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Mattingly 'excited' to build team from ground up

MLB.com @JoeFrisaro

MIAMI -- Marlins manager Don Mattingly is not shying away from the challenge of working and developing a young roster.

"The thing for me, and you probably think I'm crazy, but I'm really excited about what's going on," Mattingly said on Saturday at FanFest. "I could look you right in the camera -- look you right in the eye -- and tell you how excited I am to be here."

MIAMI -- Marlins manager Don Mattingly is not shying away from the challenge of working and developing a young roster.

"The thing for me, and you probably think I'm crazy, but I'm really excited about what's going on," Mattingly said on Saturday at FanFest. "I could look you right in the camera -- look you right in the eye -- and tell you how excited I am to be here."

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Entering his third season as Marlins manager, Mattingly and his staff are working with a restructured roster from the past few seasons.

In a frantic offseason, the Marlins have traded Giancarlo Stanton, Dee Gordon, Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna.

With a youthful squad, the Marlins open Spring Training on Wednesday with pitchers and catchers' workouts in Jupiter, Fla. Full-squad practices are set for Feb. 19.

Video: Frisaro breaks down Marlins' 2018 projected lineup

"It's kind of a coach's dream, that you talk about building an organization from the bottom up and feeling like that's going to happen, and you're on the ground floor of something that's going to be exciting," Mattingly said.

After eight straight losing seasons, the Marlins broke up their main core from the past few seasons. The moves were necessitated by the fact that the organization lacked pitching and overall Minor League depth.

"Obviously, when you're trading the reigning MVP and trading Gold Glovers and Silver Sluggers, it's difficult," Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. "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 with the talent that we were able to bring back. We think it will put us in position to have that long-term sustainable winning organization."

Video: Marlins' ownership building up farm system

Worth noting

• One outfield spot appears to be settled. Derek Dietrich is getting the nod to be the everyday left fielder. The 28-year-old is a natural infielder, but Dietrich is moving to left in order to have his bat in the lineup.

"We look at him right now penciled in in left field," Mattingly said. "He's a guy who's going to get a lot of at-bats."

Dietrich played five games in left last year, and has 59 total games at the position in his MLB career.

Video: ATL@MIA: Dietrich crushes three-run homer to left

• The rotation is receiving a huge jolt, as Wei-Yin Chen has been medically cleared to throw. The 32-year-old left-hander is managing a partial ligament tear in his throwing elbow, and he threw just 33 innings last year. Chen will come into Spring Training will a clean bill of health, and Hill said he expects that Chen will be in the starting rotation this season, barring any setbacks. 

Brad Ziegler is expected to have the same role at the start of the season as he did at the end of last year. The 38-year-old, according to Hill, will be the closer. Ziegler has 95 career saves, including 10 in the second half of last season.

Video: ATL@MIA: Ziegler induces a double play to end game

• A couple of infielders will be eased into Spring Training action after missing substantial time in 2017. Third baseman Martin Prado, recovering from knee and hamstring issues, will work his way back gradually in camp. Prado anticipates being ready to go by Opening Day against the Cubs on March 29. Shortstop JT Riddle, who missed the second half of '17 after undergoing left shoulder surgery, likely will be ready for Grapefruit League games in early to mid-March.

If Prado isn't ready, Brian Anderson is the likely third baseman, and Miguel Rojas projects to get most of the reps at shortstop.

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

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