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46 posts from July 2011

July 24, 2011

Setting the table: Bonifacio, Infante and Sanchez

After the Padres blanked the Fish in the first game of this homestand, on Tuesday, the Marlins scored 12 combined runs in the next three days. As Logan Morrison said after Florida's 8-5 win over the Mets on Saturday night, the Marlins had been scoring runs. "We just haven't scored enough runs," he said.

With a slight tweak of the lineup, the offense burst out last night, behind a pair of two-run homers from Gaby Sanchez and a solo shot by Morrison. So was Saturday a sign of things to come, as Florida prepares to embark on a three-city, nine-game road trip?

"Maybe we’re back on track offensively — I hope so," manager Jack McKeon said after last night's game. "[Omar] Infante did a great job of getting us back on the board. [Emilio] Bonifacio, you know him, he’s just been fabulous the last month or so. Of course, Gaby had maybe a career night. LoMo swung the bat real well too."

Everyone was talking about the table-setters after last night's win, when Bonifacio, Infante and Sanchez went a combined 7 for 12 with six runs scored.

"That’s what we need," Sanchez said. "As a team, we need that. We need the early guys to get on base and get in and score runs and put pressure on their defense and their pitchers. We’ve got to do what we need to do to get on base and get things going."

Said Morrison: "It all starts with Boni, that guy is unreal. Get him on base and it gets us going, for some reason. He flies around the bases. Pitchers start worrying about him. He's unbelievable. I don't think this is a hot streak. I think this is going to be more of a constant thing."

It's worth repeating that Bonifacio tied his career high for stolen bases last night when he swiped his 21st bag of the season in the seventh inning. Bonifacio had four steals before McKeon took over, but the veteran skipper has let Bonifacio run wild. McKeon said earlier this week that Bonifacio, along with Hanley Ramirez and Mike Stanton, has a green light to steal whenever he wants — unless McKeon puts on a hold.



Marlins: 1. Emilio Bonifacio, 3b; 2. Omar Infante, 2b; 3. Gaby Sanchez, 1b; 4. Hanley Ramirez, ss; 5. Logan Morrison, lf; 6.Mike Stanton, rf; 7. Bryan Petersen, cf; 8. Brett Hayes, c; 9. Anibal Sanchez, p.

Mets: 1. Jose Reyes, ss; 2. Justin Turner, 2b; 3. Carlos Beltran rf; 4. David Wright, 3b; 5. Daniel Murphy, 1b; 6. Angel Pagan, cf; 7. Jason Bay, lf; 8. Josh Thole, c; 9. Dillon Gee, p

-- Matt Forman

July 23, 2011

McKeon on lineup tweaks; Morrison on situational hitting

If it's not working, try something new.

After keeping roughly the same order for the Marlins' last four losses, manager Jack McKeon tweaked his lineup for Saturday's game against the Mets, jumping Gaby Sanchez into the 3-spot. He dropped Logan Morrison to No. 6 and moved Mike Stanton to fifth. With left-handed Chris Capuano starting for New York, McKeon wanted to load his righties at the top of the order.

"We changed LoMo and Sanchez and it worked for a few days, so let’s try this for a day or two. Plus, if we win, I might keep it that way. There aren’t too many parts we can move around, really. With the left-hander going, just get all the right-handers up [there]. ... . No particular reason, just to change things and see if we can get lucky and find a spot where somebody will deliver."

Sanchez broke a 25-game homerless drought with a long ball in the sixth inning last night. Said McKeon: "He’s swinging the bat much better, that’s one of the reasons why I moved him back up there [to third]," McKeon said. "But you also like to have a little protection for Hanley [Ramirez] too."

McKeon might have slotted Morrison behind Ramirez, but he thought it made more sense with the lefty starter to go with Stanton.


The box score says Logan Morrison went 0 for 4 in Friday’s series opener against the Mets. The stat sheet doesn’t lie, but it also doesn’t show Morrison’s impact on the game.

With Emilio Bonifacio on third and the infield back in the first inning, Morrison hit a ground ball to score the run. In his second at-bat, Morrison hit the ball on the ground to the right side to advance Omar Infante to third. And in the seventh, Morrison hit a line-drive sacrifice fly to center to score Brett Hayes.

