CHICAGO -- Florida Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria isn't counting out his team.
Loria said "anything can happen" and he's not ruling out playoff contention even as the Marlins entered Friday's game against the Chicago Cubs last in the NL East at 44-48, 13½ games out in the division and 10 back in the wild card.
They've improved with a season-high six straight wins after a miserable June that included a 1-19 stretch in which Edwin Rodriguez resigned and 80-year-old Jack McKeon replaced him on an interim basis as manager.
"I haven't counted us out yet," Loria said. "I hope you guys haven't. I know it looks tough, but what are we now -- four under? Jack says as soon as we get (to .500), you never know what can happen."
He added: "I would never bet against Jack McKeon."
Loria said there's a chance McKeon could be brought back as manager next season, adding that experience will be a requirement for the job.
"There'll be a number of candidates, but right now, Jack's the manager," Loria said. "We'll see where it goes at the end of the year. There is a chance. I'm not ruling anything out, but it will have to be somebody with experience. I'm not going to allow a repeat of what happened."
The Marlins flirted with the idea of hiring a big-name manager last season, stirring speculation about courtships with Ozzie Guillen and Bobby Valentine.
Instead, they decided to retain Rodriguez after he took over on an interim basis last June 23 and led them to a 46-46 record the rest of the way. He got a one-year contract in the offseason but resigned on June 19, with the Marlins in a full-fledged free fall.
Even so, Loria insisted the resignation caught him off guard.
"I didn't have any discussions about him leaving," he said. "I was out of the country. I was as surprised as everybody was, but you know what they say, sometimes things work out for the best.
Loria spoke to Rodriguez while he was away.
"I don't want to say any more," he said. "I thanked him for his effort. Obviously, he wasn't feeling good about what he was doing."
Loria feels good about the direction the organization is headed.
The Marlins have a new ballpark opening in 2012, and he'd like to create some momentum before the move. He said he "couldn't be happier" with the front office, although he thinks the minor league system needs to be replenished.
"I'm going to address the minor league system at the end of the season," he said.
"Wait and see," Loria said. "When we needed some players (in June), we didn't have them."
A big reason for that was their top young players were on the major league roster. Loria understands that. He also thinks the team could use a few more veterans like Mike Cameron, whom they acquired from Boston on July 5, and a pitcher or two to go with another bat.
Loria also said he sees no reason to change the rules governing collisions at the plate, because they happen just about every day. He said the season-ending leg and ankle injuries San Francisco's Buster Posey suffered when the Marlins' Scott Cousins ran into him was simply "one of those bad moments."
That play led to backlash against Cousins, and Loria told his team to stay out of it.
"I can understand people being upset," he said. "That's one of their stars. Responding never does anything."
Possible realignment also came up during Loria's session with reporters.
"I don't have an opinion about it," he said. "I really don't. I'm happy where we are."