By Mike Cugno

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – If you thought the Major League Baseball players and managers didn’t pay attention to off-season hype and predictions, guess again.

Marlins skipper Don Mattingly knows pundits picked the Fish to finish near the bottom of the division as they enter spring training, but he sounds very confident that the Fish will once again surprise people.

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Marlins pitchers and catchers reported to Jupiter on Wednesday and for the first time in a long time, the Fish can say they are working on returning to the playoffs.

“We’ve got a lot to prove, but I do think the experience last year was real good for our team. It was good for the organization. Our pitching is still the same. It’s going to be good and it’s probably going to be even better,” said Mattingly.

This season will beef back up to its normal 162 game slate. They hope the addition of Adam Duvall will add some pop to their offense but the consensus is their pitching staff will carry them.

An opening day starter has not been named, but there have been talks of using a 6 man rotation.

“What I really look at – this is a black and blue division. This is going to be a grind. You know I talk about grinding it out all the time. Every team in this division is going to give everybody trouble. You can go top to bottom of people picking us 5th. You know nobody’s looking for us to come to town and thinking, ‘Oh the Marlins are coming because they know they may see Sandy (Alcantara), Pablo (Lopez), Sixto (Sanchez), Elieser (Hernandez). You know, whoever,” adds the skipper. “So I think it’s going to be a dog fight and I think that benefits us.”

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While the Fish have plenty of quality starters, the front office has made sure to sure up the bullpen.

“I feel like a kid on Christmas. This is my Christmas morning,” said Kim Ng, the Marlins’ general manager.

New general manager NG, has been busy checking off needs from their off-season wish list.

They have added two arms with post-season experience.

Dylan Floro from the Dodgers and John Curtiss from the Rays. Two guys who pitched in last year’s World Series.

“Two real good arms to add to our mix. Floro, I think one of the really intriguing things about him was obviously he played for the Dodgers and won a championship with them, and has experienced post-season play for the last several years of his career. He’s been pretty high on our list all season long and we were just lucky enough to grab him,” said NG.

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Of course, this will be Kim’s first spring training as a General Manager. She says she’ll be out on the field when the timing is right. She doesn’t want her general manager presence distracting the guys in any way.