“Just try to get the job done, not try to do too much,” Morrison said. “Obviously you’d like to get a hit out of the situation, but at the very least, you’ve got to score the run.”

Since taking over, McKeon has stressed doing the little things to help the team win games. Though it hasn’t been a loud month for Morrison, the left fielder has contributed through situational hitting.

Morrison was hitting just .202 in his last 178 at-bats entering Saturday’s game, but he was leading the National League with 21 RBI in July.

“When we have an ability to score a run, you’ve got to do the job,” Morrison said. “And it kind of makes your job easier, because you don’t have to worry about [too much]. Just roll over a baseball, get the runner in.”

With lefty Chris Capuano pitching Saturday for the Mets, McKeon moved Morrison to the six hole.

“LoMo has done a good job,” McKeon said. “He goes through a few games where he rolls over on a few. But we’ve seen him do that before and then all of a sudden bust loose and be a catalyst for our club.” 

Even if it might not seem so, Morrison has been quietly productive.

-- Matt Forman

Marlins option Chris Volstad to Triple A New Orleans

The Marlins optioned right-hander Chris Volstad to Triple A New Orleans before Saturday’s game against the Mets.

It had been a rough July for Volstad, who went 1-1 with an 8.50 ERA in four starts this month. With an off day scheduled Monday, Florida wouldn’t need a fifth starter until July 30, but McKeon said he expects the team to promote a pitcher.

“[Pitching coach] Randy St. Claire has been working with him to try to get an arm slot situation, where he could be a little bit more consistent,” McKeon said.

Florida did not announce the corresponding roster move, but choices could include New Orleans’ Chris Samson or Jacksonville’s Brad Hand.

Volstad, the Marlins’ first-round pick in 2005, has been optioned each of his three big league seasons, including similarly last year, when he was sent to New Orleans on July 6 and returned July 25. He finished the year 8-1 with a 4.32 ERA in his last 13 starts. 

“He went down and came back and was lights out,” McKeon said. “Maybe that’ll help him.”

McKeon said he expects Volstad, who was 5-8 with a 5.58 ERA in 20 starts, to join the Marlins sometime later this year.



Marlins: 1. Emilio Bonifacio, 3b; 2. Omar Infante, 2b; 3. Gaby Sanchez, 1b; 4. Hanley Ramirez, ss; 5. Mike Stanton, rf; 6. Logan Morrison, lf; 7. Mike Cameron, cf; 8. John Buck, c; 9. Clay Hensley, p.

Mets: 1. Jose Reyes, ss; 2. Justin Turner, 2b; 3. Carlos Beltran rf; 4. David Wright, 3b; 5. Daniel Murphy, 1b; 6. Angel Pagan, cf; 7. Jason Bay, lf; 8. Josh Thole, c; 9. Chris Capuano, p

-- Matt Forman

July 22, 2011

McKeon on trade deadline; Conine on Hanley

With a little less than a week remaining before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, rumors are swirling around baseball about potential deals. But manager Jack McKeon said Friday he expects it to be a quiet 10 days for the Marlins.

“As I look at it, I don’t see anybody being traded,” McKeon said. “You’ll see clubs like ours that are down in the standings, they’re going to be scouted a little more heavily because they figure maybe they’ll unload some of those players. … Something could happen, but I don’t see it.”

McKeon had other interesting thoughts about the trade deadline. Here's what he said:

"You guys love that rumor stuff. You see a scout from the Yankees is in here and he happens to be looking at one of our pitchers. Immediately someone thinks, ‘Hey, the Yankees are interested in this guy.’ Well those guys, No. 1, that’s their club to cover, or they’re thinking a lot of times, they’re thinking about possible free agents at the end of the year. It doesn’t necessarily mean someone is in at this particular time. And, also, you’ll see clubs like ours that are down in the standings, they’re going to be scouted a little more heavily because they figure maybe they’ll unload some of those players. So you’ll see a lot of guys in there looking at that particular time at the trading deadline. And a lot of people might slip a word to the media. Like [Mets outfielder Carlos] Beltran, he’s traded to everybody every day. ... A lot of times the rumors — A lot of times the blockbusters are the ones that no one knows about. Like Randy Johnson going to Houston. Everybody had him going to the Yankees and the Dodgers. Then all the sudden, it surprised me. Nobody let that one out."


