Coghlan settling in as Marlins CF

Standing in the middle of the outfield, Chris Coghlan thinks he

has found a home.

A second baseman in the minors, Coghlan moved to left field in

2009, when he became the NL Rookie of the Year. Last season, the

Florida Marlins contemplated switching him to third base before a

knee injury ended his season in July.

Now he’s the Marlins’ new center fielder.

Might this be his last position switch?

”I’m going to treat it like it is,” he said. ”I don’t think

I’m going to be on the mound – that’s a safe bet.”

The Marlins decided last fall that Coghlan was up to playing

center, and he was up for it. Owner Jeffrey Loria talked with

Coghlan by phone in November to discuss the move.

”When he called me, I was on board,” Coghlan said. ”They

believe in me, and I have confidence in the abilities I’ve been

blessed with. Doubt isn’t me.”

The biggest hurdle in making the transition may be Coghlan’s

left knee. He tore the meniscus while delivering a pie to the face

of a teammate in celebration of an extra-inning victory.

He underwent surgery in August and has been playing every other

day during spring training to build up the knee.

”It’s completely healed,” he said. ”I don’t have any worries

about that.”

When Coghlan is fully healthy, the Marlins are confident he can

play center, even though his experience with the position before

this year was limited to a couple of games as a grade-schooler.

There’s plenty of ground to cover in center at the Marlins’

stadium, where the wall has a jagged pattern and is up to 434 feet

from home plate. But Coghlan has good speed – he was fast enough to

steal 72 bases in the minors.

”A big part of this is he wants to play center,” Marlins

baseball operations president Larry Beinfest said. ”He’s going to

work hard and be the best he can be. This is a guy who has been an

infielder his whole life and picked up left field quickly. I think

he’s going to be fine.”

The Marlins are set in left field with Logan Morrison, who made

his major-league debut after Coghlan was hurt and hit .283 in 62

games. Newly acquired Omar Infante is slated to play second base,

and prospect Matt Dominguez is being given a chance to win the

third-base job.

For Coghlan, that leaves center field, which became vacant when

Florida traded Cameron Maybin to San Diego in November.

Jeff Conine, who played left field for Florida’s two World

Series championship teams, was involved in the organization’s

offseason discussions when the decision was made to put Coghlan in

center. Conine supported the move.

”He’s going to be 100 percent fine,” said Conine, a special

assistant to the team president. ”I have no doubt, because we’ve

seen his transition from the infield to left field and how well he

did out there. Traditionally center field is an easier position to

play than the corners because of the way the ball comes off the

bat. You can see it longer, you get better reads and it doesn’t

travel as much side to side.

”From there it’s just routes. Chris has the speed, and from

what I’ve seen so far, his routes have been really good.”

There are few doubts about his offense. Coghlan batted .321 as a

rookie, and after a dismal start last season, his average had

climbed to .268 when he was hurt.

He’s sheepish discussing the injury, one of several in the

majors resulting from celebrations last year. Rodriguez shakes his

head at the memory.

”He’s so sorry about that,” Rodriguez said. ”And we’re so

sorry about that.”

But Coghlan is excited to be playing again, whatever his

position. Asked to pick a favorite center fielder, he lists four –

Ken Griffey Jr., Jim Edmonds, Shane Victorino and Torii Hunter.

They’ve been highlight-show regulars, and Coghlan hopes to

provide some material soon.

”Why wouldn’t you want the most demanding position?” he said.

”Anything up the middle has the most responsibility. I embrace the

challenge. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.”