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Marlins owner refuses to panic

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Ken Rosenthal

Ken Rosenthal has been the FOXSports.com's Senior MLB Writer since August 2005. He appears weekly on MLB on FOX, FOX Sports Radio and MLB Network. He's a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter.

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Jeffrey Loria, prince of patience?

So far.

“I know who these guys are,” Loria, the owner of the Miami Marlins, said Sunday night. “I’m not a person who panics. I know what we did to put together this team.”

OK, but you figure out the Marlins – 8-14 in April, 21-8 in May and 5-16 in June, eight games out in the NL East, 4½ back in the wild-card race.

In May, the Fish looked like potential NL East champions. In June, they’ve looked worse than the Cubs.

Consider this breakdown from STATS LLC:

                           May    June
Runs per game    4.5      3.1
Rotation ERA      3.53    5.58
Bullpen ERA        3.66    6.46

The Marlins ended their six-game losing streak and 2-15 run Sunday, beating the Blue Jays, 9-0. The victory followed a players-only meeting called by third baseman Hanley Ramirez on Saturday – the team’s third meeting in five days, following summits initiated by manager Ozzie Guillen and Loria.

A cynic might suggest that the Marlins’ volatility is a reflection of their volatile manager, who told reporters Saturday that he was “ashamed” of himself and described what he saw as “terrible” and “pathetic.”

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Loria, though, said he is happy, “very happy” with Guillen, who is in the first year of a four-year contract, noting that the manager still is “getting to learn the team.”

As for the sacrificial offering of a coach, Loria rejected that idea, saying, “No one is in jeopardy. Don’t use that word from me.”

Instead, Loria talked about the returns of two players who could be better than anyone the Marlins add at the July 31 non-waiver deadline – right-hander Juan Carlos Oviedo, the pitcher formerly known as Leo Nunez, and center fielder Emilio Bonifacio, who has been out since May 18 after undergoing surgery on his left thumb.

Seems like every team in the majors is longing for players who are absent, but the Marlins have used four center fielders in place of Bonifacio – Bryan Petersen, Chris Coghlan, Justin Ruggiano and Scott Cousins. Peterson and Coghlan are now back at Triple A.

“Bonifacio was a major catalyst,” Loria said of the switch-hitter, who has a .351 on-base percentage and 20 stolen bases in 21 attempts.

“He set the tone of the game. Not only with his speed, but with his joy for the game. That’s been missing since he went down.

“Put him back in the No. 2 spot behind Reyes, and they’ll be jumping around, giving the Lo Viste sign to each other. Everyone will play with a lot more joy.”

Bonifacio is expected back around the All-Star break. Oviedo is eligible to return from his eight-week suspension for age and identity fraud on July 23.

Both would help, but the Marlins need better from catcher John Buck (.167 batting average, .599 OPS) and first baseman Gaby Sanchez (.195 BA, .528 OPS), among others.

It’s almost impossible to imagine the Marlins as sellers, not in their first season in a new ballpark. Loria more than doubled his payroll from 2011 to ’12, going from $57 million to $118 million, seventh highest in the majors. He has no choice but to fight.

“We’ve put a lot of interesting pieces together,” Loria said. “I’m looking for good things. I’m still looking for good things.”
 

Tagged: Marlins, Juan Carlos Oviedo, Emilio Bonifacio

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