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What's next for Mr. Marlin?


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Conine, Encarnacion battle will take time

 

Conine, Encarnacion battle will take time

By Joe Capozzi

 

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

 

Saturday, January 29, 2005

 

The Marlins welcomed Carlos Delgado on Thursday by decorating a news conference room with jerseys that were arranged sleeve to sleeve according to the team's projected 2005 batting order.

 

There was one shirt too many, a signal of how Delgado's arrival will force the Marlins to make a key move this spring.

 

Side by side were jerseys for right fielder Juan Encarnacion and first baseman Jeff Conine, but one of those players won't be in the lineup on opening day.

 

Delgado will play first base. But who will play right field will be determined during spring training.

 

Conine and Encarnacion are recovering from off-season shoulder surgeries, and General Manager Admin Beinfest suggested that whichever player progresses most quickly will be a good bet to win the spot.

 

"We're going to have to assess both of their health statuses in spring training," Beinfest said. "These things have a way of working themselves out. It's a good problem to have. But I wouldn't rule anything out."

 

Ideally, the Marlins would trade one of them. Team sources said the front office prefers trading Encarnacion. He is due $4.45 million, while Conine is owed $3 million.

 

But teams won't be interested in either player until the two see action and prove they are healthy.

 

Conine, who reinjured his right (throwing) shoulder playing paddleball during Thanksgiving weekend, was Florida's first baseman for the second half of last season.

 

He has played just three games in right field during the past three years. The Marlins might hesitate to put him there in April if his shoulder isn't completely ready.

 

Conine said Thursday that his shoulder felt "great," but he also said doctors have advised him to take it easy this spring. He said he is prepared to sit out of Grapefruit League games until the final two weeks of March.

 

"I'm continuing with the rehab and not trying to push it too hard," he said. "I'm just sticking with the schedule and getting ready for April 5."

 

Another option would be to move left fielder Miguel Cabrera to right field, where he struggled in the first half of last season.

 

Part of the reason the Marlins traded to get Encarnacion back from the Dodgers on July 30 was so they could move Cabrera, a natural shortstop who played almost his entire minor-league career at third base, back to left field.

 

Don't be surprised if the Marlins keep Conine and Encarnacion. Although it would be expensive, it would add more depth to a bench that will include veteran Damion Easley and possibly rookies Wilson Delgado and Chris Aguila.

 

"You want as many good players as you can get," manager Jack McKeon said. "Good players can be interchangeable. We've never had this flexibility before."

 

Conine, known as "Mr. Marlin" because of his ties to the franchise's first year (1993), will be 39 in July. If his shoulder continues to nag him, 2005 could be his final season, and the Marlins would want him to retire in South Florida.

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Since Jeff (or if you prefer, "Steve") may only see limited duty this spring, I don't know how much of a competition there will be.

 

Encarnacion has all the pressure on him considering

 

a) his salary is 50% higher than Conine's

 

b) his injury is to his non-throwing shoulder, so it's all about his bat

 

c) Jeff is a fan and mgmt favorite and he clearly is not

 

d) if he wants to continue his major league career he needs to show all of MLB what he can do as opposed to Conine who is in the twilight of his career

 

So in my mind it's more about Encarnacion than it is about Encarnacion VS Conine.

 

One crazy thought - how about Conine and DVH in the radio booth and Hutton and Leiter in the tv booth in 2006? Just idle speculation.

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Who knows? Maybe the stadium deal is done by now if Rodriguez and Lee had stayed.

 

What the F does that mean??! I used to at least admire his writing while holding my nose at the obvious bias in his articles, but this has gotten intolerable.

671872[/snapback]

 

Wasn't that quote from the Berardino article?

 

Capozzi has a much more positive view of the Fish.

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