Stanton returns day earlier than expected
Slugger back in lineup for first time since Sept. 16 due to sore intercostal
MIAMI -- The Marlins have hit the fewest home runs in the Majors in September. On Friday, they welcomed back some pop to the lineup.
Giancarlo Stanton, who has been dealing with a sore left intercostal muscle, was back in the lineup for the first time since Sept. 16 and batting cleanup against the Phillies when the Marlins opened their final homestand of the season.
"Hopefully he stays there for the final series here in Miami and hopefully he can get to 35 home runs," Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said before the game.
Stanton reached that 35-homer plateau in the fourth inning, belting a solo shot. His return to the lineup comes a day earlier than anticipated. Guillen said Thursday in Atlanta that the team would rest Stanton for the series opener against Philadelphia with hopes of having the slugger back in the lineup Saturday.
Stanton has missed 39 games this season between injuries and regular rest days, but has still managed to hit 35 home runs -- second in the National League.
"This kid has had a tough year -- a few injuries, missing a lot of games, but he put a tremendous year together," Guillen said.
Stanton was hurt by missing a good portion of Spring Training, and then got off to a slow start in April before coming on strong in May and earning NL Player of the Month honors. Stanton missed most of July and the start of August after knee surgery and then was sidelined for nine games with the sore intercostal muscle. Guillen remains hopeful that Stanton will be able to get adequate rest in the offseason and come into Spring Training without anything slowing him down next year.
"The biggest thing about him is he's a big kid," Guillen said. "He's going to have some issues. His body -- this kid is a grown man. The body is going to suffer a lot, and he plays hard, diving for balls, running a lot. There's a lot of things against him, but stay strong and hopefully next year in Spring Training, [he's healthy]."
Guillen finds positives amid tough season
MIAMI -- Between all the letdowns the Marlins have encountered this season, manager Ozzie Guillen has found plenty of positives to take from the 2012 campaign that the team can build upon moving forward.
"Not everything was negative," Guillen said. "There was a lot of negativity and negative stuff that happened. ... There's a lot of good things that happened here -- more bad things than good things, but there's a few good things that happened."
Among the pleasant surprises for Guillen and the Marlins were the performances of young starters Nathan Eovaldi and Jacob Turner, both of whom the team acquired before the July 31 Trade Deadline, as well as the growth of rookie catcher Rob Brantly. Guillen has also been impressed by Justin Ruggiano, who started the season playing for the Astros' Triple-A affiliate before being traded to the Marlins and putting together an impressive season at the plate and in the outfield.
Other positives include Josh Johnson making every start a year after a shoulder injury sidelined him for much of 2011, and shortstop Jose Reyes starting almost every game in his first year with the team.
"We've got a couple bright [spots], and hopefully the bright stuff continues in the future," Guillen said.
One of the biggest surprises for Guillen, though, has been the performance of Donovan Solano. Entering Friday, Solano was hitting .294 in 262 at-bats. He has played solid defense as well, making the case to be the Marlins' starting second baseman next season.
"To me, he is [an everyday second baseman]," Guillen said. "The question mark is, can he play 500 at-bats? That has to be seen, because he plays every day, plays against the good [pitchers], gets good at-bats against the good [pitchers].
"I cannot say no because he's the best player I have on the field right now, the most consistent player, and hopefully we give him a shot to be the everyday second baseman."
Tom Green is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.