Injuries can’t slow Brett Carroll.
Sure, they have gotten the better of him a couple times. Most recently, he began the year on the 15-day disabled list for the Florida Marlins because of a strained left oblique muscle sustained during spring training. He landed on the Marlins’ disabled list — for several months — with a right shoulder sprain in 2008 after he crashed into the right-field wall while trying to make a catch.
But Carroll doesn’t let that stop him from playing baseball the only way he knows how.
“I just know one speed,” he said. “That is what I have always enjoyed doing since I was 4 years old. The speed of playing is all out. It has gotten me a few injuries in the past, but I don’t think you can play in fear. So that is what I want to bring to the yard every day.”
Now in his eighth year of professional baseball, Carroll maintains that same approach, just with a different organization — the Nashville Sounds. The former Middle Tennessee State standout was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers organization from the Kansas City Royals for cash considerations in March. The Royals had signed Carroll last December after seven seasons with the Marlins, who drafted him in the 10th round of the 2004 draft.
While in the Florida organization, he bounced around in the minors but played in 153 games for the Marlins.
The outfielder began the 2008 and 2009 seasons on the opening day Major League roster. He played 92 games for the Marlins in 2009 and batted .234. He hit his first career Major League home run that year — off Randy Johnson, the five-time Cy Young Award winner who at the time was pitching for the San Francisco Giants.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Carroll is the second active player to hit his first career home run off a pitcher who already had 300 career wins. He was also a triple shy of hitting for the first cycle in Marlins history last year against Cincinnati.
The 6-foot, 210-pound Carroll, however, never spent a full season with the Marlins and usually found himself as a fourth outfielder when he was on the roster. That meant he wasn’t playing every day and the most at-bats he ever had with them was 141 in 2009.
“Over the last few years, when you get a 100, 200 at-bats it is little difficult to find a groove and stay in a rhythm,” Carroll said. “This game is hard enough and ... humbling enough, so more at-bats can be a good thing, yes.”
Carroll, 28, already has 125 at-bats for Nashville less than two months into the season. The Sounds who started an eight-game road trip on Thursday at Salt Lake City return to town and Greer Stadium on May 27 to start an eight-game homestand.
Carroll is hitting .256 with three home runs and 18 RBIs out of the middle of the lineup. He went 3-for-4 with three RBIs on Tuesday in the Sounds’ 11-10 victory over Sacramento.
“He is a pretty good athlete,” Sounds manager Don Money said. “You know, his swing gets big at times. He has some good power when he makes contact.”
Carroll’s biggest strength might be his defense — Baseball America said he possessed the Marlins’ best outfield arm prior to the 2008 season — and Money said Carroll can cover “a lot of ground” in center field.
“I’ve always really worked hard at the defensive part because I think that is what has helped prolonged my career in a sense,” he said. “I want to make sure those pitchers know we have their back. Defense is huge. I know it sounds like cliché but defense can literally when ballgames.”
He has been able to showcase it in front of family and friends, too. His parents still live in his hometown of Knoxville and he often is surprised by a former MTSU teammate or friend from the Nashville or Murfreesboro area.
“It does provide a little extra energy when you have family and friends who come to see you play,” he said. “Any time you can see familiar faces, it is nice to have that. It seems like every day there is a former friend or former teammate that I didn’t know was coming and it makes it exciting.”
A new team can mean proving one’s worth all over again but Carroll doesn’t see it that way. While he wants to get back to the Major Leagues and eventually settle in as an everyday player up there, he currently is content on getting his hacks in with the Sounds.
“For me, it is refreshing being with a different club with a new set of eyes and new opportunities,” he said. “But it is also just exciting to be able to come out and be healthy. That is something I have battled in the past — being healthy — and just playing hard every game and seeing what comes about it. That is my main focus.
"I am not really here to prove [anything] but just letting the game hopefully speak for itself and the way I go about my business and the job. If that is seen in a good way, that is what I want to bring every day.”