Since winning the National League Rookie of the Year in 2009 with the then Florida Marlins, Chris Coghlan has had two down years which were each plagued by injury. Despite two injury plagued years in which Coghlan hit just .252, many projected that he would be in the Marlins’ opening day lineup.
The Miami Marlins entered 2012 with seven of the eight starters in the lineup already in place. The one mystery would be who would play center field, the speedy Emilio Bonifacio or the oft-injured Coghlan. Bonifacio easily secured the job and it has turned out to be the right move for the Fish, but with an unfortunate turn of events for the Marlins over the past week, Coghlan could get a shot of becoming an everyday player once again.
After hitting just .143 in April, Coghlan was sent to the minor leagues and Bryan Petersen, who played in 74 games for the Marlins in 2011, was called up.
Bonifacio, who won the starting center field job from Coghlan, leads all of baseball in stolen bases with 20 and recorded his first 20 stolen bases without being caught. But in Friday’s 3-2 win over Cleveland, Bonifacio was caught stealing for the very first time this year and in the process, sprained his left wrist. Two days later, the injury sent Bonifacio to the 15-day disabled list. That same day, Miami also sent first baseman Gaby Sanchez down to triple-A. Sanchez, who was an All-Star last season, was hitting just .197 on the year with nearly three times as many strikeouts as walks. Coghlan and infielder Donovan Solano were called up.
But the injury to Bonifacio and the demotion of Sanchez has hardly thrust Coghlan back into the starting lineup. Petersen has assumed the everyday center fielder role in Bonifacio’s absence while first base has been manned by Logan Morrison, who began the year as the club’s left fielder. Austin Kearns despite playing sparingly, had been tearing the cover off the ball for Miami in limited playing time and it looked as though his hot bat would push him into the left field role.
But in Tuesday’s 7-6 win over the Colorado Rockies, Kearns left the game in the fourth inning with tightness in his hamstring and Coghlan took over in left field. Kearns is listed as day-to-day which means Coghlan could be in left field, where he played in 2009, for some time.
Since returning to the big leagues on Sunday, Coghlan has still struggled at the plate, but is showing signs of being able to contribute. Coghlan went hitless on Sunday, but did drive in a run during Miami’s 3-run 8th inning.
In his first at-bat on Tuesday night, Coghlan ripped a RBI single to right to score Hanley Ramirez and give Miami a 6-3 lead, which turned out to be the difference in a one-run victory for the Marlins. But the biggest contribution from Coghlan came with his glove.
With Miami clinging to a 7-6 lead in the top of the 8th and a runner on third for the Rockies, Colorado’s Marco Scutaro ripped a line drive in the left-center field gap. Coghlan was able to run it down and make an outstanding leaping catch to preserve the Miami lead.
With Kearns listed as day-to-day and Bonifacio out, Coghlan will likely become a regular once again in left field at least for a few days. But the long-term opportunity to play everyday has opened up for Coghlan. Once Bonifacio returns, he will be back in his center field role, but Coghlan is not competing for playing time with Bonifacio. He’s competing with Petersen, Kearns and Sanchez.
With the track records given, Coghlan still fits further into Miami’s future plans than either Petersen or Kearns. Morrison came up as a first baseman and first could be his position to play long term. If Coghlan can outplay Petersen and Sanchez continues to struggle, left field could once again be his. He adds a left-handed bat to the lineup and can cover far more ground than Kearns. It’s been a long couple of years for the 2009 N.L. Rookie of the Year, but now, an opportunity has presented itself. Coghlan for the short term, is going to get a shot at playing every day again and for his sake and possibly his future with the franchise, he needs to make the most of it.
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