BALTIMORE — Fredi Gonzalez was fired as manager of the Florida Marlins on Wednesday, with the team owner saying "we can do better and be better."
The Marlins are 34-36 following a win over Baltimore on Tuesday night. Florida began the day in fourth place in the NL East, 7 1/2 games behind first-place Atlanta.
Edwin Rodriguez, who has spent the past 1 1/2 seasons as manager of Triple-A New Orleans, takes over as manager on an interim basis.
Also fired were bench coach Carlos Tosca and hitting coach Jim Presley. They were replaced on an interim basis by Brandon Hyde and John Mallee.
"We owe it to our fans to put this team in the best possible position to win," owner Jeffrey Loria said in a statement. "Everyone knows how I feel about winning. That’s the reason we’re making this change."
Gonzalez did not immediately return a phone call or a text message seeking comment.
In three-plus seasons as the Marlins’ manager, Gonzalez was 276-279. Before the 2009 season, he received a contract extension through 2011.
Gonzalez is the third manager to lose his job this season. The others are Dave Trembley at Baltimore and Trey Hillman at Kansas City.
When last season ended, Gonzalez’s job was considered in jeopardy because Loria was upset that the Marlins failed to make the playoffs, although they finished 12 games above .500 with the smallest payroll in baseball. Several times this year Loria denied Gonzalez should be worried about his job security, most recently at the start of a trip May 7 in Washington.
But at the start of spring training, Loria had made it clear he had high hopes this season.
"I expect us to make the playoffs," he said. "We’ve got all the ammunition we need."
That comment ratcheted up expectations for a team that outscored opponents by six runs last season and made no major offseason additions. Payroll this season is about $45 million, the highest since 2005 but still third-lowest in the NL.
The firing could add to speculation that Gonzalez will be on the list of possible sucessors in Atlanta for Bobby Cox, who plans to retire after the season. Gonzalez was Atlanta’s third-base coach under Cox before getting hired by the Marlins, and remains very close with the longtime Braves’ skipper.
Gonzalez has kept his ties to Atlanta; his family still makes its year-round home in a suburb not far from the Braves’ ballpark.
Loria replaced Jeff Torborg with Jack McKeon in May 2003, when the Marlins began an improbable run to the World Series title. In 2006, Gonzalez was hired to replace Joe Girardi, fired after only one season shortly before he was chosen NL manager of the year.
Girardi brought a drill-sergeant approach to the job, while Gonzalez’s low-key personality made him more of a players’ manager. One possible replacement, Bobby Valentine, would be another drill sergeant.
In 2009, Valentine ended a six-year run as manager of the Chiba Lotte Marines in Japan’s Pacific League. He managed the Texas Rangers when Loria owned that organization’s Triple-A team in Oklahoma in 1989-92.
Valentine led the New York Mets to the World Series in 2000, where they lost to the Yankees. He reached the postseason twice in 15 years with the Rangers and Mets. His career record is 1,117-1,072. He’s currently working for ESPN.
Rodriguez is in his eighth season with the Marlins’ organization. Before his stay in New Orleans, he spent two years as manager of Single-A Greensboro and two seasons as manager of the GCL Marlins. He also was the hitting coach for the Double-A Carolina Mudcats.
While the Marlins seemed upbeat following their first two-game winning streak since June 10-11, second baseman Dan Uggla said the team is still coming together.
"We’re not necessarily concerned with the .500 mark because once we do get back to it we need to keep going," Uggla said after Tuesday night’s game. "Right now we’re all about winning and coming together as a team. We can’t waste any more time. We have to make a move."
The move came Wednesday, with Loria optimistic his Marlins, who missed the playoffs last year after finishing 12 games over .500 with the league’s smallest payroll, can make a run at the postseason.
"We still have a very long season in front of us, and plenty of time to turn things around," Loria said. "Everyone – our fans, our team, our organization, and myself – wants us to win. That continues to be, and will always be, the goal."
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