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Notes: Brinson 'a different guy'; Sharp; Ureña

@JoeFrisaro
March 7, 2020

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Lewis Brinson has performed in Spring Training before, only to struggle in the regular season. This spring, however, appears different.

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Lewis Brinson has performed in Spring Training before, only to struggle in the regular season. This spring, however, appears different.

“He looks like a different guy,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “Brins has looked really good. So you’re looking at that whole package, also.”

Spring Training is not always an accurate indicator when it comes to player evaluations. Established veterans, in particular, are not necessarily game planning for opponents.

But Brinson is at a pivotal point in his career, because he has yet to perform consistently in the big leagues. During the past two seasons, the 25-year-old has had statistically solid Spring Trainings, followed up by disappointing years in the Majors.

“With Brins, if I would compare [him to] two years ago in spring, he had pretty good numbers then, but he really wasn’t hitting the ball hard,” Mattingly said. “This year has been a different look.”

Brinson has made more consistent contact, striking out only once in 21 at-bats. In the Marlins’ 2-2 tie against the Nationals on Saturday, Brinson grinded out a 10-pitch showdown with lefty Sean Doolittle before grounding out sharply to third base. Brinson battled from two strikes down and worked the count full before the groundout.

He also pinch-ran for Corey Dickerson in the third inning and scored from first on Jesús Aguilar’s RBI double. On Friday, in a 7-3 win over the Nationals, Brinson belted a two-run homer, his third of Spring Training. The exit velocity was 106.4 mph, according to Statcast.

This spring, Brinson is hitting .409 with three homers, a double and a triple. After being Miami’s Opening Day center fielder the past two seasons, he is competing for a roster spot in right field, due to the addition of Jonathan Villar. Brinson does have a Minor League option, so he could get sent down to Triple-A Wichita if he doesn’t make the team.

A year ago, Brinson hit .278 in Spring Training, with five home runs and eight RBIs. He struck out 18 times in 54 at-bats. And in 2018, his first season with the club, he hit .328 in Spring Training with two homers and nine RBIs. He also fanned 17 times in 58 at-bats.

During the 2019 season, however, Brinson hit .173 with no homers and 15 RBIs in 75 games.

“He’s really worked hard on his swing, and you see the balance,” Mattingly said. “You see the swings. You see the amount of hard contact.”

In the final few weeks of camp, the Marlins will look to see if Brinson continues to make progress with his approach.

“You’re seeing the BPs and you’re seeing the games look the same,” Mattingly said. “You’re kind of looking at that whole package, the quality of the at-bat. What the swings look like. What the takes look like. Those all tell you a story if a guy is really seeing the ball good and if things are going his way.”

Staying Sharp
Among the roster decisions the Marlins face by Opening Day is what to do with right-handed reliever Sterling Sharp.

A Rule 5 claim from the Nationals in December, Sharp has to either make the Marlins’ active roster, or risk being offered back to Washington.

Miami is giving him every opportunity to become part of its revamped bullpen. The 24-year-old is a slender 6-foot-3, 170-pounder with deceptive delivery.

On Saturday, Sharp threw two shutout innings with three strikeouts, a hit and a walk.

“He’s arms and legs,” Mattingly said. “There is some funk to him. He’s been a ground-ball guy through the Minor Leagues. [He’s] a guy who obviously we wouldn’t have taken in the Rule 5 if we didn’t see some really good things.”

Ureña minimizes and impresses
On an extremely windy afternoon Saturday, José Ureña showed the ability to deal with adversity and minimize damage, giving up just two runs on eight hits in four innings

“It was rough today,” Mattingly said. “He gives up a bunch of hits. But those are the kinds of games in the past, for me, that get away from him. Because he will want to go harder and harder, and he just gets emotional. Today, for me, he kept pitching. Kept using his changeup. Kept using his slider. To me, it was really, from that standpoint, it was a really good game for him. Because it was a battle.”

In nine innings this spring, the right-hander has allowed two runs on 12 hits with five strikeouts, no walks and two hit batters.

“We set it up early, trying to be in an attacking mode, trying to be aggressive,” Ureña said. “If we fell behind in the count, we tried to be aggressive to get back into the count and [tried] to let them make contact.”

Up next
The Marlins are back at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium on Sunday, but as the visiting squad against the Cardinals for a 1:05 p.m. ET game. Pablo López, who celebrated his 24th birthday on Saturday, will start for Miami. The right-hander has a 3.86 ERA in 4 2/3 innings.

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.