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Righty Maine makes strong first impression

JUPITER, Fla. -- With no guarantees of a roster spot, John Maine understands the importance of making a good first impression.

The veteran did just that in Miami's 8-3 win over the Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium on Saturday.

Maine was able to shake off some jitters and turn in a commendable two-inning, 31-pitch performance.

Maine surrendered a solo homer on a hanging changeup in the second inning to David Freese, but otherwise showed solid stuff.

"I think everybody has first-game jitters," said Maine, who last pitched in the big leagues in 2010. "First-game anxiety. I think it will be smoother from here on out. The first one is out of the way."

In camp on a Minor League contract, Maine is in the mix for the fifth-starter spot. The 31-year-old, who used to throw 97 mph, is building back arm strength after two shoulder surgeries.

"He looked fine," manager Mike Redmond said. "It's a building process, trying to build up the arm strength. From seeing him on Day One, he's definitely gotten stronger, and his stuff has gotten better."

Maine, who enjoyed some solid seasons in the past with the Mets, has a realistic shot at winning a spot.

But because he's not sure he will be on the team, he doesn't have the luxury of using starts to work on certain pitches. Right away, he has to show he can get outs.

Still, that doesn't mean he isn't tinkering with pitches -- like the homer he gave up to Freese. It came on a changeup, a pitch he feels is important to have once the season starts.

"I can't get cute in situations," he said. "There are things I do want to work on. The home run I gave up to Freese. That's a pitch I want to use in the season, regardless of where I am. I do need to throw it.

"There are things I do need to work on. [But] back when I did have a spot, I could work on more things than I did now."