Spending nine months out of the year with Ozzie Guillén, Joey Cora knows when his friend is hurting.
During the games this past weekend at Cincinnati, Guillén was himself in the clubhouse and on the bench. But away from the field, both Guillén and Cora knew a firestorm was brewing and that sooner or later Guillén’s now infamous comments would all come out.
In Time magazine, the Miami Marlins Venezuelan manager praised Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, outraging the Cuban-American community, especially in Miami, were some groups called for his resignation.
That now leaves Cora managing the Marlins until next Tuesday when Guillén will return from his a five-game suspension handed to him by the team. So far, Cora’s has not had much success in his interim position with the Marlins losing 7-1 against Philadelphia on Wednesday night.
"Me personally because I know him pretty well, I knew that he wasn't the same because I knew from the beginning what was going on. I knew it was weighing very heavy on him," Cora told reporters before the Wednesday night game. Sitting in the dugout, surrounding by a mass of reporters and cameras, was clearly new territory for Cora.
"I don't think anybody else would have handled the situation as good as he has."
Seeing his friend shaken up as he took to the podium in Miami on Tuesday morning, owning up to his mistakes and facing the reporters, was difficult for Cora.
"It's been tough. He got hit pretty good. He felt it. It was tough to watch it on tv yesterday during the press conference. You know everybody felt like he needed a hug. You wanted to be there with him but he's getting through it. He knows definitely that he made a mistake. He was very sincere," said Cora, who's been a part of Guillén’s staff since 2004 with the Chicago White Sox.
"But I think he learned a lesson on this one and I'm pretty sure that he's a better man today than he was yesterday. That's what I've been telling people because he learned from this one. When you learn from your mistakes you become a better man."
Guillén spoke to the team prior to the game Wednesday night with the guys joking around the Marlins clubhouse just like any other day. During Cora's pregame talk with the throng of reporters, third baseman Hanley Ramirez walked over and grabbed an extended microphone, drawing laughter from Cora while other players and coaches milled around and teased him in front of the dugout.
This is not the first time Cora has stepped in while Guillén has either served a suspension or left the team for personal reasons. Although Cora admitted that this time it's a bit different because of the circumstances Guillén is dealing with.
"This is a little bit different than the other times. I'm trying to keep it as close as what Ozzie would do in any situation that arises in the game and I'm not going to try to implement any new game plan or offensive scheme or nothing like that. I'm just going to keep it as close as what Ozzie would do. I've been with him for nine years now. I'm pretty sure most of the time what he would do in any situation."
Cora knows that Guillén understands the seriousness of what's happened.
"This one, it was big and he felt it from the beginning and he knows it was going to get this big. I think that's why he got shaken. He got hit pretty hard. He felt it. After he analyzed whatever happened, in retrospect, he wouldn't say what he said," Cora said.
Despite the unwanted attention that has been brought to the team, don’t expect Guillén's suspension to change the way he carries himself, especially around reporters and the game itself.
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"I think he's learned a lesson without a doubt. Ozzie is a grown person who has his personality and I don't think his personality or the way he is will change. But without a doubt he will think about what topics he can get into and what topics he can't," Cora said.
Cuban Ricky Ricardo, who is a Spanish radio broadcaster for the Philadelphia Phillies, doubts that Guillén could finish out the season in Miami unless he puts forth a great effort to repair the damage he has done. But he would like to see current and former Cuban players that reside in Miami offer their support to Guillén.
"I think Cuban players, Jose Contrera, El Duque (Orlando Hernandez) and the ones that are retired or living in Miami, if in their hearts they believe in Ozzie and I think the majority, or all of them, truly believe in Ozzie, everything he said yesterday (Tuesday), they should come together and let the Hispanic community, especially the Cuban community in Miami, know that they're all behind Ozzie and that they support him. If I can help in one way or another, I will do so," Ricardo told Fox News Latino
Adry Torres, who has covered MLB, NFL, NBA and NCAA basketball games and related events, is a regular contributor to Fox News Latino. He can be reached at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter: @adrytorresnyc.
Adry Torres, who has covered MLB, NFL, NBA and NCAA basketball games and related events, is a regular contributor to Fox News Latino. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter: @adrytorresnyc