ST. LOUIS -- A day after closer Heath Bell came dangerously close to blowing another lead in the ninth inning, Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen expressed his delight in the fact it won't be long before former closer Juan Carlos Oviedo is back with the team.
"Biggest trade of the year," Guillen said when asked Saturday what it would mean to the team when Oviedo finishes serving his eight-week suspension for age and identity fraud on July 22nd.
"I will [treat] that as a big trade we make for the [playoff] run. He's going to help the bullpen. A day like today, he'll take Bell's spot. [Other times] we'll see how Bell's throwing and we'll flip flop each for whatever reason. It's going to be a big lift. Hopefully, he'll throw the ball like he has in the past."
Oviedo, who saved 92 games in three previous seasons for the Marlins when he was known as Leo Nunez, was scheduled to receive his first rehab assignment Saturday with Single A Jupiter. But that's been pushed back to Monday night because of a stiff neck The Herald learned.
Guillen has long said he'd keep Bell, who has converted 19 of 24 save opportunities, as his closer when Nunez returned. But it's clear after Saturday's comments Oviedo could put some heat on Bell, who signed a three-year, $27 million deal with the Marlins in the offseason, but has struggled.
Guillen said he might go see Oviedo pitch for Jupiter while the Marlins are off. The Hammerheads are scheduled to play in Fort Myers Monday night. Oviedo is expected to rejoin the Marlins on July 23rd.
> With Bell having pitched on four consecutive days, Guillen said he's giving him the day off Saturday. Guillen said right-hander Steve Cishek or left-handers Mike Dunn and Randy Choate could pitch the ninth today. Guillen said he would prefer to give Cishek the day off.
> A night after making the game-saving defensive play in the Marlins 3-2 win over the Cardinals, Omar Infante is also getting the day off to rest. That means 24-year old rookie Donovan Solano, who grew up in the Cardinals farm system, will get his first career start against his former team. Solano went 0-for-1 as a pinch hitter against the Cardinals when they faced the Marlins last month in Miami.
> Although his team has won 7 of 9 and has closed to within a game of .500, Guillen said he's disappointed with the Marlins' first half.
"We're finishing a little strong," Guillen said. "But am I disappointed? Yes. I'm disappointed. I should be. We're a better club than we're playing. I didn't manage this club for .500. I think we're a better club than .500. We not playing up to the caliber we should be playing. A little inconsistent, a little weird first half, you can call it that.
"[But] I'm pretty sure having Carlos Lee here [for the second half] is going to help. He's a guy who is going to lead and a guy they're going to look up to, a guy who has been in this situation before. I don't know why I feel that way. I hope it happens. I'm not going to say Carlos is going to carry this ballclub, or put people under his wing. But having him in the middle of the lineup, having his presence in the clubhouse is going to help those guys."
> Guillen said when Emilio Bonifacio returns to the Marlins after the All-Star Break, it's likely he'll return to the bottom third of the order. "I think I'm going to keep him low so we can get more speed in the bottom," Guillen said. "I think we're a little bit too slow in the bottom of the lineup."
Bonifacio has played in three games for Jupiter since returning from thumb surgery and is 1-for-7 with two walks, two strikeouts and two stolen bases.
> As far as outfielder Justin Ruggiano is concerned, Guillen continues to insist he will continue to get playing time when Bonifacio returns.
"If he continues to swing the bat like that and I bench him I shouldn't have a job. Fire me," Guillen said. "I'll try to find him a spot to play. Boni can play a little bit of second base, can play center field. We can move him around. We got to start thinking about [Giancarlo] Stanton and [Logan Morrison]. It's time to give them a couple days rest, too."
Ruggiano, who entered Saturday's game on a nine-game hitting streak and with a .411 average, five homers and 15 RBI since June 1, said he'll do whatever the team asks of him.
“I’m not going to be a selfish teammate,” Ruggiano said. “I want whatever is best for the team. It’s [Guillen]’s call and I’ll obviously support whatever Ozzie wants to do.”
> After seeing his average dip to .224 on June 26, Morrison has been swinging as hot a bat as anyone for the Marlins. He came into Saturday's game having hit in nine consecutive games (.444) with four homers and 11 RBI.
Morrison, who has played with an ailing right knee all season, was hit by a pitch in his calf and by another pitch on his ankle Friday. He also said he injured his right hand trying to make a diving catch on a sinking liner by Carlos Beltran in the fifth inning.
"I think I hyperextended a finger or something like that. But I'll be fine," Morrison said.
Guillen praised Morrison’s grit Friday. “Lomo is crazy or he loves baseball that much,” Guillen said. “He’s been playing in pain the whole season.”
As for his hitting, Guillen credited hitting coach Eduardo Perez for Morrison's improvement.
"I think Lomo has been more aggressive, pulled the ball a little bit more," Guillen said. "Now he doesn't have the mentality of a leadoff hitter. That's what I thought he was -- Lomo was a No. 6, 7 hitter who acted like leadoff hitter. He was trying to hit the ball to left field, looking for a great count to hit, looking for a perfect pitch. Now, I think Eduardo has tried to get him to swing the bat as a No. 6, No. 7 guy. He's 200 pounds. Drive the ball. He's doing it right now."
> Marlins (41-42): 1. Jose Reyes SS, 2. Hanley Ramirez 3B, 3. Carlos Lee 1B, 4. Giancarlo Stanton RF, 5. Logan Morrison RF, 6. Justin Ruggiano CF, 7. Donovan Solano 2B, 8. Brett Hayes C, 9. Carlos Zambrano RHP.
> Cardinals (44-40): 1. Rafael Furcal SS, 2. John Jay CF, 3. Matt Holliday LF, 4. Carlos Beltran RF, 5. Allen Craig 1B, 6. David Freese 3B, 7. Skip Schumaker 2B, 8. Tony Cruz C, 9. Kyle Lohse RHP.