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Ozuna enjoys first interaction with Cards fans

Martinez gets more reps at first base; Weaver adds weight during offseason
January 14, 2018

ST. LOUIS -- For Marcell Ozuna, Sunday was a day of first impressions. A first-time participant in the Cardinals' Winter Warm-Up event, Ozuna got an intimate introduction to the fan base. Fans, in turn, were greeted by Ozuna's glowing smile.Ozuna's reaction to it all?"I say, 'Thank God for bringing me

ST. LOUIS -- For Marcell Ozuna, Sunday was a day of first impressions. A first-time participant in the Cardinals' Winter Warm-Up event, Ozuna got an intimate introduction to the fan base. Fans, in turn, were greeted by Ozuna's glowing smile.
Ozuna's reaction to it all?
"I say, 'Thank God for bringing me here," Ozuna said after wrapping up his autograph session. "Most important for me [is] to be happy, to have fun, to enjoy [the fans] and to have them enjoy me. That makes me feel great."
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The reaction wasn't all that different a month ago when Ozuna learned that the Cardinals had acquired him in a five-player trade with the Marlins. In that moment, there was a sense of relief, too.
"The first thing I heard [was] they were going to trade me to the Oakland A's," Ozuna recalled. "I said, 'God, please, leave me over here.' Then I heard they traded me to the Cardinals, and I said, 'OK, thanks.'"
First things first
Though a hamstring injury cut short his time in the Venezuelan Winter League, Jose Martinez did use his 15-game stint to continue his work at first base. Martinez made 29 starts there for the Cardinals last season and is likely to open this year as Matt Carpenter's backup at the position.
"I think, right now, I'm feeling 100 percent better [at first base] than last year," Martinez said. "I met with guys who helped me with that position. … There's more to come. I think I have to put some more work, but I feel a little confidence in it."

He'll continue that coursework in Jupiter, Fla., well before position players are required to report to Spring Training. There, Martinez knows he'll find another teacher -- returning infield coach Jose Oquendo -- eager to assist.
"I know he's waiting for me," Martinez said with a laugh. "There's going to be a lot of sweat."
Packing on the pounds
Early this offseason, Luke Weaver sat down with a nutritionist to create a meal plan that would help him add weight to his lanky frame. The solution? Consume about 5,000 calories per day.
It's been such a task that Weaver noted how eating "just didn't become fun anymore." But the work (if it can be called such) has paid off. Weaver, who is listed at 170 pounds on the Cardinals' roster, estimates that he's added 10-15 pounds.
"I'm like eating six pieces of bread and six eggs and, you know, two cups of nuts, and, I mean, it's just a bunch of stuff," Weaver said. "I'm always full. I don't even taste things anymore. If it doesn't taste good, I don't notice."

There is, of course, a purpose behind the pounds. Weaver, who is expected to open the season in the Cardinals' rotation, hopes the added weight can enhance his durability. He's also complemented the diet change with an increase in strength work.
"I've never tested those waters before, but I feel like I'm in some of the best shape," Weaver said. "[I'm] much stronger, quicker. I'm just excited, and I think that's the main thing I took into this offseason."
Worth noting
• In addition to assisting with hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico, catcher Yadier Molina took time this offseason to travel to Venezuela, where he provided catching instruction to aspiring big league players.
"A lot of Venezuelans, they don't want to go to Venezuela right now," said Martinez, who helped facilitate the visit. "And for him to come, it was pretty special, because it shows that you cannot forget where you come from."
• Left-hander Tyler Lyons reported to Winter Warm-Up this year as a new father. He and his wife welcomed a daughter, Savannah, into the world on Nov. 30, 2017.
• With Oquendo returning to the Major League staff, shortstop Paul DeJong will be giving back No. 11. DeJong plans to wear No. 12 this season.

• Patrick Wisdom acknowledged that there were mixed emotions upon not being picked in the Rule 5 Draft. He likely would have had a better chance to crack an Opening Day roster had another club selected him, and there is still some lingering frustration from being passed over for a promotion last season after hitting 31 homers in Triple-A.
"But, what can you do?" Wisdom said. "You just have to go out and keep playing and continue to get better."