Marlins send Matt Dominguez to minors

JUPITER, Fla. -- Top Florida Marlins prospect Matt Dominguez was sent to the minor leagues Thursday, leaving the team uncertain about who will start at third base.

Dominguez's bid to open the season with the Marlins failed because he hit only .190 in spring training, but club officials said they expect to see him in the big leagues soon. Third base will likely be filled by Emilio Bonifacio or Donnie Murphy.

"We'll just kind of mix and match and see where we go," infield coach Perry Hill said.

Bonifacio is also a candidate to start the season in center field if Chris Coghlan is still nursing a sore shoulder. Manager Edwin Rodriguez would not rule out a platoon situation at third base for the start of the season.

Bonifacio was the Marlins' Opening Day third baseman in 2009 before losing his job. He started out well at the plate, hitting .500 for the first week, before quickly tailing off. He finished the year with a .252 average in 127 games.

"I'll try to do a better job than '09," Bonifacio said. "It's a long year, and it's not how you start but how you finish."

Bonifacio, a career .251 hitter, has played 92 games at third base in four big league seasons.

Murphy wasn't expected to be ready for the start of the season after undergoing season-ending surgery on his dislocated wrist last September. He has played 29 games in the majors and has a career average of .206.

"I'm up for the challenge," he said. "If they throw me out there, I'm definitely ready to play every day."

The Marlins opted not to move Omar Infante from second base and prefer Wes Helms in a bench role.

If Coghlan is not ready for next Friday's opener against the New York Mets, either Bonifacio or Dewayne Wise will start in center field.

Dominguez is believed to be ready for the majors defensively, but he'll start the season at Triple-A New Orleans.

"We all know we were asking a lot of the kid," Rodriguez said. "We wanted to see how he handled the situation. He can play in the big leagues at some point but it's not going to happen right now."

Rodriguez said Dominguez will work on pitch recognition and bat speed.