Ten Marlins nuggets from Fanfest on Saturday:
• Two jobs that had been in question now have clarity. Don Mattingly said Derek Dietrich will be the starting left fielder.
And Marlins president/baseball operations Michael Hill said Brad Ziegler will be the closer.
Dietrich, who batted .249 with 13 homers and 53 RBI in 464 at bats last season, had value as a multi-position utility player but was a logical option to start after the Marlins dealt their entire starting outfield and declined a team option on Ichiro Suzuki.
“I think we know who Derek is,” Mattingly said. “Derek has been on and off. We felt he showed a consistency toward the end of the season last year.”
Deitrich, who has been working on his craft six days a week for two months, said simply: “My goal this year with the consistent playing time is to play consistently.”
Ziegler became the Marlins’ closer on Aug. 1 after A.J. Ramos was traded to the Mets and converted his first nine save chances, then blew three in a row, before converting his last one.
His save-to-blown save percentage isn’t great: 10 saved/five blown last season, 95 saved/35 blown in his career.
“We have a number of power arms that will pitch high leverage situations for us, including Kyle Barraclough and Drew Steckenrider and Brian Ellington,” Hill said. “We like the power arms we have back there and you know you have the experience with Brad Ziegler getting the last three.”
• Hill said the Marlins are still exploring the free agent outfield market.
Melky Cabrera (.285, 17, 85 for the White Sox and Royals last season) and former UM player Jon Jay (.296, 34 RBI for the Cubs last season) are among those mentioned by FanRag Sports as possibilities.
Unless Magneuris Sierra or Braxton Lee is exceptional and wins a starting job in spring training, the Marlins’ outfield could be an unsigned veteran such as Jay, plus Dietrich and top prospect Lewis Brinson, presuming he plays well in spring training.
Brinson “can do pretty much anything on the field when you think about his skill set,” Hill said. “Can hit for average, can hit for power. Very graceful defensively, can cover a lot of ground….Braxton Lee could potentially be more advanced than any of those others guys.”
• Second baseman Starlin Castro said the Marlins “told me I’m going to be here” and Mattingly said: “Starlin’s a guy for me that I’m really excited about because I’ve watched this guy from when he was a kid with the Cubs. He can hit. I know he can hit and I know how good he is.”
Castro hit .300 with 16 homers and 63 RBI in 112 games for the Yankees last season.
• Mattingly isn’t ready to give the shortstop job to J.T. Riddle.
“I think we look at Riddle and [Miguel] Rojas both as shortstops,” Mattingly said when asked about potential starters.
Rojas reiterated he wants to be given a chance to compete to start: “I’m looking forward to being an everyday guy.”
Riddle hit .250 before July shoulder surgery. Rojas hit .290.
• Left-hander Wei Yin Chen, limited to nine games last season because of elbow pain, was cleared to throw in January and “when he is ready to go, he will be in the rotation,” Hill said. But the Marlins can’t be certain if that will be by opening day.
• So who joins Dan Straily, Jose Urena and potentially Chen in the rotation?
Hill and Mattingly mentioned Adam Conley, Dillon Peters, Odrisamer Despaigne, Caleb Smith, Justin Nicolino, Jarlin Garcia and two Rule 5 pickups, Brett Graves and Elieser Hernandez.
Hill wouldn’t rule out one of the most advanced pitchers acquired in the four big trades this winter being in the starting rotation to start the season, with former Cardinals right-hander Sandy Alcantara having the best chance.
“I’m ready [for the majors],” Alcantara said Saturday.
• Justin Bour, explaining Saturday why he didn’t ask for a trade: “I'm enjoying my time here in Miami. This is where I want to be. You can either choose to have a positive or negative attitude about it. To me, I'm obviously going to be positive about it. It's an opportunity for a lot of people to get chances, sort of like myself.”
• First baseman Garrett Cooper, who had 84 RBI in 83 games in the high minors in the Yankees system last year, also will get some time in the outfield and can play left or right, Hill said….Though quality prospect Brian Anderson can play second base, Hill said the Marlins will keep him at third, behind Martin Prado for now.
• How hard was it for Hill to be compelled to make those payroll-slashing trades?
“Derek [Jeter] said when he took over, there were going to be some difficult decisions,” Hill said. “And obviously, when you’re trading the reigning MVP and trading Gold Glovers and Silver Sluggers, it’s difficult. But you look with all that talent, we just weren’t able to get where we wanted to go.
“We won 77 games. We didn’t have the starting pitching, we didn’t have the system to allow us to withstand what you endure over a 162-game season. Changes needed to be made. We’re excited the talent that we were able to bring back. We think it will put us in position to have that longterm sustainable winning organization.”
• Yes, Hill took baseball calls while running seven marathons in seven days on seven continents in the past two weeks.
“I had my phone,” he said. “I had wireless head phones, so I could always see on my watch who was calling. There was a number of agent calls that happened. It’s like, well, I’m sort of busy right now. I’ll have to call you back. The phone didn’t work in Antarctica.”