08/29/12 7:59 PM ET
Reyes, JJ pitch in for Kids Wish Network
By Tom Green / MLB.com
Thanks to the Kids Wish Network, the two Marlins stars played host to Blake Brunner, a 17-year-old Minnesota native who was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, a condition that makes it difficult for the heart to efficiently pump blood.
Brunner's wish was to see the Marlins play, and specifically, meet Reyes and Johnson, so the Kids Wish Network flew him and his family to Miami for Wednesday's game.
"It's very exciting, just to be around that kid ... and to see how happy he is to be here," Reyes said.
Brunner got to tour the Marlins' clubhouse, where a locker -- right next to Reyes' one -- was set up for him, complete with a custom authentic black Marlins jersey, a Marlins cap that Reyes was going to get the entire team to sign, as well as other gifts like bobblehead dolls of Johnson and slugger Giancarlo Stanton.
Reyes also got a gift from Brunner, who gave the Marlins shortstop a blue-and-yellow wristband that read "Stay Strong Blake" -- a good-luck charm, according to Reyes.
After chatting with Reyes, Brunner went out to the field with Johnson for pregame stretches and to watch batting practice from right behind the batting cage and meet other Marlins players and coaches.
Reyes was approached about the idea two months ago and immediately said yes to it after he had a similar experience with a child from Canada during Spring Training. Reyes said he hopes to keep up with Brunner and his progress long after Wednesday's meeting.
"It makes me feel good, because I know those kinds of kids, if they're around Major League players they're going to feel good and feel happy at least for the moment," Reyes said. "I just want to be a role model for the kid. I know what he's going through. I just want to be beside him."
Adjustments help Ruggiano get back on right track
MIAMI -- A few minor adjustments helped Justin Ruggiano have a career night Tuesday.
Ruggiano went 4-for-4 with a home run, three singles and two RBIs in the series opener against the Nats to help wash out the bad taste of a difficult two-plus weeks for the Marlins outfielder. Ruggiano had been mired in a 9-for-48 (.188) slide dating back to Aug. 10.
"My numbers these last two weeks were terrible," Ruggiano said. "So I got with [hitting coach Eduardo Perez] and we sat down and talked about a few things."
Ruggiano felt his swing during that time was different than normal due to a couple of minor injuries to his back and rib cage. After meeting with Perez and working on some things in the batting cages, like freeing up his hands more and controlling his body, Ruggiano believes he's back to where he has the feeling of an easier swing.
The 30-year-old Ruggiano has been a pleasant surprise for the Marlins since they acquired him from the Astros in a Minor League trade in late May. In 70 games entering Wednesday, he has hit .327 with a .606 slugging percentage, 13 homers, 17 doubles, 31 RBIs and 11 stolen bases.
"This kid came out of nowhere and we gave him a chance and he grabbed it and kept it," Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said.
The Marlins skipper added that Ruggiano's performance has earned the journeyman outfielder, who is out of Minor League options, a spot on next year's roster. Whether that spot is a starting job or a platoon role remains to be seen.
"You can doubt this kid as much as you want, but what he's been doing day in and day out [has been great]," Guillen said. "Can he last longer in the season? We'll see. Can he get 500 at-bats without getting hurt? That's tough to say. But what he's been doing, I don't see why we would deny [Ruggiano a roster spot]. We'll still have meetings to talk about it."
Stanton showing off all-around game
MIAMI -- Giancarlo Stanton has quickly made a name for himself as one of the game's top sluggers thanks to his prodigious home runs, but the Marlins' 22-year-old right fielder has quietly transformed into a more complete player this season.
While the home runs have earned Stanton a lot of attention, he said his overall consistency at the plate is one of the things he's most proud of. In the past, he said, he would have a couple of strong weeks offensively followed by a couple of down weeks that would bring him back to square one.
That hasn't been the case as much this season, with Stanton hitting .292 entering Wednesday, a full 30 points higher than his .262 average last season. Stanton has also turned heads with his defense in right field.
"The thing I like about Giancarlo is, when you're a home run hitter and a great hitter, sometimes you forget to play defense," Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said. "But this kid goes out there and ... he's been making some of the best plays we've had all year long out in right field."
On Tuesday, Stanton made a diving catch in shallow right field in the third inning to rob Nats catcher Kurt Suzuki of what would have been Washington's first hit against Marlins righty Ricky Nolasco. Stanton's play helped Nolasco avoid a possible jam en route to his eighth career complete game and third shutout.
Stanton has made several memorable plays in right field this season. The highlight plays have seemingly become a regular occurrence for him, and teammates have taken notice of it.
"He's a complete player," Nolasco said. "Everybody is obviously aware of his talents offensively, but there are things people don't see. He's putting in the time and work to be an all-around good player, and his defense, it showed [Tuesday]. He made some really good plays out there."
The Arizona Fall League rosters have been set, and a couple of top Miami prospects will be participating. Six Marlins will be playing for the Phoenix Desert Dogs, among them outfielder Christian Yelich and catcher J.T. Realmuto -- two of the top position players in the organization. Both are on Class A Jupiter, as is pitcher Scott McGough. From Double-A Jacksonville will be outfielder Kyle Jensen, along with pitchers Grant Dayton and Brian Flynn. Miami acquired McGough from the Dodgers as part of the Hanley Ramirez trade. And Flynn was obtained from the Tigers in the trade that sent Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez to Detroit.
Tom Green is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.