ATLANTA -- It's taken until the Fourth of July for the Marlins to assemble the rotation they envisioned at the start of Spring Training.
Henderson Alvarez, on the disabled list when the season started, made his Miami debut on Thursday night in the series finale in Atlanta.
Alvarez, acquired from the Blue Jays in November, was shut down at the end of Spring Training with right shoulder inflammation. He is expected to take on a major role in the second half -- and in the future -- for the Marlins.
"I'm very excited," manager Mike Redmond said. "There will be a lot of evaluation. When we talked in Spring Training, we were hoping that we'd have had all these guys together initially in April and May. It hasn't worked."
Only Ricky Nolasco and Jose Fernandez remain from the Opening Day rotation. Rounding out the starting five are Alvarez, Nathan Eovaldi and Jacob Turner.
Heading into Spring Training, the Marlins anticipated those three being in the rotation. But Alvarez and Eovaldi were each on the DL with shoulder inflammation, and Turner opened at Triple-A New Orleans.
How long Nolasco remains with the club remains up in the air because he's been the subject of trade talks. And the Marlins are expected to deal the 30-year-old by the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
The Marlins have been one of the hottest teams in the game since their rough April and May.
Actually, since May 31, the Marlins are 18-11. Only the Red Sox (19) have more wins. But Miami and Pittsburgh share the best winning percentage (.621) in that span.
The Marlins are striving to build around power pitching. Eovaldi and Fernandez each throw in the upper 90s.
Fernandez, 20, and Turner, 22, are the youngest of the group. Both are rising talents, and represented by agent Scott Boras.
"With a lot of our guys, we're trying to decide which guys are going to be here for the future, and which guys are going to be part of the plan to get this organization back to where we want it to be," Redmond said. "We will be watching the guys. You're always pitching for something. You're always pitching to either stay in the big leagues or pitching for a contract, whatever it is.
"Right now, he's come over in this trade. There are a lot of uncertainties with Alvarez. We don't know what he's going to do. Our job is to evaluate and get him out there and see what we've got. ... He is a guy with good stuff."
Ruggiano riding rare road homer streak
ATLANTA -- There is no place like the road for Justin Ruggiano.
For whatever reason, all 12 of the Marlins outfielder's home runs this season have come in visiting ballparks.
Having such a discrepancy is a rarity. According to STATS LLC and SABR, Ruggiano is doing something close to historic. Having all 12 of his home runs come on the road is tied for the fourth-most consecutive road home runs to begin a season all-time. Derrek Lee did it with the Marlins in 2000.
Ruggiano belted No. 12 on Wednesday night in Miami's 6-3 win over the Braves at Turner Field.
"I think the road ballparks are a little more fair to hit in," Ruggiano said.
While it has been all or nothing for Ruggiano, cavernous Marlins Park in general has been tougher to hit home runs for many.
As a team, the Marlins have homered more on the road. They have hit 17 home runs at Marlins Park, the fewest of any big league club in its own building. Conversely, they've connected 32 times on the road.
"Other than the obvious, the size of the ballpark, I don't know," manager Mike Redmond said. "But he hit two home runs in one game at San Francisco, and that ballpark is not easy to hit in either. I don't think much about it. I think it is one of those baseball things. It's fun to talk about. Why -- who knows?"
Redmond is very much aware of his players' numbers, at home and on the road.
"It's one of those things that is kind of a head-scratcher," Redmond said. "For whatever reason, he's hit all of his home runs on the road. I don't know why that it is."
The manager joked: "I guess I'll have to play him only on the road. That wouldn't be a lot of fun for him."
Mathis adding clutch hits to repertoire
ATLANTA -- Jeff Mathis is doing much more than handling the pitching staff and throwing out baserunners.
The Marlins' veteran catcher has also delivered some big hits of late.
With a two-run double in Wednesday's 6-3 win in Atlanta, Mathis ran his streak with at least one RBI to five straight games, a personal best. Included in the stretch is a walk-off grand slam last Sunday to beat the Padres.
His 13 RBIs over his last five games is tied with Hanley Ramirez (June 21-26, 2009) for the longest stretch of two-plus-RBI games in club history.
"I keep trying to get good pitches to hit," Mathis said. "Guys are grinding in front of me, getting on base and having good at-bats. I'm just glad I can get in those situations."
Mathis opened the season on the disabled list with a broken right collarbone. So he missed all of Spring Training.
Now, after a slow start, his numbers are improving.
"Any time you see more pitches and get more at-bats, for anybody, I think that's a plus," Mathis said. "Right now, I'm fortunate to be in there a little more and get those at-bats and see those pitches. I'm starting to feel a little more rhythm at the plate."
Koehler sent to Triple-A to make room for Alvarez
ATLANTA -- With Henderson Alvarez coming off the disabled list, the Marlins had to make a corresponding move.
Before facing the Braves on Thursday night, the Marlins optioned right-hander Tom Koehler to Triple-A New Orleans. To clear 40-man roster space, Matt Diaz was transferred to the 60-day disabled list. Diaz has been out since May 20 with a bone bruise in his left knee.
Alvarez opened the season on the DL with right shoulder inflammation. He made his first start with Miami on Thursday.
After opening the season in the bullpen, Koehler was moved to the rotation. In all, he's made 16 appearances, with 10 starts, posting a 1-5 record with a 4.70 ERA.
"Tom will go down there and be in the rotation," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. "I thought he did a good job while he was here. He gives us some flexibility where he could start or pitch out of the bullpen. He got some valuable experience. He's a guy who has got a great arm."