After nearly three months on the disabled list with an injury to his lower back, Chris Coghlan rejoined the Miami Marlins in Sunday’s 7-0 victory over the Atlanta Braves. On Tuesday night, Coghlan was given his first start at an unusual position, third base.
Coming up in the minor leagues with the Marlins and in college at Ole Miss, Coghlan was no stranger to the infield, but his experience at the big league level was limited to the outfield before Tuesday night. Coghlan played third and hit lead-off finishing 1-for-5 with a run scored in Miami’s 6-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday, but the most noise made by Coghlan on the evening came in the field.
With runners at the corners in a scoreless game in the bottom of the third and two outs, Coghlan made a diving stop on a hard shot off the bat of Anthony Rizzo and threw to second to retire the side. The play kept the game scoreless before Miami opened up a three-run lead in the top of the fifth. Coghlan passed his first test at his new position and just maybe, this is the move that keeps him on the Marlins’ radar long term.
Since Coghlan’s 2009 rookie season in which he captured the National League Rookie of the Year award with a .321 batting average and 162 hits in just 128 games, Coghlan’s career has been plagued by injuries and inconsistencies. For whatever reason, the Marlins have been slow to give up on Coghlan and that looked to be paying dividends earlier in the year as Coghlan went on a tear in the month of May and early June before going back to the D.L. During those two months, Coghlan hit .338 and looked to be in the process of returning to his 2009 form.
Returning to the outfield at this point however, looks to be out of the question for Coghlan. With rookies Jake Marisnick and Christian Yelich joining 23-year-old Giancarlo Stanton, the Marlins appear to be set at that position for years to come. The outfield will become even more crowded next season when Marcell Ozuna returns from a season-ending wrist injury.
The third base position for Miami however, is wide open and could be Coghlan’s last shot at playing everyday with the club. Ed Lucas has played some third for Miami, but he is a 31-year-old rookie and a very short term fix. Donovan Solano can play third base, but it best suited for second and veteran Placido Polanco, the Marlins’ opening day starter at the position, is 37 years old and has really struggled at the dish for most of the season.
All injuries aside, Chris Coghlan is having his best season since 2009. In 53 games, Coghlan is hitting .272 with an on-base percentage of .320. While Coghlan has struggled offensively in his limited time in the lineup since 2009, he has never taken his woes at the plate with him into the field. If Coghlan can just be serviceable at third base for the remainder of 2013, he will have the whole offseason to acclimate himself with the position. With a crowded young outfield and seemingly no third baseman of the future yet in place, this may be Coghlan’s last opportunity to turn around what once looked like a very promising career.