The plan seemed oh so simple.
Brian Anderson, one of the Miami Marlins’ top up-and-comers who finished fourth in the National League Rookie of the Year voting last season and is viewed as a fixture in the team’s rebuild, would be the team’s everyday third baseman.
It’s all he did in spring training. It’s where he played for the first 20 games of the season. It’s where he spent months honing his defensive skills.
But, as they often do, plans go awry.
Garrett Cooper, the Marlins’ Opening Day right fielder, went on the Injured List three games into the season after suffering a left calf strain. He hasn’t played with the Marlins since, and a revolving door at the corner outfield spot began.
Peter O’Brien spent nine games there before being optioned back down to Triple A New Orleans. Austin Dean played four of his six games there before struggles both offensively and defensively forced him to be optioned, too.
Utility player Rosell Herrera had four starts in right, and roaming fourth outfielder Isaac Galloway had one, too.
With so much instability in right field — and the offensive improvement of corner infielders Martin Prado and Neil Walker — Marlins manager Don Mattingly made the move to send Brian Anderson back to the outfield at least temporarily.
“Right field turned into kind of a mess,” Mattingly said. “Andy kind of solidified that.”
And, at least for the time being, that might be for the better.
In addition to providing steadier defense in the outfield, having Anderson in right field enables the Marlins to add an extra weapon offensively to their lineup on a daily basis. Heading into Saturday, the team’s top six hitters this season among regular starters are catcher Jorge Alfaro (.290), Prado (.288), shortstop Miguel Rojas (.270), second baseman Starlin Castro (.257), Walker (.250) and Anderson (.232). If Anderson were to continue to start regularly at third base, one of Walker or Prado would likely be coming off the bench in any given game, depending on matchups.
Anderson has seen an uptick in production at the plate since receiving an off day on April 10 in the middle of the Marlins’ road series at the Cincinnati Reds. He is hitting .302 with three doubles, two home runs and four runs scored since that day and had reached base in 13 consecutive games before going 0 for 4 on Friday against the Philadelphia Phillies.
“It definitely helped,” Anderson said. “I don’t know if that’s something that is normal or something that just happened, but ever since then, I’ve been seeing the ball better. I’ve been staying with my approach. ... Just trying to keep it going.”
It’s also not like Anderson is a stranger to right field. He played 91 games there last year and committed just one error in 137 chances.
“It’s just whatever I can do to help,” Anderson said. “It’s been good so far. I haven’t been tested yet, so we’re just waiting for that first real fly ball.”
Mattingly added: “For now, Andy is either way. We talked about him being our Kris Bryant. We feel like he can play right or third, so whichever way the lineup plays that day, that’s where he’ll be. So I don’t want to say Andy’s [only] in the outfield, but as long as things are going the way they’re going right now, you’ll probably see him out there more.”