MIAMI -- Plenty of focus was sure to be on Ricky Nolasco as he made his 17th start of the season for the Marlins on Friday night.
The question floating around the 30-year-old right-hander was if it would be his final appearance with the Marlins.
Nolasco is the subject of intense trade rumors. The list of teams with either serious or passing interest includes the Dodgers, Padres, Giants, Orioles, Red Sox and Pirates.
A free agent after the season, Nolasco is the Marlins' career leader in victories (80) and strikeouts (988).
The way Nolasco has conducted himself around a young team has enriched his respect within the organization.
"What's impressed me the most about Ricky is how professional he is," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. "He's able to focus on his job, and doing his job. He's going out there and pitching. This guy has been durable, not only over the year, but over his career. He brings so much to this team.
"He's been amazing about going out there and controlling what he can control, and that's pitching. I totally expect him to go out there and pitch like he has all year, which is giving us a chance to win. He's a professional. He's done a tremendous job out there."
A former player, Redmond notes that the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline can wear on players.
Redmond joked that Kevin Millar always thought he was going to be traded.
"Millar was like, 'I heard I'm going to Boston,'" Redmond said. "I was like, 'Kevin, come on, you're a role player. You can hit a little bit.' I think they're coming for A.J. [Burnett], Josh [Beckett] or Dontrelle [Willis], before they're coming for you, Kevin.' I was just being realistic. He always thought he was getting traded."
Marlins try to keep hot-hitting Ruggiano fresh
MIAMI -- Justin Ruggiano has been one of the Marlins' most productive hitters this month.
In hopes of keeping things that way, the 31-year-old outfielder is getting periodic days offs, so he was out of the lineup Friday in the series opener against the Padres at Marlins Park.
Ruggiano is batting .302 in June with three home runs and six RBIs. But Sunday at San Francisco, he strained his left shoulder while making a diving attempt on a ball in left field.
The Marlins had an off-day Thursday, and manager Mike Redmond opted to give Ruggiano another break Friday, meaning he received two straight days to rest. Juan Pierre started Friday, but Ruggiano was expected to start Saturday.
"It's fine," Ruggiano said. "I can make do."
Since Sunday, Ruggiano played Tuesday and in Wednesday's series finale against the Twins.
"It really didn't bother me much the other day," he said. "I could only think of one swing where it hurt. It is one of those things."
Ruggiano has yet to have an MRI exam, but that could change if he does not see progress in his recovery. He is nursing it back to strength while splitting time with Pierre.
Ruggiano has also started against left-handed pitchers, and the Padres are going with southpaw Eric Stults on Saturday.
"If I feel like I'm not getting any better and it pops out again, then I'll have to get an MRI," Ruggiano said. "All it needs is rehab."
Redmond is mixing and matching his roster, and he said that was how he was using veteran third baseman Placido Polanco.
"It's important to keep these guys as fresh as we can," Redmond said. "We're seeing the results when we give guys a little breather, especially Polly. Early in the season we had to play him so much because we didn't have many other options. I think giving him a few days off has really helped him."
Bullpen making big contribution in June
MIAMI -- Timely hitting and strong starting pitching have led to the Marlins enjoying a strong June.
Not to be overlooked in the club's first winning month of the season is the bullpen. Actually, the relievers played a major role in the turnaround.
The Marlins' bullpen is 8-4 with a 2.65 ERA in June, compared with a 5-5 record and 4.05 ERA by the starters.
The 2.65 ERA in June is sixth-best among National League bullpens in the month. In Wednesday's 5-3 win over the Twins at Marlins Park, the bullpen chipped in with five scoreless innings.
Kevin Slowey collected the win, throwing three, while Mike Dunn pitched the eighth and Steve Cishek nailed down the ninth for the save.
"It's just everyone going out there, staying within themselves," Dunn said. "Guys are doing what they can do and not trying to do anything they can't. Guys are attacking hitters and making the hitter beat us on our pitches. Not having to give in and throwing them a cookie right down the middle at 2-0 and stuff. We're normally ahead in the count when everyone is pitching well."
• Henderson Alvarez on Friday was throwing what would most likely be his final rehab assignment start for Double-A Jacksonville. Alvarez, on the 60-day disabled list with right shoulder inflammation, is close to being reinstated.
Alvarez happens to be matched the same day as Nolasco, the subject of trade talks. If Nolasco is moved in the next few days, Alvarez will become the immediate candidate to fill his rotation spot.
• Top prospect Christian Yelich went 2-for-5 on Friday in his rehab assignment game with the Gulf Coast League Marlins. Yelich, on the Minor League disabled list with an abdominal strain, is hoping to be reinstated by Double-A Jacksonville sometime next week.
Yelich, a candidate to be called up sometime after the All-Star Break, has been closely following his former Minor League teammates who are already in the big leagues -- Jose Fernandez, Marcell Ozuna and Derek Dietrich.
"They're doing well," Yelich said. "I'm happy for those guys. They're representing us well. The young guys up there are doing well, and it's fun to watch. It's nice to see them have some success."