|Sunday, May 11
Updated: May 12, 1:08 PM ET
Marlins fire Torborg along with pitching coach
MIAMI -- Fired Florida Marlins manager Jeff Torborg gave close friend and team owner Jeffrey Loria a goodbye hug. Pitching coach Brad Arnsberg, also let go, was a less chivalrous scapegoat.
Players professed dismay over the dismissals, but shook off any shock Sunday to make Jack McKeon a winner in his first game as their manager, beating Colorado 7-2.
General manager Larry Beinfest made the changes after the Marlins lost for the seventh time in eight games Saturday. He said the team has performed below expectations, and he didn't discount the way Torborg and Arnsberg handled an injury-plagued pitching staff as a factor.
"This is a better team than we've played,'' Beinfest said. "The fans here in South Florida deserve to have hope this summer. There is enough time left to turn it around and get back in it.''
While Torborg took the news with typical grace, Arnsberg became angry when told he was fired. Beinfest said he and owner Jeffrey Loria went to the pitching coach's apartment late Saturday to inform him.
Arnsberg said the meeting lasted 90 seconds but declined to say what he told Loria and Beinfest.
"He was abusive and clearly unprofessional,'' Beinfest said. "I would say he was bordering on violent.''
For that reason, Beinfest said, Arnsberg wasn't allowed in the stadium Sunday to collect his belongings.
Arnsberg said he wasn't shocked to be fired since there had been rumors he would be replaced.
"All I'll say is when one is so vindictive, they'll finally get their way,'' Arnsberg said. He wouldn't elaborate.
Minor league pitching coordinator Wayne Rosenthal replaced Arnsberg. Minor league field coordinator Doug Davis was promoted to bench coach, with bench coach Jeff Cox moving to the bullpen. Torborg's son, Dale, was fired as strength and conditioning director.
Jeff Torborg, the first manager in the major leagues to be fired this season, has been friends with Loria for about 20 years. The owner said he accompanied Beinfest late Saturday to notify Torborg, and their meeting was "wonderful and cordial.''
"Jeff will continue to be a good friend of mine,'' Loria said. "We actually embraced, and probably there was a tear in both of our eyes. But we needed to make this change for the betterment of the team.''
Loria said before the season he expected the Marlins to contend for the playoffs. But since April 25, four of the team's five starting pitchers have been hurt _ A.J. Burnett, Josh Beckett, Mark Redman and Michael Tejera.
Burnett required reconstructive elbow surgery last week that could sideline him until 2005. Torborg and Arnsberg were accused of overworking the young right-hander by ESPN analyst Bobby Valentine and others.
There were further questions when Beckett, another talented young right-hander, was sidelined this week by a sprained right elbow. Redman has a broken thumb, and Tejera hurt his back and right leg when he stumbled over a base Saturday.
When asked if Torborg's handling of pitchers was a factor in his firing, Beinfest said, "We looked at everything.''
Torborg, 61, said he was surprised by the dismissal but didn't think his work with the pitchers played a role.
"I think it's more bottom-line production,'' he said. "We haven't won enough games. ... But I was so proud of the way these kids play. They play with such enthusiasm. Knowing we had been struggling of late, that's disappointing. But I had to thank Jeffrey Loria. He gave me a chance to get back on the field, and I appreciate the opportunity.''
Despite speculation in recent days about a managerial change, several Marlins players said they were shocked.
"I haven't wanted to cry over anything for a long time,'' Beckett said. "And it made me want to cry.''
The clubhouse consensus was that Florida's disappointing record has been a team effort.
"If everybody here was doing as well as we're supposed to, we'd probably be atop the NL East,'' center fielder Juan Pierre said.
With Sunday's win, the Marlins improved to 17-22, nine games behind NL East leader Atlanta. On Monday they begin a 12-game trip, their longest of the season.
The 72-year-old McKeon, who signed a contract through this season, is taking over his fifth club. He has managed Kansas City, Oakland, San Diego and Cincinnati, posting a 770-733 record.
"I'm a seasoned citizen, in years and baseball experience,'' McKeon said. "But I'm not a miracle worker. We've got a lot of work to do. Hopefully we can take this club to another level.''
McKeon was NL manager of the year when he helped the Reds win 96 games in 1999 before losing a one-game playoff for the wild card to the New York Mets. He was fired a year later after going 85-77 in Ken Griffey Jr.'s first year in Cincinnati.
This is the Marlins' sixth managerial change since their inaugural season in 1993. When Loria bought the team before the 2002 season, he brought Torborg with him from the Montreal Expos to succeed Tony Perez.
Torborg went 95-105 with the Marlins, who have had a losing record in nine of their 10 seasons. They went 79-83 in his first year.
He has a 634-718 career record with Cleveland, the Chicago White Sox, Mets, Expos (2001) and Marlins (2002-03). His only winning seasons came in 1990 and 1991 with Chicago.
Torborg said he may return to broadcasting but probably won't manage again.
"I think we officially retired Saturday night,'' he said.