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Johnson knows some things can't be taught

JUPITER, Fla. -- It came as no surprise that the Marlins hired Brett Butler shortly after a season in which their players did not distinguish themselves as home run hitters or small-ball practitioners. The former center fielder for the Braves and Dodgers was appointed the third-base coach, but he also was put in charge of teaching players to bunt, steal, run the bases properly and play the outfield, all things he did quite effectively in his 17 seasons in the big leagues.

Butler, now 56, was mostly a nuisance to opponents.

It was a smart hire by general manager Dan Jennings, who also hired Lance Johnson, a former Minor League outfielder coordinator for the White Sox and Mets. But Johnson has not been asked to work with players on the one phase of the game that he handled better than his contemporaries -- hitting triples.

"You can't teach it," Johnson said years ago, "except to say, 'Hit it hard and run [as fast as you can] as soon as you swing.'"

Johnson retired in 2000 with 117 career triples, tied with Carl Crawford for the second most in the past 30 years (behind Butler's 131).

Marty Noble is a reporter for
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