CHICAGO — Four years after winning the National League Rookie of the Year award and three since blowing out his knee in a shaving cream pie celebration, Chris Coghlan is starting to perk up at the plate.
“I had to work my way back, there’s no doubt,” said Coghlan, who is enjoying his first .300-or- better month at the plate since June 2010, right before he wrecked his knee in a postgame celebration.
While Coghlan is hitting just .241 overall and has driven in only one run, he’s hitting .324 (12 for 37) this month — .290 (20 for 69) since April 15 following a 1-for-19 drought to start the season.
“This year my biomechanics are a lot better,” said Coghlan, who spent six weeks during the offseason working on his stroke at Mike Bard’s Bardo’s Baseball Academy in Denver. “Now my swing’s solid again.”
Coghlan is enjoying a great deal of his success early in the count, going 11 for 29 (.379) when he swings at the first or second pitch of his at-bats. But he said he’s not making a conscious effort to be more aggressive early in the count.
“If it’s not the pitch I’m looking for, I try to lay off it,” he said. “If it’s the pitch I’m looking for, then I want to smash it, whether it’s the first one or the fifth one.”
Coghlan’s improvement has led to an increase in playing time. He has started the past eight games.
“I’m definitely grateful for the opportunity to play back-to-back games,” Coghlan said. “I haven’t done that for a long time. I would like to think that they were able to see that this guy can swing a little bit.”
Jose Fernandez expects a large following of friends and family members when he takes the mound Monday at Tropicana Field. Fernandez, who graduated from Alonso High School in Tampa, said many of his former teachers and faculty members are expected to attend.
“At least 40 or 45 teachers are going,” Fernandez said. “They love me there. A lot of friends. A lot of guys I played with. I’d say at least 150 people.”
Fernandez has pitched once before at The Trop: As a high school junior in a showcase event.
Derek Dietrich, who juggles as a hobby, isn’t awed by the Progressive Insurance commercial in which a man is shown juggling three chainsaws. Dietrich said he has juggled chainsaws, though the Marlins can rest easy. He has never tried it while the saws were operating.
“I haven’t done it with them on, just because I don’t want to take that chance,” said the Marlins’ rookie second baseman. “I just juggled them to get the weight and see how they feel. It’s the same as juggling a club.”
Dietrich’s streak of reaching base ended Sunday. Dietrich had successfully reached base in the first 14 games to start his Marlins career.
• Monday: Marlins RHP Jose Fernandez (2-2, 3.31) at Tampa Bay Rays RHP Jake Odorizzi (0-0, 5.40), 3:10 p.m., Tropicana Field.
• Tuesday: Marlins RHP Kevin Slowey (1-5, 3.30) at Tampa Bay Rays RHP Jeremy Hellickson (2-2, 5.37), 7:10 p.m., Tropicana Field.
• Scouting report: The Marlins face their cross-state brethren, the Tampa Bay Rays, during the next four games, with two games in St. Petersburg followed by two in Miami. The Marlins hold a 43-42 series edge over the Rays. But Tampa Bay has dominated in recent years, going 21-9 against the Marlins in the previous five seasons.