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Posted on Sun, Apr. 18, 2004

 

MARLINS NOTEBOOK

 

Nu?ez replaces slumping Conine

 

BY CLARK SPENCER

 

[email protected]

 

Jeff Conine is a chronic slow starter, and this season has been no different than some of the others. Conine, who is slumping, was taken out of the starting lineup Saturday and replaced in left field by Abraham Nu?ez.

 

Manager Jack McKeon gave no indication when Conine would return, though he hinted it could be as soon as today when the Braves send out left-hander Mike Hampton.

 

''There's no panic whatsoever with veteran players,'' McKeon said of Conine, who is hitting .167 and driven in just one run. ``I've had them before where it takes them awhile to get going.''

 

April has never been a particularly good month for Conine. His career average in baseball's first full month is .260, but climbs to .286 in May, .309 in June, .304 in July, and .291 in August.

 

''It's happened every year to me for the last three or four years,'' Conine said. ``I've had nearly 6,000 at-bats . . . You'd think I'd figure it out by now.''

 

Conine took early batting practice Saturday under the watchful eye of Marlins hitting coach Bill Robinson.

 

''His swing is ugly right now, and he'll be the first one to admit it,'' Robinson said. ``He's collapsing his back side. His hands are dead, causing him to lunge, uppercut or pull off the ball.''

 

McKeon elevated Hee Seop Choi to the fifth spot in the order and batted Nu?ez sixth.

 

PLATE PRODUCTION

 

Conine isn't the only Marlin in a hitting slump. Aside from Choi, who has hit five home runs, the bottom half of the order has been in a funk.

 

Ramon Castro went into Saturday with .158 average and no home runs. Alex Gonzalez was hitting .171 with no RBI. Even leadoff hitter Juan Pierre was in a 0 for 11 slump going into Saturday.

 

''We just can't depend on [Miguel]Cabrera and [Mike] Lowell every night,'' McKeon said. ``We've been winning. We haven't been hitting. We can't get in a shootout right now.''

 

Said Robinson: ``We're doing enough to keep our heads above water.''

 

Robinson said Castro is overswinging.

 

''He's trying to hit the ball to downtown San Juan and downtown Atlanta,'' Robinson said.

 

``I will say, in defense of Alex [Gonzalez], he's hitting the ball hard. He's just hitting it right at people.''

 

WOLFS ON BOTH SIDES

 

McKeon said he doesn't have a problem with Jim Wolf -- brother of Phillies starter Randy Wolf -- becoming a full-time major-league umpire. But he said it could be viewed as a conflict of interest.

 

Wolf was promoted to full-time status on Friday after serving in a fill-in capacity last season.

 

''If I had a brother who was an umpire in the league, I would kind of hope he wouldn't call our games to eliminate any doubts,'' McKeon said. ``That's a situation you could very easily remedy and just say he won't call Philly games.''

 

But the league said Wolf could umpire Phillies games and scheduled him to work the Philadelphia-Arizona series at the end of the month. The only stipulation is that he won't be permitted to work home plate when his brother is pitching.

 

''It's not in any way saying this guy is not a good umpire, or he would do anything,'' McKeon said. ``But that's the perception if you had a close play and it didn't go the way you liked it.''

 

JUST A SPRING CHICKEN

 

Cabrera turns 21 today.

 

Said catcher Mike Redmond, who turns 33 soon: ``It's hard to believe I was playing my last year of Little League when he was being born.''

 

Proof right there that Conine is used to this type of slump in April and will catch fire soon.

 

On the Wolf issue, I cant believe their letting this guy umpire Philly games. There's such and obvious conflict of interest there. But its the MLB its expected I guess.

 

Funny quote on the Redmond playing little league when Cabs was just born. :lol

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