MIAMI -- For most, baseball is a game of inches. For John Buck, it has been less than that of late.
The Marlins catcher has labored at the plate for much of the season, with his batting average floating around .160 since late May. During the last six games, though, Buck has been in a groove at the plate, going 6-for-19 (.315) with three home runs and seven RBIs.
Buck has worked with hitting coach Eduardo Perez on a few minor adjustments to shorten his swing, but hasn't made a major mechanical overhaul.
"When you look at film [from earlier this season and now] and you put them both side by side, you can't tell the difference," Buck said. "It's the same. I'm just literally ... my hands are a fraction of a bit higher on the ball where my barrel is hitting."
Even through the rocky start, Buck hasn't put too much stock in his batting average, which is still just .181 entering Friday, despite the recent surge. He understands that it's going to take a lot more than a couple of good days at the plate to raise the average.
"My average is so low, it's not like I'm going to be in the running for any batting championships," Buck said. "It helps me be in the moment and be what my team needs at that particular point."
While Buck hasn't let his struggles in the batter's box affect his performance behind the plate, manager Ozzie Guillen is pleased his backstop is starting to come around offensively, providing the Marlins with some much-needed help at the bottom of the order.
"We need that," Guillen said. "He's struggled all year long, and now we have the help from the bottom of the lineup. The bottom of the lineup most of the year has been very dry; not that much action down there. But now with Buck swinging the bat that way, it's a big help, a huge help."
Ruggiano a bright spot in Miami's tough June
MIAMI -- Justin Ruggiano has been a pleasant surprise for the Marlins and manager Ozzie Guillen.
Ruggiano has hit .356 in 22 games for Miami entering Friday. The Marlins acquired the outfielder in a Minor League trade with the Astros on May 26, and selected his contract the next day. Ruggiano has also helped fill the void left in center field by the absence of Emilio Bonifacio, who is nursing a left thumb injury suffered in May.
"Ruggiano, every time we play him, he gives you great at-bats," Guillen said. "I love the way he plays, I love the way he runs the bases."
While Ruggiano has been a breath of fresh air in a Marlins lineup that has struggled with consistency, the outfielder has been particularly impressive in June. Entering the opener against the Phillies, Ruggiano was third in the National League in batting average this month at .364 (16-for-44), trailing only Cincinnati's Joey Votto (.393) and Atlanta's Jason Heyward (.370).
Ruggiano's .462 on-base percentage this month is second only to Votto's .495 in the NL. His .705 slugging percentage is fourth in the league behind Rockies outfielder Tyler Colvin (.737), Heyward (.716) and Votto (.708).
Along with his stellar performance at the plate, Ruggiano has played -- along with Scott Cousins -- what Guillen described as the best defense the team has had in center field all season.
What has impressed Guillen most about Ruggiano's performance, however, is that he was in the Minors when the Marlins traded for him in May.
"Sometimes you wonder why these guys play in Triple-A," Guillen said. "I see this guy's ability and what he can bring to the table, and he was in Triple-A when we got him. With us, he has been great -- good pinch-hits, great at-bats, playing very good defense. [I'm] very happy and very glad we have him."
Yelich steals show in Fernandez's Jupiter debut
MIAMI -- Marlins top pitching prospect Jose Fernandez just went through a promotion to a higher level. If what happened at Roger Dean Stadium on Thursday night is any indication, another young talent could be moving up the organizational ladder.
On a night Fernandez made his Class A Jupiter debut, Christian Yelich did his part to steal the show.
The 20-year-old outfielder went 4-for-5 with two homers and seven RBIs in the Hammerheads' 11-4 comeback win over the Port St. Lucie Mets.
If Yelich gets hot, he could perhaps find himself getting the call up to Double-A Jacksonville later his summer.
Earlier this season, Yelich missed about three weeks due to a concussion. He was cleared to play after two weeks, and he was given another week getting game ready before being activated.
"It drove him crazy. He loves to play," Hammerheads manager Andy Haines said. "He did not handle it very well, because he loves to be on the field. With concussions, everybody knows it's a little bit different than everybody used to think.
"Our medical people were cautious, as they should have been. We sent him to Miami. I thought they handled it great, because if you left it up to him, he would be playing, which he shouldn't have been."
With his two homers on Thursday, Yelich now has nine on the season.
Fernandez, starting for the first time in 12 days, showed signs of why he is so highly regarded. His first pitch of the night was a 95-mph called strike. His third pitch reached 97 mph.
The right-hander also showed some rust, having not made a start in 12 days due to his promotion and several days of rainouts. Still, he collected a win, giving up four runs in five innings with four strikeouts.
Yelich, the Marlins' first-round pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, and Fernandez will represent the Marlins at the Futures Game on July 8 at Kansas City.
"It's going to be a great experience," Haines said. "How grounded as they are, they're both really appreciative and glad to go. I think for them, just to see the other elite players who get the notoriety from other organizations, it will be a great experience for them. Just to be around that environment ... for their development, it will be good."
Fernandez, who was promoted from low Class A Greensboro, was born in Cuba, and he defected into the United States at age 15. The 19-year-old initially didn't know anything about the Futures Game.
Recently, he played in the South Atlantic League All-Star Game, and thought that was it regarding a mid-summer showcase. Marlins director of player development Brian Chattin had to explain what the Futures Game is.
"When he called, I said, 'Thank you very much, but what does that mean?' I just finished the All-Star Game," Fernandez said. "It's going to be amazing. There will be a lot of talent. I love to compete and pitch to big hitters."
Tom Green is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.