JUPITER, Fla. -- A new number. A renewed outlook.
Marlins center fielder Lewis Brinson is sporting a new number in 2020, scrapping No. 9 in favor of 25.
After two straight seasons wearing No. 9, in honor of Juan Pierre, his favorite player growing up, Brinson is going with the number he wore growing up, which was also the number his father wore while playing basketball in high school and college.
“It’s been my number since Little League,” Brinson said. “It’s always been a number that I liked. It was my dad’s number when he played basketball in high school and college. It’s a number I gravitated to. It felt right. Thought I’d make the switch.”
Right before making the change, Brinson informed Pierre, who is a Marlins instructor.
“I let him know right before I made the decision to switch,” Brinson said. “He was like, ‘Man, it’s alright. You’re too big to wear No. 9 anyway.’"
“I just thought at the time it would be cool to make my debut with the Marlins, my hometown team, wearing my favorite player's number. It’s always been my dream to wear No. 25 in the big leagues.”
Regardless of the number on his back, Brinson is keenly aware that this is a pivotal Spring Training in his young big league career.
The native of Coral Springs, Fla., has yet to live up to the top-prospect billing he had coming up with the Brewers. Brinson was a center piece in the blockbuster trade for Christian Yelich, which also brought outfielder Monte Harrison, second baseman Isan Díaz and right-hander Jordan Yamamoto to Miami.
A year ago, Brinson appeared in 75 games with the Marlins, and had a slash line of .173/.236/.221 with no home runs and 15 RBIs.
“We're 100 percent not disappointed with his work or his want-to, and all the effort that we're getting,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “We are not disappointed in any way, shape or form. And we still believe that Lewis still has a chance to be a really good big league player. We're going to give him every opportunity to do that, and help him in any way that we can.”
Brinson’s strikeout rate was 29.8 percent, and per Statcast, he hit .243 on fastballs, but just .080 against breaking pitches and .179 against offspeed pitches.
“Teams find a hole, or find a weakness,” Mattingly said. “And they're going to expose you, until you're able to make some adjustments back. To this point, he just hasn't been able to make those adjustments back. That's what we're looking forward to seeing.”
With one more Minor League option remaining, Brinson isn’t guaranteed to make the Opening Day roster. And the Marlins have already made it clear that they will give Jonathan Villar, mostly a middle infielder throughout his career, a shot in center field. Jon Berti is another option, and Harrison could be a center field option at some point during the season.
"For me, the biggest advice I can give, is take Spring Training like it's your season," Rojas said. "He's been preparing for a long time. I had the opportunity to work out with him in the offseason. I hit with him, and I know how hard he works. So, now it's time to compete. For me, it's about how you go about your business. When they put you in that lineup, it's not like you're getting ready for the season. Your season is starting on Saturday."
The Marlins open Grapefruit League action against the Mets on Saturday in Port St. Lucie, Fla.
The competition, Brinson says, raises his game.
“I came into camp knowing I have to fight for my job back,” Brinson said. “I had that mentality, all throughout the offseason. Coming into camp, I have to show why I belong on this team. That’s what I’m going to do. Competition is good. We’re all competitors in here.”
In the offseason, Brinson did a lot of soul searching, and now he fully grasps the notion that not all players find their stride at the same time.
“I’ve been hearing that since I started playing,” Brinson said. “But I think this offseason I finally got what that meant. Just go out there and play your game. Be you."
“Before I didn’t really know what that was. Obviously, in the Minors, I had success. Up here is different. Everybody knows that. It’s a different ballgame. You don’t get a break.”