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Newcomer Cooper settling in, could be a steal

Special to MLB.com

TAMPA, Fla. -- In the "other" trade the Marlins made with the Yankees over the offseason, Miami acquired first baseman and corner outfielder Garrett Cooper, who the club hopes may be a steal.

That's because manager Don Mattingly feels that the 27-year-old, who played 13 games for New York last season, can hit for both power and contact.

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TAMPA, Fla. -- In the "other" trade the Marlins made with the Yankees over the offseason, Miami acquired first baseman and corner outfielder Garrett Cooper, who the club hopes may be a steal.

That's because manager Don Mattingly feels that the 27-year-old, who played 13 games for New York last season, can hit for both power and contact.

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"He's a big guy with a little-guy swing, which is nice because you get a guy that could put a ball in play, and you know there's power there coming," Mattingly said. "Last year, he started to blossom a little bit, and we think there's power there, too, with a swing that has a chance to be a guy that hits against better pitching."

Spring Training info

And in that brief stint last season, Cooper did just that, hitting .326 with a triple and five doubles. That was more or less a continuation of what he had done in both Double-A and Triple-A, where he posted a .359/.423/.634 slash line.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

As he continues to perform well through the spring, Mattingly has also noticed a more comfortable Cooper.

"He's seemed more and more relaxed as this camp has went on," Mattingly said. "I thought early on, he seemed pretty pressed with the issue trying to show what he could do. And I think that's natural with a new organization. He's a good-looking kid."

So far this spring, Cooper has played both first base and the corner-outfield positions. Mattingly said he fits better at first, but the added flexibility of being able to play multiple positions is a must in the Senior Circuit. Cooper went 1-for-3 and started in right field in Sunday's 8-5 loss to the Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

"In the National League game with bullpens going to 13, you need guys that can play multiple positions," Mattingly said. "Not only giving guys days off but for double switches throughout the course of the game. The more guys with flexibility that can play other places, the better you are."

Video: MIA@NYM: Cooper crushes solo homer to center field

Wittgren returns
Miami right-hander Nick Wittgren made his spring debut against the Yankees on Sunday after undergoing surgery last September to remove bone spurs in his right elbow.

Wittgren threw a scoreless fourth inning and looked sharp. He erased a leadoff single by Neil Walker by getting Brandon Drury to ground into a double play. Wittgren then induced another grounder, retiring Tyler Austin.

"That's the way his spring has been -- he's been good -- and we're just trying to get him built back up with his arm surgery last year," Mattingly said. "He's getting there, and I think he's a little behind the guys with his first time out, but we're getting there."

The 26-year-old reliever has appeared in 86 games over the past two seasons for the Marlins, compiling a 3.83 ERA and 85 strikeouts in 94 innings.

Video: MIA@NYY: Wittgren gets Drury to ground into a DP

Nicolino struggles
Caleb Smith wasn't the only Marlins pitcher fighting for a rotation spot that struggled on Sunday, as Justin Nicolino was roughed up for three runs on four hits with two walks and no strikeouts in two innings.

Mattingly acknowledged that Nicolino "also got the tough part of their order," but he stressed the importance of locating pitches.

"I thought he threw the ball OK," Mattingly said. "He's got to track the strike zone, and [he's] another guy that has to make pitches and put the ball where he wants. If he doesn't, it's trouble. Still has to get the ball to certain spots."

The rough outing pushed Nicolino's ERA up to 5.63 in eight Grapefruit League innings. Nicolino is out of options, so it would appear a long-relief role is likely if he were unable to break into the rotation.

Dunand knocks first homer
A pinch-hit home run in the eighth inning by Marlins infielder Joe Dunand may have looked familiar to fans in attendance on Sunday.

That's because Dunand is the nephew of longtime Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez, who hit plenty of dingers at New York's Spring Training home.

Dunand, the Marlins' No. 19 prospect per MLB Pipeline, sent a 2-0 pitch from Wade LeBlanc over the left-field wall. Mattingly praised the poise of the 22-year-old.

"He's a kid that handles himself well and looks comfortable up there," Mattingly said. "Any time those guys get hits, it's good to see."

Video: MIA@NYY: Dunand clears the wall in left for homer

Up next
While he has already been reassigned to Minor League camp, right-hander Trevor Richards will make his third appearance and first start of the spring for the Marlins as they host the Nationals at 1:05 p.m. ET on Monday at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium. Opposite of the team's No. 22 prospect is back-to-back NL Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer.

Greg Zeck is a contributor to MLB.com.

Miami Marlins, Garrett Cooper, Justin Nicolino, Nick Wittgren