Thanks partly to general manager Michael Hill, the Florida Marlins have been contenders despite frugal spending. One of the majors’ largest payrolls, however, couldn’t save Seattle Mariners GM Bill Bavasi.
The Marlins look to keep pace in the NL East race Tuesday in the middle game of their series with the lowly Mariners, who are looking for a new GM after firing Bavasi.
Though Florida (38-32) entered the season with major league-low $21.8 million payroll, it led the NL East for a stretch and currently just three games behind first-place Philadelphia. By developing young talent, Hill and president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest have put together a team competing with clubs that have spent much more.
The Marlins have certainly been better than the Mariners, who have the majors’ worst record at 22-46 despite a $117 million payroll. Seattle began the season with playoff hopes, but its underachieving play led to the firing of Bavasi on Monday.
Vice president/associate general manager Lee Pelekoudas will take over in his place.
The Mariners are on pace to set a team record in losses. They lost 6-1 to the Marlins on Monday night, giving them eight straight home losses—their longest skid in Seattle since dropping 11 in a row from Aug. 16-Sept. 10, 1989.
“We’ve just got to win,” Seattle manager John McLaren said. “It’s kind of mind boggling what we’ve gone through and I’ve had a lot of nights staying up late trying to figure things out. We have talent, we play hard and for some reason that’s not getting it done.”
Bavasi tried high-profile signings, locking up Rickie Sexson and Adrian Beltre after the 2004 season. Both players have struggled at the plate this season, though, batting .218 and .225, respectively.
One player the Mariners organization did develop is Felix Hernandez (5-5, 2.81 ERA), who will take the mound Tuesday. He has won three straight starts, allowing just one unearned run in 21 innings.
The right-hander gave up that run in his last start, striking out eight while allowing four hits in eight innings as Seattle beat Toronto 2-1 on Wednesday.
This will be Hernandez’s first appearance against Florida. He is 4-3 with a 4.53 ERA in nine interleague starts.
The Marlins will counter with their own homegrown product. Scott Olsen (4-3, 3.27 ERA) has given up six runs in his last two starts, but only one of them was earned.
The left-hander allowed two runs and six hits while striking out seven in seven innings as Florida lost 3-0 to Philadelphia on Thursday night.
Olsen has never faced Seattle. He is 3-2 with a 2.47 ERA in eight interleague starts and facing a Mariners team that has scored only five runs its last three games.
With his team in trouble, McLaren made his first drastic change to the lineup, moving Ichiro Suzuki back into right field Monday.
Suzuki, who switched to center field last year when the Mariners signed Jose Guillen, played in right field for the first time since the end of the 2006 season.
“I’ve been thinking about it for over a month,” McLaren said. “It’s nothing against Ichiro in center field, of course. I just think he’s a great right fielder and I want to see his zest and smile and everything going.”
Willie Bloomquist started in center field, going 2-for-3.