Jeff Conine, a special assistant to Marlins president David Samson, raised some eyebrows earlier Friday afternoon with comments he made on The Dan LeBatard Show on 790 The Ticket. Here's the transcript from the interview with Conine...

Dan LeBatard Show: Does Jeff Conine get frustrated by Hanley Ramirez?

Conine: On a nightly basis.

Dan LeBatard Show: Because?

Conine: I don’t know. I just, I don’t know. I think that obviously Hanley is a phenomenal talent. But as a guy that — I’m probably jealous too, because I didn’t have that kind of talent, but I had to work extremely hard on a nightly basis to put my talent on the field. I think there are some nights where he doesn’t try as hard as he should.

Dan LeBatard Show: Does he care enough?

Conine: I don’t know. I don’t know. Maybe that’s part of the problem. He is no doubt one of the top five talents in baseball, and you hope that at some point he would get it and become a leader in the clubhouse like he can be on the field.

Dan LeBatard Show: You don’t think he respects the game?

Conine: I would say if you define that as not going out there and putting 100 percent on the field every day, yeah, I would say no he doesn’t.

Dan LeBatard Show: Would you trade him, if it were up to you?

Conine: If it were up to me, probably.

Dan LeBatard Show: You see a guy who’s not being as good as his talent…

Conine: When you’ve got a guy that’s as good as he is and has had the success that he has — He’s not the only one. I think there are players like that, of that caliber, that kind of get complacent with their work ethic and say, ‘You know what, this game is pretty easy for me.’ And for me, it is much easier than it is for many other guys. As you get older and stop working as hard as you once did, your talent starts to degrade a little bit. So often they were able to flip that switch and dominate a game. Well, as your career progresses and you’re not working as hard as you used to, you can’t flip that switch any more and dominate a game. You’ve got to keep on working.



Marlins: 1. Emilio Bonifacio, 3b; 2. Omar Infante, 2b; 3. Logan Morrison, lf; 4. Hanley Ramirez, ss; 5. Gaby Sanchez, 1b; 6. Mike Stanton, rf; 7. Bryan Petersen; 8. John Buck, c; 9. Chris Volstad, p.

Mets: 1. Jose Reyes, ss; 2. Justin Turner, 2b; 3. Carlos Beltran rf; 4. David Wright, 3b; 5. Daniel Murphy, 1b; 6. Angel Pagan, cf; 7. Lucas Duda, lf; 8. Ronny Paulino, c; 9. Mike Pelfrey, p

-- Matt Forman

Marlins can't dig out of early deficits to Padres; Stanton flashes leather in center; McKeon's bullpen thoughts

The Marlins found themselves in a hole every game this series, as the Padres combined to score nine first-inning runs in the three games. Such a formula has been a recipe for disaster for Florida this year, and the Fish have a 17-34 record when they allow their opponent to score first.

“This is a club that can’t afford to give up three or four runs in the first inning,” manager Jack McKeon said. “We don’t have that kind of offensive power, that we can overcome big leads early.”

This point — if you can’t get an early lead, you have to hope for a comeback — was particularly evident against San Diego, which has the league’s best bullpen, as determined by ERA (2.83). Padres relievers pitched 9 2/3 scoreless innings in the series, allowing only six hits and racking up 13 strikeouts.

“I think you’ve got to get ahead of those guys, because their bullpen is lights out, whether it’s [Mike] Adams, [Luke] Gregerson, [Heath] Bell or [Chad] Qualls,” Logan Morrison said. “Those guys are really good. So you’ve got to get on their starting pitching. Problem is their starting pitching was pretty good. [They] made pitches when they had to, and we didn’t really have disciplined at-bats against them; I’m including myself in that.”

The end result: After the top of the first inning each game, Florida trailed the rest of the way. San Diego led in every inning of the series. 


In Stanton’s 287-game minor-league career, he played center field 46 times. In his 191st big-league contest, Stanton played center, shifting over from right field when manager Jack McKeon rested in regulars with his team trailing 14-3 on Wednesday.

“It’s not bad. [There’s] a lot of room to work with out there,” Stanton said. “As long as I play, I don’t care where it is.”

