With his team struggling through a 4-16 June swoon, one might imagine it would be hard to get Ozzie Guillen to say something complimentary about one of his players at the moment.
But the Marlins manager does like what he is seeing from at least one guy — Justin Ruggiano, who made a stellar diving catch in the fifth inning Saturday that few at Marlins Park will forget.
With two on and two outs in the fifth, Toronto Blue Jays phenom Brett Lawrie scorched a line drive that appeared as though it would get over Ruggiano’s head.
But the 30-year-old veteran outfielder, who spent most of his career in the Tampa Bay Rays farm system, turned his back to the ball and started racing toward the gap before leaping up and fully extending his left arm to snatch the line drive out of the air.
“When that ball was hit, I had it shaded the total opposite direction,” Ruggiano said. “I just wanted to at least give it 100 percent effort. … When a guy is pitching like that, I’ll sell out my body for him. [ Josh Johnson] did a hell of a job.”
Ruggiano, who has now played in 19 games, starting nine of them since being acquired in a minor-league trade with Houston, finished with two of the Marlins’ five hits Saturday and scored the team’s only run in a 7-1 loss.
He is hitting .350 with seven doubles, a triple, two homers, six RBI, seven walks and seven strikeouts in 40 at-bats.
“I love this kid [from] the way he put on his uniform on down,” Guillen said after Friday’s game.
“He does a lot of things. He has great speed, pretty good defensively. Got great at-bats, fights for his at-bats every time we give him the opportunity. As long as you do that, you will play for me. I don’t care if you’re 0 for 4, as long as I see you’re fighting for your at-bats and fighting for your situation, I think you’ll have a great chance to play for me.”
As far as fighting for his at-bats, Ruggiano displayed that well in the sixth inning of Friday’s 12-5 loss.
He fouled off four pitches against Ricky Romero before drawing a walk.
Omar Infante followed Ruggiano by blasting a two-run home run.
“I used to give away a lot of at-bats,” said Ruggiano, who in three big-league stints in Tampa Bay hit just .226 with 58 strikeouts in 195 at-bats.
“I just try to make every pitch count.”
• After Saturday’s loss, Ruggiano had three visitors at his locker — catcher John Buck, utility man Greg Dobbs and left fielder Logan Morrison, who were all discussing ways that the Marlins could break out of their awful June slide.
Asked if being 8 1/2 games out of first place going into Saturday night’s action might be too much to overcome, Ruggiano said: “That’s nothing. It’s June. Last year, I was with Tampa. We were 9 1/2 [games back] in September, and what happened? You saw what happened to the Cardinals last year. We’re in June right now. We’re not even halfway done with our season. You saw what this team was capable of doing in May. This group in here is capable of doing good things on the field, and I think it’s going to happen. Judging from the guys we have in this room, I believe it’s going to turn around.”
• Before his rant on Saturday, Guillen went off after Friday’s loss about players needing sports psychologists to break out of slumps.
• Sunday: Marlins LHP Mark Buehrle (5-8, 3.82 ERA) vs. Toronto Blue Jays RHP Henderson Alvarez (3-6, 4.30), 1:10 p.m., Marlins Park.
• Monday: Marlins RHP Ricky Nolasco (6-6, 5.16) vs. St. Louis Cardinals RHP Jake Westbrook (6-6, 3.83), 7:10 p.m., Marlins Park.
• Scouting report: Buehrle is 6-4 with a 2.64 ERA in his career against Toronto. He went 1-1 with a 1.93 ERA in two starts against the Blue Jays last season.