Ruggiano scheduled to play Saturday

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Justin Ruggiano’s recovery process is nearly complete.

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.

Miami actually has a split-squad day Saturday, with half the team heading to Viera to face the Nationals. Alex Sanabia will start against the Nationals, and Jacob Turner will start against the Cardinals in Jupiter.

Top prospect, Jose Fernandez, is scheduled to pitch in relief on Saturday at Washington.

Getting Ruggiano in the lineup will heat up the competition for the starting center field job. Chris Coghlan, Gorkys Hernandez, Bryan Petersen and Kevin Mattison also are in consideration.

Ruggiano entered Spring Training with the inside edge based on a solid 2012. But a few days before Grapefruit League games got underway on Feb. 23, Ruggiano suffered a back strain.

In recent days, he increased his activities. On Thursday, he did some fielding and hitting at the Roger Dean Stadium complex.

“We’ll try to get him in there for a couple of at-bats,” Redmond said. “He’s going to do everything today — full BP, 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.”

Although he was solid in the outfield last year, Redmond noted players must earn their spots.

“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.”

Joe Frisaro

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