There was the Tino Martinez abuse incident that led to the resignation of the Marlins’ former hitting coach. There was the bad-hop grounder that broke his nose during spring training.
There have been all the position switches.
He was their second baseman at the start of the 2014 season.
He was their left fielder at the end of the 2015 season.
Derek Dietrich has been up, down and sideways in his three seasons with the Marlins, a sometimes jarring roller-coaster ride in which he has never been sure what each new turn might bring.
“That’s tough on guys,” acknowledged Marlins manager Don Mattingly, who was referring specifically to the position changes and not the other misadventures that have come to define Dietrich’s time with the Marlins.
But instead of taking a why-me attitude, Dietrich has done just the opposite.
“Everything that’s happened to me, I’ve used as an opportunity to get better,” Dietrich said. “If this was an easy game, everybody would be playing it. If there wasn’t any adversity, you’d get complacent and you wouldn’t get better. I’ve gotten better as a person, as a player and as a teammate.”
It was almost by accident that Dietrich became a Marlin in the first place. After acquiring shortstop Yunel Escobar in their 2012 blockbuster trade with the Blue Jays, he informed the Marlins that he wasn’t overly fond of their plans to have him move to third base. So they flipped him to Tampa for Dietrich.
In 2013, Dietrich was one of several players to allege they had been verbally (and in Dietrich’s case, physically) abused by Martinez, who resigned in the wake of those allegations.
The following spring, Dietrich took a hard grounder to the face, breaking his nose. The nose healed, but Dietrich was a wreck in the field, charged with 10 errors in only 43 starts at second. The Marlins demoted him to the minors.
Last season, they took the natural infielder and asked him to play in left.
Now they’re working him out at first base. Dietrich owned one middle infielder’s glove when he first came to the Marlins. Now he carries an assortment in his bag for different positions.
“I haven’t acquired a catcher’s glove yet,” Dietrich joked.
Dietrich doesn’t care where he plays, as long as he plays. And all indications are Mattingly intends to play Dietrich. A lot.
“He’s a very valuable guy for me,” Mattingly said. “To me, I like the way he swings the bat. We can play him second, play him third, we think we can play him in left, and we think we can play him at first.”
Dietrich hit .256 with 10 homers in 250 at bats last season. He was hit by 13 pitches, most on the team. His .802 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) ranked second on the team, behind only Giancarlo Stanton’s .952.
“His bat plays,” Mattingly said. “He’s a guy, at one point, given the opportunity, is an everyday guy. All of a sudden you don’t look at him as a bench guy anymore.”
An everyday job is Dietrich’s desire.
“I truly believe I can play every day at one of the infield positions,” Dietrich said. “Or I could play at the outfield position. I just want to be part of it.”
At the moment, Dietrich will gladly accept whatever role the Marlins give him.
“I know I have a chance to help the club right from the get-go this season — whatever the position: third base, second base, first base, left field,” Dietrich said. “I’m trying to prepare myself at each position every day, just to make sure I’m as solid as I can be wherever my name’s in the lineup, because I know I’m going to be in there as much as possible.
“I can try to analyze it. Where am I going to play? But I know if they want my bat in the lineup, my name will be on the lineup card.”
Mattingly has been secretive all spring about the lineup he intends to use, dropping small hints here and there but never fully revealing the order he wants to go with.
On Monday, the curtains were finally raised when the lineup card was posted inside the clubhouse for Tuesday’s exhibition game against the University of Miami. And there are a few new wrinkles.
Stanton, who hit third most of last season, is dropping down into the cleanup spot while Marcell Ozuna will hit second, in front of Christian Yelich.
Mattingly explained the logic, saying Ozuna is a fastball hitter and should see plenty of those whenever Dee Gordon is on base.
Ozona regularly hit second in the minors. In the majors, he has hit .306 in 85 at-bats while in the No. 2 hole.