S’ville resident Mallee to return as Marlins hitting coach

S’ville resident Mallee to return as Marlins hitting coach

By John Burbridge | The Times

John Mallee of Schererville, center, will return to the Florida Marlins as their hitting coach after taking over midway through this season.

This past season, the hits just kept coming for the Florida Marlins. Except they weren’t the type hitting coach John Mallee and his team had hoped for. “We were dropping like flies,” Mallee said of the rash of injuries that decimated the Marlins during the year.

Even Mallee wasn’t immune. Late in the season, Mallee tore the bicep off the bone in his left arm while trying to move a portable pitching mound.

“Then after surgery, I ended up with a blood clot in my leg,” said the Schererville 41-year-old. “I missed the last three months of the season.”

Fortunately, Mallee had a pair of hall-of-famers covering for him: special assistants Andre Dawson and Tony Perez.

After serving as the Florida Marlins minor league hitting coordinator for more than eight seasons, Mallee was promoted to hitting coach for the major league team after former hitting coach Jim Presley was fired with manager Fredi Gonzalez and bench coach Carlos Tosca on June 23. Shortly after, Marlins ownership removed the interim tag from Mallee and Edwin Rodriguez, who replaced Gonzalez.

Nonetheless, that didn’t guarantee them the positions for 2011.

“Usually, when a team hires a new manager, the manager often brings with him coaches who have worked with him,” Mallee said.

Recently, the Marlins offered Rodriguez — the first Puerto Rican manager in the history of MLB — and Mallee their jobs back for next season.

“I thought I had a good chance in coming back anyway,” Mallee said. “But I felt even better when I saw that they were keeping Edwin.”

Mallee had garnered support from a number of Marlins players, who wanted him to return. Most noted was slugger Dan Uggla, who is coming off his best season.

After Rodriguez and his new coaches took over, the Marlins were 46-46 for the remainder of the season despite losing 2009 NL Rookie of the Year Chris Coghlan, who injured his knee during a post-game celebration; 2009 NL batting champ Hanley Ramirez, who missed 15 of the final 17 games of the season due to an elbow injury; all-star ace Josh Johnson, who was a Cy Young Award candidate before being shut down in mid-July due to re-occurring shoulder problems; Ricky Nolasco, who led the team in wins (14) before a knee injury shut him down in late August; and catcher Ronny Paulino, who was suspended for 50 games due to a banned substance violation.

Also, the Marlins traded a pair of key veterans to the would-be World Series finalists — NLCS MVP Cody Ross to the champion San Francisco Giants and Jorge Cantu to the Texas Rangers.

For Mt. Carmel grad Mallee, who was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies and played two seasons within their organization before coaching five years in the Milwaukee Brewers organization, reaching the major leagues was a long and difficult trip. But he knows that sticking around at that level will likely be even more challenging.

“It’s the nature of the business. A lot of people come and go,” Mallee said. “If you worry too much about keeping your job, the chances are you won’t have it for too long.

“Next year we want to lead the league in runs scored. We want to be the top team in scoring runners from second base. It’s going to take a lot of work, but a lot is expected.”