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Mattingly begins sorting through Marlins pitching options

February 14, 2018

JUPITER, Fla. (AP) — Miami Marlins pitchers and catchers were still gathering in the midday sun to begin the first spring training workout Wednesday when someone asked manager Don Mattingly if he had decided on an opening day starter.

After all, the Los Angeles Dodgers already announced Clayton Kershaw will start their opener.

“I didn’t see any Kershaws on our roster,” Mattingly said with a laugh.

So no, Mattingly doesn’t have a No. 1 pitcher yet. And three of the five jobs in the rotation are open, with more than a dozen pitchers having a shot to make the starting staff.

Mattingly and his coaches will spend spring training evaluating the candidates, including several prospects acquired in trades during the Marlins’ offseason payroll purge.

Not among the rotation contenders to begin the season: injury-plagued left-hander Wei-Yin Chen, the Marlins’ highest-paid pitcher as he enters the third season of an $80 million, five-year contract. He is not expected to be ready for opening day, but the Marlins hope he can join the rotation sometime during the season, Mattingly said.

Right-handers Jose Urena and Dan Straily are penciled in to start, and one of them will likely pitch the opener March 29 against the Chicago Cubs. There will be a scramble this spring for the other three turns in the rotation.

“We have nine legit guys for three spots,” Mattingly said. “Then there’s another five we have earmarked for other places to begin the season, but they may blow us away in camp.”

The long list of candidates is part of new CEO Derek Jeter’s plan to improve the depth of talent in the organization. The short-term cost was the departure of four everyday starters in offseason trades, including National League most valuable player Giancarlo Stanton.

With the start of camp, the Marlins begin to evaluate the prospects they received in return. Jeter was among those watching the first day of drills.

“I have total faith in what he’s wanting to do,” said Mattingly, who went 156-167 in his first two years with the Marlins. “You don’t have any real doubts we’re on the right page. We’ll have a plan. We’re going to stick with it. And we’re going to build this thing from the bottom up.”

While Stanton and recently departed center fielder Christian Yelich didn’t want to be part of Jeter’s reboot, the numerous young pitchers in the clubhouse embrace the situation as a chance to make the big leagues. Left-hander Adam Conley said he didn’t mind being among nine contenders to start.

“I hope we have 10 guys who deserve that job,” Conley said. “I don’t wish anyone to do poorly. I just want to go out there and do really, really good.”

Pitching holdovers from the 2017 Marlins include Conley, Dillon Peters, Odrisamer Despaigne, Caleb Smith, Justin Nicolino and Jarlin Garcia. But many of the contenders to start are newcomers, including former St. Louis Cardinals prospect Sandy Alcantara, former New York Yankees prospect Jorge Guzman and Rule 5 pickups Brett Graves and Elieser Hernandez.

So the prospective 2018 Marlins spent the first day of camp introducing themselves to new teammates.

“Yeah, I did that quite a few times,” Peters said. “But you know what? Not a whole lot of people knew me either way. If this is a veteran team, I would probably be doing the same thing.”

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