JUPITER -- Remember Matt Dominguez? Remember the California high school star the Marlins took with the 12th overall pick in the 2007 draft, one round before they grabbed Giancarlo Stanton? Remember how Dominguez was to be their third baseman of the future?
Only that future never panned out with the Marlins. It has for the Houston Astros, who acquired Dominguez from the Marlins in a July 4, 2012, trade for a second-half rental, Carlos Lee, that is not looking very good at the moment.
While the Marlins continue to search for an everyday third baseman (Placido Polanco, Casey McGehee) and used yet another first-round draft pick on one (Colin Moran), Dominguez is finally showing what he can do -- what the Marlins always felt he could do -- in Houston.
Dominguez is the first to admit he never could get his bat going with the Marlins. He hit a pedestrian .252 with 62 home runs over six minor league seasons with the Marlins.
"Everybody knew my glove was ahead of my bat, and I'm still working really hard to become a better hitter," he said.
Something must be working.
In 152 games last season for the Astros, Dominguez hit 21 home runs and drove in 77 to go with a .241 average. (or three fewer homers and 15 more RBI than Stanton put up for the Marlins last season). In the second half of 2012, after the Astros obtained him, he hit .284 in 31 games.
"I just think it's the change of scenery and confidence that contributed (to the success)," Dominguez said.
Dominguez acknowledged that he lost much of his confidence while coming up through the Marlins farm system, an eroding confidence that wasn't helped any when the Marlins signed Jose Reyes, moved Hanley Ramirez to third, and made Dominguez expendable.
"I don't want to say they gave up on me because, honestly, I don't know what they were thinking," Dominguez said of the Marlins' decision to trade him. "But they thought the trade was in their best interests and decided to give me up, and it's worked out for me. I have no hard feelings."
Dominguez attibuted part of his improvement to working with Leon Roberts, a minor league hitting coach in the Astros' farm system. Dominguez said there were no mechanical changes to his swing. But he said that Roberts worked on his mental approach.
"He was a big guy on the mental approach, getting good pitches to hit, and realizing what pitchers are trying to do," he said.
Looking back, Dominguez said he understands the Marlins' decision to trade him, and isn't bothered by it.
"They didn't know I would turn around and hit like that after I got traded," he said. "It's a crazy game. Just little things can help you a lot. They got a good player in Carlos Lee. They thought it was a move they had to make, so I can't fault them for that."
Dominguez did offer some simple advice for Moran, the Marlins' next third baseman of the future.
"You're going to get a lot of advice from a lot of different people, and you have to pick and choose who to listen to and who not to listen to," Dominguez said. "Don't forget, when you're young, how fun it was. Just go out and play the game without worrying so much the mechanical side or things you can't control."
Dominguez is town with the Astros, who are visiting the Marlins this afternoon. He is batting clean up.
TODAY'S LINEUPS IN JUPITER:
Houston: 1. Robbie Grossman, lf; 2. Jonathan Villar, ss; 3. Marc Krauss, dh; 4. Matt Dominguez, 3b; 5. Brett Wallace, 1b; 6. George Springer, cf; 7. J.D. Martinez, rf; 8. Max Stassi, c; 9. Gregorio Petit, 2b. Pitching: Dallas Keuchel.
Miami: 1. Rafael Furcal, 2b; 2. Christian Yelich, lf; 3. Giancarlo Stanton, rf; 4. Garrett Jones, 1b; 5. Jeff Baker, dh; 6. Casey McGehee, 3b; 7. Jake Marisnick, cf; 8. Adeiny Hechavarria, ss; 9. Jeff Mathis, c. Pitching: Jacob Turner.