Another new skipper, but Coghlan finds familiarity in Cubs camp

Outfielder, reunited with hitting coach, to play for seventh manager in seven seasons

Another new skipper, but Coghlan finds familiarity in Cubs camp

MESA, Ariz. -- It's a new season, which means a new manager for Cubs outfielder Chris Coghlan, his seventh in as many years. But this time, it's a little different for Coghlan, because he's reunited with the same hitting coach who was with him when he won the National League Rookie of the Year Award in 2009 while with the Marlins.

Coghlan and new Cubs manager Joe Maddon were discussing the high turnover rate the other day in Cubs camp.

"[Maddon] was like, 'Man, that's a shame, that stinks,'" Coghlan said of seven skippers in seven seasons. "I wasn't saying that like, 'Woe is me.' It's just crazy."

But this year, John Mallee, who was the Marlins' Minor League hitting coordinator and then Major League hitting coach when Coghlan played in Miami, is now the Cubs' hitting coach. The two have developed a relationship that goes beyond player/coach.

"It was an amazing experience for me," Mallee said of Coghlan's '09 season. "I was so excited when I got this job, because I'd be able to watch him again. We have a rapport.

"Even when I wasn't with him, we would talk about his swing," Mallee said. "It's just exciting to see the full maturation of him, going through what he went through as Rookie of the Year and the injury [to his knee] and to fight his way back and grind.

"It's like looking at your son -- you see him and he goes through those growing pains, and then he's back," Mallee said. "It's an honor to be able to stand next to him every day, it means that much to me."

Coghlan, 29, feels the same about Mallee.

"There's already a relationship there, and I feel grateful," Coghlan said. "For me, this feels like the first time I don't have to go through the whole spring with somebody and try to build that relationship and that trust."

Outlook: Coghlan, OF, CHC

Anthony Rizzo has had a different hitting coach in each of his three seasons with the Cubs. Coghlan said that kind of change can hinder a player's development.

"It really is tough to build that trust," Coghlan said of the player/coach connection. "You hear Joe talk about that, and it's truthful. For people to be vulnerable and share, you have to trust somebody. It's just like any relationship.

"Hopefully, we can build longevity here and have the same coaches, especially for the younger guys who might be unsure of themselves at times," Coghlan said. "They can have somebody who they can bounce things off of, who they trust, and who has seen them go through a season and what they're good at and what they struggle at, and know how to keep them on track."

In 2009, Coghlan batted .321 for the Marlins with nine homers and 47 RBIs. That was the last season he played more than 100 games until he played 125 in 2014 with the Cubs, when he batted .283. It took some time for him to come back following surgery on his left knee in 2010. This past offseason, after Mallee got the Cubs job, he gave Coghlan a few drills to do.

Hearing that voice again is reassuring for Coghlan.

"[The different coaches over the years] may be saying the same thing, but it's a different voice, and you're like, 'Man, here's another guy telling me this,'" Coghlan said. "It's tough, because you're like, 'Man, this guy doesn't really know me.'"

Which is why Coghlan is so happy to be working with Mallee again. The two have come full circle.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.