the team, batted .286 through his first five games. And with Polanco's absence from the starting lineup, the Marlins had a strange statistical tilt: Leadoff man Juan Pierre has more career hits (2,146) than the rest of the team's starting lineup (1,165) combined.

Miami is rebuilding with youth, and it had four players in Sunday's lineup -- Valaika (17), catcher Rob Brantly (33), shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria (36) and second baseman Donovan Solano (88) -- with less than 100 hits. And so far, Redmond has liked what he's seen from his young infielders.

"I think defensively, we've been all right," he said of his infield. "We've got young guys out there playing defense in some cold weather, which is tough. It's an adjustment for guys, but overall, I'm happy with the way we've played and with our effort. Our effort's been good. Guys are playing hard. We haven't seen the results that we want to see, but if we just keep grinding it out and keep throwing those pitchers out there in situations, they'll settle in and get comfortable. It's just a matter of time."

Solano played five positions for the Marlins last year, but so far he's been able to settle in at second base. Solano, who had three hits in his first three at-bats Sunday, said that he's excited to be in the lineup every day, and that he's happy to play wherever his manager writes him in on that given day.

"I like playing second, and it's easier to think about playing the same place. But it's still hard to play," said Solano. "The game isn't easy, and we need to fight every day. We like what we've got. We need to grow up at this level. We have a lot of young guys making their dreams come true."

Redmond, for his part, said that he's happy to keep Solano at second base but is also cognizant of the value that the youngster brings to the table by being able to field multiple positions.

"I think right now he's going to play the majority at second base," he said. "If we need to get Hechavarria a day off, he can play short. We could bounce him over to third and put Valaika at second. Se we've got options there, which is great. And you never know. He might play some shortstop and he might play some third base, but right now the plan is for him to play second every day."

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for
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