There was a lot of excitement when the Miami Marlins hired Ozzie Guillen to be their new manager. How those feelings have been impacted by his recent controversy remains to be seen.
Returning from a five-game suspension, Guillen will be back in the dugout Tuesday night when the Marlins open a three-game series against the visiting Chicago Cubs.
It didn’t take long for Guillen to find himself under fire with his new team. Days after Miami’s opener, he was left trying to explain comments to Time magazine in which he praised Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.
The Venezuelan manager apologized for offending people, including the many Cuban-born residents of Miami. The Marlins suspended him, although protesters and some political leaders in the area called for his firing.
“A lot of people think five days is not enough,” said Hall of Famer Tony Perez, a Marlins executive and native Cuban.
“A lot of people here have been hurt by Castro for more than 50 years,” Perez added. “When something like that comes up, with the new stadium opening right here in Little Havana, that’s something people don’t forget. We have to live with that and see if people will forget.”
Guillen will return to the dugout in Miami on Tuesday after the Marlins (4-6) won their first series, taking two of three from Houston over the weekend. However, that may not be enough to warm some people’s opinions.
“It’s going to be an interesting day when he comes back,” said bench coach Joey Cora, who was acting manager in Guillen’s absence. “There’s no hiding behind it. We know Tuesday is going to be a little bit different, but hopefully after Tuesday we expect everything to get back to normal. But we’ll see.”
Miami will try to make it a happy return for the manager. After blowing a late lead Saturday against the Astros, the Marlins rallied for their second 5-4, 11-inning win of the series Sunday.
“It’s good for the fans,” said Ramirez, who finished with four hits. “I’m happy they got the chance to see that.”
Ramirez, who is coming off a disappointing and injury-plagued 2011 season, has seven hits in his last nine at-bats after his 2012 average had dropped to .133 following an 0-for-5 performance Friday.
Hitters have voiced that Miami’s new park favors pitchers and Josh Johnson hopes that advantage starts favoring him. In two starts, including one at home, opponents are batting .447 against the right-hander.
Johnson (0-2, 8.38 ERA) gave up six runs and 11 hits in 3 2-3 innings of a 7-1 loss Wednesday at Philadelphia after allowing three runs and 10 hits in six innings of a 4-1 loss to St. Louis on opening day April 4.
Johnson was the 2010 NL ERA champion and was tied for the major league lead with a 1.64 ERA last year when a shoulder injury sent him to the disabled list in mid-May.
“I know he’s going to get better,” Cora said. “Next outing he’s going to be sharper. It’s going to take some time for him to be the JJ we know.”
Johnson is 0-1 with a 6.57 ERA in three appearances - two starts - against the Cubs, although he hasn’t faced them since 2008.
Chicago (3-7) lost two of three in St. Louis over the weekend, suffering a 10-3 defeat Sunday.
Starlin Castro drove in a run for the fifth straight game. He’s batting .359.
Ryan Dempster (0-1, 1.88) will take the mound Tuesday, hoping for a better result after two strong starts failed to prevent two Cubs losses. He allowed a two-run homer in the seventh inning of a 2-1 loss to Milwaukee on Wednesday.
“Games like those are the ones where a mistake can end up costing you the game,” said Dempster, who gave up five hits in 6 2-3 innings. “I made a mistake and it cost us the game.”
Dempster, who played his first four-plus seasons for Florida, is 3-0 with a 1.89 ERA in six starts against the Marlins.