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At spring training, Marlins reflect on 'painful' 2021, tout 'dangerous' lineup

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Miami Marlins infielder Jazz Chisholm (L) said he thinks the team's offensive playmakers will be "trouble" for 2022 opposing pitchers. File Photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/60bd8a261b9fbf8314f5da540a9f960b/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Miami Marlins infielder Jazz Chisholm (L) said he thinks the team's offensive playmakers will be "trouble" for 2022 opposing pitchers. File Photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI | License Photo

JUPITER, Fla., March 21 (UPI) -- Miami Marlins players don't mind being overlooked as a threat in 2022 after what manager Don Mattingly called a "painful" 2021 season. Star infielder Jazz Chisholm thinks the team even might be "trouble" for its 2022 foes.

"I feel like we are always under the radar, but that's OK," Chisholm said before the Marlins faced the New York Mets in a spring training game at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium. "We are just a team in the National League East that nobody pays attention to.

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"We haven't been good for a few years in Miami, but if you really look at the lineup, it's kinda dangerous. ... I feel like it's going to be a lot of trouble."

The Marlins, who made the playoffs in 2020, lost 95 games and finished fourth last season in the National League East division. They enter this season with the second-lowest payroll in the National League, and oddsmakers expect them to finish fourth again.

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Two NL East rivals -- the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets -- made major off-season additions that made headlines and cast shadows over the Marlins' relatively minor moves.

The Mets added Max Scherzer, one of MLB's best pitchers, to a rotation that included ace Jacob deGrom. The Phillies added sluggers Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber to a lineup that included reigning MVP Bryce Harper and other very capable bats.

"I don't really care about it. If they got the money, they can sign everybody," Marlins first baseman Jesus Aguilar said Monday at Roger Dean Stadium, before the Marlins played the Mets in spring training.

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"At the end of the day, it's about how we can play and compete. Nobody believes in the Marlins. They brush past us, but we gotta do what we are supposed to do.

"It's gonna be a tough year. The division is really hard ... but we have to be 100% ready, and we'll see what happens."

The Marlins surprised many when they snapped a 17-year drought and advanced to the playoffs in 2020, paced by timely hitting and a powerful rotation of starting pitchers. Much of that pitching formula remains in place, including ace Sandy Alcantara.

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"Last year was a painful year," Mattingly said. "After you get away, you have to say: we have to step back. 2020 was a good year. ... We started to feel like we were going to get over the hump and create some consistently. Last year was painful. We had some injuries, but whatever they were doesn't matter. We didn't win.

"Hopefully it was just step backward and now we are ready to go."

One thing that went well for the Marlins in 2021 was Chisholm's emergence. The Bahamas native energized the team with his flashy defense, blistering speed on base and powerful bat.

Chisholm, who hit 18 home runs and stole 23 bases in 124 games last season, said he doesn't feel pressure to repeat his stellar campaign, but remains confident in his ability as one of the teams stars.

"My role is to go out there and try to play the best baseball I can to try to help us win," Chisholm said. "I feel like everybody is going to go out there and do that, and everybody is going to believe that this year."'

Chemistry could prove more important for this Marlins roster, which isn't a puzzle pieced together with perennial All-Stars from the free agent market or through trades. Marlins veteran infielder Miguel Rojas is one of several team leaders who took initiative to jump start that chemistry amid the league lockout.

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Marlins players convened on area fields in south Florida to ready their bodies for the spring games. Rojas said they also maintain a group chat to share jokes and improve their rapport.

New infielder Joey Wendle, who joined the Marlins in a December trade, said he still is building on his relationships with teammates. He also said Mattingly's presence in the clubhouse aids the team's bond.

"He is involved," Wendle said. "He is right there. Each manager is different in own their respect, but I really enjoy how he addressees the team everyday. He sets expectation for guys in the batting cage and he is right on top of it.

"You have to respect that. He is right in there with the guys and that goes a long way, especially someone of his stature."

Wendle, who hit a career-high 11 home runs and made his first All-Star team last season, should provide a jolt as a substitute into the Marlins lineup.

Off-season additions Avisail Garcia and Jorge Soler, who each hit 27 home runs last year, are expected to provide additional pop on a daily basis, something absent from the team's lineup over the past few seasons.

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Mattingly said those additions should help the Marlins, and onlookers might even be surprised to see stellar arms emerge from their system's arsenal of pitchers.

"I don't really worry about the other guys," Mattingly said of other teams' additions. "I really worry about us. ... We brought in some guys who could swing the bat. We know we got quality arms, maybe the Scherzer of the future. We may have a couple of them right now."

The Marlins' spring schedule continues with a game against the St. Louis Cardinals at 1:05 p.m. EDT Tuesday at Roger Dean. The Marlins start the regular season against the San Francisco Giants at 4:35 p.m. April 8 at Oracle Park in San Francisco.

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