Scouting the opponent: Florida Marlins

With the Florida Marlins coming to town for a three-game series, Joe Capozzi, Marlins beat writer for the Palm Beach Post (and a guy who had to jump on a 6 a.m. flight out of San Francisco to get to Texas in time to cover today's action) answered a few questions for us about the Marlins. Here goes:

Q: Can you give us an overall assessment of the Marlins? Why did they struggle so much in June?

JC: The Marlins went 5-23 in June -- the worst month in franchise history -- for a variety of reasons. The main culprit was offense. They struggled earlier to hit with runners in scoring position, which is why John Mallee was fired in early June. That firing stunned players, which I think was the reason they continued their tailspin.

Q: How have players reacted to the managerial change?

JC: Manager Jack McKeon has been a positive slap in the face to a team that was often coddled by mild-mannered Edwin Rodriguez. While players were not happy with Mallee's firing, they have come around in the last week and praised McKeon for his old-school approach.

Q: What's the latest on Josh Johnson? Any idea when he might return? Would the Marlins entertain trading him?

JC: Josh Johnson's absence also factors into the June swoon. The starters are 8-17 since his last start. And now he has been pushed back because of shoulder soreness. They hoped he'd return July 16; now it's looking more like August. I do not think they will trade him. They consider him a franchise marquee face.

Q: Who is the offensive MVP of the club so far this season? Who's the best pitcher?

JC: Gaby Sanchez is the offensive MVP (even though he had a rough June) and Anibal Sanchez is their new ace.

Q: Give us a quick scouting report on the starters we'll see this weekend in Arlington.

JC: You will see Anibal on Friday. This is his second injury-free season -- he was bothered by shoulder issues most of his caeer up until last year -- and the results are paying off. He has allowed four earned runs over his three starts.

Javier Vazquez (Sunday) has been on a nice roll, with an ERA around 1.00 over his last three starts. Nice bounce back for a guy who looked horrible up until June.

The Marlins will call up a minor league pitcher to start Saturday -- either Double-A LHP Brad Hand or Triple-A righty Elih Villanueva. Both were up earlier and both got hit around, although Hand was effective in his first start.

Q: Who's been the biggest surprise this season? The biggest disappointment?

JC: Biggest disappointment is Hanley Ramirez (.221, 5 HR, 24 RBIs). Biggest surprise is probably Greg Dobbs who is htting .300 and playing more often than he has at any point in his career. He was supposed to be a bench player but has gotten lots of playing time, mainly plugging in a hole at 3B.