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Injured players will be a boon as Trade Deadline nears

MIAMI -- In assessing their roster, the Marlins don't consider personnel as being the problem. The issue, in the eyes of the organization, is performance.

Clearly, their disappointing 41-44 record shows the club has underachieved.

Coming out of the All-Star break, the team will enter a critical stretch, opening on Friday with the first of four games against the National League East-leading Washington Nationals.

"We need to get to .500 as quickly as possible," club president David Samson said.

How the Marlins rebound will determine which direction the team is looking at come the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.

The Marlins already have made a major move. On July 4, they acquired run-producing first baseman Carlos Lee from the Astros for Matt Dominguez and Rob Rasmussen.

More help is on the way, as center fielder Emilio Bonifacio will be activated on Friday. The speedster has been on the disabled list since May 20 with a left thumb sprain, which required surgery.

Reliever Edward Mujica (broken right pinky toe) also is expected back within a week.

Perhaps the biggest pickup will come on July 23 when Juan Carlos Oviedo's eight-week suspension ends. Oviedo, formerly Leo Nunez, and Mujica will offer depth to the bullpen that will be looking for a boost.

Manager Ozzie Guillen is weighing closing options after Heath Bell finished the first half converting 19 of 26 saves. Steve Cishek may fill that role, but if he isn't ready, Oviedo has three years experience of closing.

"We have other pieces. We have Cishek, we have Mujica coming back, and all of a sudden, it should be good," Samson said. "But again, it's enough talking. There's been so much talking, that's the problem. Talking is boring to us now."

In surveying their situation, the Marlins basically are staying the course on the trade front. Little movement should occur between now and the end of the month.

Lee was brought in to be a middle-of-the-lineup threat. Originally, the hope was to have Lee and Giancarlo Stanton in the third and fourth spots. That pairing happened just once, and it lasted just two innings.

What might have been didn't really happen, because on Saturday, Stanton was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the third inning in St. Louis with right knee discomfort. Arthroscopic surgery took place the next morning, and the All-Star slugger will be out four to six weeks.

"Lee was brought in to combine him with Stanton in the lineup," Samson said. "Now you're sort of back to where you were, but Giancarlo will be back in time to help us."

Since the start of the season, the front office also made another significant acquisition in what initially looked like a low-interest Minor League deal.

On May 26, outfielder Justin Ruggiano was acquired from the Astros' Triple-A Oklahoma City affiliate. A day later, Ruggiano was in the big leagues, and he has become a threat in the lineup.

When Bonifacio returns to play center field, Ruggiano will get most of the playing time in right field until Stanton returns.

"We're about to add tremendously to this team," Samson said. "If you look at mid-season acquisitions, I don't think there will be a team that can bring in a J.C. Oviedo and a Bonifacio.

"There could be some other teams having some players come back from injuries, but for us, having Boni, Oviedo, a back-of-the-game pitcher, takes pressure off our entire bullpen."

Solidifying the bullpen paid off for the franchise in 2003. The team hopes to have a similar model this summer.

In the '03 World Series championship season, closer Ugueth Urbina was acquired from Texas. A few weeks later, Chad Fox was added. They joined Braden Looper, who already was with the team, to form a strong back end of the bullpen.

"What you want to do is shorten games," Samson said. "If you look at our starting pitchers, if they go six, seven [innings], the game should be over. That's how you win. That's how we did it in '03, when we brought in Chad Fox. And the bullpen became Fox, Looper and Urbina."

On paper, the parts seem to be in place. Now the club will see if its actions speak louder than words.

Miami Marlins, Emilio Bonifacio, Carlos Lee, Edward Mujica, Juan Oviedo