Struggling Coghlan dismisses sophomore jinx

By Steven Wine/The Associated Press

MIAMI — Chris Coghlan stares at the pitcher as he steps to the plate, ignoring his season statistics posted in big bright lights on the right-field scoreboard.

The former Ole Miss standout doesn’t know his batting average, which is probably just as well.

“I just know it’s low,” Coghlan said before the start of a nine-game homestand for the Florida Marlins.

The 2009 NL Rookie of the Year entered Monday’s game against San Diego batting .154, third-worst in the league among regulars. And that’s an improvement — he was at .109 a week ago.

When told he was 5 for 19 (.263) over the past six games, Coghlan was grateful for a morsel of positive news.

“Thank you,” he said.

Coghlan began the week with 10 singles in 65 at-bats this season. With no extra-base hits, his slugging percentage (also .154) was the lowest in the majors. He has shown admirable patience fielding questions about his slump but less patience at the plate, with 17 strikeouts and only four walks for an on-base percentage of .203.

Yet he refuses to believe in a sophomore jinx.

“We play so many games and have so many at-bats,” Coghlan said. “It’s a long season. I don’t think I’m in a sophomore jinx. I’ve just had a rough start. And it’s probably going to make me a better player down the road. Any time you have a trial, it makes you stronger.”

A slow start is nothing new for the left-handed hitter and left fielder. Coghlan made his major league debut last May 8 and was hitting only .143 (6 for 42) after two weeks.

His average climbed to .245 by the All-Star break, and he batted .372 the rest of the way. He had 113 hits after the break, which tied for the most in the NL in the past 45 years.

Coghlan finished at .321, and only seven major league rookies in the past 50 years had a higher average. He led all rookies in average, runs, hits, total bases, on-base percentage and on-base-plus-slugging percentage.

So the Marlins have good reason to believe he’ll get it going.

“There’s nobody in this clubhouse that’s worried about Chris,” second baseman Dan Uggla said. “He’ll probably take off and leave everybody once he clicks.”

To help Coghlan shake the slump, manager Fredi Gonzalez twice held him out of the lineup on Florida’s most recent trip. Gonzalez also dropped him from first to second in the order behind Cameron Maybin, and said he sees signs of a turnaround by Coghlan.

“When you’ve only had 60 plate appearances, it doesn’t take long to get that average back up there,” Gonzalez said.

Coghlan said he’s more comfortable at the plate than two weeks ago.

“That was pretty bad,” he said. “I was missing pitches, I was striking out more, I was swinging at pitches out of the zone. I don’t feel like that now. I feel great. I feel normal.

“If they don’t fall, everyone wants to say you’re still in a slump because you didn’t get any hits. But that’s not the way I feel.”