Miami — Once the runner-up to Joe Girardi for the job of managing the Florida Marlins, Fredi Gonzalez became his successor Tuesday.
The Marlins fired Girardi, and five hours later announced that hewould be replaced by Gonzalez, third-base coach for the Atlanta Braves the past four years. Girardi's departure after only one season had been expected after his rift with owner Jeffrey Loria boiled over in an on-field confrontation two months ago.
Gonzalez, 42, interviewed with the Marlins a year ago after Jack McKeon resigned. Instead they hired Girardi, but his relationship with Loria and general manager Larry Beinfest soon soured.
Gonzalez was born in Cuba and raised in Miami, becoming the first manager in the Marlins' organization when they hired him to run their first minor league team in Erie, Pa., in 1992. Beginning in 1999, he coached third base for 21â2 years under Marlins manager John Boles.
"It's a long way from Erie, man," a smiling Gonzalez said at a news conference. "I hope I'm here for a lot of years."
The cost-conscious Marlins wanted Girardi out so badly they were willing to let him go with two years left on a guaranteed three-year contract, which may cost them as much as $1.5 million. The Marlins made the move even though Girardi's considered a strong candidate for NL manager of the year.
The Marlins had baseball's youngest team and lowest payroll at $15 million, but Girardi led them to a 78-84 record, and they were in contention for a playoff berth until a late-September fade.
Girardi said he was fired during a short, unemotional meeting in his office with Beinfest, assistant general manager Mike Hill and team president David Samson.
"They came in and said, 'We're going to make a change,'" Girardi said. He said no reason was given, and he didn't ask for one.
Loria did not attend the meeting but later spoke to Girardi by phone, a spokesman for the owner said.
Girardi, an Illinois native, Northwestern graduate and former Chicago Cubs catcher, becomes a potential candidate to replace Dusty Baker, whose four-year tenure with the Cubs ended Monday.