MIAMI — Sitting in Chris Coghlan’s locker Wednesday was an autographed newspaper photo of his diving grab to rob Rick Ankiel of a two-run, extra-base hit.
“Thanks buddy,” read the message. “Nice Hollywood dive — Love, Ank.”
The catch might have been the best Coghlan ever made as the Florida Marlins’ center fielder. But then his experience at the position before this year was limited to a couple of grade-school games.
Coghlan retreated to deep left-center and laid out to catch Ankiel’s fly before flopping to the turf. The first-inning play Tuesday proved pivotal in a 3-2 win over Washington.
“That’s the game right there, that catch,” Marlins pitcher Anibal Sanchez said.
Coghlan wasn’t surprised to hear from Ankiel.
“I know Ank. He’s a good dude. I’m sure he hated it when I caught that one,” Coghlan said.
Less than a week into the season, Coghlan has a pretty good start on a video of defensive highlights. He robbed the Mets’ Ike Davis of a likely extra-base hit with a diving grab of a sinking liner last weekend.
Coghlan’s throwing remains an issue. He nursed a sore right (throwing) shoulder for much of spring training and is still not at full strength, and opponents have taken an extra base on him several times already.
“His defense never was a question for me,” Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez said. “It was his arm strength. But as for his defense, I felt very confident he would be able to make the adjustment. His speed is average, but he’s going to rely on his instincts and positioning.”
A second baseman in the minors, Coghlan moved to left field in 2009, when he became the NL Rookie of the Year. Last winter the Marlins decided to switch him to center, and he has embraced the change.
“I like playing center a whole lot,” he said. “It’s more responsibility, more action. As a competitor you want to play the more demanding position.”
And he seems to have the hang of making diving catches.
“You run, and at the last second your instinct takes over,” he said. “Sometimes you surprise yourself.”