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Reyes turns season around despite Marlins' struggles

MIAMI -- Repeating as the National League batting champion may be unrealistic for Jose Reyes, but achieving a personal goal isn't out of reach.

"We still have one more month of baseball left," the Marlins shortstop said. "I have one goal on my mind: to hit .300. Less than that is going to be unacceptable."

The bar remains high for Reyes in a season that started off on a low.

Currently at .283, there is still work to be done. But considering he was hitting .220 at the end of April and .264 at the All-Star break, the 29-year-old has quietly raised his game.

In fact, since the All-Star break, Reyes has been one of the hottest hitters in the NL. He's hitting at a .319 clip in the second half, and his 58 hits are second only to the Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman's 60.

The Reyes of old is starting to break through for the Marlins.

"At the beginning, maybe I tried to do too much instead of settling down and playing my game," Reyes said. "That's going to happen in baseball. But I don't think it's because I was with a new team, because baseball is still the same. You just struggle, no matter what is going on."

It's understandable if Reyes was pressing a bit early on. The 29-year-old was swept up in much of the attention Miami was receiving leading into the season.

Playing in their flashy new ballpark, the Marlins were viewed as one of the rising teams in the league. They boosted payroll to a club-record $95 million, and Reyes became one of the new faces of the franchise.

After being a four-time All-Star with the Mets, Reyes signed with the Marlins for a six-year, $106 million contract.

"Even if you don't believe it, you put a lot of pressure on yourself," Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said. "You try to go out of your way to be better, instead of just playing your game. That's what happened to him. That's what happens to a lot of guys. They put the expectations so high, they couldn't handle it."

Guillen said much of the fanfare the club received had the players feeling like they were champions before the season began.

"Now, we learn from our mistakes," Guillen said. "Hopefully, the players sit down and we go from there."

Reyes, along with right fielder Giancarlo Stanton, is a building block for the Marlins, who again are retooling.

"We've got people here to build the ballclub around him -- a good ballclub, a good team, to be around him," Guillen said. "I think we're not too far away. I hope I'm not mistaken.

"I know what kind of ballclub that I have. I know what's out there. I know what kind of club we should have. Hopefully, it doesn't take too long to put it together."

Certainly, Reyes is doing his part.

As the season has progressed, he is beginning to put together a respectable 2012. His 148 hits are the sixth most in the NL.

Reyes has found a comfort level in the No. 3 spot in the lineup, where he's batting .313 in 32 games. He was previously leading off, but the change was made after Hanley Ramirez was traded to the Dodgers on July 25.

"When Ozzie put me there, he said, 'Just try to play your game. We don't want you to try to do too much. Play your game. Steal your base. If you need to bunt, then bunt it,'" Reyes said. "I put that in my mind. I said, 'I'm going to play my game. It don't matter if I'm hitting in the three-hole.'"

Overall, the numbers don't exactly mirror a year ago, when Reyes led the NL with a .337 average. But he is still playing with the same passion and energy.

"To be honest with you," Guillen said. "I've seen Jose play the same way every day. It's hard for me to say if he was bad or great in the first half or second half."

That's because Reyes' demeanor stays the same. He is upbeat and he hasn't lost his enthusiasm, even during a difficult season.

"I've been that way since I was a little kid," Reyes said. "I was happy, no matter what happened. I try to play the game the best that I can. I don't try to put too much pressure on myself. I try to be me, and smile. I try to have people around me with the same energy like me."

From the Opening Day lineup, Reyes remains the only one left in the infield. Ramirez, who played third base, is in Los Angeles. Second baseman Omar Infante is in Detroit. And first baseman Gaby Sanchez is in Pittsburgh.

Reyes has had to adjust to new personnel around him, while continuing to get acclimated to playing with a new organization.

"It doesn't matter how bad we are doing," Reyes said. "As a player, we're here for one reason, to try to do your job. I feel like I try to do my job. I take that to the field. If that don't happen, I try to do it the next day.

"It don't matter how bad we are doing as a team. We still need to go out there and give everything that we have."

Miami Marlins, Jose Reyes