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Dolphins lowering prices; Selig hits Miami; Marlins, Heat, UM chatter

Wednesday afternoon update:

With several thousand club seats up for renewal this off-season, the Dolphins plan to announce that they are lowering the price for all 9800 of them, even for fans who are currently in the middle of their lease agreements. Most are declining in price from 11 percent to 60 percent.

The team also is reducing the number of club-seat pricing areas from 11 to four, with the cheapest costing $160 per game on a season-ticket basis. A new "Dolphins Prime" area is being created between the 40s on the vistors side and between the 20s on the home side. Those range prices range from $460 to $600 per game, on a season ticket basis, and the cost includes parking, a buffet, a massage (if you want it), field game passes and other perks.

Also, all club seat members that commit for two years can buy a ticket to the BCS national championship game Jan. 7 at Sun Life Stadium.

About 60 percent of the 9800 club seats were filled on a season-ticket basis last year, with leases spanning one, two three or five years. The remaining seats are available on a per-game basis, but prices have not been set.

The Dolphins had discussed a price reduction for club seats long before the team drew criticism for some of its moves in free agency.

The team also has reduced prices for some of its 160 suites at Sun Life Stadium. As for general seating, most season-ticket prices remain the same, with a few reduced in price.

 ### MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, in town for the opening of the new Marlins ballpark, spoke to a group of Miami businessmen on Wednesday and said of the stadium opening, "It's truly a cause for celebration. This franchise is now positioned to sustain long-term success. There are great moments ahead for this franchise. This is our 21st new ballpark under our regime. Everyone of them was a struggle and painful.''

He said the Marlins are "in a very good position" to get an All-Star Game in the coming years.

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So many meaty storylines percolate as the Marlins open their most fascinating season ever Wednesday. Here’s one that intrigues us: What’s the ceiling for their gifted No. 4, 5 and 6 hitters?

Giancarlo Stanton, Logan Morrison and Gaby Sanchez enter, essentially, their third big-league seasons. All have impressed. But all expect more from themselves – whether it’s Morrison’s average, Stanton’s clutch hitting or Sanchez’s post-All Star break efficiency.

Stanton was fifth in the league with 34 homers in 2011, and his 56 in 250 games are fifth-most by a player before he turns 22. (Mel Ott was first at 86.) “How strong he is, I’ve never been close to a player like that,” Jose Reyes marveled this spring.

His average home run distance of 417 feet was third-highest in the majors last season, which Stanton dismisses: “No more how far can I hit it, please,” he told another reporter this spring. “Who cares?”

But here’s what you should admire about Stanton: Instead of basking in what he has done, he mentions what he has not. “A lot of my homers [25 of 34 last year] are solo,” he said, making clear he's determined to change that. “And if the damage is done with us leading by eight, it’s good on paper but what does that do?”

His 87 RBI ranked 18th in the league (Sanchez was 26th, Morrison 30th), but that doesn’t impress him. “I should be up there with the top of the league,” he said.

Stanton had 82 cleanup at-bats last year and will bat there full-time this year. “Any fourth-place hitter should drive in 100,” Marlins special assistant Jeff Conine said. “And if he’s patient in RBI situations, he could get to 120 or 130.”

One reason he didn’t reach 100, besides the penchant for solo homers, was his .235 average with runners on base, compared with .283 with none on. He was 3 for 18 with the bases loaded and .226 with runners in scoring position and two outs. Oddly, he hit .333 leading off an inning. “I have to be smarter with runners on base,” he said, “and I have to improve in situational and timely hitting.”

Stanton, who hit .176 with two strikes but .262 overall, will always strike out a lot, as most prolific power hitters do. He struck out in 27.6 percent of at-bats last season, third most in baseball.

As for Morrison, the Marlins were surprised last year not only that he smacked 23 homers - or one every 20 at-bats after hitting one every 34 previously in the minors and majors - but also that his average slipped to .247, down from .292 in the minors and .283 as a Marlins rookie.

