JUPITER, Fla. -- With the days of Spring Training winding down, the competition for bullpen spots is heating up at Marlins camp.
It's a good problem for the club, and an unenviable situation for the players on the bubble.
The Marlins are planning on carrying 12 pitchers, with five starters. So seven bullpen spots are up for grabs.
Heath Bell is set at closer, and the team expects to be without Juan Carlos Oviedo for the foreseeable future.
Formerly Leo Nunez, Oviedo is on MLB's restricted list, and he is in the Dominican Republic.
Even when cleared to return, Oviedo likely faces disciplinary action from Major League Baseball.
Edward Mujica, Ryan Webb, Steve Cishek and Jose Ceda are strong candidates for right-handed setup roles. Mike Dunn and Randy Choate are lefty late-inning options.
Wade LeBlanc, who is having a terrific camp, is a long relief candidate. So is right-hander Chad Gaudin, a non-roster invitee.
LeBlanc, while making a strong case to be on the club, has an option left. There is a chance the team feels it doesn't need a true long reliever because of early-season off-days. The Marlins are off on April 6, 10 and 16.
"Everybody is doing a great job," pitching coach Randy St. Claire said. "We've got some decisions, and they're making it tough. We'll see how the next two weeks play out. I think that will give us a little better idea.
"A lot will depend on how we decide to go as a team. You can go a few different ways with the off-days. You might not need a long guy when you've got those off-days. Or you may decide you want to go with the long guy. It all depends on how you want to set it up."
How the starters finish up Spring Training also will be a factor.
The rotation is expected to be Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Ricky Nolasco, Carlos Zambrano and Anibal Sanchez.
"Hopefully, all goes well with the starters, and they all stay on track," St. Claire said. "If something were to happen with one of them, you could probably go with four starters, and a long guy in there."
More clarity will be known in the final two weeks of camp.
In the home stretch of the spring, pitchers become sharper, and hitters get more into a groove. Usually, the competition sorts things out.
Manager Ozzie Guillen, his staff and the front office will sit down and make their recommendations and decisions.
"I think it will all depend on how it shapes up the next two weeks, and how Ozzie wants to go with the staff," St. Claire said. "Everybody is doing such a good job right now. You can go a lot of different ways with it.
"I think we're looking at a good problem right now. It's not real good for the guy who gets sent down, but it's real good for us. We may have this guy who is ready to help us now, but we've only got seven spots down there."
Stanton, Morrison, Dobbs OK for light running
JUPITER, Fla. -- A trio of Marlins resting injuries have been cleared to begin baseball activities.
Giancarlo Stanton (left knee), Logan Morrison (right knee) and Greg Dobbs (left hamstring) were examined by team physicians on Tuesday.
"The doctor said to go ahead and start baseball activities," manager Ozzie Guillen said. "We're going to start them [designated hitting] in a few days. We'll sit down with the coaches and see how we're going to make it work. Obviously, it's going to be Minor League at-bats. For now, they will be the DH."
All three have been given the green light to start light running. Stanton is regarded as a little more behind the other two.
The Marlins are off on Wednesday, and the players will get another day to rest before beginning activities on Thursday.
"Stanton is going to be a little bit slower, but everyone is going to do baseball activities," Guillen said. "They'll run a little bit."
Solano sleeper candidate for utility infield role
JUPITER, Fla. -- When the Marlins hired Ozzie Guillen as manager last September, the organization sent prospects Ozzie Martinez and Jhan Marinez to the White Sox as compensation.
As it turns out, that transaction opened the door for an infielder who now is one of the surprises in camp.
Colombian-native Donovan Solano is a sleeper candidate to make the squad as a utility infielder.
The 24-year-old, who has never played in the big leagues, has been in the Cardinals' system since he was 17.
Now, Solano is impressing Guillen and the staff as he tries to win an Opening Day roster spot.
A non-roster invitee, Solano is in contention for the utility infield job. The team also is considering Donnie Murphy, who is under contract and on the 40-man roster, and Nick Green, a non-roster invitee with big league experience.
"He's in the mix," Guillen said of Solano. "He's playing very, very well. He's doing everything we've asked him to do. He's been great on the field and hitting. He's opening a lot of people's eyes here, especially mine, and my coaching staff. We're going to put him in the mix, and see what happens."
Solano is 9-for-22 (.409) in 11 Grapefruit League games.
One reason why Solano signed with Miami is because Martinez, a shortstop, was sent to the White Sox to help complete the hiring of Guillen in Miami.
Basically, Solano was added to replace Martinez's role in the system.
"I'm trying to prove my talent, and open eyes," Solano said. "I'm just playing the game. I'm having fun.
Solano is striving to make the big leagues for the first time.
"We've got two weeks to decide what we're going to do," Guillen said.
Infante stabilizing figure on revamped roster
JUPITER, Fla. -- Steady and silent pretty much sums up Marlins second baseman Omar Infante.
The 30-year-old goes about his business with little fanfare. Yet, he's one of the most valuable assets on a revamped roster.
"He's a true professional in every sense," Miami hitting coach Eduardo Perez said. "Those are the guys who make my job easier, and make me smart. My IQ went up this offseason."
The Marlins made a smart move, locking up Infante for two years at $8 million in the final week of the 2011 season. By doing so, they prevented the veteran from exploring the free-agent market.
Infante felt a loyalty to Miami because the club gave him a regular position, rather than move him around in a utility role.
Defensively, he's strong, and at the plate, he feels like he should regularly bat .300, like he did with the Braves in 2009 (.305) and '10 (.321).
Acquired by the Marlins as part of the Dan Uggla trade, Infante batted .276 last year.
In nine Grapefruit League games, he's hitting at a .350 (7-for-20) clip.
"It's not beyond his means," Perez said of Infante being a perennial .300 hitter. "Baseball is knowing who you are. He knows he can hit the ball out, but he doesn't try to. He knows he can bunt and move the guy over. He knows what his role is.
"That's a true professional. That's why we signed him when we did. We gave him that extension. All 29 other teams know what kind of player he is. He's our second baseman here, but he is a player who can fill so many voids."