Stanton didn’t seem to mind the move, as he made a Willie Mays-like basket-style catch on a long fly ball by Logan Forsythe to Sun Life Stadium’s “Bermuda Triangle”

“You get way better reads in center,” Stanton said. “You can see the location off the bat and if [the pitcher] misses his location, you can see [the ball] a lot faster than you would from the corners.”

When asked if Stanton could play center field full time, not necessarily now but during his big league career, McKeon said he wasn’t sure.

“It’s hard to say,” McKeon said. “I haven’t seen that much of him.”

The idea of sticking Stanton in center to be a player similar to Matt Kemp, like some fans have suggested recently, is intriguing. Kemp’s defense in center, though, does not receive good reviews from advanced fielding metrics. 

And the guess here is that Stanton will remain in right field, which is where he best profiles, but his arm strength and range would allow him to play center on an as-needed basis.


With trade rumors swirling and the trade deadline approaching, McKeon said Wednesday that Edward Mujica would fill the closer’s role if Leo Nuñez gets traded.

But the manager also offered a few intriguing insights about his other bullpen arms. McKeon said lefty Mike Dunn could also close games, though McKeon wants Dunn to “polish up his breaking ball.” McKeon added that Steve Cishek could be a late-inning pitcher “down the road.”

In typical McKeon-ese, he has been referring to Mujica as “Murica” while praising his relief ace. The 27-year-old Venezuelan pitched two scoreless innings of relief Thursday against his former Padres teammates, allowing one hit and striking out one. 

-- Matt Forman

July 21, 2011

Marlins-Padres in rain delay in top of second inning

UPDATE (3:35 p.m.): For those fans who battled the conditions at Sun Life Stadium today, the Marlins just tweeted this: "Due to today's rain delays, fans can exchange tix from today's game for $1 ticket to any remaining Mon-Thur. 2011 regular-season game."


UPDATE (3:04 p.m.): And we're underway. Official time of rain delay: 2:29. One down in the top of the first, with Vazquez pitching to Moseley.


UPDATE (2:55 p.m.): Both starting pitchers -- the Padres' Dustin Moseley and the Marlins' Javier Vazquez -- are warming up in their respective bullpens. If the game re-starts at 3 p.m., and it looks like they're serious about resuming play this time, the delay will have lasted almost two-and-a-half hours.


UPDATE (2:47 p.m.): Despite a light rain that just started to fall, the grounds crew is back on the field to remove the tarp. The new estimated re-start time is 3 p.m.


UPDATE (2:18 p.m.): Well, it doesn't look like 2:20 p.m. is going to happen. Though it's not raining, a storm cell is in the area. Fans have been asked to retreat to the concourse, and the grounds crew is putting the tarp back on the field.


UPDATE (2:01 p.m.): The slow-moving rain clouds have drifted and the skies have cleared here at Sun Life Stadium, as the grounds crew is folding up the tarp. The fans, mostly Camp Day kids, have started streaming back into their seats. The game is scheduled to resume at 2:20 p.m., which will mean the rain delay will have lasted just less than two hours.


UPDATE (1:50 p.m.): The grounds crew is on the field, and they're about to remove the tarp. No update yet on when the game will resume.


(1:08 p.m.): We're a little more than 30 minutes into a weather delay, with rain falling, lightning flashing and thunder crashing all around Sun Life Stadium. The Padres burst out of the gates again today, scoring three times in the top of the first inning on an RBI single by Jason Bartlett and a two-run double by Jesus Guzman. San Diego leads 3-0 with one out in the second inning.

The conditions deteriorated here in the top of the second, and after a bolt of lightning struck near the ballpark, the umpires decided to clear the players off the field and get the fans out of the seating bowl. The delay officially started at 12:35 p.m., and the grounds crew quickly brought the tarp out.

We'll keep you updated on when they plan to resume play...



-- Matt Forman

Afternoon baseball set for Marlins-Padres series finale

Good afternoon (barely) from Sun Life Stadium, where first pitch is scheduled for 12:10 p.m. Not too much going on pre-game before today's finale between the Marlins and Padres, though it is Camp Day at the ballpark, with several thousands campers in color-coded t-shirts taking over the stadium.

