JUPITER — Even in the springtime when the games don’t count, Placido Polanco is used to being more of an iron man than a spectator.
But the 37-year-old third baseman, brought in on a one-year contract to bring veteran leadership to a youthful roster, said he’s getting closer to seeing the field again. Polanco, who is dealing with back spasms and a strained oblique discovered after an MRI four days ago, took batting practice Sunday and again Monday before the game against the Red Sox.
“It’s getting better,” he insisted.
Polanco hopes to start throwing again Tuesday and Wednesday and said he could be back in the lineup by the end of the week “at the earliest.”
Polanco has been limited to 10 at-bats in four games this spring, collecting four hits.
“I am [itching to play],” said Polanco, sitting by himself in his all-too-familiar practice shirt outside the Marlins clubhouse just minutes before Monday’s first pitch. “But at the same time, you would rather miss three or four days now than miss a few weeks during the season.”
• Hitting coach Tino Martinez has enjoyed working with the Marlins’ young crop of talent in his first spring with the team. He likes catcher Rob Brantly. But he raves about outfielder Christian Yelich, who continued his sizzling spring Monday with a two-out, two-run walk-off homer to lift the Marlins to an 8-7 victory.
“Yelich has been fantastic. He’s a natural. I haven’t tinkered with him much at all,” said Martinez of Yelich, who after Monday is hitting .375 (12 for 32) with 10 runs scored, three home runs and 11 RBI with an eye-popping 1.300 OPS.
“Who are you waiting for, ‘The Natural?’ ” joked infielder Nick Green to reporters in the clubhouse afterward.
Green scored ahead of Yelich on his blast, which came on a 2-1 fastball.
• Yelich entered in the sixth inning for center fielder Justin Ruggiano, who played his second game of the spring as he recovers from lower back stiffness. Ruggiano went 0 for 2 on Monday and is hitless in his four at-bats.
• Outfielder Jake Marisnick, who was hit by a pitch in last Wednesday’s game, will miss one month with a fractured left hand. Marisnick got off to a blazing start this spring, batting .455 (5 of 11) in eight games. He is expected to start the season at Double A Jacksonville.
• On Monday, right-handers Alex Sanabia and Evan Reed, left-hander Brad Hand and outfielder Kyle Jensen were optioned to Triple A New Orleans. Right-hander Sam Dyson, left-hander Edgar Olmos and outfielder Marcell Ozuna were sent to Double A Jacksonville. Righty Jordan Smith and catcher Wildredo Gimenez were reassigned to minor-league camp.
Juan Pierre sported a black “Beast Mode” shirt during warmups and lived up to that message, ripping a single to center to lead off the first inning, stealing third base and scoring on a single by Chris Valaika.
• Tuesday: Marlins RHP Ricky Nolasco vs. Houston Astros RHP Bud Norris, 1:05 p.m., Jupiter.
• Wednesday: Marlins RHP Nathan Eovaldi vs. Atlanta Braves RHP Kris Medlen, 7:05 p.m., Jupiter.