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02/23/12 3:08 PM EST

Again healthy, Choate ready to contribute

JUPITER, Fla. - The streak continues for Marlins reliever Randy Choate.

At age 36, the lefty specialist is proud of the fact he has avoided surgery throughout his entire career. A few months ago, he received a scare.

Choate's left elbow inflamed late last season, causing concern that he had bone chips or possibly a serious tear that would require Tommy John surgery.

After being tested by Marlins physician, Dr. Lee Kaplan, and getting a second opinion from Dr. Timothy Kremchek in Cincinnati, surgery was not recommended.

Choate actually had a small tear in the elbow. Rather than have a surgical procedure, rest was recommended.

"One of the jokes that Dr. Kaplan and I had was, I am 36 and I've had no surgeries," Choate said. "Our joke is we kept the streak going and I'm still 36."

On Thursday, Choate threw off the mound for the first time in Spring Training. The veteran lefty is fine, and expected to be a big part of the bullpen.

"I feel like I did at the start of last season," he said. "Hopefully, [the inflammation] I can just put that into the past, and it won't happen again."

Choate was one of the most reliable Marlins relievers in 2011, posting a 1.82 ERA in 54 games. Because he was a lefty specialist, his totally innings were low, 24 2/3. But his effectiveness was impressive, as he struck out 31 and walked 13, five intentionally.

Lefty batters were 10 for 69 (.145) against him.

Choate went on the disabled list with left elbow inflammation on Aug. 18, and he didn't return.

Since the team fell far out of contention in the second half, there was no urgency to rush him back.

"I've been playing catch since mid-November," he said. "I gave it three good months to heal."

Leading into Spring Training, the left-hander threw about 16 times off the mound.

"I've got sink on my fastball, and I'm where I want to be physically," he said.

Choate isn't sure why his elbow flared up. With a sidearm delivery, he asked if it was something he was doing.

"I asked if it had anything to do with the way I threw," he said. "They said it was a freak [injury]. They can't explain it at all. I don't know how it happened at all. It kind of just happened."

Stanton puts on a show in batting practice

JUPITER, Fla. - When Mike Stanton steps to the plate in batting practice, it is must-see-BP.

The Marlins' 22-year-old slugger didn't disappoint on Thursday.

On a back field at the Roger Dean Stadium complex, Stanton went up against a pitching machine. It was no contest.

Stanton's ability to hit home runs is well documented. He had 34 last year, and has 56 in 250 MLB games.

What Stanton did on Thursday was remind you that he is a candidate to lead the league in home runs.

Stanton worked on hitting the ball to the opposite field, and he repeatedly blistered the ball, either driving smashes off the wall in right-center or depositing them over the fence.

During one round, he hit three consecutive opposite-field home runs. And he completed the round with two in a row to right field.

The one ball he pulled to left easily cleared the fence.

Manager Ozzie Guillen knows the 6-foot-5, 250-pound Stanton can connect on long home runs. What the manager wants are many homers, not a few tape-measured.

"I keep telling people, I don't want the long ones, I want a lot," the manager said. "That's the difference between a home run, 500 feet. How about 390 [feet], give me 40 at 390 or 310. That's what we need."

Stanton's ability to crush a baseball is expected.

"He's only 22 years old," Guillen said. "This kid has a future, and he's going to have those three guys [Jose Reyes, Emilio Bonifacio or Omar Infante, and Hanley Ramirez] hitting in front of him. How about when a guy is on third base, get that RBI. That's how you win."

Ozzie formulating backup plan for Reyes

JUPITER, Fla. -- The arrival of Jose Reyes has raised plenty of questions about how the Marlins' infield will shape up.

A four-time All-Star, Reyes is moving in as shortstop, prompting Hanley Ramirez to move to third base.

But Reyes has a history of hamstring ailments, appearing in just 126 games with the Mets last year.

What happens if Reyes goes down again? What will the Marlins do at shortstop?

Sliding Ramirez back to his original position will not be an option.

Manager Ozzie Guillen said he wants Ramirez to get used to playing third base, and not focus on anything else.

"I won't play with Hanley's mind," Guillen said. "It's going to be hard for him to move to shortstop, and then when Reyes is ready, back to third base. Then, we're abusing this kid and we don't respect him."

Emilio Bonifacio is the first option to play shortstop. Donnie Murphy and Nick Green, a non-roster invitee, also are candidates.

Bonifacio is projected to be the starting center fielder, but he can play third, short and second.

"Bonifacio's going to be helping a little bit at shortstop, just in case Reyes needs a day off," Guillen said.

Guillen noted that the utility infielder will have to be able to play shortstop.

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.