04/27/12 7:50 PM ET
Marlins give Reyes a 'break mentally'
By David Villavicencio / Special to MLB.com
Reyes, who has three hits in his last 20 at-bats, was not in the starting lineup for Friday's game against the D-backs.
"I think Jose needs more of a break mentally than physically," Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said.
The shortstop has hit just .205 with a .263 on-base percentage and .329 slugging percentage through 18 games this year. Friday marked the first time he did not start as a Marlin.
"I think if you see his at-bats -- I don't want to say just in New York, but on the road trip -- he was rushing at the plate," Guillen said. "He was trying to do too much, and I think that's the reason he's struggling. But it's not just Jose. There are a lot of guys on our club that are struggling right now. We're trying to come out of it the quickest we can. We're working on it."
Donnie Murphy filled in for Reyes at shortstop and batted second, while speedy center fielder Emilio Bonifacio took over leadoff duties for Reyes, moving up from his usual second slot in the lineup. Bonifacio has been one of the better hitters this season for the Marlins, batting .261 while posting a .354 on-base percentage.
"I'm proud of Boni," Guillen said. "Boni has come a long way. Boni played in every league in baseball to get where he is right now. He went through everything and now he is a big league player playing very well. He's very mature. He has a lot of confidence in himself. I tip my hat to him, because I know this kid went through [a lot] to make it to the big leagues and now he's an everyday big league player."
A lifetime .291 hitter, Reyes is off to his worst start since becoming an everyday player in the big leagues. But he is working hard to get back on track. The 28-year-old put in extra work with Marlins hitting coach Eduardo Perez prior to the team's usual batting practice on Friday.
"People have to realize you cannot get five hits in one at-bat," Guillen said. "You cannot hit a three-run home run with only one guy on base. Don't let the game play you. Just try to relax and do what you're supposed to do. Everybody here has a job. Don't try to do somebody else's job. That's the way you have to approach it at the plate."
Bell intent on making necessary adjustments
MIAMI -- Heath Bell has not lived up to expectations early in his tenure with the Marlins.
Bell, who has saved over 40 games in each of the past three seasons, has just two saves so far in 2012. To make matters worse, he has blown three saves and allowed eight runs (six earned) over 5 2/3 innings.
The right-hander blew his latest save on Thursday against the Mets. With the Marlins leading, 2-1, in the ninth, Bell walked in the tying run -- and four overall -- before allowing a game-winning single to Kirk Nieuwenhuis that gave the Mets the series sweep.
Bell was visibly frustrated before Friday's game at Marlins Park. The right-hander had struggled earlier this year, but declared a week ago that his problems were fixed. Now Bell is focused on correcting a new set of issues that he is not explaining very much.
"We found some things," Bell said. "Mechanically, I am fine. There are a few other things that if [pitching coach Randy St. Claire] wants to talk about them, then we will talk about them, but I am not."
Bell admits that a key issue for him this season has been an inability to consistently throw strikes. He has issued seven walks and has fallen behind a lot of opposing hitters, making it harder to pitch effectively.
"I need to pound the strike zone and I'm not doing that right now," Bell said. "I feel like I will pound the strike zone from here on out."
The 34-year-old will need to wait at least one day to see if his adjustments will show positive results. Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said he'd give Bell Friday night off after he threw 46 pitches against the Mets on Thursday afternoon.
"Tonight, he would have to pitch lefty," Guillen joked before Friday's series opener against the D-backs. "Fifty pitches for [Carlos] Zambrano, [Ricky] Nolasco, [Mark] Buehrle, that's nothing. For a closer, that's three games, maybe more. Every closer is supposed to throw 15 pitches or so. You do that and it's like three or four games. We have to be careful with him."
Guillen is confident Bell will return to pitching like one of the elite closers soon. After giving Bell Friday off to rest, Guillen hopes to use his closer in the next save situation the Marlins are in.
"This guy is one of the best closers in the game the last few years. He's my closer," Guillen said. "If we want to win this thing, we've got to come with him. He's a big part of this. He's going to be there in the ninth inning until he can't be there anymore. I have a lot of confidence in him. He's got to go back out and do it."
Bell is confident that he will be the effective closer everyone has grown accustomed to seeing over the past few years. He vows to continue to work at his craft until he regains the form that made him so successful in the past.
"Even though I haven't performed up to my ability, I learned what I did wrong yesterday," Bell said. "I think we've worked on it and we will keep working on it to make sure it doesn't happen again. That's all I can do. This is a game of adjustments. You have top keep working and keep getting better. I definitely need to be better."
Marlins happy to be home after tough road trip
MIAMI -- The Marlins went winless on their last road trip, making a return home look very appealing.
Currently in last place in the National League East, the Marlins are just 2-9 away from Marlins Park, while they sport a 5-2 record at home.
"I don't believe in home-field advantage, but right now it's looking our way," Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said. "I hope we come back here and turn things around and keep it up from there."
Miami's slow start is troubling, but Guillen knows there is plenty of time for the Marlins to play like the contenders many expected them to be heading into the season.
"Hopefully we turn things around, start hitting better, get confidence and move on," Guillen said. "I think we have a great ballclub.I think we're going to hit. We have like 150 games left. It feels like we're in July or August right now because everybody is like, 'Wow!'"
The veteran skipper has found some positives during the Marlins' tough start.
"Every game, we're right there," Guillen said. "We're one hit away, one error away, one pitch away to win it. At the end of the day, we're not [getting that], and that's why we're where we are. Put it this way: We're playing bad and we're right there."
Marlins closer Heath Bell is one of several Marlins off to a slow start this year, but the nine-year veteran knows it is way too early to write his team off as a potential playoff contender.
"Sometimes you go through ups and downs," Bell said. "We definitely should be better team-wise. We should be playing defense and hitting better. But this is a team sport and why we have a marathon season that's six months. I'm not big into cliches and I'm not going to say it's early. But we grind every day. If you have a bad month, so be it. It's not how you start, it's how you finish."
David Villavicencio is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.