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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
ST. PETERSBURG - As the Devil Rays seek to break the 70-win barrier for the first time, Florida's other team has slightly higher goals, seeking a second World Series championship in three years and a third in nine.
And with the addition of Carlos Delgado to the middle of their lineup and Al Leiter to their already dominating pitching staff, the Marlins may go into the season favored to get there.
"They're the team that did the most and improved their team dramatically," Braves pitcher John Smoltz said. "They've got one of those teams where the lineup was already tough, then you add a guy like (Delgado), it's pretty formidable. I think that's the team. The Marlins present the most problems for people."
Veteran Jeff Conine said this is a better team than the 1997 championship club that featured Moises Alou, Gary Sheffield and Bobby Bonilla.
"I'm as excited if not more this year than I was in '97," Conine said. "I think we have better defense than we did that year. You look at the middle of the lineup that will rival Alou, Sheffield and Bonilla with ( Miguel Cabrera), Carlos and Mikey ( Lowell). I think we're stronger at the other spots in the lineup, too."
If Josh Beckett and A.J. Burnett stay healthy, their pitching could be even better. "With the ability Josh and I have, if we get 34 starts the numbers are going to be silly," Burnett said.
Talking that much early can put a target on a team, but catcher Paul Lo Duca says the Marlins can handle it.
"For us, anything but winning the East is going to be a disappointment with the guys we have in this clubhouse," he said. "People are going to gun for you, but that's good. You have to have that cockiness. You have to have that arrogance."
RAYS RUMBLINGS: Rumors continue to swirl about the possibility of the June 24-26 Marlins-Rays series moving from Tropicana Field to Puerto Rico, though the promoter there seems more interested than MLB officials. ... Eyebrows were raised when USA Today's Hal Bodley wrote Friday that Stu Sternberg "does not have an option to buy out ( Vince) Naimoli or replace him." Most involved think otherwise. ... The Rays will complete their radio team by hiring a pre- and postgame host who can also help out with production duties. ... Todd Kalas, who was a candidate for a radio play-by-play job, plans to return as the pregame TV host. ... Radio broadcaster Charlie Slowes, hired by the new Washington team after being let go by the Rays, will broadcast from Tropicana Field after all this season, doing the April 2 Nationals-Rays exhibition. ... Interviews are being held to find a replacement for vice president of sales Wayne Hodes, let go last month. ... Infielder Antonio Perez, whom the Rays gave away last spring in their ill-fated deal for Jason Romano, is slated to platoon at third for the Dodgers.
OLD NEWS: The Mets continue to try to justify trading Scott Kazmir to the Rays for Victor Zambrano.
As if pitching coach Rick Peterson didn't sound insulting enough at the time by saying he could fix Zambrano's control problems "in 10 minutes," he continues to harp on the idea, telling a New York writer last week they felt Zambrano had a lot of "untapped potential" and "in this system we felt he could thrive here."
TOUGH TIME: Angels outfielder Steve Finley came to spring training having endured some intense family issues. On Jan.23 his wife, Amy, entering her ninth month of pregnancy, was hit in the face by a line drive at a son's Little League game. Her nose was broken and when doctors couldn't stem the bleeding they were forced to induce labor Jan.26, the same day Finley's father, Howard, had quadruple bypass surgery. Amy Finley remained hospitalized for 10 days and still has light nosebleeds, baby Sophia is fine and Howard's recovery is going well. "That's not a three weeks I'd wish on anybody," Finley said.
KARMA CHECK: New Mariners third baseman Adrian Beltre found it touching to be assigned Edgar Martinez's old spring training locker, or at least the adjacent locker where Martinez kept his bats. "I hope I can find one of his bats in here," Beltre said. "Even more, I hope he left 2(00)-300 hits for me in it."
MISCELLANY: Steroid testing is expected to start this week. ... The Nikko Smith competing on American Idol is the son of former Cardinals great Ozzie Smith. ... Reds outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. launched his first business venture - a Porsche dealership in Hilton Head, S.C. ... Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez might need a new nickname after reporting to Tigers camp at 193 pounds, down 22 from last year. ... For now, the Cubs plan on using some combination of Jerry Hairston Jr., Todd Hollandsworth and rookie Jason Dubois in leftfield. We'll see how long that lasts. ... The Braves are talking about batting Chipper Jones third and Andruw Jones fourth. ... Livan Hernandez pitched the Giants' last game at Candlestick Park and will throw the first pitch in Nationals' history. ... New Phillies manager Charlie Manuel suggested shortstop Jimmy Rollins could steal 60-75 bases.
Information from other news organizations was used in this report.