JUPITER, Fla. -- Out of the big leagues a year ago, Alex Sanchez is attempting to seize a chance to once again become a regular.

Signed to a Minor League contract with an invitation to camp, Sanchez is among the front-runners to win the Marlins' starting center-field job.

Sanchez last played in the Major Leagues with the Giants in 2005. He has a career .296 big-league average with 122 stolen bases in 427 career games.

"I have a big opportunity now to be the guy here, but I have to keep going and working hard and playing hard," said Sanchez, who played Minor League ball in 2006.

Sanchez is battling Reggie Abercrombie, Eric Reed and Cody Ross for the center-field opening. For now, Alfredo Amezaga, who played 78 games in the outfield last year, is being used mainly as a backup middle infielder.

Born in Cuba, Sanchez grew up in Miami, and he is pleased the Marlins are giving him another shot.

"I wanted to play here," he said. "I wanted to play for [manager] Fredi [Gonzalez], and I told him that I wanted to play for him. He gave me this opportunity here to win the job."

Now 30, Sanchez kept his skills refined playing for La Guaira in the Venezuelan Winter League. He batted .350 (48-for-137) with three home runs and 22 RBIs. He also saw some action for Mazatlan in the Mexican Winter League.

Gonzalez feels Sanchez can still contribute.

"I don't see any reason why he couldn't," Gonzalez said. "He looks great swinging. He's the same as I remember. I don't think he's a lost a step."

In 2004, Sanchez led the American League with 29 bunt singles.

He admits that it was tough not seeing any big-league time in 2006.

"The people closed the door a little bit for me," he said. "I tried to be positive, and right now I'm here. I have an opportunity.

"I think I can help this team a lot. I've got experience. I played five seasons in the Major Leagues. I had good numbers. I came in here to win. I want to help this team, and I want to say thank you to the people here for giving me this opportunity."

Johnson update: For the second straight day, right-hander Josh Johnson played some light catch on flat ground. But this brief throwing session wasn't as encouraging as Wednesday.

"It was not as good as yesterday," Johnson said. "My whole body feels sore."

Johnson experienced discomfort in an area just above the elbow where the biceps and triceps muscles come together. He tossed off flat ground for the first time since Jan. 19 on Wednesday and was testing throwing for the second straight day.

More will be known about Johnson's progress on Saturday.

Johnson is not scheduled to throw on Friday, but he is expected to pick up a ball again on Saturday.

"We'll see how he feels Saturday," Gonzalez said. "We're going to be cautious with him. We're going to take little steps with him -- baby steps."

Honoring dad: In the offseason, Mike Jacobs added a tattoo that has a lot of meaning for him on his right biceps.

Jacobs had the initials "TWJ" and the dates "1952-1987" tattooed on his arm in memory of his father. Thomas William Jacobs passed away in 1987, when the Marlins first baseman was 6 years old.

"I'm paying respect to my dad," said Jacobs, now 26. "It's something to remember him by. It was something I had been thinking about doing."

Signings: Six players were officially signed to contracts on Thursday: right-handed pitchers Jesus Delgado, Harvey Garcia, Logan Kensing and Matt Lindstrom, along with left-handed pitcher Paul Mildren and Reed.

Fish bites: There were some interesting live batting practice matchups Thursday afternoon on the back fields at Roger Dean Stadium. Dontrelle Willis faced a group that included Miguel Cabrera, Hanley Ramirez, Aaron Boone and Jason Wood. Following that session, lefty Scott Olsen faced the same group, which added catcher Miguel Olivo. ... Olivo has caught all of Willis' bullpen and live batting practice sessions. That's the expected Opening Day battery. ... In one batter-pitcher set, Ross took a couple of pitches from reliever Randy Messenger. Ross' first swing resulted in the ball sailing over the left-field fence. ... Practices on Friday are open to the public at Roger Dean Stadium, beginning at 10 a.m. ET.