ATL@MIA: Polanco's RBI single pulls Marlins within 1

MIAMI -- Nine games, nine different lineups.

It's not the formula Marlins manager Mike Redmond expected to be using. But he is scrambling to find a combination that can score some runs.

"We're going to keep mixing and matching until we find a lineup that we can score some runs with," Redmond said. "I don't think we've had the same lineup out there twice yet."

The team hasn't. One reason is first baseman Casey Kotchman, who started the first two games, went on the disabled list on April 5 with a left hamstring strain. And backup catcher Miguel Olivo has made three starts, with Rob Brantly getting the other six starts.

Redmond has had the challenge of trying to find a cleanup hitter to protect Giancarlo Stanton, who bats third.

From the fourth spot, Placido Polanco drove in a run with a single and added a double in Tuesday's 3-2 loss to the Braves.

Polanco and Greg Dobbs have hit in the cleanup spot, behind Stanton.

"We'll just keep mixing and matching and moving guys around, and see where everybody fits and where we can get some run production," Redmond said.

Chris Valaika got the start at first base on Wednesday. A natural middle infielder, Valaika is seeing game action at first base for the first time at any level.

"I've been working on it," he said. "It's something that I'm excited to do. All that practice, and it's something I'm excited to be doing."

Mahoney nearing return from disabled list

MIA@NYM: Mahoney hits a homer in the fourth inning

MIAMI -- Help at first base could be close to arriving.

The Marlins are searching for depth at first base, and Joe Mahoney is an option. But the earliest he would be reinstated is a matter of days.

A left-handed hitter with power, Mahoney opened the season on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to March 22, with an intercostal strain.

Some progress was made on Wednesday as he played in an extended spring training game, going 1-for-4 with a home run and two strikeouts.

"He's progressing," manager Mike Redmond said. "There is some help."

Next for Mahoney is playing for Class A Advanced Jupiter in the Florida State League to build up game experience.

First base has been an area of concern for Miami, especially after Casey Kotchman was injured in the second game. At Washington on April 3, Kotchman strained his left hamstring, and he went on the DL two days later.

"None of us expected Kotchman to get hurt," Redmond said. "To have a guy over there who played first base every day in the big leagues, it was comforting to have."

Because of Mahoney's retro date, he can be reinstated whenever the club feels he is ready.

In Spring Training, his power was evident as he belted three home runs and drove in eight runs in 30 at-bats.

"When we talked about a guy who could possibly hit behind [Giancarlo] Stanton, he was one of those guys," Redmond said. "He has a lot of pop. We had talked about that in Spring Training, and he just got hurt those last two weeks of Spring Training, and that was it. Had he stayed healthy, he would have made that decision a lot tougher. He was having a good spring."

Since Kotchman went down, Greg Dobbs has seen considerable time at first base. And on Wednesday utility infielder Chris Valaika made his first start at the position at any level.

Ideally, Dobbs is best suited as a left-handed bat off the bench. But the veteran makes it clear that he can play every day, if necessary.

"If they need me, that's what I'm here for," Dobbs said. "I would hope that they don't keep me out of the lineup for the mere fact they don't want to [play me too many days in a row]. I want to be out there. I come to the field prepared to be either playing or to come off the bench."

Pierre nears milestone with first steal of season

MIA@WSH: Pierre gets leadoff single in Marlins return

MIAMI -- Juan Pierre moved a little closer to career stolen base No. 600.

The 35-year-old speedster, the active leader in steals, swiped his first base of the season on Tuesday night in the Marlins' 3-2 loss to the Braves. It was the 592nd of his career.

The Marlins have had a hard time getting their running game going primarily because they've struggled getting runners on base. In the first two games of the series with Atlanta, they had six total hits, and for the season they've been shut out three times.

In a lineup without substantial power, the Marlins ideally would like to create pressure with their running game. Along with stealing bases, they want to be a team that goes from first to third well, and can score from first base on a double.

"You can't ask guys to run who can't run," Pierre said. "You've got to realize when you're not scoring runs, you're not just apt to run crazy, as far as the other guys. Like me, I'm always looking to run. But you don't want to run yourself out of an inning."