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."
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."
Redmond hopes to establish winning culture in spring
JUPITER, Fla. -- Spring Training records may not mean much in the grand scheme of things, but to the Marlins, the start of Grapefruit League play is the first step in establishing a winning mindset.
After successive last-place finishes, the organization is trying to change the culture.
Building a consistent winner may take some time because the roster has been overhauled and filled with a number of players with minimal or no big league experience.
"I think sometimes you have to teach guys how to win," first-year manager Mike Redmond said. "I think that starts in the Minor Leagues. I know the teams that I've managed, we talked a lot about winning.
"You can develop and win. As a competitor, maybe I'm different. I don't know how you can turn that on and off. If you're a guy who competes and likes to win, I don't know how you go through the motions. I think if you're a winner, you try to win every game, no matter what you're doing, no matter what's the situation."
The Marlins enjoyed a successful start to their Grapefruit League season, beating the Cardinals, 8-3, at Roger Dean Stadium on Saturday.
For many of the 73 players in camp, there is plenty at stake in the Grapefruit League season.
"I like guys who play with energy, and I like guys who like to compete," Redmond said. "That's what I'm looking for. I think we've got a lot of those guys.
"You really get a good feel of what you've got when they draw those white lines out there. That's when you really find out about your players."
• Manager Mike Redmond repeated on Saturday what he said Friday about playing time for Giancarlo Stanton. The team is trying to get Stanton as many at-bats as possible to prepare him for the World Baseball Classic. Stanton will be leaving on March 3 to participate with Team USA in the Classic.
Stanton started in right field on Saturday against the Cardinals, but will not make the trip to Viera, Fla., on Sunday to face the Nationals. The plan is for him to travel to Lake Buena Vista, Fla., on Monday when Miami takes on the Braves. And he will be the designated hitter on Tuesday versus the Mets in Jupiter, Fla. Redmond is trying to get Stanton ready to play nine innings by the time he leaves for the Classic.
• Assistant trainer Mike Kozak, a Canadian native, will be a trainer on Team Canada's World Baseball Classic team. Kozak will be leaving on March 1 to join the Canadian squad.
• Giancarlo Stanton and Steve Cishek will be departing camp on March 3 to hook up with Team USA in the Classic. Henderson Alvarez, who will pitch for Venezuela, also leaves on March 3. Third base coach Joe Espada will also be taking part in the Classic, coaching third for Puerto Rico.
• Among the players traveling to Viera to face the Nationals are, Rob Brantly, Chone Figgins, Chris Coghlan, Christian Yelich, Bryan Petersen, Jake Marisnick and Greg Dobbs.