Behind Mattingly, Marlins turn page

New manager points out that club has experience despite youth

February 19th, 2016

JUPITER, Fla. -- Sporting a black uniform top with the No. 8 on the back, a black cap and white pants with black stripes down the side, Don Mattingly took the field on Friday afternoon for the first time as the Marlins' new manager.

Under the direction of the man affectionately known during his Yankees playing days as "Donnie Baseball," Miami officially launched into Spring Training.

After a disappointing 2015, the Marlins are turning to Mattingly to create a culture change. The organization remained committed to its core players, but it placed the dugout in the hands of a proven leader and winner.

Mattingly's message to pitchers and catchers on the first day of workouts was to give maximum effort. Full-squad workouts get underway on Tuesday.

"I don't know if there is a lot they need to know about me," Mattingly said. "I always feel like I can tell players I'll have their back as long as they work. As long as guys give their best effort, I'm going to back them all the way. It's hard to back a guy who doesn't work. They'll know that about me right away. I'm going to protect them, as long as they go and give us their best effort."

Mattingly takes over as Miami's manager after leading the Dodgers to three straight National League West titles. His task is to turn a team that hasn't had a winning season since 2009 into a postseason contender.

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"I think we're a young team, but we're a young experienced team," Mattingly said. "One of the things I liked talking to guys about, and it actually surprised me -- there's some confidence here. That's one thing you have to have. You have to have guys that believe in themselves, and I think we have that. Now we have to prove that on the field."

If the Marlins are to reverse their fortunes, and rebound from a 71-91 2015 season, they are going to rely on their top two players staying healthy.

Jose Fernandez, the 23-year-old ace, made just 11 starts a year ago. The right-hander was recovering from Tommy John surgery, and he will be on an innings limit of around 180. And slugger Giancarlo Stanton, who belted 27 home runs and drove in 67 runs, appeared in just 74 games. His season was cut short due to a broken left hamate bone, suffered on June 26.

"I'm looking forward to pitching every five days," Fernandez said. "We have really good communication, so I think we'll be fine."

On the bright side, All-Star second baseman Dee Gordon captured the NL batting title, and he was also a Gold Glove Award winner and Silver Slugger Award winner.

"I'm excited by the whole situation, being here and having a good team," Gordon said. "Hopefully, we'll surprise some people."

Gordon, who played for Mattingly in Los Angeles, notes that the new Miami manager brings a "playoff pedigree."

"We've got a good nucleus," Gordon said. "We ended on a high note last year. We started coming together as a team. I think we're going to take that into this year."

In the final six weeks of 2015, the Marlins went 17-12.

"They feel like they finished the season strong with the core group of guys, and they believe they can compete with just about anybody," Mattingly said. "That's the part I really like and that's where we've got to continue to improve and develop."