The first half of the season was nothing short of a disaster for rookie outfielder Lewis Brinson, the most ballyhooed of the bodies the Marlins received in their winter roster shakeup.
He hit just .175, managed to reach base in only 23 percent of his plate appearances, dropped a few fly balls, and ended up on the disabled list with a hip injury.
“I wouldn’t say it was tough,” Brinson said. “At the same time, it was definitely disappointing. I know I’m better than that.”
Brinson has the final month of the season to prove to himself and the Marlins that he is. He was activated from the DL on Saturday and returned to the lineup in the No. 2 batting spot.
“I’m just trying to have a strong last month of the season,” he said. “The first half? Obviously, some things didn’t go my way.”
Brinson was the plum prospect in the haul they received from the Brewers in exchange for Christian Yelich, who is putting up MVP numbers in Milwaukee.
But Brinson’s first season in Miami has not gone well. He hit .167 in March and April, .137 in May, and suffered through a 1 for 36 stretch at the plate in which he struck out 15 times.
“I wouldn’t say I put any extra pressure on myself,” Brinson said. “(But), I just went out there and tried to do too much, and I think my own expectations got in the way of that. The first year in the big leagues you want to impress and I put a little bit too much pressure on myself. But that’s behind me now.”
Brinson and the Marlins were encouraged with his improvement in June when he hit .267 with four home runs and improved his on-base percentage by reaching 30 percent of the time to go with an OPS of .848.
“He was starting to have competitive at bats,” Mattingly said. “He was becoming a tougher out. It’s really what we want to see from him the last month. I actually talked to Lewis about it. The last month, I think, is an important time for him.”
Brinson said, if nothing else, he learned from his early failures and June improvement.
“I’m glad I went through it now, early in my career,” he said. “Hopefully I can kind of get this last month and finish this season strong. I’m trying to start where I left off. I was really starting to feel well at the plate, starting to swing the bat a little bit better, have better at bats. So I’m trying to build off that.”
Brinson said he just wants to keep it simple.
“Just play the game -- play my game,” he said. “That’s the biggest thing.”
The Marlins placed rookie starter Pablo Lopez on the 60-day disabled list with a right shoulder strain, ending his season.
Lopez said he felt discomfort in the shoulder while playing long toss before his normal bullpen session on Friday and immediately alerted the medical staff.
“It’s not the way anyone would want to end their season,” said Lopez, who was called up in June and went 2-4 with a 4.14 ERA in 10 starts.
Both Lopez and the Marlins were breathing a sigh of relief when the MRI results showed the injury to be a “mild” strain, such that Lopez might have been able to return to the mound this season after a short rest.
But, “it just didn’t seem to make much sense for us,” Mattingly said. “He’s had a solid year. He’s going to have a full winter workout, throwing program. He’ll be 100 perfect, ready to compete in spring training.”
Despite the loss of Lopez, Mattingly is sticking to his plan of going with a six-man rotation to complete the season: Wei-Yin Chen, Jose Urena, Dan Straily, Trevor Richards, Sandy Alcantara and Jeff Brigham.
Alcantara was activated Saturday from the disabled list while Brigham was added to the roster and will make his major league debut Sunday when he gets the start against Toronto.
Brigham was acquired in a 2015 trade with the Dodgers for Mat Latos and Michael Morse. The 26-year-old right-hander and University of Washington product was a fourth-round draft choice of the Dodgers in 2014 and went 10-3 with a 2.36 ERA in 17 minor-league starts this season.
“He’s a guy we definitely want to see,” Mattingly said. “We were talking about him even before (the Lopez injury). We were looking at different ways to get him starts. Obvously, the silver lining in this with Pablo is it’s easy to get him starts and give us a chance to see him four or five times before the end of the year.”
-- The Marlins activated veteran infielder Martin Prado from the disabled list on Saturday and started him at first base in order to keep Brian Anderson at third.
-- With teams allowed to expand rosters, the Marlins also called up right-handed reliever Nick Wittgren from Triple A New Orleans.
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