ST. LOUIS -- A day after closer Heath Bell came dangerously close to blowing another lead in the ninth inning, Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen expressed his delight in the fact it won’t be long before former closer Juan Carlos Oviedo is back with the team.
“Biggest trade of the year,’’ Guillen said when asked Saturday what it would mean to the team when Oviedo finishes serving his eight-week suspension for age and identity fraud on July 22.
“I will [treat] that as a big trade we make for the [playoff] run. He’s going to help the bullpen. A day like today, he’ll take Bell’s spot. [Other times] we’ll see how Bell’s throwing and we’ll flip-flop each for whatever reason. It’s going to be a big lift. Hopefully, he’ll throw the ball like he has in the past.’’
Oviedo, who saved 92 games in three previous seasons for the Marlins when he was known as Leo Nunez, was scheduled to receive his first rehab assignment Saturday with Single A Jupiter. But that has been pushed back to Monday night because of a stiff neck The Miami Herald learned.
Guillen has long said he would keep Bell, who has converted 19 of 24 save opportunities, as his closer when Oviedo returned. But it’s clear after Saturday’s comments that Oviedo could put some heat on Bell, who signed a three-year, $27 million deal with the Marlins in the offseason but has struggled.
Guillen said he might go see Oviedo pitch for Jupiter while the Marlins are off. The Hammerheads are scheduled to play in Fort Myers on Monday night. Oviedo is expected to rejoin the Marlins on July 23.
• Guillen said that when Emilio Bonifacio returns to the Marlins after the All-Star break, it’s likely he’ll return to the bottom third of the order. “I think I’m going to keep him low so we can get more speed in the bottom,’’ Guillen said.
Bonifacio has played in three games for Jupiter since returning from thumb surgery. He is 1 for 7 with two walks, two strikeouts and a stolen base.
• After seeing his average dip to .224 on June 26, Logan Morrison (.419) has been swinging a hot bat. He extended his hitting streak to 10 consecutive games Saturday and has four homers and 11 RBI over the stretch.
Morrison, who has played with an ailing right knee all season, was hit by a pitch in his calf and by another pitch on his ankle Friday.
He also said he injured his right hand trying to make a diving catch on a sinking liner by Carlos Beltran in the fifth inning.
Guillen praised Morrison’s grit Friday. “Lomo is crazy, or he loves baseball that much,” Guillen said.
As for his hitting, Guillen credited hitting coach Eduardo Perez for Morrison’s improvement.
“He was trying to hit the ball to left field,’’ Guillen said, “looking for a great count to hit, looking for a perfect pitch. Now, I think Eduardo has tried to get him to swing the bat as a No. 6, No. 7 guy. He’s 200 pounds. Drive the ball. He’s doing it right now.’’
• Sunday: Marlins RHP Anibal Sanchez (4-6, 4.19 ERA) at St. Louis Cardinals RHP Joe Kelly (1-1, 3.29), 2:15 p.m., Busch Stadium.
• Monday-Thursday: Off (All-Star break).
• Scouting report: Sanchez is 2-6 with a 5.64 ERA over his past 10 starts. Kelly is 0-1 with a 2.93 ERA in three home starts.