Port St. Lucie, Fla. — Juan Pierre played every inning of Florida's game last season -- the only major leaguer to manage the feat.
Nobody knows if he'll be ready for the first inning of 2005.
Pierre, who hasn't missed a game since joining the Marlins two years ago, has been sidelined for the last three weeks because of a strained right calf muscle. He was injured on a seemingly innocuous play -- simply running down a fly ball.
Tests have shown no tears in the muscle, but it apparently is not responding quickly to treatment. Pierre, the Marlins' center fielder and leadoff hitter, repeatedly has declined to answer any questions about the injury and his rehabilitation process.
"My gut feeling is, knowing him and maybe I'm optimistic, that he'll find a way to play," manager Jack McKeon said Wednesday before his team -- with Chris Aguila in center field -- faced the New York Mets in an exhibition game. "On the other hand, I don't know that for sure. It's better to be on the safe side if he's not right."
The Marlins have struggled mightily this spring. Even after beating the Mets 3-2 on Wednesday, they still have the worst exhibition record (9-19), are ranked last in batting average (.239), home runs (14), and runs scored (98), and have been held to three or fewer runs 19 times in 29 games, including one tie.
Clearly, they miss Pierre -- their catalyst the last two seasons. He led the National League last year with 221 hits, tied for first with 12 triples and batted .326; he led the NL with 65 stolen bases when the Marlins won the World Series two years ago.