The St. Petersburg Times’ Marc Topkin is in an unusual position. The Devil Rays beat writer is no longer covering Florida’s most pathetic baseball franchise.

As bad as it has been for all to watch, it has to be extremely painful for new manager Joe Girardi, who took the Marlins job – and took himself out of the running for the Rays’ job – because he believed Florida had a better chance to win.

Girardi said the Marlins informed him they were going make some moves, and he has tried to be a good company man, but he admitted last week he didn’t know the roster would be stripped this severely.

Through trades and free agency, the Marlins have lost two of their top starting pitchers, Josh Beckett and A.J. Burnett; their closer, Todd Jones; and at least six frontline position players, 2B Luis Castillo, 1B Carlos Delgado, SS Alex Gonzalez , C Paul Lo Duca, 3B Mike Lowell and CF Juan Pierre.

“We didn’t necessarily talk about the degree,” Girardi said. “I think that a lot of the reasons you’re seeing this is the stadium deal is not done. … I think the landscape will change again when it gets done.

“But for right now we’re going young. My thought is if you’re going to go young, go all young. They can grow together, learn to rely on each other, be accountable. And the competition is good. The competition for the spots is healthy.”

That’s an extremely optimistic view, but with team officials launching a world tour of possible new homes, the Marlins are headed for a dreadful season.

“A big part of my job is making sure that these guys understand that they belong in the big leagues and they can do it. That’s going to be my message; that just because you’re young doesn’t mean you can’t play,” Girardi said. “It will be exciting. Don’t underestimate these kids.”