It’s an award Chris Coghlan cherishes but it’s one he says does not define him.
And if the Marlins outfielder had never been voted the 2009 NL rookie of the year, his struggles the past three years likely would not have been so noteworthy.
Coghlan has spent the past two seasons shuffling between South Florida and the minors partly because of injury and partly because of performance. After hitting .321 with nine home runs, 47 RBI and a .390 on base percentage in ‘09, Coghlan has just a .238 average with 11 homers, 60 RBI and a .305 on-base percentage.
“It’s been humbling, it’s been great, it’s been up and down, it’s been every which way emotional,” Coghlan said. “That’s my story. That’s what I’ve been dealt. I don’t feel sorry for myself.”
Coghlan, 27, was able to lift weights and work on his swing during the offseason for the first time since his freak injury that occurred midway through the 2010 season when he injured his knee while giving Wes Helms a shaving cream pie in the face after a game-winning hit.
The injury required surgery but Coghlan never felt right in 2011 after coming back too soon. He made the Marlins as the fourth outfielder last year, but was sent to Class AAA New Orleans in late April after starting the season 4-for-34. He returned three weeks later but then was demoted again in mid-June, finishing the season in the minors.
“I’m going into two years now after surgery,” Coghlan said. “I feel great. I was able to get my legs back under me during the winter.”
He said he also has made some swing changes, which he worked on while playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic. On Monday, Coghlan saw the benefits of those adjustments. He had a single and a double his first two times up and scored the Marlins’ first run in a 7-6 loss to Atlanta.
Manager Mike Redmond will take a long look at Coghlan, especially since center fielder Justin Ruggiano is dealing with a strained lower back and has yet to play.
Coghlan was in left field with Gorkys Hernandez playing center Monday. Last season for the Marlins, Coghlan started 12 games in left field, 10 in center and one in right.
“All that stuff is behind him,” Redmond said of Coghlan’s struggles. “This is a new year with a new opportunity with a new coaching staff, a new manager. Everybody starts with a clean slate.
“We’re going to run him out there and get him a lot of at-bats, get him a lot of playing time and see if he can get himself going.”
Coghlan isn’t sitting around studying the roster or breaking down his competition.
“I don’t know where my options are, I don’t know what my odds are, it doesn’t really matter to me,” he said. “I just know I can start and play at this level, and that’s my goal.
“There are definitely a lot of open jobs, new faces, but I’m taking it the same way as I always do, grind the same way I always will and in the end hopefully things will work out.”
Noteworthy: Marlins prospect Jose Fernandez threw a bullpen session Monday after taking a few days to deal with a tight hamstring. He is slated to throw in a B Game on Thursday, barring a setback. The Marlins are not sure when, or even if, Fernandez will pitch in a regular spring training game.
— Wade LeBlanc, one of a group of pitchers in competition for the No. 5 starter, had a strong spring start with two perfect innings. LeBlanc threw 21 pitches, 15 for strikes.
— Right fielder Giancarlo Stanton threw out Jordan Schafer at the plate in the fifth inning. Schafer was attempting to score from second on a single by Tyler Pastornicky.
— Reliever Scott Maine had a rough inning, allowing three runs on back-to-back homers by Jason Heyward and Justin Upton and a double to B.J. Upton, who then scored on a wild pitch.
— Hard-throwing reliever Arquimedes Caminero struck out Heyward in the fifth inning on a 98-mph fastball.