Solano is ready for second-base job

JUPITER, Fla. -- A year ago, Donovan Solano was a "sleeper" prospect trying to get noticed.

In a sport that gives the benefit of the doubt to bigger, stronger, faster players, it's often difficult for 5-foot-9, 190-pound middle infielders to make an impression.

But Solano was able to turn heads, and he made a strong case to win an Opening Day roster spot. He batted .429 (18-for-42) in Spring Training, prompting former manager Ozzie Guillen to push for Solano, who eventually started off at Triple-A New Orleans.

Solano did get his big league chance in 2012, starting at second base for much of the second half. Now, the 25-year-old Colombian enters Spring Training as the frontrunner to be Miami's Opening Day second baseman.

"I have a good opportunity in this camp," Solano said. "I am more relaxed and confident. I am not putting too much pressure on myself."

Solano made the most of his chances at the big league level, hitting .295 in 93 games. His playing time increased after Omar Infante was traded to the Tigers, and Emilio Bonifacio went down with a left-thumb injury.

Although he has enjoyed some big league success, Solano isn't taking anything for granted.

"I need to be the same guy," he said.

In the offseason, Solano helped refine his game by playing for Colombia in the World Baseball Classic qualifying rounds. The team didn't advance, but he was able to continue playing in highly-competitive games.

"I saw pitches, and that helped me a lot," he said.

Part of the adjustment Solano is making in camp is working with shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, who takes over for Jose Reyes.

"It's a good relationship. He's a good guy. He wants to play," Solano said. "He's got the energy. There is no difference [than with Reyes] because the game is the same. He tries to throw to the same spot that Reyes did."