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Riddle, Rojas to battle for starting shortstop job

Both players dealt with injuries which required surgery last season
MLB.com @JoeFrisaro

MIAMI -- The Marlins will open Spring Training with two promising shortstop candidates, yet there is still uncertainty at the position.

Miguel Rojas and JT Riddle each have the potential to become everyday players, but both missed significant time in 2017 due to injuries, raising questions about who will handle shortstop.

MIAMI -- The Marlins will open Spring Training with two promising shortstop candidates, yet there is still uncertainty at the position.

Miguel Rojas and JT Riddle each have the potential to become everyday players, but both missed significant time in 2017 due to injuries, raising questions about who will handle shortstop.

Spring Training for the Marlins gets underway with pitchers and catchers' workouts on Wednesday, and full-squad practices get going on Monday.

Without a clear answer heading into camp, shortstop will be one of the most contested Spring Training battles.

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Rojas played in 90 games last year, sporting a slash line of .290/.361/.375 with one home run and 26 RBIs. Riddle appeared in 70 games, and hit .250/.282/.355 with 17 extra-base hits and 81 total bases in 247 plate appearances.

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On paper, Riddle would appear to have the edge. The 26-year-old caught the attention of the organization last April after he was called up from Triple-A New Orleans. A left-handed hitter, he stood out defensively, and offered a strong approach at the plate.

The former University of Kentucky infielder seized his opportunity after Adeiny Hechavarria went on the disabled list. Riddle's emergence actually helped prompt the Marlins to trade Hechavarria to the Rays.

But Riddle dealt with a left shoulder injury, and he didn't play after July 19. A few weeks later, he had surgery.

Video: Hill, Riddle on Marlins shortstop situation in 2018

"Everything went well this offseason," Riddle said. "I'm ready to get back out there and get started. I saw the doctor in the middle of January, and he cleared me to start baseball activities. I've been getting after it for a few weeks now, and I'm getting ready to go."

So is Rojas, a 28-year-old who has been mostly a utility player. But Rojas noted that he's ready to elevate his game, and he wants to be a full-time player.

"Right now, I'm in the prime of my career," Rojas said. "I'm 28 years old and I'm ready to take that role. I've been part of the bench and having the opportunity to play a month or two months stretch as an everyday player."

Video: Rojas on getting ready for the 2018 season

Heading into camp, Rojas is likely the front-runner to be the starting shortstop.

Because he's coming back from surgery, Riddle will be eased into action, and he hopes to play in Grapefruit League games by mid-March.

"I'd like to be full-go the second week of March, so I can get some games under my belt before the season starts," Riddle said. "That's kind of the goal right now. We'll play it by ear, and make sure that I'm healthy and ready to go before I rush into it."

But Rojas, too, missed time in 2017 with injuries. He had surgery on his right thumb, and he's also dealt with nagging left shoulder issues.

"I feel great," Rojas said. "The whole offseason, I put a lot of attention working on my body. I didn't go to Venezuela this offseason. I stayed here the whole time. I took a couple of months taking care of my shoulders, my wrists, my hamstrings, whatever was hurting last year. It was a long offseason for me, the first time I didn't play baseball in the offseason. I'm ready to go. I'm ready to take a bigger role with this team."

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

Miami Marlins, JT Riddle, Miguel Rojas