Jorge Cantu was asked Friday how he would feel if next week he was in a Colorado Rockies uniform. He brushed it off with a smile.
Cantu's future as well as those of others like Cody Ross and Dan Uggla could ultimately hinge on how the Marlins finish this home stand this weekend against the first-place Braves. Although manager Edwin Rodriguez said he hasn't received notice from anyone upstairs, the genuine feeling in the Marlins clubhouse is getting back to .500 after this weekend is important for many reasons.
"We are very aware of the importance of this game and this whole homestand," Rodriguez said. "We've already been approaching it that way. It's hard for me to tell how [management] is thinking. They haven't said anything to me. I think if we [win] the series, it's not the end of the season. I think as a team we'll keep pulling together. Now, if we lose the series, they'll have some decisions to make. It's up to them.
"It think it's very important [for us to get back to .500]. If we want to get back in the race, we have to first get back to .500. So, it's very important. It could be today. It could be on Sunday. We want to get back to .500. From there on, we have to keep doing what we've been doing lately."
VERAS MOVING TO SETUP ROLE?: There was a time not too long ago when Jose Veras was setting the stage for Mariano Rivera. Now, it looks like he'll be doing the same for Leo Nunez.
Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez said Friday Veras has been pitching so well of late he's strongly considering using him to replace the struggling Clay Hensley in the eighth inning.
"We've been thinking about that not because of Hensley, but because of Veras," Rodriguez said. "Veras has been doing an outstanding job. Every time we call on Veras, even in tough situations, he's been shutting down the hitters."
Veras, signed to a minor league contract in the offseason, has pitched 12 2/3 scoreless innings since being recalled from Triple A New Orleans on June 25. He's allowed just six hits and three walks with 16 strikeouts during the span.
Hensley, meanwhile, who had been spectacular for the Marlins most of the season, has faltered of late. He gave up the tying run Thursday in the eighth inning, the fifth time this season the Marlins have let a lead slip away on a day when ace Josh Johnson has pitched. In his previous appearance for the Rockies, Hensley walked two before giving up a three-run homer in a game the Marlins also rallied to win in the ninth.
"I think the biggest thing we've noticed is they're sitting on my off-speed pitches," Hensley said. "I'll get strike one, then they're waiting for the curveball or changeup. You're going to have that happen over the course of a season. I just have to mix it up more."
> HANLEY'S STRUGGLES: Rodriguez said Friday he thinks Hanley Ramirez's struggles lately have a lot to do with him being tired and having participated in the home run derby and All-Star Game. Ramirez hasn't had an extra base-hit since he homered July 2nd in Atlanta. Ramirez, who is hitting .274 with only 3 RBI in July, disagrees. "I was struggling all year long, even before the home run derby," Ramirez said.
Rodriguez is hoping a day of Thursday refreshed Ramirez. "I just think he needs to regroup and have that compact swing he's always had," Rodriguez said.
> SUNDAY STARTER STILL UNDECIDED: Rodriguez said he expected to have a decision on Sunday's starter before the start of Friday night's game. "The first option is still Chris Volstad," Rodriguez said. "Another option is using a bullpen day. [Burke] Badenhop is an option. But that's probably the third or fourth option. We're going to try to bring Volstad. But we have to wait and see how he feels. We need to know because of the way we're going to use the bullpen the next two days.