CHICAGO — Don’t count the Marlins out just yet. Team owner Jeffrey Loria isn’t.
Addressing the media on Friday afternoon, Loria spoke on a number of topics. Foremost, he hasn’t stopped believing this team can still get back into the playoff picture.
Since taking over for Edwin Rodriguez on June 20, Jack McKeon has the Marlins rolling. They entered Friday riding a six-game winning streak, and they’re record is 44-48.
“I know it looks tough,” Loria said. “Jack says as soon as we get to .500, you don’t know what can happen. I would never bet against Jack McKeon. He’s not a miracle worker, he will tell you that, but he certainly has a magic touch in getting guys to work and want to succeed.”
Loria didn’t rule out McKeon, who turns 81 in November, returning in 2012.
No matter who the manager is, Loria wants experience.
“I think experience is important, especially in the clubhouse and on the coaching staff,” the owner said. “You always want to give your players the most you can give them, and the ability to succeed. That’s what we want to do.”
The Marlins are moving into their new ballpark next year, which will provide additional revenues.
“The history of going into new ballparks, and the additional revenues will be significantly helpful. It should be,” Loria said.
The Marlins are not leaning towards making major changes by the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
He noted that between now and next year, the team will be looking for a big league ready third baseman, plus more starting pitching.
— Joe Frisaro
CHICAGO — It’s already been a signature season for Gaby Sanchez, who participated in his first All-Star Game on Tuesday.
Sanchez also has made a breakthrough in the world of social media. Recently, the Marlins first baseman passed the 10,000-followers milestone on his Twitter account, @GabySanchez15. Actually, Sanchez has steamrolled past that number, as he now has more than 17,000 followers.
In an attempt to drive up his Twitter following, Sanchez conducted an on-line contest as he was approaching the 10,000-followers plateau.
He asked fans to send in photos showing their support for the Marlins. The top five pictures have been posted on his Facebook page, www.facebook.com/gabysanchez15. Each of the winners is receiving either a Gaby Sanchez signed baseball or fan flag.
Sanchez is represented by the Beverly Hills Sports Council, which is considering doing similar contests with their other clients.
Sanchez is using his social media accounts to interact with fans, as well as promote several of his initatives, such as his baseball camp.
— Joe Frisaro
MIAMI — A disappointing first half has not prompted the Marlins to consider drastic roster changes. At least, not at this point.
Despite being in last place in the NL East at the All-Star Break, the team believes enough key pieces are in place to move the franchise forward, not just for the remainder of the season but into 2012. Next year, the Marlins move into their new retractable-roof stadium, and the organization is high on a number of the players already in place.
Speculation about possible deals is on the rise as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline approaches.
But on Wednesday morning, Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest noted that major changes are not expected.
“In terms of huge moves, there are a lot of huge pieces of this team that we covet,” Beinfest said. “I don’t see major things happening at this point, but you never know what happens at the end of this month. First and foremost is to grind away and get ourselves out of this.”
The season started off promising for Florida. And after improving to 29-19 on May 26, the club had playoff expectations. But in June, the year became to unravel as the team lost a franchise record 23 games in the month.
The Marlins entered the All-Star Break having won a seson-best five games, but they remain five-games under .500.
So are the Marlins right now buyers or sellers?
“We never really consider ourselves sellers,” Beinfest said. “I think you’re always buying something. It just may be something different. I know that sounds like a corny answer, but it’s really the way we feel about it.
“The way we look at it is the month of June was rather unfortunate. It put us in a tough position. Obviously, we’ve played well of late, and we continue to dig out. But that’s kind of where we’re at. We’re still in a digging out mode.”
— Joe Frisaro
MIAMI — The Marlins go for their third straight win on Friday night, something they haven’t done since sweeping the Giants in AT&T Park from May 24-26.
Bryan Petersen will lead off for the Marlins, as manager Jack McKeon shuffles the top of the order. Javier Vazquez will take the mound.
– Joe Frisaro
MIAMI — For the final three games of their series with the Astros, the Marlins have opted to go with more bullpen help.
So on Friday afternoon, they recalled right-hander Chris Hatcher from Double-A Jacksonville.
A converted catcher, Hatcher has enjoyed an impressive first year pitching in relief at Double-A Jacksonville. The right-hander is 2-1 with a 2.31 ERA in 30 games. In 35 innings, he has struck out 39, while walking 15, and opponents are batting .206 against him.
Hatcher, 26, was called up at the end of the 2010 season, but at the time he was a catcher. He played in five games, and he did warm up one night as an emergency pitching candidate.
Hatcher is the first player since Art Doll with the Boston Braves in 1935 and 1936 to debut as a catcher and then convert to a pitcher.
The Marlins selected Hatcher in the fifth round of the 2006 First-Year Player Draft.
The right-hander was a Southern League Mid-Season All-Star.
With the All-Star Break set to begin on Monday, the Marlins don’t have a need for a fifth starter through the end of the weekend.
Hatcher takes the roster spot that opened after Brad Hand was optioned to Double-A Jacksonville following Thursday’s 5-0 win over the Astros.
Hand (1-3) scattered two hits in seven scoreless innings while collecting his first big league victory. By being sent down, Hand can remain on his regular throwing schedule, and he remains an option to rejoin the roster at some point after the All-Star Break.
— Joe Frisaro