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Carroll gets taste of Major League pitching during Spring Training

Brett Carroll got a small but eye-opening taste of Major League baseball earlier this spring.

“It was a great experience, they told me I was going to go up for a couple of games but I stayed up there for about a week,” said Carroll, former Bearden High School and Middle Tennessee State University baseball star now an outfielder in the Florida Marlins organization, Class A level.

Playing with the Marlins’ Major League split squad during Spring Training, “The first day was kinda overwhelming in that kind of atmosphere, but once I went into my first game, caught my first fly-ball and got my first at-bat out of the way, everything felt comfortable, just like I was playing low-A baseball,” he said.

As for his first game against Major League pitching, “I think it was against the [St. Louis] Cardinals,” Carroll said, adding he’s also played against Major League split squads from the Boston Red Sox, New York Mets and Baltimore Orioles in addition to talking to various Major League players about ways to improve his game.

The first Major League pitcher he faced “was some lefty, I don’t even know his name. … My first at-bat, actually, didn’t go as well. I came in with the bases loaded. I had a good at-bat, I battled with the guy.”

Though Carroll struck out, his first hit came shortly thereafter against the Red Sox. His hits against Major League arms included a double. “Just get on a fastball, see a fastball and drive it,” he said about keys to his success.

“They would throw their big guys at the start of a game; like St. Louis, Mark Mulder threw, I got to see him pitch. When the Orioles [played], Chris Benson pitched. Jose Lima pitched for the Mets.

“When I got into the game, I didn’t face their big-time guns, but I got to see, facing guys that have been up and down in the big leagues, relievers,” Carroll added. “I usually didn’t come in until the fifth- or sixth-inning, you know, just playing back-up. It was a great experience, learning from those guys and their approach to hitting … how they go about their business, it kinda rubbed off on me. I even had some success, just watching and learning. I’d get one, maybe two at-bats. It went well.”

As for hanging around Major Leaguers and picking up tips, “Watching, like, David Eckstein play,” Carroll said about the 2002 World Series winning shortstop with the Anaheim Angels now with St. Louis.

“I always watched him as a kid, admired the way he plays the game. Kinda just being around him and kinda talking with the other guys, kinda hearing what he’s saying, knowing how hard he plays.

“I got a chance to pick the veterans’ brains,” Carroll added. “Like Lenny Harris [Marlins outfielder], he’s going on his seventeenth years in the big leagues. I just asked him what his approach was early in the count, what he looks for. He just said he likes to see something out over the plate.

“He usually likes to take the first pitch, kinda to get in the flow of the game. He said he’s played so long that he knows the pitchers and how they’re going to throw him, and how he looks in one area.”

Harris hit .314 last season for the Marlins.

“Rhythm is a big thing that I learned, not being so antsy and feeling so rushed all the time,” Carroll said. “Just slowing the game down.”

Projected as a right fielder and noted for his strong throwing arm that produced the most outfield assists in the Class A New York-Penn League last season, Carroll said the “competition is real thick” and that the Marlins “have a lot of young talent.”

The 23-year-old said he’ll likely start out in “High-A” ball in Jupiter, Fla., this season. “If things are going well, hopefully I’m move up to double-A somewhere through the season.”

The 5-foot-11, 213 pound former BHS Bulldog standout shortstop (Class of 2001) has added muscle in the off-season — but he’s learned to avoid swinging for the fences.

“The air doesn’t [make the ball] travel at all down here, so I’m working on flattening out my swing and hitting more base hits and line drives,” he said. “And working on my on-base percentage. Last year I only walked seventeen or eighteen times,” in what Carroll estimated to be between 350 and 400 plate appearances with the Class A Jamestown (N.Y.) Jammers.

“I’m learning better plate discipline. … They’re pleased with the power I got, I just have to not strike out as much, get on base more, take more walks.”

Battling a mid-season wrist injury that slowed his progress, Carroll said his batting average last season was “about” .245 with 18 home runs and “about” 50 RBIs.

As for rank-and-file Marlins Major League players, “they’re really all good guys. They really treated me well,” Carroll said. “I definitely felt like I belonged up here. I’ve got a little more experience under my belt.

“It was definitely enjoyable.”


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