Hatcher Returns In New Role On The Mound





FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. Like his first stint in the majors last September, Chris Hatcher this time around spent plenty of time in the bullpen. He just didn't have to lug as much equipment down there.

Instead of catching 'pens, Hatcher is now throwing them.

Less than a year after Hatcher made it to the majors as a catcher, he returned as a reliever. The Marlins converted the light-hitting Hatcher to a pitcher after last season. He went through big league camp and was assigned to Double-A Jacksonville, where he went 2-1, 2.31 with 15 walks and 39 strikeouts in 35 innings.

"You can't put it in words," said Hatcher, who pitched a scoreless inning in his major league debut. "I didn't expect it at all this soon. One of those things where, wow, you work hard enough I guess good things do happen."

Hatcher, 26, described his fastball/slider/changeup repertoire as "pretty much normal for a reliever." Yet the 2006 fifth-round pick out of UNC Wilmington had made himself a place in major league history. He became the first player since Art Doll in 1936 to make his major league debut as a catcher and come back as a pitcher the following season, according to Elias.

"I knew (the change) had been in the works, so it didn't catch me off guard," Hatcher said. " . . . It was one of those things where, 'Hey, this might help your career out.' I took it in stride and it's worked out so far."

Hatcher nearly made his major league debut as a pitcher. He warmed up during a blowout loss to the Cubs late last season, but ultimately came in as a pinch-hitter.

"You're awestruck the first time (in the majors)," Hatcher said. "I'm not going to say I'm not again, but I know what to expect the second time around. I have a feel for how things are going to work."

FISH BITES

• Triple-A New Orleans first baseman/outfielder Josh Kroeger blew out his knee during a postgame, walkoff celebration. Kroeger tried to leap on Joe Thurston following his July 4, game-ending double and landed awkwardly.

• Outfielder/catcher Vinny Rottino was added to the Pacific Coast League squad in the Triple-A all-star game. Outfielder Bryan Petersen and lefthander Victor Garate made the team, but Petersen was called up and Garate was injured.