Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Edwin Rodriguez is Marlins manager
MIAMI -- When the news broke that the Florida Marlins had decided to retain manager Edwin Rodriguez, one of the first congratulatory phone calls he received was from Hanley Ramirez.
"Hanley told me both of us are going to have very good seasons in 2011," Rodriguez said Wednesday.
That sounds fine to the Marlins, eager to make a playoff push next year before moving into their new ballpark in 2012. They flirted with the idea of hiring a big-name manager, stirring speculation about courtships with Ozzie Guillen and Bobby Valentine, but instead decided against making a change.
Rodriguez became the first Puerto Rican manager in the major leagues when the Marlins made him interim manager June 23, and the team went 46-46 the rest of the year. He spent the past month in limbo before being summoned Tuesday to New York for a meeting with owner Jeffrey Loria.
"It took him about two minutes to let me know I was coming back," Rodriguez said. "After that we talked about how we can make this team better."
President of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said he discussed several managerial candidates with Loria, but they conducted no formal interviews.
"We kept coming back to Edwin," Beinfest said. "We thought he did a terrific job. We thought it made sense for him to get a full winter to prepare, a full spring to get our team ready and a full summer to hopefully get us into the fall. He earned that."
Rodriguez received only a one-year contract but figures he still got a good deal.
"I'm very confident that our team, even though it's a very young team, we're going to be winning a lot of games," he said. "Watching the World Series and the way it went has given me more reason to believe we have what it takes."
A lot of tantalizing pieces are in place. Four-fifths of the rotation is set, beginning with NL ERA leader Josh Johnson. The lineup includes talented rookies Mike Stanton, Gaby Sanchez and Logan Morrison. Ramirez anchors the batting order, and the Marlins hope to reach a multiyear agreement with slugging second baseman Dan Uggla.
Still, the Marlins have missed the playoffs seven consecutive seasons, and this year they finished below .500 (80-82) for the first time since 2007.
"They have accomplished a lot of individual awards," Rodriguez said. "But this team hasn't grown as a team yet. They haven't developed. That is going to be my challenge."
Florida also announced the hiring of Perry Hill as infield and first base coach. Hill was with the team from 2002-06.
Five coaches from 2010 will return: bench coach Brandon Hyde, pitching coach Randy St. Claire, hitting coach John Mallee, third base-outfield-baserunning coach Joe Espada and bullpen coach Reid Cornelius.
Rodriguez has spent most of his career in the minor leagues, and he was the manager of the Marlins' Triple-A affiliate in New Orleans when they made him interim manager after Fredi Gonzalez was fired.
The promotion came without any guarantees, Rodriguez said.
"When they brought me up, it was a one-day tryout," he said. "They were straight up. They told me what the plans were at that time. I could be there for a day, a week, three months.
"They gave me the chance to manage at the big league level, and now they're giving me the chance to prove what I can do in a full season. I'm very comfortable with that. Now the ball is in my hands. It's up to me to show what I'm capable of doing," he said.
Rodriguez's success will depend in large part on Ramirez, whose attitude became an issue when he was benched early last season by Gonzalez for failing to hustle. Hampered by a sore elbow, he struggled through a disappointing season and hit only .300 after winning the NL batting title at .342 in 2009.
"This 2011 season we're going to see a different Hanley Ramirez," Rodriguez said. "He should be the guy. He should be the main offensive force in that lineup, and he knows that, and he's willing to take that responsibility."