San Diego has outscored the Fish, 18-3, in the first two games of the series, and the Friars have won seven straight in South Florida.

A few quick notes to pass along: 

- After making his Major League pitching debut last night, Bryan Petersen is starting in centerfield today. Manager Jack McKeon, who addressed the media for about 10 minutes earlier this morning, said he had planned a day off for Mike Cameron. McKeon said Cameron looks more locked in at the plate each night, and the manager has continued to laud Cameron's defensive ability: "He might knock in 50 runs, but he'll save you 50 too."

- Reliever Ryan Webb, on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation, continues to progress in his rehabilitation. Webb said he is not sure when he will be ready to return to the mound, but he has been playing catch.

- There's nothing new to report on ace Josh Johnson's status. Said McKeon: "He’ll let us know if he’s ready, or when he’s ready."



Marlins: 1. Emilio Bonifacio, 3b; 2. Omar Infante, 2b; 3. Logan Morrison, lf; 4. Hanley Ramirez, ss; 5. Gaby Sanchez, 1b; 6. Mike Stanton, rf; 7. Bryan Petersen; 8. Brett Hayes, c; 9. Javier Vazquez, p.

Padres: 1. Will Venable, rf; 2. Jason Bartlett, ss; 3. Cameron Maybin, cf; 4. Jesus Guzman, 1b; 5. Orlando Hudson, 2b; 6. Chris Denorfia, lf; 7. Alberto Gonzalez, 3b; 8. Kyle Phillips, c; 9. Dustin Moseley, p.

-- Matt Forman

McKeon continues to praise Bonifacio; Mujica would close if Nuñez gets traded

Emilio Bonifacio extended his hitting streak to 19 games on Wednesday, and throughout his recent run, manager Jack McKeon has said multiple times Bonifacio is starting to remind him of former speedy, switch-hitting leadoff man Luis Castillo.

Castillo, of course, hit at the top of the order for Florida’s 2003 World Championship team that McKeon also managed.

“Now, [Bonifacio] is doing like Luis used to do,” McKeon said. “Loop one over third. Loop one over second. Get a bouncer and run like hell. It's just going to take a little time.”

McKeon inserted Bonifacio into the No. 1 spot when he took over for Edwin Rodriguez in mid-June. Bonifacio has responded by putting together the major league’s longest active hit streak.

Bonifacio is more than halfway to Castillo’s franchise-best 35-game string, which he compiled in 2002.

The biggest difference for Bonifacio has been his willingness to put the ball on the ground, especially when behind in the count.

“That’s the thing you’re trying to impress upon him,” McKeon said. “With his speed, when you get to two strikes, you’ve got to choke up and put the ball in play. Cut that swing down.”

Bonifacio has walked 12 times and struck out only 12 times during the stretch, while hitting .394.

“He’s doing real well,” McKeon said. “You don't want to give him too much right now. Perfect what you're doing, and then we'll add and change it.”

The next tweak McKeon would like to see Bonifacio make to his game? Drag bunting, placing the ball just past the pitcher on the first-base side.

McKeon joked that if Bonifacio bunted every time at the plate, he could get “two hits every five at-bats.” And even if teams adjusted their defense, McKeon said Bonifacio could hit .333.

“[Bonifacio] is the kind of guy that if he could stay quiet in the batter’s box, he could be a guy who could bunt with two strikes and beat it out,” McKeon said. “Mickey Mantle used to do that all the time. Two strikes, everybody is playing way back, not thinking he’s going to bunt.”


Reliever Edward Mujica leads Florida in wins, and if the Marlins move Leo Nuñez before the July 31 trade deadline, manager Jack McKeon said Wednesday that Mujica would be his next choice to serve as the team’s closer, but McKeon would like to “keep them where I’ve got them.”

As long as Nuñez is with the Fish, McKeon said he would be comfortable using Nuñez for multiple innings or in non-save situations. McKeon almost used Nuñez in the eighth inning of a game in Chicago, but coaches told him Nuñez had not yet done that in 2011. Nuñez’s 27 saves, good for fourth-best in the majors, have all come the conventional way thus far.

“If he’s never gone more than one inning, then he’s going to start going more than one inning,” McKeon said. “Why hasn’t he gone more than one inning? Because no one has put him to the test. … The mentality has gotten to the point now where, ‘Oh, this guy’s got to close in the ninth inning when you’ve got the lead.’ But it might be a little different.”

