At the top of the list is the acrobatic Alex Gonzalez, 22, who last week became the first National League shortstop to make the All-Star team as a rookie. Through Sunday he was hitting .287 with nine home runs. "That's one position we don't concern ourselves with," says Boles. "We know we have a shortstop for the next 10 years."
Thanks primarily to Gonzalez and three other rookies—outfielders Preston Wilson (tops among rookies with 17 homers) and Bruce Aven (.327, 49 RBIs) and first baseman Kevin Millar (a major league-leading .471 average with runners in scoring position)—the Marlins are vastly improved from Opening Day. After a 6-22 start they had gone 28-36 through Sunday.
The Marlins, however, have fallen prey to one of the hazards of a youth movement: Some players who start hot quickly flame out. First baseman Derrek Lee and outfielder Todd Dunwoody, two prospects who were expected to blossom in their second full seasons, are back in Triple A after struggling at the plate. Second-year outfielder Mark Kotsay is still with the big club but was hitting .251 with just six homers.
There was more uncertainty ahead: As the trade deadline drew near, rumors continued to fly about deals involving Florida righthanders Livan Hernandez and Alex Fernandez, who's making $7 million this year—$4.5 million more than any other Marlin. General manager Dave Dombrowski says owner John Henry, who bought the club in January, has approved budgets for the 2001 and '02 seasons that will increase Florida's payroll and allow him to pursue free agents. Until then, Dombrowski says, he has to be open-minded about any trade that he feels would improve the team. "We like a lot of our players," he says, "but when you have the worst record in the league, you can't think everything's fine."
Reds Called On the Carpet
In 14 years with the Reds, shortstop Barry Larkin has always been a team player. Through the Reds' lean years, when asked to bat in the uncomfortable leadoff or cleanup spots, he did so without complaint. Finally, his patience seems to be wearing thin.
Larkin's contract expires after the 2000 season, and he has told the club that if the Cinergy Field artificial surface is not replaced with grass, the Reds could lose him. "I definitely feel the effects of playing on turf for years and years," says Larkin. "It's important for me to play in Cincinnati, but it's more important to play as many years as I can."
Larkin made his concerns clear to John Allen, the team's managing executive. Allen was somewhat taken aback. The Reds are scheduled to move into a new stadium with a grass field in 2003—when Larkin is 38.
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