The Marlins came closer to finalizing their roster Thursday by informing infielder Chris Valaika he will make the team and creating an opening for Chris Coghlan to be the fourth outfielder.
Barring a trade, the Marlins’ final decision before opening the season Monday in Washington will be at backup catcher.
Valaika was chosen over Wilson Valdez, who will start the season in Class AAA New Orleans. Coghlan beat out Gorkys Hernandez, who was told he would not be on the team. The Marlins are attempting to trade Hernandez.
Catchers Kyle Skipworth and Koyie Hill are competing for the backup spot. Miami, though, could bring back Miguel Olivo, who was released by the Reds. Olivo played for the Marlins in 2006-07.
“It’s been a nice challenge,” manager Mike Redmond said before the Marlins’ 1-0 loss to the Cardinals on Thursday in the final spring game at Roger Dean Stadium.
“We’ve still got a couple of decisions to make but we’re ready to go.”
Hernandez was acquired last summer in the trade that sent Gaby Sanchez to Pittsburgh. Valdez was signed last week after he was released by the Giants.
Larry Beinfest, the president of baseball operations, said the final roster decisions may not be made until Saturday, when the Marlins play an exhibition in New Orleans.
“This time of the year people’s needs change by the hour,” Beinfest said. “It’s weird how things can come together late.”
The roster must be set at 3 p.m Sunday.
Valaika, 27, is one of six or seven non-roster invitees (depending on the backup catcher) who will make the team. He played in 33 big-league games in 2010 and 2011, all with the Reds.
“He plays with a lot of outward energy, he’s spunky and he’s a grinder,” Beinfest said.
Valaika outlasted a group of veterans including Valdez, Nick Green, Matt Downs and Chone Figgins for the backup middle infielder spot.
“It was sad to see them go but I’m happy I’m still standing,” said Valaika, who will be on his first opening day roster. “Not being in the big leagues last year it was kind of nice. Hard work paid off.”
Beinfest labeled Coghlan, 27, as one of the “positives” coming out of camp. After winning the 2009 NL rookie of the year, Coghlan has bounced between the Marlins and the minors.
“He looked comfortable at the plate,” Beinfest said. “I’m not sure we saw him confident and comfortable at the plate for a while.”
Beinfest said veteran right-handed pitchers John Maine and Kevin Slowey are on the team, but that, too, could change if a trade is made. Maine is slated for long relief and Slowey as the fifth starter.
Beinfest liked the energy he saw during spring training with so many young players. The Marlins started with 72 players in camp.
“Given everything that’s gone on with the ballclub and franchise externally, from almost the minute we got on the field things were pretty cool,” Beinfest said.
Final spring attendance numbers: The Marlins drew 68,215 for 16 home games this spring, an average of 4,263. Miami averaged 4,997 for 14 games last season at Roger Dean Stadium. Thursday’s attendance of 7,162 gave the Cardinals a total of 98,715 for an average of 6,169 for 16 games. St. Louis averaged 6,604 last season for 13 games.
Morrison update: Logan Morrison (knee) said he hopes to start running next week and play in a big-league game in early to mid-May. “I didn’t anticipate it would be this long,” Beinfest said.
• The Marlins had just three base runners, all reaching on singles, against four Cardinals pitchers in a 1-0 loss.
• Marlins starter Justin Nicolino, who will pitch for Class A Jupiter, gave up a double to John Jay on his first pitch and settled down to allow one run on six hits in five innings. He struck out three.
• St. Louis’ Lance Lynn had his best outing of the spring, allowing two hits and striking out five in six innings. He finished with a 4.94 ERA.