Youngsters Chisholm and Diaz battling for Marlins’ 2B job

MIAMI (AP) — Highly regarded Miami Marlins prospect Jazz Chisholm calls the ballfield his “happy place,” which is why he’s always in motion, bouncing about even during monotonous spring training drills.

Teammates tell him to chill.

“All the time. Every day,” Chisholm said with a grin. “The veterans are tired of me. They tell me to stop moving, stop singing, stop dancing. It’s fun to mess with the older guys. They hate me singing and whispering in their ear.”

The vets might need to get used to it. Chisholm is competing with fellow prospect Isan Diaz for the second base job, the team’s only position battle this spring. The outcome will help determine whether the Marlins can generate more offense this season.

In 2020, Miami second basemen had an OPS of .602, last in the National League. Chisholm made his big league debut in September and went 9 for 56 (.161), and Diaz went 4 for 22 (.182) before a groin injury ended his brief season.

The hope is one of them can provide more pop this year — Chisholm provided a nice omen, leading off the Marlins’ exhibition opener with a home run. Barely a week into spring training games, the jury is still out.

Diaz had a two-run double in Monday’s game against St. Louis in Jupiter, Florida. Chisholm contributed an RBI single.

“Isan looks really comfortable in the field, and Jazz is always kind of electric,” manager Don Mattingly said. “We’ll let this play out. There is plenty of camp left, and there are going to be plenty of at-bats for them.”

Both young infielders are a product of a farm system rebuilt by CEO Derek Jeter through trades and the draft. Diaz, 24, was acquired three years ago in the deal that sent Christian Yelich to Milwaukee. Chisholm, 23, came to Miami in the 2019 trade that sent pitcher Zac Gallen to Arizona.

Diaz’s future was in question last summer, after he opted out of the season following the Marlins’ coronavirus outbreak. He changed his mind and rejoined the team in September.

“Having the time off,” Diaz said, “I was able to sit down with my parents, which is what helped me get back to where I am — remembering the positive stuff that has happened in my career, getting back to the reason I started playing, and finding the love for the game.”

Chisholm’s zest has never been in doubt. He was born in the Bahamas with the sport in his blood.

“My grandma was a professional softball player, and she’s the reason I always loved baseball,” he said. “You’ll never see me stop moving on the field. It’s not right if I’m not moving. Baseball is my happy place.”

And it’s true: Veterans have told Chisholm to chill.

“Jazz is a big personality,” outfielder Corey Dickerson said. “It can draw attention to yourself and away from the team — those are the conversations we have with him. But I love who he is; he means no harm by it. And you’ve got to be you to be good at this game.”

Chisholm and Diaz are left-handed hitters and plus defenders who might eventually form a keystone tandem — if they hit. Chisholm is a natural shortstop and possible future replacement for veteran Miguel Rojas.

“With Isan, we’ve always liked his swing,” Mattingly said. “He’s a strong kid, and he can use the whole field.

“Jazz is a different-type athlete, with a quick twitch, explosive, big power. It’s an interesting combination.”

It won’t be a combo once the season starts. The runner-up for the starting job at second will likely be sent to the minors for more development.

Both know they need to play better than they did last year.

“I started to see why they call it the big leagues,” Chisholm said.

And as Diaz put it: “Failure stinks.”

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