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On the other hand, it was only the second game in the Marlins’ new $634 million home.

The Marlins have long struggled with poor attendance, and Guillen’s comments antagonized a large percentage of their fan base just as the franchise was enjoying a sense of rejuvenation thanks to the new ballpark.

First baseman Gaby Sanchez, whose parents are Cuban exiles, said the best thing the players can do to help the situation is start playing better. After an offseason spending binge, the Marlins were touted as playoff contenders, but they began the homestand 2-5 and last in the NL East.

“All we can do is go out there and win games,” Sanchez said. “If we start doing that, hopefully it will start to turn a little bit. It’s not going to truly subside, but hopefully it does a little bit.”

Marlins catcher John Buck agreed some success by the team could help defuse the tension _ and bring back any fans staying away in protest.

“Winning helps everything, right?” Buck said. “If we put a fun team on the field, people will come.”

Marlins broadcaster Cookie Rojas, a former player and a native of Havana, predicted the anger of the Cuban community will die down in the aftermath of Guillen’s apology.

“He asked people to forgive him,” Rojas said. “You’ve got to move on. You can’t keep bringing it back. Let’s get over with it and play ball.”

Guillen returns to the dugout from his suspension Tuesday.

Sanchez said he understood both sides of the issue. He said Guillen _ a Venezuelan speaking English, his second language, in a magazine interview _ did not say what he meant, but Sanchez understood why his fellow Cuban Americans were so upset.

“It’s one of those hot-button topics,” Sanchez said. “You have to understand the Cuban community and everybody of Cuban descent and what their families went through.

“Ozzie did a great job in his apology. Hopefully the Cuban community will forgive him and start supporting us. I think time will do the job.”


Associated Press Writer Christine Amario contributed to this report.