Improving Bonifacio takes practice swings
Speedster could hit off tee Monday; target date All-Star break
MIAMI -- If everything remains on schedule, Emilio Bonifacio could be hitting off a tee on Monday.
The Marlins center fielder took 25 practice swings on Friday, marking the first time he has picked up a bat since going on the disabled list on May 20, retroactive to May 19.
Bonifacio is recovering from a May 25 surgery to repair a ligament tear in his left thumb. The injury occurred on May 18, when he jammed his finger while attempting to steal second base in Cleveland.
The Marlins are 12-18 since Bonifacio went down, and the target date for his return remains right after the All-Star break.
A switch-hitter, Bonifacio tested his thumb by taking 25 swings from the left side on Friday. On Saturday, he will add 25 swings from the right side.
"On Monday, I think we will start off the tee," he said.
Recently, Bonifacio had 14 stitches removed from the thumb. Seven stitches were used on both sides.
Bonifacio has been throwing, but not catching the ball. Perhaps next week he will be cleared to also catch the ball.
The All-Star Game is set for July 10, and Bonifacio likely would be available for the July 13 series opener against the Nationals at the earliest.
"They say they don't want to rush," the center fielder said.
Not playing has been painful for Bonifacio, who didn't make the road trip to St. Petersburg and Boston.
The Marlins dropped five of six away from home.
"I'm not saying if I were there we'd start winning," Bonifacio said. "But you want to be out there with your teammates."
Bonifacio was batting .268 with 20 steals in 21 attempts at the time he jammed his thumb.
Buck back at backstop at Marlins Park
MIAMI -- Catching in intense 96-degree heat took its toll on John Buck in Boston on Wednesday.
The Marlins catcher was replaced in the middle of an at-bat in the ninth inning due to a cramp in the back of his right leg.
"The next day, everyone was like, 'How's your hamstring?'" Buck said. "It wasn't like I hurt my hamstring; that was the particular muscle that cramped up when I swung."
Actually, his whole body was locking up, and he went to great lengths to hydrate himself.
"I'd bend over and my back would lock up," he said.
Buck said he could have played on Thursday in the series finale at Fenway Park, but Brett Hayes got the starting nod to play it safe.
On Friday night, Buck was back in the starting lineup in the series opener with the Blue Jays, his former team.
"I didn't feel good at all," Buck said of his body shutting down on him at Fenway Park. "It was pretty humid. It was just the long innings we had every single inning made me sweat a bit too much."
The Marlins lost, 15-5, that night, and the Red Sox scored three runs in the second and third innings, and had a six-run fourth. They added a run in the fifth, too, causing Buck to spend long periods behind the plate.
As treatment, the Red Sox training staff sent over drink packets that included sodium to help get Buck on his feet.
"The Red Sox actually sent over some packets that I put in water," the catcher said. "It took about two hours to where I was OK."
Unable to move well, Buck received some assistance in changing from Hayes.
"Good friend and good teammate," Buck said.
Hanley puts in early work to shake June slump
MIAMI -- Much like his team, Hanley Ramirez has been in a June rut following a stellar May.
Ramirez hit .322 with 20 RBIs and 15 extra-base hits last month, and that success appeared to be carrying over into June after he belted three homers during a three-game series in Philadelphia to start the month. Since that series, though, Ramirez is 9-for-53 with a double and no RBIs.
"Hanley's been thinking a lot and he's having a very bad month, just like everybody else," Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said. "I tried to get him better and I tried to get him not to think too much, and hopefully that helps."
Ramirez was on the field taking early batting practice with hitting coach Eduardo Perez 3 1/2 hours before Friday's series opener with the Blue Jays. The early hitting session appeared to focus on Ramirez getting better lift on his front foot and driving the ball up the middle of the field and hitting it the opposite way to right field.
Guillen eventually stepped into the batter's box and showed Ramirez a couple of things in terms of mechanics in order to "help him clean some stuff up," as Miami's skipper put it.
With Ramirez struggling to find a groove at the plate, Guillen moved him up to No. 2 in the order from his usual three-spot last Friday against the Rays. The shift in the order hasn't produced many results yet, as Ramirez has gone 5-for-24 since. But Guillen plans to stick with it for the time being.
"I cannot find a spot [for him], because everybody is struggling," Guillen said. "If I see somebody going off, swinging the bat better, then I will change the lineup, but we're not, so I'm not doing anything."
Awesome, baby: Vitale visits Marlins Park
MIAMI -- ESPN basketball analyst and avid baseball fan Dick Vitale made an appearance at Marlins Park on Friday before Miami's series opener with Toronto.
Vitale, a noted Rays fan and season-ticket holder, was in town for an engagement this weekend at the Fountainbleau Hotel on Miami Beach for the V Foundation, and he decided to stop in and check out the Marlins' new digs. Vitale called the new ballpark "beautiful" and "gorgeous," and he expressed hope that the Rays will soon be getting a new home of their own.
"I hope they [get a new stadium]," Vitale said. "They need one badly."
While Vitale considers himself a baseball fanatic, he also shared his thoughts on one of Miami's other teams -- the Heat, which won the NBA championship Thursday night. It was Miami's second title, and it came six years after the team's first championship in 2006, much like the Marlins' two World Series titles did in 1997 and 2003.
"LeBron [James] was out of this world," said Vitale, who has been an analyst for ESPN since 1979. "He played with a chip on his shoulder. He played with unbelievable passion, pride. The kid is phenomenal. He's as versatile a player as you will ever see put a uniform on."
Vitale said he has never seen an athlete under more pressure and more heavily scrutinized than James, who famously joined the Heat via free agency two years ago following seven seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He also commended Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who took a lot of criticism before Miami hoisted the Larry O'Brien trophy Thursday, as well as owner Micky Arison and team president Pat Riley, who was inducted into the basketball Hall of Fame with Vitale in 2008.
"Pat Riley's an architect," Vitale said, noting Riley's eight total championships as a player, coach and executive. "He's a terrific guy, but when you combine it with the talent level they brought in, it's unbelievable."
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. Tom Green is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.