By Simon Evans
MIAMI (Reuters) - The Florida Marlins named former Chicago White Sox skipper Ozzie Guillen as their new manager on Wednesday, hoping he can kickstart a new era for the struggling Major League Baseball (MLB) franchise.
"This a big, big step in my career, a new chapter. It was a great one back in Chicago. Hopefully I can bring energy, flavor, enthusiasm but the most important thing, a winning team," Guillen, who was a third-base coach with the Marlins' World Series winning team in 2003, said at a news conference.
The Marlins moved swiftly to sign Guillen to a four-year deal before their final game of the MLB season later on Wednesday at their shared home with the National Football League's Miami Dolphins.
Chicago released the 47-year-old Venezuela-born Guillen on Monday from the final year of his contract, paving the way for his move to South Florida. Guillen takes over for 80-year-old Jack McKeon, who stepped in as interim manager in June.
"This is a man with great passion and energy and this is what this club needs," said Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria. "We needed more energy and going into our new ballpark, it's all about timing."
The struggling Marlins have not made the playoffs since their World Series victory in 2003 but Loria said he expected that to change quickly.
"We can turn it around next year, see no reason why not," said Loria. "When you have a category five manager - it's going to happen."
Those may be high expectations for a team that has not had a winning record since 2009, but Guillen was certainly not in any mood to dampen them.
"I am very excited the way they want to go. The only thing I am going to promise you - you'll see a ball club playing hard, playing the right way. It's not about Ozzie, it's about the Miami Marlins," he said.
It might not be "about Ozzie" but there is no doubt that his arrival has sparked interest in South Florida where a large Latin community is likely to appreciate Guillen's forthright style and engage with him.
"The Latin community? They know baseball, Cubans, Venezuelans, they manage, they coach, everything," he said with a grin.
The Marlins, who have been overshadowed in recent years by the National Basketball Association's Miami Heat, are banking on a move downtown and new personalities, including their manager, will get people excited.
"People talk about me being cocky, arrogant - I have a lot of confidence in my coaches and myself, that's why I sound cocky," said Guillen.
Guillen's success in Chicago was based on an experienced team of veterans but he said he would not seek to emulate that method in Miami and that he has plenty of talent to work with.
"They are a pretty good ball club, young and talented. We have done research and we think we can get a good team out of the guys here," he said.
"I don't need veterans, I need good players, players who care. Who play the game right, have some responsibility".
Guillen said shortstop Hanley Ramirez would be one of his key players and he hoped to get him back to the form that earned him Silver Slugger awards in 2008 and 2009.
"He is the biggest piece in this puzzle, my job is to put a smile on his face, (have him) enjoy the game and play it the way it should be," said Guillen.
"You will see a different guy on the field. I guarantee when you see him in spring training, he will have a smile on his face." (Editing by Frank Pingue; To query or comment on this story email email@example.com)