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Division title, not wild-card, might be best hope for Marlins

PHILADELPHIA -- Come the July 31 trading deadline, the Marlins might be more inclined to swing a deal to upgrade their roster if the team is in the division race as opposed to simply being in the larger wild-card fray.

And the division title might be the Marlins’ best hope at the moment.

“Just looking right now, I would tell you the best shot may be the division,” said Marlins general manager Dan Jennings. “Usually in years past, there’s always somebody in this division that’s put their foot on the accelerator and you go, ‘We have to focus on the wild card.’”

But the wild card isn’t what it once was when the Marlins won their two World Series titles as the lone wild card. Now there are two wild card teams that meet in a one-game, win-or-go-home matchup.

As a result, teams might be more reluctant to go all-in on a major deal just to enhance their chances of grabbing a wild card spot, as the Marlins did in 2003 when they traded Adrian Gonzalez for a half-season of Ugueth Urbina.

Because the Milwaukee Brewers and San Francisco Giants have built comfortable early leads in their respective divisions, Jennings said the two also-rans -- the St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers -- have already gained a strong upper hand in wild-card positioning.

The N.L. East, on the other hand, remains muddled.

The five teams began the day Monday separated by only five games, and the Marlins were as close to first place as they were to last -- 2 1/2 games both ways.

If the Marlins make any kind of move, it would most likely be to acquire starting pitching.

“Our starting pitching needs to step up a notch,” Jennings said.

Jennings said while the Marlins “love” rookie starters Andrew Heaney and Anthony DeSclafani, “the jury is still out” on the two youngsters.

“I mean, we love ‘em as prospects,” Jennings said. “How are they going to be as big-league producers? Time will tell. So that would be, potentially, where you would have to look.”

But Jennings added that “it’s way too early to panic” despite what was a “discouraging” home stand in which the Marlins won a total of only three games against three, sub.-500 teams.

Rafael Furcal has a Grade III hamstring strain in which part of the tissue has separated from the bone near the knee.

As a result, the Marlins aren’t expecting Furcal to return from the disabled list anytime soon.
-- Christian Yelich (back) was to begin a rehab assignment Monday with Single A Jupiter. Manager Mike Redmond said Yelich would play two games with Jupiter, two with Triple A New Orleans, and re-join the Marlins on Sunday.

Once Yelich returns, Redmond said he would return to the leadoff spot.

Even though he was born in Germany, Marlins infielder Jeff Baker said he’ll be pulling for the U.S. in Thursday’s World Cup match between the two countries.

“I think it’s cool the way the countries are rallying around this,” Baker said. “Let’s be honest. Soccer’s not exactly a popular sport in America. But it’s growing. I’m not saying this in a negative way, but there are a lot of bandwagon soccer fans right now, including myself.”

Baker lived in Germany for two years after being born there and doesn’t speak the language.

“I’m an American,” Baker said. “I know where I sleep at night, and it’s not over there.”

Shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria was not in the lineup Monday for a third straight game due to a sore right elbow. But he said he expects to play Tuesday.



Marlins: 1. Jake Marisnick, cf; 2. Derek Dietrich, 2b; 3. Giancarlo Stanton, rf; 4. Casey McGehee, 3b; 5. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, c; 6. Marcell Ozuna, cf; 7. Garrett Jones, 1b; 8. Ed Lucas, ss; 9. Nathan Eovaldi, p.

Phillies: 1. Jimmy Rollins, ss; 2. Carlos Ruiz, c; 3. Chase Utley, 2b; 4. Ryan Howard, 1b; 5. Marlon Byrd, rf; 6. Cody Asche, 3b; 7. Domonic Brown, lf; 8. Ben Revere, cf; 9. Roberto Hernandez, p.