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Rojas has 'taken over' full-time shortstop gig

Riddle has been getting practice reps at third base and left field
@JoeFrisaro
April 13, 2019

MIAMI -- Just over two weeks into the season, the Marlins appear to have settled on a regular shortstop. Manager Don Mattingly said on Saturday that Miguel Rojas has most consistently stepped up at the position and the 30-year-old is expected to get the most opportunities at shortstop going forward.

MIAMI -- Just over two weeks into the season, the Marlins appear to have settled on a regular shortstop.

Manager Don Mattingly said on Saturday that Miguel Rojas has most consistently stepped up at the position and the 30-year-old is expected to get the most opportunities at shortstop going forward.

Entering the season, the Marlins planned on more evenly splitting time at shortstop between Rojas and JT Riddle. But Rojas has played his way into getting his chance on a full-time basis.

“Miggy, in a sense, has taken over that job,” Mattingly said. “His at-bats in the spring were good. His at-bats early in the season have been good. Just wanted that energy on the field.”

Rojas entered Saturday's game against the Phillies hitting .257 with a .333 on-base percentage and five RBIs. In Spring Training, he hit .439. Riddle, meanwhile, is off to a .160 start with two home runs and three RBIs.

“JT will be back in there,” Mattingly said. “We’ll get him going, and making sure he’s working on what he needs to work on.”

Riddle is a left-handed hitter, while Rojas hits from the right side. The two had been used more on a platoon basis, but on Friday, in a 9-1 loss to the Phillies, Rojas was in the lineup against right-hander Jake Arrieta.

On Saturday, Rojas again was at shortstop against another righty in Zach Eflin.

Riddle has played exclusively at shortstop, while Rojas can play all over the infield, including being a late-inning defensive replacement at first base.

"On the offensive side, [just] making sure he’s thinking right," Mattingly said about Riddle. "But he’s going to be a part of what’s going on."

Riddle in recent weeks has taken grounders at third base and has had some work in left field.

He certainly has the potential to make an impact with his bat. His hard-hit rate is 40 percent, according to Statcast, but his expected batting average is just .202, in part because he also has a strikeout rate of 40 percent.

Sticking with shifting

Playing the percentages hasn’t seemed to be going the Marlins’ way this season. Andrew McCutchen exploited Miami’s shift on Friday night, collecting two ground-ball singles to right field, through a vacated spot with Starlin Castro positioned closer to second base.

Those were McCutchen’s first two ground-ball singles to right field this year.

“We’re trying to get guys in the right spots to catch the most balls,” Mattingly said. “That’s really all it is. It’s nothing more than trying to put guys in the best positions to catch the most balls of where guys have shown, in their history, to hit the ball.”

The Marlins, according to Statcast, lead the Majors in total defensive shifts -- 278. Next on the list are the Orioles at 227.

Opponents are hitting .296 against Miami’s shifting.

“When they don’t hit the ball there … you can’t cover the whole field,” Mattingly said. “You’re just trying to cover the most ground to get to as many of the balls as you can get.”

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.