MIAMI -- Florida Marlins manager John Boles gave his players a vote of confidence by yelling at them.
In his 20-minute clubhouse tirade Wednesday, Boles admonished the young team for immaturity and lapses in concentration. Most of all, he was upset that some players seem satisfied with a 13-10 record that has made the Marlins baseball's most surprising team.
Boles disputes the notion that the fast start is a fluke. With a promising rotation, a bullpen that has been outstanding and several top pitching prospects in the minor leagues, Boles believes the Marlins can keep winning, and he wants his players to believe it, too.
"We've got pitching," he said. "I mean we are good. We can compete with anybody because we've got the one thing everybody is looking for. And we've got more on the way.
"Other people do a better job with the run-scoring, but our pitchers get out good hitters."
The Marlins, who begin a West Coast trip Friday in Los Angeles, rank second in the major leagues behind Atlanta with an ERA of 3.77. The bullpen ERA of 1.95 is by far baseball's best.
"Has anybody got our bullpen? Nobody comes close to our bullpen," Boles said. "So if we play decent baseball, we've got a chance."
It would be easy for Boles to temper expectations by pointing out that the Marlins had the worst record in the major leagues in 1998 and 1999, that they're still the youngest team in baseball, and that their April opponents have included few likely contenders. He could say it's unrealistic to think the Marlins will keep winning at their present pace, which would mean a final record of 92-70.
Instead, Boles argues that his players' expectations should be even higher. He told the Marlins their record should be 18-5 instead of 13-10.
"I'd sure love to be 15-8, at least," he said. "And that's the way I want this club to think."
The Marlins lost extra-inning games Tuesday and Wednesday to San Francisco, and the defeats left Boles fuming about missed signs, baserunning blunders and least a couple of incidents in the dugout. A pitcher wasn't wearing his spikes when called on to pinch-run, and an unidentified player laughed when a teammate popped out and cursed.
"I'm talking about a handful of kindergarten kids who need to grow up right away," Boles said.
Players seemed surprised by their manager's tirade, and at least a couple said the team deserves to feel good about the way it has played. But no one accused Boles of being unfair.
"He's trying to get us to believe in ourselves and to be better," catcher Mike Redmond said. "We can't be satisfied with winning a few games."
Ironically, at the same time Boles was chastising his team, Giants manager Dusty Baker was in the other clubhouse praising the Marlins' lineup.
"Those guys make contact. They're hard to strike out. They don't hit into many double plays," Baker said. "They're a fundamentally sound hitting team. Whoever is instructing them over there is doing a heck of a job with some young hitters, which is difficult to do sometimes."
All six teams Florida has played so far have losing records, but the schedule gets tougher beginning today. After playing in Los Angeles and San Diego, the Marlins have 10 consecutive games against NL East favorites Atlanta and New York.
Boles said the Marlins better believe they're up to the challenge.
"Either you've got enough guts to fight, or you don't," he said. "All you've got to do is come in my office and identify yourself as a guy who's a coward. If you're a coward, we understand. We'll pat you on the back and send you off to someplace where you can handle it psychologically. Hit the road."
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