Marlins center fielder Lewis Brinson talks about Opening Day
It seems so simple, yet Lewis Brinson just can’t help but point to the case of water bottles Curtis Granderson has on the bottom shelf of his locker inside the home clubhouse at Marlins Park.
Granderson has brought so much to the Miami Marlins since he signed with the team just about a week before pitchers and catchers reported for spring training, and as Brinson tries to run through the list he eventually lands on some of the easy things.
“He definitely has water,” Brinson said with a grin and a little bit of a laugh, “whenever I’m thirsty and don’t feel like walking to the kitchen.”
A veteran move by the most veteran player on Miami’s roster and one of the reasons Brinson is glad he has the locker next to Granderson’s this season. The Marlins (2-5) hope Brinson is their future in center field and, after an underwhelming rookie season, the outfielder is trying to make sure it happens. To get there, Brinson wants to lean on Granderson, the 38-year-old outfielder who has gone to the postseason eight times and played in three All-Star Games.
When the Marlins settled in at their home ballpark for the 2019 season last month, Brinson asked Granderson if he could have the locker next to his in Miami. They go through stretching routines together before games and are part of the same hitting group.
The season is only a week old and already there’s a symbiosis, even if Granderson won’t put the mentor label upon himself.
“I think it just kind of happens naturally when you’re in this game and you play with each other for as long as you do, and you’re on the field for as long as you are and you’re playing similar pitchers,” Granderson said. “And your lockers are near each other, no matter what you naturally are just going to talk about certain things.”
The Marlins’ acquisition of Granderson came late in the offseason for it to be considered the preseason. Miami signed Granderson eight days before pitchers and catchers reported to spring training, and just to a minor league deal. There was no guarantee the veteran would become the leadoff fixture he has been so far this season — Granderson has started all but one game, batting .231 with five walks and a home run heading into Miami’s first road game against the Atlanta Braves at 7:20 p.m. on Friday at SunTrust Park — just that he could at least be a strong veteran presence for a young roster throughout the Grapefruit League season.
Immediately, Brinson thought of what Cameron Maybin provided in 2018. The veteran outfielder, who is now in the Cleveland Indians’ organization, spent the first half of the season with the Marlins and became one of Brinson’s first MLB mentors. Brinson said he still keeps in touch with Maybin.
“It was kind of the same thing as when we signed Cam last year, just sort of a mentor,” Brinson said. “I pick Curtis’ brain. I asked if I could be next to him in the locker room just so if I have a question on anything that crosses my mind, I can ask him and if he has anything to ask me, if he wants to go over anything with me we’re right next to each other.”
These questions can be about what happens on the field — something about his approach at the plate or a technique in the field — but just as important are the small things, like watching Granderson stuff his back pockets full of plastic water bottles before he goes out to the field to stretch and hit.
As they went through pregame routines Wednesday before Miami wrapped up its first homestand of the season against the New York Mets, the two outfielders were all but glued to one another. They stood alongside each other around the batting cage as teammates took batting practice, then, as the only two outfielders in their hitting group, they grouped up along the third-base line for position-specific work.
On Thursday, the Marlins will board a flight for the first time in 2019 to face the Braves (3-2) in Atlanta. Brinson has something in mind.
“I think we’re trying to sit next to each other on the plane just to chit-chat,” Brinson said Wednesday. “He’s a great person to have a conversation with and just to pick his brain.”