FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Too much lost time couldn't be made up for Dallas McPherson.

Hampered first by a right oblique issue and then a groin problem, the left-handed-hitting third baseman saw action in just seven Grapefruit League games, and he had just 21 at-bats.

With Opening Day six days away, the Marlins decided to option the 27-year-old to Triple-A Albuquerque.

Barring any additional moves to bring in a third baseman, Jorge Cantu falls in line to be the starter when the Marlins' season opens on Monday against the Mets at Dolphin Stadium.

Until returning to action on Sunday, McPherson had been out since March 8 with a left groin pull. It was his second setback of the spring. Days into camp, his oblique acted up.

The Marlins entered Spring Training with a three-player battle for the third-base job -- Cantu, McPherson and Jose Castillo.

Cantu, based on a strong spring, emerged as the favorite, and the Marlins placed Castillo on waivers last Thursday. Castillo was claimed by the Giants on Saturday.

The Marlins now are planning to go with Cantu at third base. Although the roster is not totally set, Alfredo Amezaga is an option to back up at third.

McPherson also had seen some action at first base.

Jason Wood also stands to benefit by the recent moves, because he is a backup option to play first and third base.

Once a highly regarded prospect in the Angels' system, McPherson has tremendous upside, if he stays healthy. He has power from the left side, and his defense is solid.

But he missed all of 2007 as he recovered from back surgery.

A second-round Draft choice of the Angels in 2001, McPherson has appeared in 117 Major League games. He's seen action in 481 Minor League games, where he is a career .301 hitter.