As part of the continuing rebuild of the Miami Marlins, manager Don Mattingly and his coaching staff will deal with competition all over the field.
The Miami Marlins may not be a finished product and it may take a few more seasons to fully see the changes within the organization. But that does not mean there isn’t a lot to be pleased with from the players fighting for roster spots this spring.
Manager Don Mattingly met with the media on Wednesday and said the competition, especially with his pitching staff is a good thing. While there are still decisions to be made with the rotation and how he will use his bullpen this coming season, the number of arms in camp with a legitimate shot at making the rotation is a pleasant problem to have.
Mattingly used 13 different starters last season because of injuries and inconsistency on the mound. His bullpen squandered leads and blew save opportunities. With a new year comes a chance to make changes for the better. The Marlins have puzzle pieces that appear to be the fit, but making everything come together is still a work in progress.
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"“I like the thought of our competition and the way we’re going,” Mattingly said. “It’s a competitive camp. I think guys react better when they have to compete, fight for things.We find out more about them and hopefully as time continues we just keep stacking up talent where everybody’s always fighting to have to show what they can do or there’s another guy wanting that spot.”"
As a manager who is not guaranteed a return in 2020, this could Mattingly’s last hurrah in south Florida. For now, the focus is on winning baseball games and showing improvement. The rest will remain uncertain and a topic of conversation throughout the season by the local and national media.
As always, Mattingly has put the team and the organization first.
When you look at the starting rotation, the formula is simple. Three veteran starters led by Opening Day starter Jose Urena, Dan Straily and Wei-Yin Chen. After that, the youth of this organization will compete for two spots with several good, young arms returning to Triple-A New Orleans. You cannot help but like the prospects for the future.
This is exactly how Derek Jeter and his staff drew it up when unveiled their blueprint before the 2018 season.
This is also what Mattingly envisioned as he walked into Roger Dean Stadium before the team began camp earlier this week.
"“And if you probably looked at all 30 clubs, they’re doing similar things,” Mattingly said. “You just ask your guys to go do it better.”"
I’d be more concerned with the bullpen than the rotation right now. The closer role is undefined. Who becomes the top set-up man? Which pitcher will work as an innings eater out of the ‘pen? Can the Marlins find ways to hold leads instead of squander them?
If anything, the topic of pitching will remain one of the most discussed questions this Spring. And it’s exactly how Mattingly and the Marlins wanted it to be coming into the second season of this massive rebuilding project.
Now, Mattingly and his coaching staff must push the right buttons to make this all work.
"“There’s hopefully a number of guys that are showing that they’re capable,” Mattingly said. “Every year you see pitching staffs come out of the blue, a bullpen or something that turns from being something people wouldn’t expect (to be good) to one of the best in baseball.”"