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Marlins need rookie pitcher to step it up

Pittsburgh Pirates manager Gene Lamont assessed the National League champion Florida Marlins with Rocky Mountain News baseball writer Tracy Ringolsby.

KEY TO THE SERIES: With Alex Fernandez hurt, one of the rookies, Livan Hernandez or Tony Saunders, is going to have to step up in the World Series. Fernandez and Kevin Brown were such a solid 1-2 for them.STARTING PITCHING: I know Jim (Leyland, manager) wants to use Kevin Brown as much as he can, but the way the League Championship Series went Brown's only going to be available twice. He's one of those guys who can stand out there on the mound and tell the hitter, `Here's the fastball, try and hit it.' He's hard and harder with his fastball and slider, but he has such sinking action he doesn't need to change speed. He's aggressive.

The Livan Hernandez who pitched against Atlanta was a step up from what I'd seen before. He has a legitimate fastball and two types of curveballs, one that goes across and that big downer curve.

Both the lefthanders, Saunders and Al Leiter, can get themselves in trouble is they don't throw strikes.

Tony Sanders throws a little harder than I expected, but his big pitch is a good change. He can be a little wild and when he gets behind he's in trouble. He's not going to get away with mistakes.

Al Leiter has the ability to dominate. He has a good slider, but the big pitch for him is a fastball against the right-handed hitters.

BULLPEN: Jim's always had the ability to put together an excellent bullpen. He has balance with three lefties that allows him to mix and match in the middle innings.

They have the guys who can hold the lead in the late innings, but just as important, they can keep a game from getting out of hand. That's why they were able to come up with so many late-inning wins.

Robb Nen is going to have the final say. He's a lot like (Cleveland's Jose) Mesa only harder. When he has his control he will just blow hitters way. He's going to get hit at times, but with his velocity, not very often. And he will catch you with a hard slider if you aren't careful.

Jay Powell is a quality reliever and they show confidence to use him in tough situations.

Felix Heredia is still learning, but he has a live arm that gives them something special from the left side. Dennis Cook is a veteran who has done an outstanding silencing left-handed hitters. And the addition of Ed Vosberg gave them the third lefty.

LINEUP: The key to the Marlins was the way Charles Johnson came on in the second half of the season. He gave them that extra offensive threat that made their lineup a bit more special. He certainly has legitimate power potential.

The one real surprising thing for me is that they did so well and Gary Sheffield didn't have that Gary Sheffield-type year. I kept waiting for him to break out. He is the type of hitter who could break loose in the World Series, turning it into his personal showcase.

Edgar Renteria has been their big guy in late innings.

Bobby Bonilla picked up a lot of the offensive slack. Jimmy knows how to get the most out of him. He's a switch-hitter in the cleanup spot, which gives the Marlins the ability to exploit pitching matchups.

Moises Alou finally had an injury free year and put up the type of numbers you'd expect from him.

Devon White probably winds up hitting leadoff with all the right-handed starters Cleveland has. He's not what he was three years ago, but he's still a good player and he can hit a home run left-handed or right-handed. Craig Counsell fit real nice into the bottom of their order.

BENCH: They spent a lot of money to get veteran backups and it's paid off. Guys like Jim Eisenreich and John Cangelosi are quality hitters and outfielders who can step in for a few days and give a team a lift or come off the bench and do something special.

When Kurt Abbott isn't playing second base he's a threat off the bench, and Alex Arias has always been a good pinch- hitter. I know they've been real happy with the backup catcher, Greg Zaun.

DEFENSE: The key is being strong up the middle and the Marlins are that, but overall I don't know that you would consider them an outstanding defensive team.

For a young kid, Renteria is impressive at shortstop, and Counsell is real solid at second. You know if the ball is hit to center field Devon's going to get it, and you start talking about catchers with Charles Johnson. Pudge Rodriguez (of Texas) might be as good as Charles, but not any better. He virtually eliminates any idea the other team has of running, and handles pitches so well.

MANAGER: You've never going to pull something over on Jim Leyland. He's ready for any situation. If you beat the Marlins you're going to have to play better than they do because it's not going to be because of something he didn't do.