For the first time in two weeks Hanley Ramirez took batting practice with his teammates on Monday.
Nobody might have been happier to see that than manager Edwin Rodriguez. The Marlins, in the midst of a 3-13 swoon that's dropped them from being just two games back of the Phillies to 32-32 and a half game out of falling into fourth place, will get Ramirez back from the disabled list on Tuesday.
Although Ramirez is hitting just .210 with four homers and 17 RBI, Rodriguez believes having the former batting champion back in the lineup could do wonders for the Marlins, who have had epic struggles during their current 1-9 homestand delivering hits with runners in scoring position (12 for 91, 92 runners left on base).
"Getting Hanley back tomorrow will give the young guys a little bit of an opportunity to relax at the plate and don't feel the pressure they have to be the guys to bring those guys home," Rodriguez said.
"That's what it is. The talent is there. We saw the first two months of the season. Eventually those guys, the same guys, they're going to be relaxed at the plate and their performance is going to be way better. But now because Hanley is not in the lineup and [Josh Johnson] is down and we were struggling, those young guys are feeling the pressure. So with experience and with the help of Hanley in the lineup, those guys are going to be better."
Rodriguez said Sunday Ramirez, who won a batting title in 2009 and has hit primarily third in the lineup over the past three seasons, would bat leadoff against the Phillies upon his return. It could be a role Ramirez remains in for awhile.
With Chris Coghlan struggling against left-handed pitchers (.118 batting average, .176 OBP) and Emilio Bonifacio doing well against southpaws (.311 batting average, .426 OBP), Rodriguez dropped Coghlan down into the eighth spot in the Marlins order Monday and moved Bonifacio up to the top spot.
Rodriguez said in the long run he believes Coghlan should be the team's lead off hitter and Ramirez should hit third. "But right now that's wishful thinking," Rodriguez said. "That's the not reality and they're struggling so we have to make a move."
In the meantime, Rodriguez said Coghlan, who has made just one other start hitting eighth this season, will likely alternate with Omar Infante in the No. 2 spot in the lineup.
"When you're losing and you're the leadoff guy and you're not getting on base, the manager wants to switch something up and hopefully it changes something. I'm sure this one of those times," Coghlan said.
"I'm sure he's trying to get Hanley going too. In order to win and do what we have to do we, both of us have to produce more than what we've done. I think he would say the same thing as I'm saying. I think it's just part of Edwin's strategy and what we need to do to help the team. Regardless of where we hit, we still got to hit. Do we both prefer different spots in the lineup? For sure. I'm sure he may say a different spot than me. The bottomline is we're not doing what we're capable of doing and we really don't have a say. We just have to go out there and hit our way out of wherever we're at and hopefully eventually he'll go back to where it's always been."
> Asked to explain why the Marlins have had so much trouble driving in runs lately, Gaby Sanchez and Logan Morrison both said they think the team is pressing at the plate with runners in scoring position.
"I think once we get guys in scoring position, knowing our staff is pitching so well, we start chasing pitches we normally take and we don't let the pitcher make the mistake, which is what we do when there are no guys on," Sanchez said.
"I think we need to step back as ourselves and as a team and say relax, don't think about it, go up there and hit. We're all in the big leagues for a reason. We can play this game. It's all about trusting ourselves."
> The Marlins still haven't announced a starter for the first game of Wednesday's double-header against the Phillies, but Rodriguez said Sunday it would either be Elih Villanueva (4-5, 5.23 ERA), Chris Sampson (3-0, 3.91 ERA) or Tom Koehler (5-3, 5.14 ERA). All three right-handers are in Triple A New Orleans.
Left-hander Sean West, who is 1-3 with a 9.33 ERA in New Orleans, won his first decision in six minor league starts Sunday. But the story wasn't his pitching. West went 3-for-3 and hit the first home runs of his pro career in the 7-4 win over the Memphis Redbirds. On the mound West gave up four runs on eight hits over 6 1/3 innings.
> Rodriguez said he expects closer Leo Nunez, who has been battling a stiff back and hasn't pitched since June 5th, to be available to pitch Tuesday against the Phillies.
"He said yesterday after he played catch he would be alright for today," Rodriguez said. "We still don't know how he feels today after he played catch. I would want to see him throw in the bullpen and see how he goes. If he throws a light bullpen today, he'll be available."
> Rodriguez said Monday the most optimistic timeline for Josh Johnson to make his return to the rotation at this point is early July. Johnson has been out since May 21st with right shoulder inflammation and the Marlins want him to throw two to three bullpen sessions before making a couple rehab starts in the minors.
> Setup man Clay Hensley, out with a right shoulder sprain since June 3rd, said he will play catch on Tuesday for the first time since going on the disabled list. He targeting his return as "the end of June or the beginning of July."
> Catcher John Buck might break out his new silver catcher's mask this week against the Phillies. Buck, who wears a mask similar to those worn by hockey goalies, said he's been a little apprehensive about wearing the mask because it might be a little too flashy for him.
"We're to the point where I might have to go outside of the realm of comfort to get things going. Maybe if we concentrate on that we'll start getting hits," Buck said. " It's a little bright. But we'll see. I'm going to take it. If you see me wearing it, we're in desperation mode."
> Marlins (32-32): 1. Emilio Bonifacio SS, 2. Omar Infante 2B, 3. Logan Morrison LF, 4. Gaby Sanchez 1B, Mike Stanton RF, 6. John Buck C, 7. Wes Helms 3B, 8. Chris Coghlan, 9. Ricky Nolasco RHP.
> Diamondbacks (36-30): 1. Ryan Roberts 3B, 2. Kelly Johnson 2B, 3. Justin Upton RF, 4. Stephen Drew SS, 5. Chris Young CF, 6. Miguel Montero C, 7. Juan Miranda 1B, 8. Gerardo Parra LF, 9. Zach Duke LHP.