8/14/2014 10:13 P.M. ET
Reflective Jennings eyes September return
By Joe Frisaro and Maria Torres / MLB.com
MIAMI -- A week after being struck on the side of the head by a line drive, Dan Jennings was playing catch Thursday at Marlins Park and anticipating a return to game action by September.
The injury that took place at PNC Park in Pittsburgh on Aug. 7 left Jennings with a concussion and increased perspective on what is truly important in life.
"When I was in the hospital, I really started questioning what I'm doing here," the 27-year-old lefty said. "When you go through something like that, which is life-altering potentially, I've got a wife and a daughter. Is it worth it to sit here and play baseball to risk my life?"
Quickly, Jennings put those thoughts to rest.
"I started telling myself, 'This is what I do,'" he said. "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 that's worth it in the long run. I've been really strong in my faith. I put my life in God's hands. Whatever he has for me, I'm going to deal with it."
Jennings sustained the injury in the seventh inning when he was hit by Jordy Mercer's hot liner.
PNC Park came to a standstill as the dazed reliever was tended to and eventually carted off the field. The lefty never lost consciousness, and he said that while on the cart, he recalled seeing the scoreboard, and it read two outs.
Jennings was unaware the ball deflected high up in the air and was caught by shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria behind second base.
"This situation is a good wakeup call, for a lot of things," Jennings said. "Not to take things for granted. There are so many things in this game, and this life you just try not to take for granted."
A day after the injury, Jennings was placed on MLB's seven-day concussion disabled list. Symptom-free, he still has some tenderness on the left side of his head, but he has been cleared to play catch.
Barring any setbacks, he should be back on the mound this weekend, and facing hitters next week at the team's complex in Jupiter, Fla.
"I would think as a pitcher you'd want to get back on that mound as soon as possible to get used to it," manager Mike Redmond.
Jennings is eager to pitch in a game and erase any doubts that he can get back into the routine of playing. He doesn't want to go into the offseason unsure how he would react to facing hitters.
When he does return, Jennings doesn't plan on wearing protective headgear, because he said: "I don't think I'm going to because I don't think they're close enough with it yet, to get it to the point where it's usable."
The lefty did admit he may initially flinch after throwing a pitch, especially one that is hittable.
"I haven't had any flashbacks or nightmares or anything," Jennings said. "But just to have a ball come back at me in catch, it's a little frightening. I wouldn't be surprised when I get back on the mound, and if I throw a bad pitch, I put my glove up on guard, to get over that."
Marlins know they need more clutch hits for push
MIAMI -- With the next two series coming against losing teams in the D-backs and Rangers, now is as good a time as any for the Marlins to gain some ground in the National League Wild Card race. But to do so, they'll have to turn around their offensive woes and pick up those elusive big hits.
Despite entering Thursday ranked fourth in the National League with a .252 average with runners in scoring position, the Marlins have had a tough time in the second half, hitting at a .228 (42-for-184) clip with RISP.
"Sometimes [big hits] come in bunches, but I know these guys are working hard on their approach," manager Mike Redmond said. "Guys seem to feed off each other. That's what we need. We just need to continue to stay at it and get guys on base."
Since the All-Star break, the Marlins' .232 average and 84 runs both ranked 26th in the Majors entering Thursday. Of Miami's 26 games after the break, 14 have been decided by two runs or fewer, with the Marlins posting an 11-3 record in such games.
They've also managed to record 15 wins in the second half, which was tied for second-most behind the Padres' 16 entering Thursday's series opener against the D-backs.
But Redmond recognized that his team's inconsistency at the plate could keep them from making a final push in the last six weeks of the season. Beyond the next two series and one against the Rockies, the Marlins will face the Angels and Braves -- teams with playoff hopes of their own.
"Playoff teams aren't trying to develop their players anymore -- they're trying to win ballgames and beat you," Redmond said. "It gets hard, but we know that our lineup has the ability to put up some big numbers."
Ozuna's unique handshake an internet sensation
MIAMI -- It's not the first time Marlins antics have gone viral on Twitter. At the end of July, right-hander Tom Koehler got some attention for trying to "dunk on" Jarrod Saltalamacchia in the dugout in Houston.
Koehler jumped off the floor, grabbed hold of the dugout roof and tried to wrap his legs around Saltalamacchia's thighs. But he failed and fell to the ground, a scene that replayed across the Internet for a while.
But now Marcell Ozuna's got the spotlight after coming up with an elaborate dance that was caught on camera on Wednesday. It's not the usual player-player handshake either. He executed it with third-base coach Brett Butler, and the pair of them clapped hands, gyrated their hips and hopped left and right.
"He's still whole," Ozuna joked of the 57-year-old Butler. "I do those with whoever wants to. I just come up with them in the moment, we practice it twice and that's it."
That the Marlins are able to have that kind of fun after 120 games is the "beauty of team chemistry," manager Mike Redmond said, but there's still a bit downside.
"I wish guys would remember the signs," Redmond said laughing. "They got those dances and all that stuff, but they miss steal signs that we've been putting on for six months now. So I guess it depends on what they wanna remember, right?"
• Infielder Rafael Furcal will undergo surgery to remove scar tissue from his left hamstring, ending his chances at a return this season. A strain put him on the disabled list on June 22 -- he was transferred to the 60-day DL on July 19 -- but he missed all but nine of Miami's games this season while dealing with discomfort in his hamstring.
• Ozuna snapped an 0-for-16 streak with a one-out single in the fourth inning on Thursday.
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. Maria Torres is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.