Positioning to return, Coghlan begins rehab assignment
Longtime Marlins outfielder likely to play third base when he comes off disabled list
JUPITER, Fla. -- About three weeks remain in the Florida State League season, but Wednesday night felt like Spring Training all over again for Chris Coghlan.
In his first rehab assignment game for Class A Jupiter, Coghlan played four innings at third base and he had a single in two at-bats against Charlotte before calling it a night at Roger Dean Stadium.
How did the 28-year-old feel?
"Sore," Coghlan said. "I feel like I've just played my first Spring Training game."
For Coghlan, he is getting a fresh start at a new position in his road to recovery from a back nerve injury that landed him on the disabled list in early June.
"It's almost nine weeks, that's a long time," Coghlan said. "I was grateful just being out there. It's been a long road, so hopefully, it just keeps going smoothly."
The plan was for Coghlan to play about five innings on Wednesday, but he was lifted after four because he had his final at-bat in the inning. On the night, he was 1-for-2, and he didn't have many chances in the field. He attempted a barehanded play on a well-executed bunt single.
For the Hammerheads on Thursday night, he is expected to see action as the designated hitter.
If Coghlan progresses on schedule, he could join the Marlins by Sept. 1, or perhaps a little earlier. When he returns, he will mix in at third base for the first time in his big league career.
"You still are a little bit away," he said. "You have to get your timing, you've got to see pitches. Now playing third, you've got to get your legs into shape from crouching down on every pitch. I've been taking grounders every day, but when you play, it's a whole different ballgame."
Coghlan broke in as a left fielder, and he has also played center field.
The Marlins now are in a transition and Christian Yelich is in left field, with Jake Marisnick in center and Giancarlo Stanton in right. Marcell Ozuna, out for the season with a broken left thumb, will filter into the outfield mix next year.
Miami has a need at third base, which is being filled mostly by Ed Lucas and Placido Polanco.
In 2009, Coghlan was the National League Rookie of the Year in 2009, batting .321.
This season, Coghlan is batting .277 with nine doubles, three triples, one home run and 10 RBIs over 130 at-bats in 51 games. Before heading to the disabled list in early June, Coghlan was heating up. He batted .322 with a .385 on-base percentage.
The Marlins are eager for Coghlan to return because they want to test him at third base, a position he last played in the Minor Leagues.
In 340 MLB games, Coghlan has been in the outfield almost exclusively, except twice he played second base.
During his Minor League tenure, Coghlan played 246 games at second base, 111 in the outfield and 42 at third base.
Because the Marlins have an abundance of outfielders, to get Coghlan's bat in the lineup, third base is a natural transition. The club actually considered him making the switch in May, before he went on the DL.
"You see the young guys are in the outfield, and I think my versatility can help," Coghlan said. "It's one of those things, if the front office and [manager Mike Redmond] want me to play some games at third, or in the outfield, if somebody needs a breather, I just want to play every day, and help the team win.
"I think any time you add a new position, it just expands your options."
Position players can be on a rehab assignment for 20 days, and Coghlan will need a bulk of that time to get back into game shape. Physically, he says he is fine, and has peace of mind that he can play hard without reservation.
On Wednesday night, he made a diving attempt on a hit that whistled past him. But he didn't experience any pain from sacrificing his body.
Coghlan is ready to put the work in the offseason to get ready for the position switch to third base. He also notes the Marlins have one of the best infield instructors in the game in Perry Hill.
Coghlan added that he likely won't play Winter Ball, something he did a year ago. Instead, he is willing to travel from his home in the Tampa area to Texas to work with Hill.
"He's the best there is, and I want to work with him as much as I can," Coghlan said.