Marlins’ Brinson expecting spring power to carry into season

              Miami Marlins' Lewis Brinson looks skyward as he arrives home after hitting a solo home run during the fifth inning of an exhibition spring training baseball game against the Washington Nationals Monday, March 4, 2019, in Jupiter, Fla. The home run was the second of the game for Brinson. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — A dreadful 2018 season in a way led to Lewis Brinson’s current spring training home run binge.

A key piece in the trade that sent NL MVP Christian Yelich to Milwaukee prior to the 2018 season, Brinson made the Marlins opening-day roster last season in large part because of a strong exhibition season.

That turned out to be part of the problem.

“It’s hard to have a guy come in from another organization, has a pretty good spring, you know you see things that you don’t like, but when do you broach that subject?” Miami manager Don Mattingly explained. “When a guy fails, that’s when you are able to broach the subject, and to Lewis’ credit he was open to listening as the season went on and then worked on it in the winter.”

After hitting .328 during spring training, Brinson managed only a .199 average during his first major league season — and he had to hit .239 over the final month to get the average that high.

“He had so many open holes,” Mattingly said. “We’re just trying to close some holes down so he can handle more pitches.”

Watching Brinson hit, Mattingly and the Marlins coaches saw a player whose lower body lacked stability. Brinson had a tendency to collapse his lower backside early, throwing his swing off kilter.

During the offseason, the 24-year-old Brinson focused on strengthening his lower body and added 15 pounds to his 6-foot-3 frame.

“The power’s always been there,” Brinson said. “It’s just getting in a good position to hit and being able to get your ‘A’ swing off all the time. When I connect I know have power, I know I have leverage.”

Hard spring contact isn’t new for Brinson. He’s never hit lower than .294 in a spring where he’s received at least 20 at-bats, dating back four years.

Brinson’s .421 average entering Wednesday’s game against Houston included two multi-homer games.

“I think they show the progress you’ve made in the offseason and the hard work that I’ve put in,” Brinson said. “Obviously these games don’t mean a whole lot but for me they do, just showing that I’m ready to compete and ready to solidify my spot.”

Mattingly expects Brinson’s progress this summer to resemble his spring statistics more closely.

“I think you see a little more solid approach, probably a better understanding of what’s coming,” Mattingly said. “It’s getting ready to happen at the big league level.”