He was the opening day leadoff hitter, the hometown kid, one of the most ballyhooed prospects the Marlins received over the winter when they stripped the roster of stars.
But, so far, it’s been no joy ride for Lewis Brinson.
The 24-year-old rookie has remained mired in a season-long hitting funk so severe that the Marlins are trying to determine what the next step should be.
How long do they allow Brinson to take his lumps against big-league pitching? Do they continue to let him learn on the job at the major league level — hoping for a breakout? Or do they send him to the minors to regain his confidence and get his hitting act together?
“I think one of the things we need to find out is, we need to get answers on Lewis Brinson,” said Marlins manager Don Mattingly. “What’s he going to be for us? Is he going to be able to make adjustments?”
The biggest question of all: Is he ever going to hit? The Marlins certainly felt confident he could when they acquired him from the Brewers in a package of players for Christian Yelich.
Brinson took a .174 average into Tuesday, had struck out in more than a third of his at bats, and has managed only three multi-hit games all season, with the last of those coming back on April 19.
His spot in the order has slipped all the way down to eighth.
And yet, despite his struggles, Brinson remains in the lineup on a near-daily basis. He’s started all but four of the Marlins’ 40 games.
The Marlins have been extraordinarily patient with him.
“I think you do get a little (extra) rope,” Mattingly said of the Marlins’ patience with Brinson. “We know we were in a building situation. We have to have patience.”
Brinson has tried to avoid negative thoughts despite his offensive woes.
“If that creeps in your mind, it affects your play,” Brinson said. “I don’t want that to affect what I’m doing on the field. I’ve kept that very far from my mind.”
Mattingly said he’s liked how Brinson has played defensively and feels his at bats are improving.
“Maybe the results have not been there yet,” Mattingly said. “But I’ve seen more competitive at bats where the counts have been deeper. It’s not 1-2-3 you’re out, swing at kind of everything.”
Still, the Marlins are a quarter of the way into the season and the numbers remain poor. Using one sabermetric tool (OPS+), Brinson is trending dangerously close to having one of the worst seasons in Marlins history. Greg Briley’s season in ’93 ranks at the bottom.
“It’s going to come,” Brinson said. “I’m here for a reason. I’ve played baseball my whole life. Throughout my career I’ve had struggles. I’ve had success. But i know at the end of the day I belong up here and I have a lot of confidence in myself. I don’t have in my mind that this (slump) is going to happen forever.”
The Marlins would like to think that way, too.
“Offensively, we hope (he) gets better,” Mattingly said. “But I think we need to find out. We have to get answers, too. Is (he) truly ready right now? We need to find out what Lewis can do.”