Marlins confident Coghlan will adapt to center
Former NL Rookie of the Year set to make switch from left field
MIAMI -- In the past, the Marlins have had success converting natural infielders into outfielders. So they are confident Chris Coghlan, who already adjusted to left field, will handle the switch to center field.
Coghlan in 2009 went from being a third baseman at Triple-A New Orleans to Florida's everyday left fielder. The 25-year-old went on to win the National League Rookie of the Year Award.
And in 2010, Logan Morrison, an above-average defensive first baseman in Triple-A, made the change to left field in the big leagues.
Moving Coghlan to a position he hasn't played before at any level is yet another bold move by the Marlins, an organization that is willing to take chances. Remember, in 2003, Miguel Cabrera went from being a Double-A third baseman to a left fielder in the World Series at age 20.
The Marlins announced Coghlan would change to center field in November, after Cameron Maybin was traded to the Padres for relievers Ryan Webb and Edward Mujica.
The Marlins plan on going with Coghlan in center and Morrison in left field, while 21-year-old Mike Stanton will be in right field.
"I think Chris is going to be fine. I really do," Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said on Wednesday. "If you are able to pick up left field that quickly and make yourself as good as Chris has made himself in left field, why can't he do it in center? That's what we asked ourselves.
"It wasn't a knee-jerk kind of thing. We didn't say, 'Hey, let's trade Cameron and put Cogz in center.' We spent time and thought about it. I don't think there was any dissention throughout the organization that he can do it and do it well."
All offseason, the Marlins have worked on improving defensively. With that in mind, Beinfest understands why there is skepticism about the changes in the outfield.
"I think those are all reasonable things for people to speculate, out in the media or with the fans, but there is a lot of comfort here, in terms of those being the right guys," Beinfest said. "If they weren't, then we'd try to make some adjustments.
"There is just a lot of confidence within the organization in those guys because of who they are. LoMo is going to make himself into a real good left fielder. Is he going to make some aggressive mistakes? Probably, but that's OK, because he's an aggressive player. He wants to do well. That's a big part of it."
Because Coghlan and Morrison are strong mentally and they both have excellent work habits, the organization was willing to make the changes.
"Chris made it known to us that he was interested in playing center field," Beinfest said. "I think a big part of it is he wants to do it. If you want to do something, and given his makeup, he's going to work hard at it and make the best of it.
"I don't think that we share, or Chris shares, maybe some of those 'What ifs,' of people not comfortable with what you're doing. If you trade Cameron Maybin, you better be pretty comfortable and confident that Chris is going to do it."
The Marlins begin Spring Training on Feb. 18 with drills for pitchers and catchers. Position players get under way on Feb. 22, which will be the first opportunity Coghlan will have working in center field.
Another consideration with Coghlan is the fact he is recovering from surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his left knee.
After consulting with trainer Sean Cunningham, the team doesn't plan on putting any physical restrictions on Coghlan at the start of Spring Training. However, the team will monitor his knee and likely won't play him in consecutive games.
"Are we going to play him back-to-back and let him stand out there for six innings and do that right away? Probably not," Beinfest said. "But from everything Sean says, it's going to be full-go. I don't know if 'cautious' is the right word. We're just mindful that he is coming back off an injury. We're going to make sure we're not putting any extra stress on him."