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Despite setbacks, Coghlan's goals unchanged

Now healthy, former NL Rookie of the Year focused on showcasing talent

Despite setbacks, Coghlan's goals unchanged play video for Despite setbacks, Coghlan's goals unchanged
JUPITER, Fla. -- Injuries and inconsistencies may have sidetracked Chris Coghlan's big league career, but his aspirations remain the same as when he won the National League Rookie of the Year Award in 2009.

"My goal is to be a starter," Coghlan said. "I want to make this team. I want to win a starting job at some point. That's my goal. It starts one day at a time."

In Marlins camp, which has 73 players, Coghlan is performing under the radar. What is of interest to note right now is the 27-year-old is performing. Coghlan is batting .333, starting off 6-for-18 with a double and two RBIs in the young Grapefruit League season.

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"I like him," manager Mike Redmond said. "I like what he can do. He's put together some good at-bats. I'm running him out there, trying to get him some extended playing time, so we can really take a look at him and see what he can do over the course of Spring Training."

At every level, the left-handed-hitting outfielder has proven he can hit.

In 2009, when the Marlins were desperate for some offense, Coghlan was carving up Triple-A pitching in the Pacific Coast League. Then playing for New Orleans, he was a batting a scorching .344 through 25 games.

It didn't take long for Coghlan to get promoted, and he debuted with the Marlins on May 8. Although he was an infielder throughout his Minor League career, he was converted to outfield to get his bat in the lineup.

The former Ole Miss standout delivered. He turned in one of the best rookie seasons in franchise history, batting .321 with an on-base percentage of .390.

Coghlan's strong performance in 128 games earned him the NL Rookie of the Year Award. His career then took a jolt in 2010, when he suffered a torn meniscus in his right knee. The freakish injury occurred in a postgame celebration when he attempted to smear a towel caked in shaving cream in teammate Wes Helms' face.

Coghlan underwent surgery, and he has since dealt with various injuries and the challenge of restoring his swing.

"I don't have any health issues now," he said. "I haven't been at a camp where I haven't been rehabbing or doing something [in years]. So this is a blessing."

This spring, Coghlan is focused on restarting what was once a promising career. It's been an uphill climb. Since '09, he has appeared in 195 big league games and is batting .238 with a .305 on-base percentage in that span.

Even with so many players in camp, Coghlan is getting a good look.

Justin Ruggiano, considered the front-runner to start in center field when Spring Training began, has missed all Grapefruit League games due to a low back strain.

And for the next few weeks, right fielder Giancarlo Stanton will be playing for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. Coghlan has gotten work in right field in recent days.

Each opportunity he sees as a chance to showcase his talents, either to remain part of the Marlins' plans, or perhaps be used as a trade chip for another team.

Coghlan has one more option year left, which gives the Marlins some flexibility. If they don't feel the 27-year-old is a fit for the Opening Day roster, they could start him off at New Orleans.

"This camp is different than any camp I've been in, there is no doubt," Coghlan said. "I'm grateful to still be here. As far as their plans and what they're going to do? If I'm in that, I don't know. I know each day that I go out there, it's an opportunity to show -- not only the Marlins, but every team -- I'm as good as I was. I think I can be better as a player, from the stuff that I've learned."

A year ago, Coghlan made the Marlins' Opening Day roster as a backup. But he ended up playing much of the season at Triple-A, where he batted .284 in 84 games. Playing sporadically with the Marlins didn't produce his desired results. In 39 games, he hit .140 in 93 at-bats.

"I had to really self-evaluate myself at the end of the year," Coghlan said. "The season didn't end the way I wanted it to, for the second consecutive year. So I went and just studied film. I watched past at-bats. I realized some mechanical issues I was dealing with."

To help find his swing, Coghlan spent some time in Denver, working at the hitting academy of Mike Bard, brother of former big league catcher Josh Bard. Coghlan met Bard through former Marlins bullpen coach Steve Foster.

"Mike reached out to me," Coghlan said. "It was like, 'Hey, I've got some things that you might want to check out.'"

Restoring his swing has been a work in progress.

"I looked at when I went well, compared to when things didn't go well," he said. "There were definitely some things. From injury, I created some bad habits."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"event":["spring_training" ] }
{"event":["spring_training" ] }