Story Courtesy Of Joe Frisaro / MLB.com (Jan. 19, 2011)
MIAMI -- Chris Coghlan and Logan Morrison aren't the only Marlins going through a transition to the outfield. They're joined by their new coach, Joe Espada.
Espada, 35, is an energetic rising talent who is entering his second season on the Marlins' staff. But in 2011, his responsibilities have changed, as he has been switched to outfield coach after working with the infield last year.
When the Marlins hired Perry Hill, one of the top instructors in the game, as their infield coach, they asked Espada to make the switch to the outfield. A Puerto Rico native, Espada will remain as the third-base coach, while Hill will coach first base.
"I'm a baseball coach. I want to coach," said Espada, who has managerial aspirations for later on in his career. "I have worked with outfielders before. I've never been given the responsibility of being the outfield coach."
As he begins his adjustments in Spring Training, Espada will receive the assistance of a couple of very experienced former big league outfielders. Hall of Famer Andre Dawson and Jeff Conine are two Marlins special assistants who are available to offer guidance to Espada as well as the players.
"It's huge," Espada said of having Dawson and Conine available. "They're going to help me out in Spring Training.
"And I've done a lot of talking to coaches around. So I think I have the knowledge to help these kids get better and help them win games, which I think is the most important thing."
During Spring Training, which begins for pitchers and catchers on Feb. 18, Espada will have one of the most challenging yet exciting jobs in the organization. He will be overseeing three highly touted young players -- Coghlan, Morrison and Mike Stanton.
All three are tremendous hitters. What Espada plans to be a part of is their development as fielders. It will be a new challenge, not only for him, but for his players.
"The most important thing for those three kids is to throw them out there together and let them know how far they can go," Espada said. "These kids are going to have to figure out things together."
Coghlan, an infielder as a Minor Leaguer, will be switching to center field, after he won the 2009 National League Rookie of the Year Award while playing left field. Morrison, meanwhile, is a natural first baseman who has slightly more than two months of big league experience in the outfield.
Of the three, Stanton is the only career outfielder. But the slugger, who will play right field, is just 21 years old.
In terms of MLB experience, the trio has 373 total games in the outfield. Coghlan has the most, with 213 games in left field. Stanton appeared in 98 games in 2010 in right field, while Morrison saw action in left field in 62 games.
"One thing I have, which I think is to my advantage, is that I've seen these kids work through the Minor Leagues," Espada said. "I've seen Mike Stanton and I've seen how he's progressed through the years. I've seen LoMo in the Minor Leagues and his transition to the outfield.
"I've seen Coghlan and how hard he works, and how he's been able to become, I think, an average defensive left fielder. I think his transition to center is going to be fun to watch."
Molding the three into a cohesive defensive unit will take time. It is something that the organization will be closely watching in Spring Training. Another factor the team is monitoring is Coghlan's leg. He is recovering from surgery to repair the meniscus in his left knee.
"Watching his knee -- that's going to be my biggest responsibility with Coghlan in center," Espada said. "Seeing how that knee responds."
Until Coghlan is regarded as 100 percent, which should be by Opening Day, he is expected to receive periodic rest in Spring Training. For instance, he may do fewer repetitions during workouts, or sit out of a Grapefruit League game after playing two or three straight days. The team will ease him back into playing shape for the season.
"The last week of Spring Training, we'll be looking for all of those guys to go out there at 100 percent, each getting six, seven innings together, and getting them ready to go," Espada said.