After season of bonding, Marlins face questions

Club expected to address certain issues this coming week, including status of Bonds, Ichiro

After season of bonding, Marlins face questions

WASHINGTON -- The Marlins' 10-7 loss to the Nationals on Sunday at Nationals Park in many ways was a microcosm of their season.

Down by three runs early, the Marlins rallied back off National League Cy Young Award candidate Max Scherzer, and they pulled even in the fifth inning. But whatever gains they made, they gave back up, and Washington was able to hold on and take two of three in the series.

When Xavier Scruggs grounded out to third base for the final out, it closed the book on Miami's 79-82 campaign.

Don Mattingly's first season as manager had so much hope. The Marlins were 57-48 on July 31, and serious postseason contenders. But they dealt with a string of injuries in August, and on Sept. 25, they were jolted by the unfathomable news that All-Star pitcher Jose Fernandez died in a boating accident.

"I'm just proud of the way they handled this week," Mattingly said. "We're trying to grow a team in every sense of the word. I think this season really bonds that.

Memorial service for Fernandez

"It wasn't easy, but they dealt with it as a group. I think they really made our organization proud, the way they handled it."

As the Marlins bid farewell to each other on Sunday, the organization now enters the offseason with more questions than answers.

Several issues are expected to be addressed in the coming days:
• On Monday, meetings will take place in Miami regarding Mattingly's staff. At the top of the list is the status of hitting coach Barry Bonds, who was signed for this season and whose 2017 return is uncertain. At least some coaching changes are expected.

• At some point this week, most likely on Wednesday, the Marlins are expected to pick up the club option on Ichiro Suzuki. The 42-year-old became the 30th player in MLB history to reach 3,000 hits, and he now sits at 3,030. His club option is for $2 million, and his return is considered a formality.

Ichiro's pinch-hit single

Martin Prado's contract extension has been in the works for several months. An agreement was reached recently for three years and $40 million, but the signing has yet to be made official. That could also be announced this week.

• Finding starting pitching options to help fill the loss of Fernandez. No one pitcher or player can replace the loss of not just Fernandez's talent, but also his personality, which energized the club.

One of the central messages the organization has given to the players is to treat 2016 as a season of growth.

"We talk about looking at the season as a whole, and feeling good about it," Mattingly said. "I talk really about the effort we got from Spring Training on. They bought in to what we asked them to do. The team, we feel like, it's on the move. We look at this as a stepping stone to where we're going."

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.