Marlins expected to introduce Guillen as manager

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MIAMI (AP) — Fresh off a divorce in Chicago, Ozzie Guillen has been reunited with the Florida Marlins and owner Jeffrey Loria.

Guillen tends to speak his mind, while Loria leads the league in managerial changes, but both dismissed predictions about a rocky relationship as way off base.

“When we used to go to the winter meetings together, people went, ‘That’s a crazy combo,'” Guillen said. “But we know each other.”

So there’s no reason to anticipate Guillen ruffling feathers?

“I couldn’t care less about feathers,” Loria said. “I don’t have any feathers. And I don’t care about him ruffling anybody. Ozzie has his opinions, and he’s entitled to them. You know that going in. But Ozzie comes with a great pedigree.”

And so the Ozzie era began in Miami. Hours before the Marlins’ final game in the stadium they’re leaving, they formally introduced Guillen as their manager Wednesday.

“It’s a big, big step in my career, a new chapter,” Guillen said. “Hopefully I can bring energy, flavor and enthusiasm, but the most important thing is a winning team.”

The announcement carried little suspense. Shortly after Guillen resigned Monday as the manager of the White Sox, his website leaked the news that he had agreed to become the Marlins’ manager. He agreed Tuesday night to a four-year contract and succeeds 80-year-old Jack McKeon, who is beginning his latest retirement.

The Marlins are staggering to a last-place finish in the NL East. With the team moving to a new ballpark and making a push for more fans and more wins, Loria wanted an experienced manager.

He turned to one of the game’s most captivating but unpredictable personalities.

“I think we can turn it around next year,” Loria said. “When you have a — for lack of a better word — category five manager, it’s going to happen.”

The two first met more than 20 years ago at a game in which Guillen played.

“I was sitting in the first row,” Loria said, “and he came over to me and started talking, and talking, and talking. And the umpire had to come over and say to him, ‘Mr. Guillen, you’re up.'”

After Guillen retired and returned home to Venezuela, Loria coaxed him back into baseball as a coach. Guillen was McKeon’s third base coach with the Marlins’ 2003 World Series championship team, then became the White Sox manager that November.

Guillen led the White Sox to the 2005 World Series title, but his eight-year tenure in Chicago was often stormy and his departure was messy.

Loria, meanwhile, has gone through a succession of managers trying in vain to return to the playoffs. Strong-willed Joe Girardi lasted only one season in 2006, clashed with Loria and others in the organization, and was fired shortly before being chosen NL Manager of the Year.

Guillen will be Loria’s fourth skipper since early 2010. Guillen said he hates being second-guessed and knows how to discourage Loria from doing so, since the owner’s box is next to the Marlins’ dugout.

“I will ask, ‘What would you do right now?’ before the fact,” Guillen said. “I’ll say, ‘Hey, I’m going to make a move. What do you think?’ See what he says. He won’t know what to say.”

But Loria said he’ll continue to be a hands-on owner.

“I’m involved,” he said. “I do care. I want to see the fans in this community have a ballclub commensurate with the new stadium. I don’t think you can say being involved is a bad thing. In 2003 I put my foot down and said, ‘We need a catcher here, and we’re going to sign Pudge Rodriguez.’ Well, I guess that worked out.”

Aside from satisfying the boss, the biggest challenge for Guillen may be to tap the full potential of 2009 NL batting champion Hanley Ramirez, whose effort and attitude have frequently been questioned. Ramirez endured a disappointing, injury-plagued season.

“One thing I guarantee you — he will be back where he was,” Guillen said. “Hanley is the biggest piece of the puzzle in this organization, and I’ve got to make it work. You are going to see a different guy on the field. I guarantee you when you see Hanley in spring training, he is going to have a smile.”

Ramirez said that sounded good to him.

“Whatever Ozzie brings to make me better is good for me,” Ramirez said. “I still have a lot to prove in this game. He’s going to help me tremendously.”

The whirlwind sequence of events that took Guillen from Chicago to Miami left his former team a little stunned, White Sox shortstop Omar Vizquel said.

“I don’t think he really had time to say bye to everybody the right way,” Vizquel said. “I wish he could have had more time to sit down with the players and explaining why. We wish he could have left a little differently, especially the career he had here in Chicago. It was important for this city to give him a nice goodbye. It was kind of sad the way he left.”

Speculation has already started about which of Guillen’s former players might follow him to Miami. His coaching staff will include Joey Cora, who was the White Sox bench coach. Eduardo Perez will remain as hitting coach, and Randy St. Claire will continue as pitching coach.

The Marlins are leaving the stadium where they’ve played since their first game in 1993, and will move into the new ballpark near downtown next spring as the Miami Marlins. Guillen’s news conference preceded a big ceremony in conjunction with the final game against the Washington Nationals.

“I’m very excited about the new park,” Guillen said. “It’s pretty nice — wow. I hope the fans will be excited about the new era for the Marlins. They should be excited. I want the fans to go there and say, ‘This is a beautiful ballpark, but let’s watch the guys play.'”


AP Sports Writer Rick Gano in Chicago contributed to this report.