Who's at the top? Marlins weigh options

Dietrich, Brinson, Realmuto in mix; Riddle plays on back fields

March 17th, 2018

JUPITER, Fla. -- The Marlins have a general idea of how their everyday lineup might look, but they have yet to determine a leadoff hitter.
Manager Don Mattingly said the issue was discussed at a Sunday morning meeting, and the team is weighing several options. is one possibility, and top prospect is also receiving consideration. A less likely candidate is catcher J.T. Realmuto.
"It is definitely a question mark for us," Mattingly said. "We're going to keep talking about it. Keep looking at some stuff and see what the combination of our guys are and make a decision."
Whoever gets the nod, the role will be different than it's been the past few years.
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Dee Gordon, traded to the Mariners in December, had secured the assignment from 2015-17. In two of those seasons, he led the league in stolen bases. The Marlins aren't expected to have an old-school, prototypical leadoff candidate at this point. Dietrich and Brinson are greater power threats than Gordon, who is one of the fastest players in the game.
"You think about Derek as a possibility up there," Mattingly said. "You don't mind if the guy who is swinging the bat [well] gets that extra at-bat. You're bunting the pitcher to get the guy in scoring position. It's a thought. I think we have a couple of different options. I don't think they're all great."
and , two speedy outfield prospects, resemble Gordon in terms of their speed. But both might open in the Minor Leagues.
Dietrich has had a strong spring, but he may be more impactful hitting in the middle of the order.

Brinson, acquired from the Brewers in the trade, is an interesting leadoff choice. The 23-year-old has yet to officially make the team, but he's impressed in Spring Training and he provides speed and power. If he leads off, it could be similar to when broke in with the Marlins in 2006 and led off during his Rookie of the Year Award-winning season.
"He's another guy," Mattingly said. "We haven't set our lineup yet or our roster, but he's another guy who would be in consideration."
In his brief stint with the Brewers in 2017, Brinson had seven at-bats from the leadoff spot.
Dietrich had 19 at-bats leading off last year and 85 in 2016. has experience leading off. And Realmuto had 31 at-bats from the top of the order a year ago.
"It's probably not going to look traditional, from a standpoint of the old school, a guy gets on base and steals bases," Mattingly said. "Not that type of guy. A guy like Dee from last year."
Injury updates
• On the back fields at the Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium complex, shortstop JT Riddle played three innings in the infield. Riddle had been hitting in Minor League games, but Saturday was the first time he was cleared to play the field since having left shoulder surgery last August.

Riddle handled a couple of routine ground balls against the Astros' Triple-A squad, and he also turned a 4-6-3 double play. At the plate, Riddle had a single and double. The way he is progressing, he could be ready for Opening Day on March 29 against the Cubs at Marlins Park.

"Another hurdle to get over, to be out there and play defense," Riddle said. "Get some ground balls and trusting it. Fielding a ground ball and throwing across the infield. It went well today. It's another confidence-booster in my head that I'm ready to go."
• Realmuto, who has been out since last Sunday with a bruised lower back, is making progress, but he has yet to resume baseball activities.
(left elbow) is throwing off the mound and making some progress. Still, there is no timetable on when he might return. Chen will open the season on the disabled list.
Position battle
A couple of non-roster invitees with big league experience each had their struggles closing out the ninth inning. The Marlins let a six-run lead slip away with two outs in the ninth, and they finished with a 6-6 tie against the Astros at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium.
, in the mix for a rotation or long-relief role, had logged three scoreless innings before struggling to lock down the final out. He allowed three hits and walked two, and he was lifted with the bases loaded.
Jumbo Diaz, competing for a bullpen spot, surrendered a game-tying grand slam. Anibal Sierra connected on a 1-2 offering.
With all their players on the bubble, the Marlins are testing them in game-on-the-line situations. Turner exited at 69 pitches.
"That's the fourth inning for [Turner] there," Mattingly said. "You see where they're at when they get in that pitch range. We're trying to put him out there in that spot. I'd like to see him try to do it there. But his pitch count was going to a spot where you want to be a little careful."
As for Diaz, Mattingly added: "The one thing you don't want to do is what we did there. If he's going to beat you, let him beat you the other way. That kind of thing."
Worth noting
• In Minor League camp on Sunday, Jorge Guzman threw in a Class A Advanced game against the Astros' affiliate. The right-hander is Miami's No. 4 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline. Guzman's fastball was clocked between 97-100 mph.

"Urena was good. Obviously, we saw him bounce back and throw the ball well. The next [start] is going to be on the Minor League side. We're going to want to make sure he gets up so many times." -- Mattingly, on 's three scoreless innings after a tough start against the Cardinals

Up next
The Marlins take to the road Sunday, facing the Yankees at 1:05 p.m. ET on MLB.TV. , a left-hander in the mix for a rotation spot, will make the start for Miami. , competing for a rotation or long-relief spot, is also supposed to pitch. Brinson is among the position players on the trip. , announced as New York's Opening Day starter, will pitch for the Yankees.