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Marlins owner working on image

MIAMI — The Marlins' ballpark Monday sat mostly empty, which will likely be the case all year, and team owner Jeffrey Loria leaned back against the bar in a hospitality area, sipping water in circumstances that warranted stronger stuff.

Happy hour it was not. As part of a three-day public relations blitz, Loria met with a dozen writers and tried to put a positive spin on his widely mocked offseason decisions.

After the Marlins' dismal first season in their new home, Loria said, the roster dismantling he ordered was the right move because they were headed in the wrong direction. He said a return to payroll austerity was needed because the Marlins lost tens of millions in 2012 after an unprecedented spending spree.

The Marlins will eventually spend again, and they want to sign precocious slugger Giancarlo Stanton to a multiyear deal, Loria said. He said he understands why fans are upset but hopes they will embrace this year's young team, which many expect to lose 100 games.

"We had to turn back the clock for the moment and push the restart button," he said, "and get these young players in here and get them together and look where we are in another year or so."

His 30-minute session with reporters was part of an effort to rehabilitate the reputation of the Marlins and their owner.

Angry fans have complained they expected the new ballpark to mean competitive payrolls for more than just one season. Instead they endured the latest in a series of payroll purges, which has made the franchise the butt of jokes around the country. Loria is widely viewed as the culprit.

"It's a constant, sometimes personal pounding," Marlins president David Samson said after Loria had left the room. "It's hard for anyone. On top of that, you're writing checks. It's hard. But I understand every side."

DRUG POLICY: Union head Michael Weiner said there have been talks about increasing the penalties for violating baseball's drug testing program. "There are certainly some players who have expressed that," Weiner said.

UMPIRE CHANGES: Major League Baseball reshuffled its umpire roster after the retirements of crew chiefs Ed Rapuano, Tim Tschida and Derryl Cousins. Jim Joyce, Ted Barrett and Fieldin Culbreth were promoted to crew chiefs. MLB also hired Vic Carapazza, Manny Gonzalez and Alan Porter as full-time staff members after they split time between the majors and minors in recent years.

SUSPENSION: Free-agent right-hander Mark Hamburger was suspended 50 games under baseball's minor-league drug program for a second positive test for a drug of abuse.

ANGELS: Outfielder Mike Trout and teammates David Carpenter, Michael Kohn and Travis Witherspoon brought $5,000 worth of school supplies and toys to Children First Academy, a Tempe, Ariz., charter school for underprivileged and homeless kids.

CUBS: Left-hander Dontrelle Willis left his spring outing after seven pitches with an apparent shoulder injury. The 2003 National League rookie of the year, 31, last pitched in the majors in 2011.

D'BACKS: Right-hander Ian Kennedy was named the opening day starter by manager Kirk Gibson.

REDS: First baseman Joey Votto hit a two-run homer, a sign he's progressing in his recovery from knee surgery that robbed him of his power. The 2010 NL MVP didn't homer after June 24.

RED SOX: First baseman Mike Napoli, who has been slowed by a hip injury, is expected to play in a simulated game today.

ROYALS: Outfielder Alex Gordon was scratched from the lineup with lower back stiffness and is day-to-day.

Marlins owner working on image 02/25/13 [Last modified: Monday, February 25, 2013 10:15pm]

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