Marlins' competition tight in center field

Marlins' competition tight in center field

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Following Monday's game against the Twins, the Marlins have 10 games remaining on their Grapefruit League schedule. It is looking like the team will use all of them to figure out the situation in center field.

Justin Ruggiano played a good deal of center in the second half of 2012 and performed well there. The 320 plate appearances he had last season were also by far a career high for him, and he has been slowed this spring with back trouble, collecting just 11 at-bats thus far.

Chris Coghlan, looking to bounce back to his 2009 Rookie of the Year form, has had a strong spring, hitting .318 over 44 at-bats. He played 65 games in center in 2011, but just 13 a year ago.

Then there's Gorkys Hernandez, who came to the Marlins by way of last July's Gaby Sanchez deal. Hernandez was in Monday's starting lineup against the Twins, driving in two with a single during the Marlins' four-run second inning and showing his usual gliding defense in center. He's hitting .303 with four steals after Monday's 1-for-2 performance. He's also out of options on his contract.

"Those guys have been battling for playing time out there," manager Mike Redmond said. "That might be one that comes down to the last day."

The Marlins will most likely keep just two of the three outfielders on the 25-man roster. It is not just how the trio performs at the plate that will determine who wins the competition. Marlins Park has a lot of territory in center, and Redmond wants to make sure whoever is out there can handle patrolling it.

"That's the challenge," Redmond said. "It's a big outfield in Miami. We're hoping whoever's out there is going to cover the most ground they can possibly cover."

It is quite possible that the duo that makes the club will end up sharing center field. Coghlan is a left-handed hitter, while Hernandez and Ruggiano both hit right-handed, so a platoon situation is not out of the question.

"That could end up being our best option," Redmond said. "We could definitely go that route. That way we make sure we don't wear one guy out. We don't have a ton of depth out there, so we have to keep everybody healthy."

The best option might be one that's not quite ready. Marlins prospect Christian Yelich, No. 13 on MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects list and No. 2 on the Marlins' Top 20 has had a tremendous spring, hitting .381 following Monday's rain-shortened game. He picked up two more hits against the Twins, including a long homer, his fifth of the spring.

"You get a feel for what I think about him because I play him all the time," Redmond said of Yelich. "I love him. He's had a great spring. He's done everything we asked of him. At the end of the day, he's never had an at-bat above A ball, and we want to make sure we're doing the right thing for him and the organization."

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com and writes a blog, B3. Follow