Peter O’Brien was like any other South Florida kid who grew up following the Marlins. He had a stash of teal Marlins caps and T-shirts. He went to dozens of games. Once, he even managed to get Hanley Ramirez to sign his cell phone case.
“That’s all I had on me,” said O’Brien, who was born in Hialeah, raised in Miami Gardens, five minutes from Pro Player Stadium, and went on to play at the University of Miami. “I still remember it to this day.”
O’Brien lost the Ramirez-signed phone case long ago.
But the Marlins remain close to his heart because, well, he is one.
And if he continues to supply power to a team that’s hit the fewest home runs in the majors, the 28-year-old first baseman and outfielder could remain one into next season.
On Tuesday, O’Brien hit his fourth home run in what was only his 51st at bat since his promotion from Triple A New Orleans in early September.
“I’ve seen quality,” manager Don Mattingly said of O’Brien, who has played with seven different organizations since 2012 when the Yankees drafted him out of UM in the second round. “I love his mindset at the plate.”
O’Brien doesn’t exactly fit into the Marlins’ youth movement, not at his age.
But the self-described “late bloomer” could be given a chance in spring training to win his first Opening Day roster spot. Since trading Justin Bour to the Phillies in August, the Marlins haven’t had a steady first baseman.
Garrett Cooper would have manned the position following Bour’s departure but has missed nearly the entire season with injuries. He’ll, too, be given a look in the spring.
The Marlins could also explore the free agent market this coming winter for a low-cost first baseman.
O’Brien has hit for power in the minors, where he’s averaged 23 home runs in seven seasons. There are shortcomings defensively.
“He needs a lot of work at first base to get comfortable,” Mattingly said.
On Wednesday, Mattingly started him in right field, where O’Brien handled his fielding chances without issue.
O’Brien received brief playing time with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2015 and ’16, hitting six homers in 74 at bats. It’s been an odyssey ever since for O’Brien who played in the Royals, Rangers, Reds and Dodgers organizations before the Marlins picked him up in June.
The Marlins could be his chance to finally stick with one team.
“Baseball is a game of highs and lows and you’ve got to stick with it,” O’Brien said. “I would say there’s a sense of comfort playing for your hometown team. This is kind of my second go-around at the big-league level. I’m confident. I’m ready.”
Wei-Yin Chen made his final start of his inexplicable season on Wednesday, and his road woes continued to the end.
Chen took the loss in the Marlins’ 9-3 defeat to the Nationals in a game that was called after seven innings due to rain. Chen gave up four earned runs in four innings, which was par for the course for him. Chen, an enigma who led all National League pitchers in home ERA, finished with a 1-9 record in out-of-town ballparks with a Major League-worst road ERA of 9.27.
“I don’t know how to explain it,” Chen said of his polar opposite home-road splits. “We tried to find out why I have such a drastic difference, but we really couldn’t find any answers.”
Brian Anderson’s three-run homer provided the only scoring for the Marlins, who ended up going 6-13 against the Nationals this season.
-- The Marlins expect second baseman Starlin Castro to rejoin the team in New York to close out the season. Castro missed the Nationals series to attend the birth of his third child.
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