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Marlins hire hitting coach, take calls on pitchers. And Rojas offers candid assessment

Miami Herald logo Miami Herald 11/28/2022 Barry Jackson, Miami Herald

A six-pack of Miami Marlins notes on a Monday:

▪ The Marlins and new manager Skip Schumaker are hiring former Dodgers hitting instructor Brant Brown as their new hitting coach, sources told Miami Herald senior baseball correspondent Craig Mish.

Brown was one of the Dodgers’ two hitting coaches last season.

He replaces Marcus Thames in that role in Miami.

Brown is the Marlins’ fifth new coach, joining Jon Jay (first base), Jody Reed (third), Luis Urueta (bench coach) and Rod Barajas (quality assurance). Schumaker took over as manager after Don Mattingly and the Marlins mutually decided to part ways.

Brown, an outfielder/first baseman, played 41 games for the Marlins in 2000 and hit .247 with 45 homers in five big-league seasons before becoming a coach in 2007.

He coached in the Rangers and Mariners farm systems, then joined the Dodgers as an assistant hitting coach in 2018.

Brown and Robert Van Scoyoc shared Dodgers hitting coach duties for the past five seasons.

Brown will try to help a Marlins team that finished 27th in batting average at .230 and 28th in runs, ahead of only Oakland and Detroit.

▪ We hear that teams continue to show interest in Trevor Rogers, and he has emerged as a trade candidate for offensive help.

Rogers’ earned-run average rose from 2.64 in 25 starts in 2021 to 5.47 in 23 starts last season. But some teams believe the 25-year-old left-hander can rebound from that.

The Marlins, apparently reluctant to spend big in free agency, continue to explore trades for offensive help. They inquired about free agent first baseman Carlos Santana, but that gained no traction before he signed a one-year, 6.7 million deal with Pittsburgh last week.

▪ Marlins shortstop Miguel Rojas, in an appearance on The Chris Rose Rotation MLB Players Podcast, gave a candid assessment of the Marlins offense, which the team is trying to improve via a trade or two.

“We are all accountable for what happened last year, especially offensively,” Rojas said. “It was disappointing for me, the season I had offensively [.236, 6 homers, 36 RBI in 140 games] because I always expect myself to be a little better than last year.

“Guys on our roster didn’t have a good year. It’s hard when it happens to six different players you count on. Avisail [Garcia], Jorge [Soler], myself, Garrett Cooper had a down year…. All the guys’ numbers were down offensively and that was the first year for Avi and Soler playing in Miami….

“[Bryan] De La Cruz put a really good month in September. Jesus Sanchez didn’t play the way we expected him to hit. Joey Wendle had an OK year. That was a down year for him as well.

“If you count all of those guys having a better year, because [Soler, Garcia, Wendle] playing their first year in Miami, got their feet wet. The fix is guys in this clubhouse to be better.

“We need Jazz [Chisholm Jr. ] to be healthy because we know Jazz will be the guy we are going to follow because he’s the guy at the top of the lineup. If we have those guys healthy, we can be better.”

But Rojas acknowledged “we probably could use a bat or two in the middle of the lineup. Hopefully we get help in the back end of the bullpen. I don’t think going out there and spending money is going to be the fix for what happened last year.”

▪ Rojas had lunch with new manager Schumaker three weeks ago. Among the topics covered:

“ [I told him how things have been in the clubhouse the past couple years, how important it is to keep everyone involved. Minor-leaguers, make them feel comfortable when they get to the big leagues and find a way for them to play the way they were playing in the minors. We talked a little about coaching staff that we brought on board.

“We talked about the dimensions of the ballpark, the way we’re going to win. He opened my perspective that everybody is different [in terms of game-day routines and preparation]. His perspective so far about how to be a good teammate, how to be there for your guys, the coaching staff, all the stuff he’s talking about I’m really excited.”

▪ One priority with Marlins position prospects is getting minor-league success to translate to the big leagues.

Rojas told me that some of them put too much pressure on themselves and don’t play “with the same freedom” they had in the minors and so “they don’t feel comfortable in the majors. It’s not about talent. It’s about feeling comfortable in a big-league clubhouse.”

That will be one of many challenges for Schumaker.

▪ Besides adding at least one starting outfielder, the Marlins also need to find a player to share first base with Cooper and potentially a backup (or starter) at third to complement Wendle.

Jordan Groshans likely will be given to win a job in the spring after hitting .262 in 61 at-bats for the Marlins late in the season.

Versatile Charles Leblanc was a pleasant surprise, hitting .263 in 159 plate appearances. But the former Rangers fourth-round pick (now 26) projects more as a utility player.

“I’ve never been a [highly-rated] prospect and that list doesn’t mean anything to me,” he said.

Does he feel he has an extra burden to get to the big leagues that top prospects like JJ Bleday don’t? “He puts on his jersey the same way I do,” Leblanc said.

Leblanc said he believes he can play any infield or outfield position, but “I don’t think I’m a shortstop anymore.”

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