By KEVIN KELLY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 17, 2002
When owners approved the sales of the Marlins and Expos by conference call Tuesday, it allowed Jeff Torborg just enough time to arrange some last-minute appointments, finish his taxes and rave about his newly inherited team before spring training began.
"We're very excited about coming down with that young club," said Torborg, who managed Montreal until Jeffrey Loria purchased the Marlins and sold the Expos to Major League Baseball.
The 60-year-old tracked Marlins player movement -- of which there was little -- throughout the talk of contraction and sees much potential in a club that finished fourth in the NL East, 12 games behind the Braves.
"I look at this club and say, "Wow, I'm just glad nothing was done to it in the offseason,' " he said. "People were talking about how they haven't done any tinkering. I was looking and said it doesn't need tinkering." Torborg, who lives in Sarasota, is believed to have a contract through 2003 and brings with him his staff from Montreal and )a reputation as a player-friendly manager.
"I think he's the right fit for that (Marlins) team," said Expos outfielder Mark Smith, a former Marlin. "He keeps guys motivated. Players like him to the point where they want to win for him and bust their butt and do what they need to do to get the job done.
"He's real positive, a good motivator who gets guys in the right frame of mind, feeling good about the game."
Infield coach Perry Hill, third-base coach Ozzie Guillen, hitting coach Bill Robinson, pitching coach Brad Arnsberg, bullpen coach Jeff Cox, bench coach Rick Renick and bullpen coordinator Pierre Arsenault all have joined Torborg in South Florida.
"He is a first-class manager," Loria said. "I see him instilling a lot of confidence and getting the most out of this good young team."
STILL OUT THERE: Among the free agents who remained unsigned as camps opened was veteran right-hander David Cone, who went 9-7 with a 4.31 ERA for the Red Sox last season.
Cone, co-owner of Jack Willie's restaurant in Oldsmar, has a 193-123 record and 3.44 ERA lifetime.
"Right now, I am concentrating on a couple of business opportunities and I might go to college," Cone said. "There is nothing on the baseball front. If somebody calls, I will listen but right now there is nothing on the burner."
HOT COMMODITY: Donald Watkins, the Alabama businessman who briefly had interest in buying the Rays, submitted a formal bid to purchase the Twins on Monday. If that falls through, he also is interested in buying the Expos and moving them to Washington.
That's not all.
Watkins, who would become baseball's only minority owner if Twins owner Carl Pohlad accepts his offer, is being courted by NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue.
Tagliabue reportedly would like Watkins to dip into the NFL ownership waters. And, you guessed it, Watkins plans on buying an NFL team at some point and then allowing his son, Donald Watkins Jr., to run it.
THE HONEYMOONER: During an offseason in which he signed a seven-year, $120-million deal with the Yankees, Jason Giambi got married.
He and Kristian Rice wed on Feb. 2 but the honeymoon is going to have to wait.
"I didn't want to be a pain the whole honeymoon, going, "Okay, when are we going to get to Tampa?' " Giambi said. "I just said, "We'll go somewhere hopefully after winning a World Series ring.' "
MIRACLE WORKER: The toughest managing job in the league belongs to Jerry Narron in Texas.
Not only is he flanked by one former and one potential manager -- Terry Francona and Jamie Quirk -- on a staff handpicked by general manager John Hart, but Narron must try to keep a clubhouse that includes John Rocker and Carl Everett somewhat happy.
"I don't feel like I'm on the spot more than any other manager," Narron said. "I think it's very important for me to spend as much time with these guys as possible so I can know what they're thinking."
COMEBACK TRAIL: A's outfielder Jermaine Dye, who broke his left tibia in Game 4 of the team's AL divisional series against the Yankees, should bat fourth this season when he returns.
Dye is walking on a treadmill and expects to play in the final three weeks of spring training.
The sooner the better for Oakland.
Dye sparked the A's in the second half last season, hitting .297 with 13 homers and 59 RBIs, but could see a drop in his numbers now that Giambi is wearing pinstripes.
THE LAST WORD: Royals owner David Glass, like 28 others, is now a part-owner in the Expos. "You know, we play a series this year in Montreal," he said. "Maybe I can order them to use middle relievers as starters when we play up there."
-- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.