Nuñez last entered the eighth inning of a game in April 2010 against the Mets, when he walked three batters and registered a blown save.

When asked who would close if Nuñez gets traded — ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reported Tuesday the Marlins have talked to the Phillies about Nuñez — McKeon said Mujica has the mentality to pitch the ninth.

“He comes in and pretty much goes right after you,” McKeon said. “That’s part of being a good closer. He doesn’t get intimidated.”

Mujica is 8-2 with a 2.98 ERA in 45 1/3 innings pitched, striking out 34 and walking five. He is one victory away from tying Rob Nenn’s team record for relief wins in a season. But beyond Mujica’s numbers, McKeon has a good feeling about the righty reliever.

“[Mujica] is my good luck charm,” McKeon said. “I’ve had guys like that in the past. When you ride a good horse for a while, you ride him. [When] it looks like we’re in a jam and we’re down a run or two, and I say, ‘Get so and so up.’ All the sudden he’s in the game and we score three. That’s the way those good luck charms are.”

-- Matt Forman

July 20, 2011

Cameron Maybin returns to Miami; Jack McKeon profile to air tonight

A player named "Cameron" donned No. 24 and roamed the outfield at Sun Life Stadium last night for the Marlins. But it wasn't Cameron Maybin, Florida's former centerfielder of the future. It was Mike Cameron, the team's centerfielder of the present.

Maybin also wore No. 24 and tracked down a few fly balls but suited up for the Padres, returning to Miami for the first time since he was traded to San Diego last offseason.

"It feels cool to be back and see a couple guys that I developed a friendship with," said Maybin, who spent three years in the organization, and went 2 for 4 with two stolen bases on Tuesday. "[It was] nice to say hello to them during batting practice and catch up with a couple guys."

Maybin said he was looking forward to talking with Mike Stanton, Chris Volstad, Brian Peterson, Emilio Bonifacio and Gaby Sanchez.

Maybin, 24, said it was a little strange to be in the visitors' clubhouse at Sun Life Stadium, but he harbors no hard feelings for the Marlins. Florida traded Maybin to the Padres for right-handed relievers Ryan Webb and Edward Mujica last November.

The former first-round pick has enjoyed his time with the Padres, who have given him an opportunity to play every day, and he is hitting .263 with 11 doubles, 5 home runs and 16 stolen bases.

"I’m excited, man," Maybin said. "It’s nice to be able to finally feel like I’m getting my feet wet, getting an opportunity to go through the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s definitely going to help out for next year. [I'm] enjoying my opportunity here."


CBS Evening New correspondent Steve Hartman and the network's crew followed around manager Jack McKeon on the Marlins' last homestand, and the segment featuring the seasoned skipper will air tonight at 6:30 p.m. on CBS affiliates. If you miss it, the full story will be available on www.cbsnews.com after the broadcast.



Marlins: 1. Emilio Bonifacio, 3b; 2. Omar Infante, 2b; 3. Logan Morrison, lf; 4. Hanley Ramirez, ss; 5. Gaby Sanchez, 1b; 6. Mike Stanton, rf; 7. Mike Cameron, cf ; 8. John Buck, c; 9. Ricky Nolasco, p.

Padres: 1. Will Venable, rf; 2. Jason Bartlett, ss; 3. Cameron Maybin, cf; 4. Ryan Ludwick, lf; 5. Orlando Hudson, 2b; 6. Jesus Guzman, 1b; 7. Alberto Gonzalez, 3b; 8. Ron Johnson, c; 9. Aaron Harang, p.

-- Matt Forman

July 19, 2011

Wes Helms thinks Marlins need to keep McKeon or find fiery manager to keep pushing Hanley Ramirez

Wes Helms said Tuesday he'd like to have an opportunity before the season is over to pull Jack McKeon aside and pick his brain about managing.

The veteran infielder, who has had conversations with owner Jeffrey Loria about becoming a coach in the organization once his playing career is over, said he's been impressed with the tactics McKeon has used to help turn the Marlins around.

