Despite down spring, hopes high for Ozuna
Marlins remain optimistic promising outfielder clicks before Opening Day
JUPITER, Fla. -- The expectations are still there for Marcell Ozuna, the always upbeat and often energized Marlins outfielder. The 23-year-old entered Spring Training as the frontrunner to win the center-field job.
But now, 13 days before the season opens against the Rockies at Marlins Park, execution will go a long way in determining whether Ozuna breaks camp with the club.
Ozuna is currently working with hitting coach Frank Menechino on ironing out some wrinkles in his swing. It's a process.
Among his issues is getting his front foot down faster, and eliminating some extra movements before taking his stride.
"It looks like just a timing issue," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. "He's been working with Frankie trying to make the adjustments."
Whatever the factors, Ozuna is hitting .135 (5-for-37) this spring.
In the meantime, the Marlins are using several different combinations in center field. Jake Marisnick got the start in center field on Tuesday against the Astros, and he continued to impress, getting singles in each of his first three at-bats in Miami's 8-1 victory.
The Marlins are off on Wednesday.
Over these past few days, Ozuna has had a chance to work more on his swing. Redmond is hopeful a couple of days tinkering and relaxing will help get Ozuna primed to make a push in the final few Grapefruit League games.
"I still expect him to be out there on Opening Day," the manager said. "We want to see him go out there and continue to play. We like what he did last year. You don't always judge on Spring Training results, as well."
Redmond points out often that all it takes is one at-bat for something to click.
"I'm hopeful he will be able to go out, just for his own mind, and get a few hits and relieve some of that pressure," Redmond said.
The Marlins still regard Ozuna as a big part of their future. He's athletic, has a strong throwing arm in the outfield and offers power potential.
That said, though Ozuna was the frontrunner entering Spring Training, the club is prepared to go with other options.
"We're going to make sure we make a decision that is best for the team in moving forward and winning ballgames," Redmond said.
Marisnick has enjoyed a strong Spring Training. But like Ozuna, he's also working on his swing.
There is a chance Marisnick and Ozuna both start off at Triple-A New Orleans, with Christian Yelich moving from left to center field.
In that scenario, left field could come down to a possible platoon situation with Brian Bogusevic and Reed Johnson, a non-roster invitee who is making a strong case to secure a spot.
At this point, it's all speculation, because there is time for Ozuna to get himself straightened out by March 31.
"It's their decision," Ozuna said. "I feel I can make it [in center field]."
The Marlins promoted Ozuna from Double-A Jacksonville in late April last season after Giancarlo Stanton strained his hamstring. Ozuna certainly showed flashes as a rookie in 2013, batting .265 with three home runs and 32 RBIs in 70 big league games. But his season was cut short due to a left thumb injury sustained in late July, which required surgery.
Ozuna healed in time to get some work in playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic.
"In winter ball, I was feeling pretty good," Ozuna said. "I was taking good at-bats there."
"He's a worker," Redmond said. "He works his butt off. These guys are out there working with Frankie. They're watching video. Believe me, everybody wants to be successful. There are so many guys trying to help."