Infielder Kevin Kouzmanoff making most of opportunity with Miami Marlins


Miami Herald Writer

It was Sept. 28, 2011, when Kevin Kouzmanoff last appeared in a Major League game. He wore the Colorado Rockies’ colors in a game where he contributed three hits to a 6-3 victory over the Giants in San Francisco.

He finished the month with a .235 average; the highest he had seen it go all season.

For a player who began his career with a rare grand slam off of the first pitch he saw, Kouzmanoff hasn’t had a chance to improve that .235.

He is fighting in Jupiter for a spot on the Miami Marlins roster, after he spent 2012 playing in the Kansas City Royals’ minor-league system. Miami signed him to a minor-league deal in November to add depth to the infield.

“Baseball’s a game of failure. I’ve been playing this my whole life,” Kouzmanoff said. “It’s about how you bounce back; you have to take the good with the bad.”

The 31-year-old got a rare start Tuesday and went 0 for 4 against Team Venezuela. Manager Mike Redmond started him after he produced back-to-back home runs entering play.

“It’s tough when you’re sitting most of the game and called upon in the seventh, eighth, ninth inning,” he said. “It’s tough to do that, [but] at the same time, you have to act in your mind like you’re in it from pitch one.”

The Miami locker room is full of unknowns. Kouzmanoff is going to take advantage of the opportunity he has to compete.

“[It’s a] young group of guys who are energetic, working hard, [and] playing hard,” he said. “It’s competitive this spring; that makes it fun.”

Austin Kearns is a piece of what the newer Marlin can’t control. The other non-roster invitee to camp played mainly in the outfield for Miami in 2012, and is considered to be in the running alongside Kouzmanoff for a place on Mike Redmond’s bench.

“Playing on the bench is tough,” the skip said. “Believe me, if you ask anybody how hard it is to come off the bench in the big leagues, it’s almost impossible. I look back to guys like Mike Mordecai or Lenny Harris, these guys hit .200 off the bench and that was great.”

Kouzmanoff doesn’t want to overanalyze a rough season. His goals are simply to get his work done, and be ready.

He just finished reading the Allman brothers’ biography, whose careers in music were riddled with turbulence. He’s onto Andre Agassi’s autobiography ‘Open,’ recounting the noted athlete’s personal struggle to find his identity. With focus, the Marlins roster could be a good place for Kouzmanoff to define himself as a player.

“He’s a guy who’s got an opportunity; he’s trying to make our team,” Redmond said. “We’re trying to see what we’ve got with him to see if he’s an option for us coming off the bench.”

Upcoming pitchers

•  Thursday: RHP Ricky Nolasco vs. RHP Matt Harvey at New York Mets, Port St. Lucie 1:10 p.m.

•  Friday: RHP Nathan Eovaldi vs. RHP Adam Warren at Roger Dean Stadium, Jupiter 1:05 p.m.

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