It's been a tough month for Marcell Ozuna, who has gone 4 for 39 while striking out 15 times in August. Marlins hitting coach Frank Menechino said he thinks he knows the reason why Ozuna has been struggling: "Ozuna got caught up in a little bit of swinging too hard. He was trying to kill the ball. He was working out in front of the plate, and his contact point changed. So now he's working on trying to let the ball get deeper, and the last two days it's been better."
Since the All-Star break, Ozuna is hitting just .170 and has struck out 34 times in 88 at bats.
"The good part about it is he's not really chasing that many bad pitches," Menechino said. "We went through this earlier in the year, and he came out of it on fire."
It's official. Rafael Furcal is done for the season. Marlins manager Mike Redmond said Furcal will undergo hamstring surgery next week to remove scar tissue.
Furcal, who the Marlins signed to a $3.5 million deal thinking he would be their everyday second baseman, has spent pretty much the entire season on the disabled list with leg injuries. He appeared in only nine games and hit .171.
Reliever Dan Jennings was upbeat while speaking at length today for the first time since his frightening ordeal of being struck in the head with a line drive in Pittsburgh. Currently on the 7-day concussion list, he is progressing quickly and hopes to be back on a big-league mound within a week or so.
On how he feels at present:
Jennings: "I feel pretty normal which, all things considered, is a shock, a surprise and a relief. I feel like I can function and do everything that I was able to do before. I think as far as a timetable, we're still a little ways out. I still have to do some bullpens and make sure that doesn't effect my head and whatnot."
Have you gone back to look at the tape of the play?
Jennings: "Yeah, I have. Other people say it makes them queasy and they have a hard time watching it. It doesn't really effect me. It's not too hard to watch the video, considering I lived through it. It's interesting. In seeing the video, I didn't realize I got my glove up."
Do you remember getting up almost immediately after being hit?
Jennings: "I do. I guess the main reason I got up was because it was so surreal that I tried to tell myself it didn't happen. I was sitting there trying to convince myself it didn't hit me in the head. Or maybe it just barely grazed me. And then, after a few seconds of trying to talk myself through it, I think I realized it I wasn't OK and I needed to take it easy for a second."
When did you look at the video the first time?
Jennings: "That night in the hospital. I kind of wanted to see it. I remember being carted out and the only thing I could see in my peripheral was the scoreboard, and I saw two outs and I said, "We got that guy." I saw two outs and thought, 'You got to be kidding me? That's awesome.' So I kind of wanted to see what happened after it hit me. I didn't realize it bounced 40 feet in the air and he (Adeiny Hechavarria) caught it."
Do you have any concern at all about going back on the mound again?
Jennings: "If anything, it encouraged me to do some research on the situations that have happened. I read some statistic, that it's about one in every three million pitches get hit back at the pitcher, or his head. People have asked me if I'm going to wear the (protective) hat, and I just don't think I'm going to because i just don't think they're close enough with it yet."
To get back on the mound and face a hitter, what's that going to be like for you?
Jennings: "I have no idea. When I was in the hospital, I really started questioning what I'm doing here. Because you go through something like that that's life-altering potentially, and I've got a wife and a daughter. Is it worth it to play baseball and risk my life? Those thoughts kind of got pushed in the back of my head after that, and I started telling myself, 'This is what I do. I do it because it's what I love to do, and I'm good at it.' For me to stop playing because something may or may not happen, I just don't think it's worth it in the long run."
Will it be an important first step to get back on the mound?
Jennings: "Yeah. I haven't had any flashbacks or anything like that. Even just playing catch and seeing a ball come at me, it's a little frightening. I wouldn't be surprised if I get back on the mound and the first fastball, if I throw a bad pitch, to get my glove up on guard just to get over that. But I think if I had to guess, I think I'd be OK to get back on the mound, because it's so routine."
How touched were you by the support you received that night?
Jennings: "I've always viewed Twitter as a negative because it's an easy way for a lot of fans out there to get ahold of you, and everybody's a tough guy on Twitter. They can say whatever they want, and it's really shocking some of the stuff people say. When you give up a single run or blow a game, it's real, real easy for people to have access to you. But this is really the first time I've seen what an incredible outlet it can be in a positive manner. I really received nothing but praise and well thoughts and wishes and prayers. It was incredible to see, not only Marlins fans, but people who said 'I'm a Pirates fan. Or even I'm a Dodgers fan.' It just shows you there are lots of people out there who are just fans of the game."
On being hit by a line drive:
Jennings: "It's just one of those things you can't predict, you can't prepare for. There's nothing you can do about it. I'm incredibly, incredibly fortunate it was just a concussion, and I can move forward. I'm still able to play this year. The first thought that goes through your head is, my year's over. I can't come back from this this year. It's going to be great that I'll be able to get back on the mound and put it behind me before the offseason starts, because I can't imagine dwelling over this for five or six months."
If ever the Marlins were going to make a move and jump into the playoff picture, now would seem to be the time. Their next nine games are against three of the lousiest four teams in the majors in terms of their won-loss records, and all three are in weakened states due to injuries to their biggest stars.
Up first, the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The D-Backs arrive for a four-game series that begins tonight at Marlins Park. Though they took two of three from the Marlins last month, that was when Arizona had All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, who went 4 for 10 with four walks in that series. Goldschmidt has since had his hand broken and is out for the season, joining eight other D-Backs on the disabled list.
The Texas Rangers will arrive next for a mini two-game set. Already battered by injuries, the Rangers announced pitching ace Yu Darvish was going on the 15-day disabled list. Before he got hurt, Darvish was lined up to pitch the second of the two games against the Marlins. Now it appears that task will fall to Robbie Ross.
After Texas, it's off to Denver, where the Marlins will face the Rockies for a three-game series. The Rockies, who are already playing without Carlos Gonzalez, announced yesterday that MVP candidate Troy Tulowitzki is done for the season due to a hip injury requiring surgery.
The Marlins begin the day two games below .500 (59-61), seven games behind the division-leading Nationals and 4 1/2 games back in the N.L. wild card race.
In your opinion, how must the Marlins fare over the coming nine games before you'd label them as "contenders?" 6-3? 7-2? 9-0? Or is it already too late?