Delgado's a hit in Florida

BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:25 AM ET

Carlos Delgado arrived in the Florida Marlins clubhouse to see his locker cordoned off like a crime scene.

All that was missing was the yellow tape.

There were 61 people with 11 tape recorders and five mini-cams waiting to ask him questions in Florida's two official languages.

"Hey guys," Delgado announced upon arrival, "you better be here in good times and bad."

This was a good day, to understate things, as the Blue Jays' career offensive leader had four hits off four different pitchers as the Marlins stomped John Smoltz and the Atlanta Braves 9-0.

It was a festive crowd at Dolphins Stadium with 57,450 fans -- the largest crowd in Marlins' regular-season history -- 20 cheerleaders atop the dugouts, complete with pom-poms and clad in black and silver like the Oakland Raiders dance team.

Delgado received the longest and loudest ovation as the Marlins were introduced along the first-base line.

"This is my 12th opening day and I still get excited," Delgado said.

"The uniforms look whiter while we're standing along the foul line for the pre-game introductions."

Delgado looked like he had some major pre-game butterflies in his first at-bat.

With the bases loaded, Smoltz struck him out on three straight forkballs.

"But like any good hitter, he made adjustments," Hall of Famer Tony Perez said.

In the second, he hit a 2-2 forkball on a line to right to bring home two runs and chase Smoltz from the game.

Smoltz needed 65 pitches to retire five men.

Maybe he had too much rest -- Smoltz had not started in 1,396 days.

In his previous 29 outings against the Marlins, all in relief, he had worked 291/3 scoreless innings.

"I was a little antsy in the first, I was swinging out of my shoes," Delgado said. "It wasn't the new hitter's backdrop. No excuses, I was anxious.

"We've been waiting to play this game for what, 10 weeks?"

The Marlins signed Delgado to a four-year, $55-million US deal brilliantly negotiated by agent David Sloane.

The Jays made Delgado a two-year, $12-million offer.

It's not going to be this easy for Delgado every day.

Or is it?

In Delgado's five at-bats, seven runners were on base.

Delgado had three RBIs.

The return of Smoltz to the rotation after four seasons as the closer didn't go as smoothly as Delgado's debut.

After a one-out walk, Miguel Cabrera singled.

Smoltz dispatched Delgado, but Mike Lowell won a 10-pitch at-bat with an RBI-single. After a Paul Lo Duca single, Juan Encarnacion hit a grand slam 422 feet to centre.

"Delgado helps them since their power is predominantly right-handed: Cabrera, Lowell, Lo Duca and Encarnacion," Braves manager Bobby Cox said before the game.

SPRING SLUMBER

Delgado had a two-run single off Smoltz in the second; lined a 2-2 double into the right-field corner in the fourth facing reliever Jorge Sosa; hit the first pitch he saw from Adam Bernero for a single to right and one-hopped a single off the wall in right facing Tom Martin in the eighth.

During spring training, Delgado slumbered, hitting .216 with four homers and 14 RBIs.

"I was 2-for-20? If you want to be really dramatic, you can say I was 0-for-13," joked Delgado.

"We delivered," Delgado said.

"That's why we get paid the big bucks."


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