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What's blending? Brantly visits Fan Cave

Marlins' rookie catcher feeding off enthusiasm of young team

NEW YORK -- The first thing you should know about Rob Brantly is what he has for breakfast.

"I have a cup and a half of oatmeal mixed in with five egg whites, some all natural peanut butter and a scoop of protein powder," Brantly said Friday. "Blend that, and that's my start to the day."

The Marlins' rookie catcher is a bundle of energy, so zippy and fit and go-go-go that one of his clubhouse nicknames is "Greenie" -- an innocent reference to the now-forbidden amphetamines once found around lockers. Brantly quotes Jack LaLanne, juices only the best nutrients, and lives by the credo of the late "godfather of fitness." How many young Major Leaguers are disciples of Jack LaLanne?

"I wouldn't call it a disciple of his," Brantly corrects, "but I ended up watching a lot of his videos and I really liked the message he would give out to everyone about how to take care of yourself physically and nutritiously, and how to live a better, happier life. I believe it does, and I do it myself."

Blending the right ingredients is what 2013 is all about for the Marlins. Their new everyday catcher visited the MLB Fan Cave on Friday morning in Greenwich Village for an hour before heading to Citi Field and the start of a three-game series against the Mets.

"Just a little each day will go a long way," Brantly said during the taping of a soon-to-be-released video, again quoting LaLanne, who passed away two years ago at the age of 96.

"We've got a lot of guys who choose healthier options," Brantly said of his Marlins teammates. "We do what we can to get prepared as best we can for the game. That also includes being well-nourished and having good calories in your system to sustain your energy throughout the day. I do the best I can, and I know a lot of guys on my team do as well."

The old stereotype of a squatty catcher is being blasted away these days. Look at the Giants' Buster Posey, on the cover of the April "Men's Journal" issue. Brantly fits that fitness mold. If you saw LaLanne, you would not expect him to be a Major Leaguer.

We spoke in the newly redesigned party basement of the Fan Cave, each of us sitting in giant white wingback chairs straight out of Alice in Wonderland. Brantly is 23, a Southern California native who attended UC-Riverside. He is listed at 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds, and in the chair he looked like Tom Hanks' young "Josh" character in the 1988 movie "Big."

"I've got a reputation of looking younger than I am anyway," Brantly said, "and now I'm sitting in this chair making me look like I'm 10 years old."

Marlins fans may grow to like this guy -- a lot. A left-handed-hitting catcher, Brantly was acquired last July in the deal that sent Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante to the Tigers. Brantly debuted for the Marlins last Aug. 14 and finished with a slash line of .290/.372/.460 in 100 at-bats over 31 games.

After an impressive spring (.305 with nine RBIs in 20 games), Brantly was given a chance to be the everyday catcher. Manager Mike Redmond and bench coach Bob Leary, both former catchers, worked with him extensively, on footwork, throwing, blocking and more.

"I'm very happy with how hard he's worked and the effort he's put into it," Redmond said.

Veteran Miguel Olivo is now on the roster as Brantly's backup, and a necessary right-handed-hitting alternative at catcher. As with the second game facing Gio Gonzalez, look for Olivo in the lineup against tough left-handed starters. It is all a work in progress.

"I love to play the game. Having an opportunity to play more games than not, I'm all for it," Brantly said. "Working here with Mike Redmond and Bob Leary, with them having the experience as catchers, it helps me get ready for the season and stay on track with my pitching staff throughout the season."

There were few bright spots in the Marlins' first series at Washington, where they were swept and outscored by a combined 11-1. Against Stephen Strasburg on Opening Day, Brantly grounded out to the right side leading off the second and fifth innings. Then, as Strasburg's final batter, he lined into an inning-ending double play started by Bryce Harper in the seventh.

But Brantly had a pair of singles in the last game and enters the Mets series with a fresh wave of enthusiasm.

"It was just a tough series," Brantly said of the Nationals sweep. "We've got a lot more series to play in the season. From what we've seen in Spring Training and what we've seen in the past with these guys, we're more than capable of putting together some good games here. We've got a lot of confidence in our team and what we have to offer this year."

People will gradually learn about the Marlins. They will learn that another of Brantly's nicknames is "Ron Bentley," given by teammates upon arrival when they decided to not use their real names. He said that kind of camaraderie by the holdovers and the callups will help meld the club this summer.

"I know that all the guys we've got, a lot of them were actually friends of mine coming up through the Minor Leagues," Brantly said. "The potential for these guys is through the roof. I can see exactly where our owner was going with it. We've got a lot of great players. With the opportunities that are given on this team, I think it makes a team hungry to do well. It makes for a young, aggressive team. Added in with the good talent that we have, I think it's a recipe for good things."

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of Read and join other baseball fans on his community blog.
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