Mike Stanton's six home runs in May have been a nice lift for the Marlins, especially after injuries caused him to get off to such a slow start in April.
But it's more than Stanton's big blasts that have the Marlins feeling better about the 21-year old slugger. It's performances like Wednesday's 2-for-3 effort against the Cubs, in which Stanton had a hard single up the middle and a run-scoring grounder through the hole into left that makes them believe he's turning the corner as a pure hitter.
"He's staying on the ball," said veteran Wes Helms, whose locker is right across from Stanton's in the Marlins clubhouse.
"He went through a period there where he was pulling off the ball. He was creating space between his head and his back shoulder. Now, he's putting that head down into the hitting zone. That's why he's driving the ball, seeing hits to center field. He's just missed some homers to left center and center. He's just gotten under them. Earlier in the year, he was hitting ground balls or striking out. So, he's right there where he needs to be. He's staying on the ball, trying to drive the ball up the middle and that's what you want your power hitter to do."
After hitting just .235 with two homers, nine RBI and 23 strikeouts in 68 at-bats in April, Stanton went into Thursday's game against the Cubs hitting .290 in May with six homers, 11 RBI and 15 strikeouts in 62 at-bats. Over his last six games, he's hit .429 with three homers and six RBI.
Helms said the turnaround started in St. Louis, when he hit a line drive home run into Big Mac Land in left field and said Stanton has been progressively getting better since.
"We want him to become a good hitter first," manager Edwin Rodriguez said. "Then, the power will show."
> The Marlins matched a season-high with three steals Wednesday against the Cubs, raising their season total to 20 stolen bases (25th in the majors).
"Stealing bases is not a big part of this team," Rodriguez said. "We might hit and run and go first to third, but we don't really have that base stealing threat in the lineup. That's not a big part of us."
The more troubling part of the equation, perhaps, are the 16 times the Marlins have been caught stealing, tied for second most in baseball. Last year, the Marlins stole 92 bases and were caught just 26 times, a success rate of 78 percent (sixth best in MLB).
So what's a good percentage for Rodriguez? "I would say 75 percent, 80 percent. If you go 60 percent, that means you are being thrown out 4 times out of 10. That's not good production."
Rodriguez maintains the only player who has a green light to steal bases for the Marlins is Hanley Ramirez, who stole his ninth base Wednesday (he's been caught five times.
"He knows the pitching counts, when to go on certain pitch counts," Rodriguez said. "Other than that, we have Coghlan and [Emilio] Bonifacio who are still learning the running situations. They have the speed, but they don't have the feel of when to run."
> Logan Morrison made his third error of the season Wednesday in left field, matching his season total from a year ago (62 games) in just 20 games this season.
So could the streaker who was arrested moments earlier have led to Morrison misplaying the ball hit off the bat off Starlin Castro in the fifth inning?
"I definitely got rattled by that," Morrison said. "I don't know if it caused me to make the error, but I definitely got rattled."
> Rodriguez said setup man Clay Hensley, scheduled to come off the disabled list Sunday, pitched three innings of relief in extended spring training action in Jupiter Wednesday.
"He was supposed to throw 20 pitches and they were swinging at everything. He made nine outs," Rodriguez said. "They kept sending him out there. I was like bring that here, whatever he's doing there."