Ng sings Rojas' praises at first workout

Marlins waiting on five players to report to camp

February 23rd, 2021

JUPITER, Fla. -- You make me feel so young/You make me feel as though spring has sprung.

Those might be lyrics to a Frank Sinatra tune, but they certainly apply to Marlins shortstop Miguel Rojas, who turns 32 on Wednesday. Entering his seventh season with the organization, Miami's unofficial captain is coming off his best campaign. Like a fine wine, he seems to be getting better with age.

"To be honest with you, I feel like all these young players and the young talent get me actually younger and keep me pushing, pushing harder to get better, because, like I say, I'm not getting younger, I'm getting older," Rojas said. "But at the same time, I feel like I'm getting better, you know like, it's been happening the last couple years I've been actually improving my numbers."

It wasn't until 2018 -- Rojas' fifth season in the Majors -- that he became an everyday player. Always known for his defense, he has continued to make strides on offense. Last year, Rojas slashed .304/.392/.496 with an .888 OPS in 40 games and was named a National League Gold Glove Award finalist at short. All that despite missing time with COVID-19.

"Miggy just continues to get better," said Marlins skipper Don Mattingly, who also managed Rojas in L.A. "That's what's great about Miggy. He just continues to get better. I am going to quit setting the bar on Miggy, because every time you set the bar, every time you think that's as good as he can possibly get, he gets better. Overachiever or maybe reaching his full potential. Credit to him for all the work he's done."

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Rojas was one of two names Marlins general manager Kim Ng singled out as guys she was excited to see during the first full-squad workout on Tuesday at the Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium complex.

"Miguel's a really interesting guy, interesting player," Ng said. "Clearly he takes great pride in being a leader on this team, and I love those guys who really stand out in that way. The energy with which he plays is definitely intriguing, and just watching him take charge out there. Many of the young players from what I understand look up to him greatly. We just expect him to be the same Miguel as he's been in the past and to really lead these guys."

Who sets the table?
Since the Marlins dealt Dee Strange-Gordon to the Mariners following the 2017 season, they haven't had a consistent presence atop the order. Last year, Jonathan Villar led the club with 22 starts as the leadoff batter before being traded to the Blue Jays. Next on the list was Corey Dickerson with 21.

The left-handed-hitting Dickerson led off both NL Wild Card Series games and one of the three NL Division Series contests. Dickerson, who has a .327 career on-base percentage in eight seasons, averaged 4.09 pitches per plate appearance in 2020 -- good for 38th among Major League qualifiers. He also is league average with a 27 feet/second sprint speed, according to Statcast.

"I think lineups are built different now," Mattingly said. "I threw Giancarlo [Stanton] in the two-hole a few years back and everyone threw their arms up like, 'What are you doing?' He ends up almost hitting 60 homers. It's nice to have those guys up front or at the top of the order to get on base for the guys who you put in the middle and are run producers. But nowadays, that two spot is usually the spot where you're almost always putting your best hitter in because it's coming up again the next time through the order when you're in a close game late.

"That guy's getting an extra at-bat. So I think the thinking has gone a little bit more to, 'Let's get our best hitters the most at-bats.' The game has changed, and I know they're still working on it to maybe make it change again. There's not a lot of running that goes on within the game in general. We want to be a club that can be aggressive on the bases if we have that guy. You take your club and the people that you have and try to build the best lineup."

Worth noting
• The Marlins are missing five of their players in camp: three as part of the COVID-19 intake process plus reliever Jeff Brigham (60-day injured list) and Miami's No. 17 prospect Jerar Encarnación, who is delayed in the Dominican Republic. The club expects Encarnación to arrive on Wednesday for intake.

She said it
"I started running a few days ago. Got back on that. Last summer, I was doing a lot of hiking. I went on a 30-mile backpacking trek to Maine, so I definitely had to get back on that track, so I started running again. Took a walk on the beach the other night just to clear the head a little bit. I've got my tennis racket down here, so I've got to find somebody who's willing on that front. I'd play golf, but golf takes too long. That's five hours I cannot spare." -- Ng