PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Playing in some games is the first step for Justin Ruggiano. From there, performance will determine if he wins the Marlins' center field job.
The first step is expected to be taken on Saturday.
Manager Mike Redmond said Thursday morning that Ruggiano is scheduled to start in center field on Saturday when the Marlins face the Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium.
Ruggiano, 30, has yet to play in a Grapefruit League game due to a strained lower back, which he experienced the first few days of Spring Training.
"We'll try to get him in there for a couple of at-bats," Redmond said. "He's going to do everything -- full BP, and run around in the outfield a little bit. We'll get him out there. Get him moving around a little bit. He says he is ready. He is excited to go."
Ruggiano's return will heat up the center field competition.
The field is wide open.
Chris Coghlan is making a case with a strong Spring Training. Coghlan started in center field on Thursday against the Mets at Tradition Field. And Gorkys Hernandez, who is out of options, is a terrific defensive player who has to show he can hit enough to be a big league regular.
In recent days, Ruggiano has increased his baseball-related activities. On Thursday, he did some fielding and hitting at the Roger Dean Stadium complex.
A year ago, Ruggiano was one of the Marlins' most consistent players, batting .313 with 13 home runs and 36 RBIs in 91 games.
However, he did miss time with a back ailment. What he did last year doesn't guarantee him a spot.
"He did a nice job last year, but you still have to earn it," Redmond said. "He's been banged up. We need to get him on the field. Coghlan has done a nice job out there. Gorkys Hernandez, we continue to run him out there. I think it's going to be a nice competition out there, to see who steps up and takes that job.
"What you did last year, it does count. But at the same time, too, it's what have you done for me lately? It just is."
Kouzmanoff making pitch for roster spot
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The Marlins have health issues at first and third base, and Kevin Kouzmanoff has experience at both positions.
Miami is also looking for a right-handed bat off the bench. Again, Kouzmanoff fits the profile.
What the next few weeks will determine is if Kouzmanoff ultimately is a fit to make the team.
The 31-year-old is on a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training. In limited opportunities, he's 3-for-10 with two home runs.
"We've got some bench spots open, and we're looking at a lot of different guys and trying to get as many guys as many ABs as we possibly can," manager Mike Redmond said. "[Kouzmanoff's] definitely a guy who has versatility. And being a right-handed bat off the bench, that's what is intriguing to me."
Third base has become an issue with Placido Polanco resting back spasms. At first base, Logan Morrison is recovering from right knee surgery and won't be ready Opening Day.
From 2007-09, Kouzmanoff was a regular with the Padres. In 2010, he appeared in 143 games with Oakland. He last played in the big leagues with the Rockies in 2011.
Going from a regular to a reserve is an adjustment for many players.
"It think it's more of a mindset than anything," Kouzmanoff said. "It's being prepared. If you're not going to get consistent at-bats, you have to maximize what you can do in the batting cage, or on the field, and try to get as many reps as you can, and put your mind into your thinking. This is my role, and I'm going to accept it, and make the most of it.
"You have been an everyday player in the big leagues, and now your role has changed. That's the way it is, you have to accept it, deal with it, and move on."
• The Marlins have a split-squad day on Saturday, creating the need to keep some surplus pitching around in camp for a few more days. Jacob Turner will start against the Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter. Alex Sanabia is scheduled to start in Viera against the Nationals, with top prospect Jose Fernandez expected to pitch in relief.
• Placido Polanco, scratched Wednesday due to a tight back, is taking it easy a few more days. There is no set date to when he is expected back in the lineup.
• Jake Marisnick, plunked on the back of his left hand by a pitch on Wednesday, could be back in a game this weekend. Marisnick was hit by St. Louis right-hander Trevor Rosenthal. An X-ray came back negative.