But with Hanley Ramirez out of the lineup for the third consecutive game Tuesday, Florida's lineup is without its only .300 hitter. The shortstop was actually batting .346 -- tops in the National League -- before his sore right hip flexor began acting up.
"He's making progress," Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said Tuesday. "A little better, but not enough to get back in the lineup."
Gonzalez said Ramirez may be available to come off the bench Tuesday if the slugger were able to swing in batting practice without pain. Ramirez wasn't available to pinch-hit Monday night when the Marlins mounted a ninth-inning comeback against the Giants before falling, 5-4.
Ramirez averaged 155 games during his first three seasons in the Majors and has played in 78 of the Marlins' 84 games this season. Without him, Florida is 5-1 this season. A part of that credit may belong to Emilio Bonifacio, who has taken over shortstop duties in Ramirez's absence. Bonifacio was slated to bat leadoff Tuesday.
In addition to playing shortstop, Bonifacio was already making the switch from second base to third, where he's made 13 errors in 69 games this season.
"It was tough in Spring Training," Bonifacio said. "Everything felt backwards. It [takes] a lot of work [to improve]."
Gonzalez added, "From the very first day of Spring Training he's been unbelievable, how much he's improved, for a guy who's never played [third]."
Bonifacio called on teammate Jorge Cantu, a former third baseman, to aid in his defensive adjustment. The pair must have talked hitting, too. Bonifacio went 7-for-23 during the Marlins' recent six-game homestand and went 3-for-5 Monday night to raise his season average to .258.
"I think he's just going through the ups and downs, and he's on the ups, and hopefully those ups stay longer," Gonzalez said.
The switch-hitter has also improved against left-handed pitching. He batted .167 in his first 48 Major League at-bats against lefties. With the Marlins this season, he's batting .330 in 91 at-bats but was tested against the Giants' Barry Zito on Tuesday. He won't carry the burden alone, however, when it comes to replacing the production of a certain Ramirez.
"He's pretty important," Bonifacio said of his All-Star teammate. "When he's in the lineup, it's a different story. [Now] everyone else has to do something good."
Andrew Pentis is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less