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Carroll greets ‘Big Unit,’ Jeter
Ex-Bulldog hits first career MLB home run off 300-game winner as Marlins’ ‘part-time’ guy


Brett Carroll greeted a 300-plus game winner rudely one warm Florida evening, as he did one of Major League Baseball's top younger arms a few days later.

Smacking his first career Major League home run off likely Hall of Fame pitcher Randy “Big Unit” Johnson June 21, this former Bearden Bulldog standout, college All-American and Florida Marlins outfielder greeted another likely Hall of Famer in a quite different way.

Following a double against New York Yankees staff ace CC Sabathia June 21 in Miami, Carroll, 27, found himself at second base next to famed Yanks shortstop Derek Jeter.

“It was kinda funny when I got to second. Jeter came over and said, ‘There you go knocking our best pitcher out of the game, thanks a lot,’” Carroll, a part-time outfield starter who made the Marlins team after Spring Training, remembered the Yankees' multi-All-star shortstop saying.


“I was like, ‘It definitely wasn't me that did that — he's hurting.’

Carroll said Jeter added, “‘I wish you the best in your career.’ And I told him in return, ‘I've really respected you and enjoyed the way you've played the game and gone about your business.’ And I think he appreciated that.”

Batting .288 while appearing in 48 games (59 at-bats), Carroll’s offensive highlight came against the tall, left-handed “Big Unit” with a three-run homer keying a 4-0 win against Johnson’s San Francisco Giants in Miami.

At 6-foot-10, Johnson “looks even taller up on that mound,” Carroll said.

“It was an exciting night. Coming to the ballpark and finding out the ‘Big Unit's’ on the mound was a thrill in itself just watching him pitch, coming off 300 wins.

“They've kinda had me in that left-handed role,” Carroll, a right-handed hitter, added about starting against southpaws. “I kinda knew I maybe was getting a chance to start. When I saw my name in the lineup it was definitely exciting.

“My first plate appearance I just felt relaxed and just looking for a pitch out over the plate.”

Getting a fastball, “He kinda left the pitch up, something I could handle. ... Thankfully I got ahold of it,” Carroll said. “Obviously he's not the Randy Johnson that throws 98 [mph]. Still, he's a competitor and I don't think he backs away from any challenges.

“I'd be lying to say it isn't a little surreal,” Carroll added.

Having begun his part-time starting/late-game defensive roles as a left fielder with the Marlins from the start of 2009, Carroll lately has been moved to right field.

“I feel a little more comfortable in right,” Carroll said, adding that as a starter versus lefties, “It's definitely a good role, it gives me something to plan for and prepare for going into a series.”

About making Florida's opening day 2009 roster, Carroll said, “That was exciting, too, because ... the president of baseball operations [Larry Beinfest] stood up and said [during a team meeting] they wanted to acknowledge a player ‘in this room.’

“He acknowledged [my efforts], through the Spring Training that I had: ‘congratulations to Brett Carroll for making the team.’

“That completely caught me off guard,” he added. “I say that with the utmost humility. ... I knew there was going to be heavy competition going into the spring.”

However, because the Marlins' pitching was thinning out by late May, Carroll was sent down to Class AAA affiliate Albuquerque.

“I knew if the team ever got in that situation I might have to be sent down so they could carry an extra pitcher instead of a position player,” he said. “And I knew I'd be the odd man to go.

“But I stayed down only 10 days,” Carroll added. “When I came back up from being optioned, when I started getting some starts, I pretty much, for the most part, played all right-[field].

“Talking to [teammate] Wes Helms, a veteran who's been in that role, talking to me about the approach and everything. ... He's had 10 years and he's been very successful at the pinch-hit role and [part-time] starts. ... He's been very helpful.”

Adding a solo home run at Tampa Bay June 27, Carroll said he's improved his perspective “by just being patient, especially from the playing-time standpoint. I can control how hard I play.”

Otherwise, “a lot of it's out of my hands,” Carroll said. “I just lean on my faith."

 

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