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Remember first baseman Orestes Destrade? No? No wonder.
Destrade's stint with the expansion Marlins lasted a little more
than a year. Born in Cuba and reared in Miami, Destrade was a
fan favorite during the team's 1993 inaugural season. However,
"Big O" struggled mightily in 1994 and was hitting .208 when he
was released less than two months into his second season with
Florida. He has since retired.

Gone for the Marlins are the miserable days when their top
attraction was a guy like Destrade, who had his best years in
Japan; when a 45-year-old knuckleballer, Charlie Hough, was the
team's ace; when players with little promise, such as Rich
Renteria and Junior Felix, were fixtures in the lineup.

Also gone are the days when the Marlins talked about a five-year
plan for making the playoffs, about building through the farm
system. In the recent off-season, owner Wayne Huizenga opened
the cash register, and general manager Dave Dombrowski spent
$37.4 million on free agents who should put the Marlins in the
wild-card race.

Now the Marlins' roster boasts two former league MVPs, two
batting champions, four Gold Glovers, two 20-game winners and a
stolen-base champion. The team also has a good mix of youth and
experience: Last year 24-year-old Charles Johnson became the
first rookie Gold Glove catcher since Johnny Bench in 1968,
while 25-year-old rookie second baseman Quilvio Veras led the
majors with 56 stolen bases; 12-year-veteran third baseman Terry
Pendleton hit .290 in '95, and newly acquired centerfielder
Devon White is a seven-time Gold Glove winner.

In the off-season the Marlins beefed up their rotation by adding
free agents Kevin Brown and Al Leiter. They paid too much for
Leiter, however, giving him a three-year, $8.6 million contract
despite a 33-32 lifetime record and a 4.36 ERA. Florida also won
the bidding war for highly regarded 21-year-old Cuban
righthander Livan Hernandez. The Marlins' other pressing need
was to find a centerfielder, and they signed White.

"We are a much better ball club than we have been," says
Dombrowski. "In the past we could never realistically talk about
competing for the postseason. But this year I think we can
compete for a spot. We don't have a glaring hole on our team, if
we stay healthy."

The Marlins' timetable for making the postseason was pushed up
for two reasons: sagging attendance (it has dropped from 3
million to 1.9 million to 1.7 million) and the success of the
expansion Rockies. "The honeymoon was over," says Dombrowski.
"We felt the time was now."

Signing Hernandez was a priority, given South Florida's large
Cuban-American community, which makes up nearly half of Dade
County's population. Hernandez was given a four-year deal that,
with signing bonus and incentives, could total $6 million.
Dombrowski says he wouldn't be surprised if Hernandez, who has a
95-mph fastball and an exceptional curve, broke into the
rotation this season.

While the addition of Hernandez was the best news of the
off-season, the most troubling involved 27-year-old rightfielder
Gary Sheffield. Last October he suffered a minor gunshot wound
to his left shoulder when he was the victim of an apparent
robbery attempt in his hometown of Tampa. In December he was
slapped with a restraining order after the mother of his
two-year-old son received threatening phone calls and a note
with two bullets. Sheffield denied that he made the calls or
sent the note; no charges were filed.

The Marlins had hoped that the immensely talented Sheffield
would be a franchise player and team leader, but his repeated
run-ins with the law and his bad attitude have prompted the team
to look elsewhere for veteran leadership. Sheffield, too, is
looking elsewhere. Early last season, when the Marlins were
struggling, Sheffield, who earns $3.1 million a year, publicly
expressed his desire to play for a winner.

No wonder the team is promoting Hernandez as its star
attraction. It's easy to root for someone who previously earned
the equivalent of $5 a month, someone with an obvious
appreciation for his talent and circumstances. "Everything is
new to Livan--cars, shopping, nice houses," says his agent, Joe
Cubas. "Every day is special. He's discovering the greatness of

The Marlins hope he discovers something else, too: the greatness
of postseason play.


COLOR PHOTO: JONATHAN DANIEL COVER PHOTO [Varies by region] Making Waves Gary Sheffield and the Marlins are on the rise

COLOR PHOTO: STEPHEN GREEN The skilled Johnson has caught on quickly with the up-and-coming Marlins. [Charles Johnson in game]


1995 Team Statistics (NL rank in parentheses)

Batting Average .262 (9)
Home Runs 144 (6)
ERA 4.27 (11)
Fielding Pct. .979 (11)

Nix after Six

Last season the Marlins outscored their opponents by 59 runs
(496-437) during the first six innings of their games, but they
were outscored by 59 runs (236-177) from the seventh inning on,
the worst such differential in the National League. Florida lost
15 games after leading through the sixth inning, the most in the
majors; in addition, the Marlins were only 5-12 in games that
were tied after six innings.

Most Losses When Leading or Tied after Six Innings in 1995

Runs scored Runs allowed Diff. Losses
after 6th after 6th

Marlins 177 236 -59 27
Pirates 218 230 -12 24
White Sox 183 226 -43 24
Blue Jays 199 273 -74 22
Cubs 206 231 -25 22
Orioles 192 220 -28 21
Brewers 241 235 +6 20
Cardinals 174 169 +5 20


Marlins closer Robb Nen is the only major league player whose
last name is a palindrome. Too bad his 1995 season didn't start
the same way it ended as well. In 28 games before the All-Star
break, Nen had only four saves in seven opportunities and a 4.26
ERA. The 26-year-old even lost his job for a while a few days
after he gave up a game-winning, three-run homer on June 5
against the Astros for his fourth loss. Nen got another shot at
being the closer in mid-July, and he never looked back. He
regained confidence in his curveball, which he mixed effectively
with a 90-plus mph fastball and a hard slider. After the
All-Star break, he had 19 saves and a 2.38 ERA in 34 games.
Having overcome a rough start as the closer in '95, Nen may very
well emerge this season as one of the league's premier
relievers--from start to finish.



2B Quilvio Veras .261, 5, 32, 56
CF Devon White[**] .283, 10, 53, 11
RF Gary Sheffield .324, 16, 46, 19
LF Jeff Conine .302, 25, 105, 2
3B Terry Pendleton .290, 14, 78, 1
1B Greg Colbrunn .277, 23, 89, 11
C Charles Johnson .251, 11, 39, 0
SS Kurt Abbott .255, 17, 60, 4


OF Joe Orsulak[**] .283, 1, 37, 1
IF Craig Grebeck[**].260, 1, 18, 0
IF Alex Arias .269, 3, 26, 1


RH Kevin Brown[**] 10-9, 3.60
RH John Burkett 14-14, 4.30
LH Al Leiter[**] 11-11, 3.64
RH Pat Rapp 14-7, 3.44
LH Chris Hammond 9-6, 3.80


RH Robb Nen 23, 3.29
RH Alejandro Pena*[**] 0, 2.61
LH Yorkis Perez 1, 5.21
RH Terry Mathews 3, 3.38

*National League statistics
[**] New acquisition (R) Rookie