Braves waste no time, Gonzalez takes over for Cox

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ATLANTA (AP) - The Braves didn’t even wait 48 hours to introduce Bobby Cox’s replacement.

No need. Fredi Gonzalez was Atlanta’s manager-in-waiting almost as soon as Cox announced that 2010 would be his final season.

In what was nothing more than a formality, Gonzalez took over Wednesday as the team’s new manager, succeeded the fourth-winningest skipper in baseball history.

Gonzalez said he’s not worried about following in Cox’s large footsteps. The Braves’ manager since 1990, he led the team to an unprecedented 14 straight division titles and the 1995 World Series championship. After missing the playoffs the last four years, Atlanta returned as a wild card this season.

Cox’s managing career ended Monday night when the Braves, devastated by injuries, lost to San Francisco in Game 4 of the NL division series.

“Our goal is simple: We want to keep putting flags on that facade up there,” Gonzalez said. “I don’t think there’s a person alive that’s going to replace Bobby Cox. We just want to continue the winning tradition and go from there.”

Gonzalez’s return to the Atlanta, where he served as Cox’s third-base coach from 2003-06, has been widely expected ever since he was fired in June by the Florida Marlins.

“This is perfect for us on so many levels,” said general manager Frank Wren, who didn’t even bother interviewing another candidate.

When Cox decided late last season to retire in 2010, the Braves came up with about 15 possible candidates and had the 46-year-old Gonzalez at the top of the list right from the start _ even though he was managing the Marlins.

“He was on our radar before he was available,” Wren said. “We thought there may come a time when we were going to have to ask the Florida Marlins for permission to talk to their manager. We really thought Fredi was the best candidate for us.”

Gonzalez apprenticed under Cox before leaving to take over as Florida’s manager, a post he held for 3 1/2 years. He had a record of 276-279 with the Marlins, one of baseball’s lowest-spending teams.

Florida fired Gonzalez on June 23, a month after he benched star shortstop Hanley Ramirez for a lack of hustle _ a move that many believed angered owner Jeffrey Loria.

The Marlins said they changed managers because the team needed a boost, but the switch to Edwin Rodriguez didn’t help much. Florida was 34-36 when Gonzalez was dismissed and ended up 80-82, third in the NL East.

Gonzalez said he never thought that disciplining Ramirez would become such a big deal, perhaps contributing to him losing his job but drawing praise from around baseball.

“That’s the way I was brought up,” he said. “I know the way the game should be played. If you don’t do something, you’re going to lose those 24 other guys. For me, it was just a simple thing to do.”

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