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Solano out to prove stature doesn't matter

Undersized second baseman rich in talent for upstart Marlins

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JUPITER, Fla. -- As long as Donovan Solano can remember, people have tried to sell him short.

It's nothing new for the Marlins second baseman.

In a sport that puts so much emphasis on size, speed and strength, Solano is comparatively undersized at 5-foot-9, 195 pounds.

Dispelling beliefs has been a challenge, but the 25-year-old Colombian native has been doing it ever since he joined the Marlins a year ago.

In Wednesday's 7-2 loss to the Cardinals, Solano went 2-for-3 with an RBI, raising his Spring Training batting average to .533.

For those who question if Solano measures up, he is quick to point out there is a second baseman in Boston who has already proven profiles don't always tell the story.

Dustin Pedroia, listed at 5-foot-8, 165 pounds, has been an American League MVP, a three-time All-Star and part of a World Series championship team.

"I heard one time about Pedroia," Solano said. "I heard scouts, and people would tell him, he can't do it. He hated that."

Solano has a simple way of answering the skeptics.

"I believe you are given talent, and there is no limit," Solano said.

In his second season in the Marlins organization, Solano is viewed as an important regular on a team seeking to build an identity.

Solano, who came up through the Cardinals' system, is firmly entrenched as the starting second baseman. Depending on the health of Placido Polanco, who has been out since last Saturday with back spasms, Solano could find himself batting second.

"He's solid," manager Mike Redmond said. "He's a solid defender. He gives you a great at-bat. He is able to steal bases. He's a perfect guy to hit second, a contact hitter. He can hit-and-run, he pulls the ball. He hits it the other way. He does a lot of things. He's a plus defender."

In the small sample size of his big league career, Solano has shown he can be steady.

Last season, he became a regular in the second half after Omar Infante was traded to the Tigers and Emilio Bonifacio was moved to the outfield.

In 93 games, he batted .295 with a .342 on-base percentage.

With the Marlins, Solano has the benefit of being around other young players getting an opportunity. The organization also has a manager who's had his share of doubters when he was moving up the Minor League ranks.

"I never worry much about stereotypes in this game," said Redmond, who played 13 big league seasons. "I didn't fit that prototypical catcher [mold], either. But that doesn't mean anything. [Solano] goes out there. He can play. This guy can play."

For inspiration, Solano also looks no further than his own home.

His brother, Jhonatan Solano, is a 5-foot-9, 203-pound catcher with the Nationals.

"My brother is an example," Solano said. "The scouts told him more than they told me. They told him he can't play because he's small. He motivated me."

Before hooking up with the Marlins, there were times the second baseman wondered if he would ever get his MLB break. Naturally, there were some frustrations, and moments where he wondered if the baseball dream was worth it.

When Solano had those moments, his brother told him to push forward.

"My brother would [say], 'Let's go. Don't think about what they say,'" Solano said.

Solano initially turned heads in Marlins' camp last Spring Training. Former Miami manager Ozzie Guillen pushed hard for him to make the Opening Day roster. It didn't happen, but he eventually got a chance, and has made the most of it.

"He made the most of an opportunity he got last year," Redmond said. "Here he is. He has a chance to play every day, and maybe hit in the top part of our order. He could be a huge weapon for us. He plays hard every single day I put him in there, and he's fun to watch."

Already in Spring Training, Solano has won the admiration of infield coach Perry Hill, regarded as one of the best instructors in the game.

"I see talent," Hill said. "Donovan is a baseball player. He can do everything. He can field. He can turn a double play. He hits. He can hit behind runners. He's a situational hitter. He's a very good baseball player."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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