Renewal in spring for Cooper
Now-healthy Marlin wants to put lost 2018 season behind
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.