“He was a hitting machine in the minors without as much power,” Marlins executive Larry Beinfest said. “He should be a high average, high on-base guy. You couple that with the power, he could be the complete package.”

Conine strongly believes that will happen. Morrison said he has worked on hitting to the opposite field to boost his average without sacrificing power and believes he can hit in the .300 range while maintaining pop.

Meanwhile, if you ask Marlins special assistant Andre Dawson what he’s most curious to see on this team, the first thing he mentions is whether Sanchez, an All-Star in 2011, can play as well after the All-Star break as before.

In his first two full seasons, Sanchez hit .307 and .293 before the break, and .237 and .225 after, though his knee was an issue in the second half last year. He closed last year at .266, with 19 homers and 78 RBI. “Playing in the heat and rain delays can wear on guys,” Beinfest said. “Let’s get him in the air conditioning and see how it goes.” The dome is expected to be closed for nearly every game after the break.

### Fox’s Tim McCarver said Tuesday he “wouldn’t be surprised” if the Marlins win the National League East, and “if they did, the biggest reason would be Jose Reyes. A lot depends on whether Hanley Ramirez accepts the move to third base and the minute he goes 1 for 22, doesn’t sulk and say, 'The reason I did that is I moved to third base.' They’re a very, very good team.”


### This shouldn’t happen over an extended stretch when your starting lineup features LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, but consider: Entering Tuesday, the Heat’s starters, as a group, had been outscored by 12 points over the past 11 games. And this is hard to explain, too: The starting lineups of Phoenix (plus 208) and Indiana (plus 166) have outscored teams by much larger margins than Miami’s has.

For perspective, consider that three years ago, a Cleveland lineup of James, Ben Wallace, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Mo Williams and Delonte West outscored teams by 187 in 486 minutes. These Heat starters are plus 104 in 529, even though the Heat’s lineup seems clearly better, despite Joel Anthony’s limitations. Ronny Turiaf replaced Anthony as the starting center Tuesday against Philadelphia.

### Couldn’t the conflict have been avoided between Wednesday's Heat-Thunder game and Marlins-Cardinals, the first regular-season game in Marlins Park? When the lockout-shortened schedule was released, the Heat asked the NBA if it could move its game to another day. But the league said it could not accommodate that.

### Though impending free agent guards Steve Nash and Jason Terry expressed interest in the Heat last week, they stand to get far more elsewhere than Miami’s available $3 million exception. Same with big men Chris Kaman, Spencer Hawes, Kevin Garnett, Irsan Ilyasova and Kwame Brown. Among big men, perhaps Marcus Camby or Kenyon Martin are more realistic options, or the Heat could take a flier on injury-plagued Greg Oden.

### The Dolphins have been in contact with free agent guard Kyle Kosier, who has started every game he played for Dallas the past six years.... The Dolphins recently had a dinner meeting with LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne (expected to go before Miami's pick at No. 8) and defensive tackle/end Michael Brockers, who could go in Miami's range or soon after. Claiborne generated headlines Tuesday when news leaked that he scored just a four (out of 50) on the Wonderlic test.

### UM’s Denzel Perryman played so well at middle linebacker in Friday’s scrimmage that Al Golden said Tuesday he will leave him there permanently. "He sees it and he's instinctive," Golden said. "He has really been playing a high level." Perryman has been consulting with Jonathan Vilma and Sean Spence about playing that position. Both emphasized the need to be very physical...

Mike James remains ahead of Eduardo Clements at running back, but offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said the competition is close. Clements ran for just 17 yards on 14 carries in Friday's scrimmage, which Fisch attributed to myriad factors, including missed blocks and the fact UM fullback Maurice Hagens is injured. But "there were a couple he missed an opportunity to bust out,'' Fisch said. James (15 carries, 56 yards in the last scrimmage) has a higher per-carry average this spring. Expect Duke Johnson to get ample opportunities next fall....

There wasn't any great affection between Mario Cristobal and Randy Shannon in recent years, according to associates of both, but there is genuine respect between Cristobal and Al Golden. Cristobal and his staff attended UM's practice Tuesday.