Re­newal in spring for Cooper

Now-healthy Mar­lin wants to put lost 2018 sea­son be­hind

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Sports - By Wells Dusen­bury

JUPITER — Given how quickly things went side­ways, it’s easy to for­get Gar­rett Cooper’s 2018 sea­son ac­tu­ally started off pretty well.

Play­ing in his first full ma­jor-league sea­son,

Cooper won the Mi­ami Marlins’ start­ing right field job and reached base twice on open­ing day, driv­ing in a run. Ap­prox­i­mately 24 hours later, though, his sea­son took an abrupt turn.

In the sec­ond game of the year, Cooper was plunked on his right wrist by an 87-mph fast­ball from Chicago Cubs pitcher Kyle Hen­dricks. He was forced to leave the game and then missed the next three months with a par­tial tear of the ten­don sheath in the wrist.

Cooper re­turned to the lineup July 6 but played in just 10 games af­ter rein­jur­ing his wrist while div­ing for a ball. Af­ter he at­tempted to make a come­back later in the sea­son, Cooper was shut down for the year and even­tu­ally had surgery on the wrist.

“You wouldn’t ex­pect Kyle Hen­dricks to de­rail your whole sea­son,” Cooper said. “It could’ve been a guy throw­ing 105. [It was] a freak ac­ci­dent where it hit me in the right spot and re­ally tore up the ten­don sheath.”

While 2018 proved to be a snake-bit year for the 28-year-old, spring train­ing has gone much smoother. Fully re­cov­ered from the in­jury, Cooper has im­pressed through the first month, post­ing a .393./.452/.536 stats line with four dou­bles in 31 plate ap­pear­ances.

“It’s been a good spring,” said Cooper, who has played in right field and left field and at first base.

“I’ve swung a lot bet­ter than I thought I would [af­ter] not re­ally play­ing [much at all] last year and not see­ing live pitch­ing for a while. But I’ve come back and I’ve hit a lot of balls hard this spring and that’s what I’ve been try­ing to do.

“I took a lot of time in the off­sea­son to look at my swing from last year and see if there were any changes I thought could pos­si­bly be made, and I’ve done some things this spring I’m happy with. [I am] driv­ing the ball and [hit­ting] more line drives this year.”

For Cooper, 2018 proved to be ar­du­ous, not only from a phys­i­cal per­spec­tive but a men­tal one as well.

“I’ve never been in­jured more than a week or 10 days in my whole ca­reer play­ing base­ball, so it took a lot of men­tal work to keep mov­ing, do re­hab and move for­ward,”

Cooper said. “It’s not like some­thing you could’ve pre­vented. Peo­ple get hit by pitches all the time.

“I’ve def­i­nitely got­ten stronger men­tally from an in­jury like that.”

Ac­quired fol­low­ing the 2017 sea­son from the New York Yan­kees, Cooper is com­pet­ing for an out­field spot on the Marlins’ open­ing day ros­ter.

Mi­ami will likely keep four out­field­ers. Lewis Brin­son is a lock in cen­ter field and Rosell Her­erra seems likely to make the team since he can play all three out­field spots and mul­ti­ple in­field po­si­tions. Cooper, Cur­tis Gran­der­son, Peter O’Brien and Austin Dean are among those vy­ing for the fi­nal two spots.

In his last full sea­son, Cooper put to­gether a strong mi­nor-league cam­paign. Split­ting 2017 be­tween the Yan­kees and Mil­wau­kee Brew­ers or­ga­ni­za­tions, he had a stats line of .359/.423/.634 with 18 home runs and 30 dou­bles in 83 games across Dou­ble A and Triple A.

De­spite lim­ited at-bats in 2018, Cooper has im­pressed Marlins man­ager Don Mat­tingly so far through camp.

“He looks good,” Mat­tingly said. “He’s ac­tu­ally sur­prised me from the stand­point [that] he barely got any at bats last year. He’s swung the bat good.

“Coop’s a guy who can play right and left and first and re­ally doesn’t hurt you. He’s a big guy, he puts the ball in play, he can use the whole field. I feel like power’s com­ing, so he’s an in­ter­est­ing guy.”



In­jured for most of the 2018 sea­son, Gar­rett Cooper is now healthy and has thus far im­pressed Marlins man­ager Don Mat­tingly dur­ing spring train­ing.

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