Take a look at Garrett Cooper’s outing for the Miami Marlins on Friday, and it might be hard to believe that, before spring training began, he had been off a baseball field for nearly eight months.
In that game on Friday, a 5-4 loss to the Washington Nationals, Cooper was feet away from hitting a home run to center field in the second inning and followed it up with a single in the fifth inning.
His swing is steady. The power is coming back.
And Cooper is making his case to be in the Marlins’ starting lineup when the season begins on Feb. 28. One of the corner outfield spots is likely his best path to starting, although he can play first base as well.
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“It’s gone a lot better than I thought,” Cooper, 28, said. “I thought I would be a little more behind the curve coming off surgery and not seeing live pitching for a while, but I’ve attacked.”
But before this opportunity came around, Cooper had to wait after a rookie year that was far from perfect.
He made the Marlins’ opening day roster in 2018 and started in right field against the Chicago Cubs. His first hit of the season, an RBI single in the fourth inning, temporarily tied the game the Marlins would ultimately lose 8-4.
And then the injuries piled up. He played in four games, missed three months after partially tearing the tendon sheath in his right wrist, then played another 10 in July and before spraining the wrist again and ultimately was shut down the rest of the year. He opted for surgery, and the rehab process began.
His rookie season and first big chance to break through at the MLB level ended with him playing in just 14 games and having 33 at-bats.
“Once you go through that, the mental aspect is the toughest,” Cooper said. “You’re sitting at home or you’re watching the games … It’s tough to sit there and not be competing every day.”
He’s competing again and looking good doing it. Cooper is 4 for 11 through his first six games with a double and an RBI. He has struck out just twice.
“Coop’s swinging the bat good,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “It’s good to see him healthy, No. 1. We liked what we saw last year. … We’ll keep getting him out there in different spots.”
This and that
▪ Dan Straily went 2 1/3 innings in his second spring training start on Sunday against the Atlanta Braves, giving up four hits (including two home runs) and three earned runs while striking out two.
▪ Other notable performances from Sunday’s 5-6 loss: All six runs surrendered by Marlins’ pitching came off five home runs, including the walk-off shot by Andres Blanco off Brian Moran. In addition to the two given up by Straily, Drew Steckenrider and Tyler Kinley also gave up home runs … Miguel Rojas and Starlin Castro hit back-to-back two-out RBI singles in the fifth inning to respectively score Santiago Chavez and Isaac Galloway. Chavez reached on a one-out double. Galloway followed up with a single to right field on the next at-bat. … Deven Marrerro, a non-roster invite, hit a two-RBI single in the ninth to tie the game at 5-5. … Peter O’Brien scored his first run of spring training after hitting a double in the sixth, advancing to third on a Pedro Alvarez groundout and coming home on a Monte Harrison sacrifice fly. … Adam Conley and Tommy Eveld each worked a perfect inning in relief on the mound.
▪ Catcher Jorge Alfaro, who has not played since injuring his right knee in the Marlins’ spring training opener on Feb. 23, could be back in the lineup as early as Monday. He caught a pair of simulation games this week.