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Cubs’ Coghlan healthy again after pie went awry in 2010

Miami Marlins' Jeff Mathis (6) greets Chris Coghlan home after pair scored double by Donovan Solano off Chicago Cubs' Blake

Miami Marlins' Jeff Mathis (6) greets Chris Coghlan at home after the pair scored on a double by Donovan Solano off Chicago Cubs' Blake Parker during the eighth inning of a baseball game Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

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Updated: March 6, 2014 12:30AM



MESA, Ariz. — Did you hear the one about the outfielder who got hurt pushing a towel full of shaving cream into a teammate’s face? It left a pie hole in the lineup.

Or how about this one: Why does Chris Coghlan take a cookie to bed every night? Because pies give him nightmares.

All right, maybe it’s not so funny. Coghlan, one of the Cubs’ new outfielders, could tell you that much.

“Me and Kendrys [Morales],” he said. “People made fun of us all the time in the media.”

On July 25, less than two months after the Los Angeles Angels’ Morales suffered a serious ankle injury on his highly publicized walk-off celebration in 2010, Coghlan suffered a season-ending knee injury when he tried to slam a pie on Marlins teammate Wes Helms’ face during a postgame interview.

Coghlan didn’t know anything was wrong until he reached the dugout after coming back for a more successful second attempt. And it wasn’t until an MRI exam the next day that he found out he’d need surgery.

“It was crushing,” he said. “I was just starting to perform better. And we were playing better. It was just tough.”

As he filled the towel with shaving cream that day in Miami, he was a 25-year-old big-league leadoff hitter eight months removed from receiving the National League Rookie of the Year Award. He was hitting .312 since May with a .395 on-base percentage and .875 on-base-plus-slugging percentage.

Then, in one wrong landing on a hard-rubber warning track that grabbed his spikes, it all turned upside down.

“It was a big blow,” he said.

Coghlan rushed back before his knee was ready, suffered a setback in 2011, struggled adjusting to a bench role in 2012 and then dealt with a lengthy calf injury in 2013.

But he said he’s healthy now, and the non-roster invitee on a minor-league contract is competing for a job.

“I see a look of determination on his face right now,” said Cubs bench coach Brandon Hyde, who was the Marlins’ bench coach the year Coghlan hurt his knee.

“He’s a gamer, man. He’s always played his rear off. He’s had some bumps in the road the last few years, and he’s got a really good opportunity here to show the rest of the staff what kind of player he is.”

It would be easy for Coghlan to be bitter over the random and freakish injury that cost him so much of his early-career promise, especially after enduring what he said was two years of questions about the pie incident. The Marlins’ staff actually talked to players about being more careful with the postgame celebrations, Hyde said.

“But you know what, God’s been so faithful with me and just shown me a lot,” he said. “I feel blessed because I got to see as good as you can get individual-wise, in the beginning, to people doubting you and not thinking you’re as good as you were, or that you’re a one-hit wonder. And then I’m injured, and a couple of years later, I’m having to make a team.

“I feel like I’m such a better player mentally, physically and spiritually because I’ve been through so much in a short span.”

With 15 outfielders in big-league camp, it might be an uphill climb.

“It’s just a fresh start, and I’m excited to be judged on what I do here and now this year,” he said. “That’s it. If I produce, everything will work itself out. And if I don’t, then I’ll be in Triple-A.”

And if he feels like celebrating a win with shaving cream and a towel again?

“I almost kind of want to do it, just so people will stop talking about it,” he said. “Who knows?”

Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com

Twitter: @GDubCub



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