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Bonifacio, NL Player of the Month in July, has replaced Luis Castillo as Jack's man

NEW YORK -- The first time Jack McKeon managed the Marlins he used to go around telling his players that Luis Castillo was "his man."

Emilio Bonifacio Now, after winning the National League's Player of the Month award in July on Wednesday, Emilio Bonifacio has become McKeon's "new man."

"Jack told me once I see Luis let him know he's no longer his man -- that I'm his man now," Bonifacio chuckled. "Ever since I came to the organization, he's always compared me to Luis.

"I'm grateful for him. He's given me a chance to play everyday. I've done my job. But I wouldn't have had the opportunity [if not for him]. I've taken advantage of it."

Before McKeon took over on June 20, Bonifacio was hitting .269 with a .338 on base percentage, 24 runs scored, four stolen bases and 11 RBI. Since McKeon has taken over, he's started 37 of the team's 38 games and hit .331 with a .401 on-base percentage, 31 runs scored, 21 stolen bases and seven RBI entering Wednesday’s game.

What he did in July alone was phenomenal. He put together a 26-game hitting streak (second longest in Marlins history), hit .380, posted a .466 on base-percentage and scored a NL-best 27 runs (six more than anybody else in the league). He also stole 16 bases to lead the NL, two more than the the Padres’ Cameron Maybin.

"He's a fun kid who really wants to learn," McKeon said. "He's a good listener. He works on whatever you try to help with. He doesn't turn his back to any suggestion anybody has. He's become a better hitter because he's much more patient at the plate. He's a guy who has a chance to hit .300 because of his speed.

"He's tough. That's what Luis and Pierre did [for us in 2003]. But he puts the pressure on. He causes the pitchers to think a little bit about what he might do. And once they worry about that, they might give the hitter something good to hit."

Bonifacio, whose wife gave birth to their first child last month, said he was a bit surprised to learn he had won the honor.

"I'm pretty excited to be player of the month, it's nice," Bonifacio said. "I think a lot of people who didn't know me might know me now."

HANLEY RAMIREZ HEADS HOME FOR MRI: Shortstop Hanley Ramirez, who sprained his left shoulder diving for a bloop single in the sixth inning Tuesday, flew home to South Florida Wednesday to have an MRI performed.

"He'll be at the park supposedly [Thursday]," McKeon said. "The only thing I know is what the trainer said. He didn't think it was that serious in his initial [report]. He thought a day or two. That's why they sent him back for the MRI."

McKeon said he thinks Ramirez will be able to return in time this weekend to play the Cardinals, who open a four-game series against the Marlins at Sun Life Stadium Thursday.

"He hasn't been hitting very of late," McKeon said. "Couple days will just be the right ticket for him.

"He's been playing hard for us. I have nothing to say but good things about the effort he's giving us. He's not hitting the way he can, but maybe it will happen next month. But he's been working at it."

Ramirez, hitting .243 this season with 10 homers and 45 RBI, is hitting .304 with six homers and 28 RBI since McKeon put him in the cleanup spot on June 21.

He had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder after the 2007 season.

MCKEON SEE WILD CARD AS A POSSIBILITY: After climbing back to .500 for the first time since June 12, McKeon was asked Wednesday about the Marlins' shot at winning the wild card.

With 52 games to play and the Marlins only 7 1/2 games out, he definitely thinks the club has a shot.

"I think when were 10, 12, 13 back, which were were a couple weeks ago, it looked insurmountable," McKeon said. "But now that were 7 1/2 back, I think realistically if our pitching can hold up and stay strong, and our guys keep playing the way we're playing it's realistic to say we can sneak up on somebody. That's barring the other teams play like they've been playing."

The Marlins (55-55) basically have a make or break 10-game homestead on the horizon. Starting Thursday, they'll face three teams ahead of them in the playoff race -- the Cardinals (58-52), the Braves (63-48) and the Giants (61-49).

"We don't have an easy task in front of us the next 12, 14, 15 games," McKeon said. "But as long as the pitching holds up, that's the key for us, we've got a chance. We have to keep pushing, pushing, pushing. We can't let up."

> The Marlins said Josh Johnson, on the disabled list since May 17 with right shoulder inflammation, participated in a short five-minute throwing session from 60 feet Wednesday. He reportedly did not have any discomfort and could attempt to throw again in the coming days.

> Marlins (55-55): 1. Emilio Bonifacio SS, 2. Omar Infante 2B, 3. Greg Dobbs 3B, 4. Gaby Sanchez 1B, 5. Logan Morrison LF, 6. Mike Stanton RF, 7. Mike Cameron CF, 8. John Buck C, 9. Clay Hensley P.
> Mets (55-55): 1. Jose Reyes SS, 2. Justin Turner 2B, 3. David Murphy 1B, 4. David Wright 3B, 5. Angel Pagan CF, 6. Jason Bay LF, 7. Lucas Duda RF, 8. Ronny Paulino C, 9. Dillon Gee P.