Helms said McKeon has pushed all the right buttons -- from asking All-Star Gaby Sanchez to bunt and pulling pitchers in the middle of at-bats (showing winning is above all else) to "knowing when to show tough love" and "pat a guy on the butt."

No example of the latter burns brighter, Helms said, than Hanley Ramirez, who after being slotted into the clean-up spot by McKeon went into Tuesday's game hitting .384 (2nd highest in the majors over the span) with 19 runs scored, six doubles, five home runs and 24 RBI (2nd most in baseball) in 23 games.

On June 19, Ramirez was batting .201 with a .300 on-base percentage. He's now batting .255 with a .347 on-base percentage.

"Hanley is going to be Hanley," Helms said. "There are some things with Hanley we just kind of have to deal with, as far as I guess the showboat stuff. It's not going to change. We've tried to, but it's not. But the way he's approached his at-bats, the way he's approached his defense, the way he's come to the field everyday and not really bothered anybody, standing upon himelf, I've definitely seen a big difference [since McKeon took over]."

Helms said when the Marlins were in Texas last month, he had a conversation with veteran umpire Joe West about Ramirez and his change in attitude.

"Joe West said if this kid plays 162 games with 100 percent heart, he'll be a Hall of Famer. And it's true. He's that good," Helms said.

"Hanley is one of these guys where he'll always need that guy to keep him where he needs to be. Not all of us can self-motivate ourselves. Not all of us have that extra drive by ourselves. Some of us in the game, it's not just him, there's other guys, need that need that extra pat in the butt to get us going. I think Jack and whatever they do for next year, if it's Jack or whatever, that's the decision they have to think about to keep him going. Because when he's going, this team rolls. He is the sparkplug for our team."

The Marlins returned home Tuesday night on pace to finish with their best record in July (17-7 in 2003), and a 13-4 mark since June 29 that is tied with Boston and Texas for the most wins in baseball over that span.

STILL STEAMED: A flight home from New York, a night's rest and a conversation before Tuesday's game with McKeon did nothing to make reliever Randy Choate feel any better about getting pulled Monday night in the middle of an at-bat against the Mets' Lucas Duda.

The Marlins left-handed specialist, who was pulled with a 2-0 count on the left-handed Duda, said he he had "a little bit of track record this year" to remain in the game. Choate came into Tuesday's game having allowed just six hits in 56 at-bats (.107 average) against lefties. The earned run the Mets scored off him Monday was just the third in 20 1/3 innings this season.

"I felt like I deserved the chance," said Choate, who wasn't upset the first time McKeon pulled him in the middle of an at-bat with a 2-1 count against the Angels’ Alberto Callaspo on June 21.

"I think if I had a year of service time or a rookie who was up, I think I would have taken it a little better than a guy whose been around, been here all year and felt like I'd be doing a decent job of what my one specific job was. Because mine is a little more specific than anybody else around here. That's why it's disappointing.

"I just don't want to feel like I have to look over my shoulder if I go two balls and no strikes to a lefty."

When asked about his pregame conversation with Choate, McKeon said: "What's the big deal? We didn't talk about anything, nothing important."

HAPPY HENSLEY: Clay Hensley, the Marlins former setup man who picked up his first win as a starter Monday since he was with the Padres in 2007, said he expects to go deeper in his next scheduled start Saturday against the Mets.

Hensley threw just 84 pitches and went five innings, giving up one hit. "I imagine going up to around the 95 to the 100 pitch mark," Hensley said. "I was actually feeling pretty good as the game went on. I wasn't feeling too weathered. I think I started to feel it a little bit when I was up in the 80s. I felt a lot better than I thought I was going to feel in terms of arm strength."

Hensley, who was in the lead to make the starting rotation coming out of spring training in 2010, believes he will have a strong shot at making the starting rotation in 2012 if he can finish this season strong.

"I'm happy about it man," Hensley said. "It's something I've done in the past. Obviously I was happy coming out of the bullpen, but my hearts always been in the rotation. I'm just glad to have the opportunity again to go out and do it."

> ESPN baseball writer Jerry Crasnick reported Tuesday that the Phillies have talked to the Marlins about acquiring closer Leo Nunez. Crasnick said the Marlins are looking for young starting pitching in return. Nunez, who signed a one-year $3.65 million deal this year, could command upwards of $6 to $7 million next season.