Ozuna launches monster first homer for Cards

Newly acquired slugger tagged 2-0 fastball; Matheny avoiding Reyes temptation; Lyons debuts Thursday

March 1st, 2018

JUPITER, Fla. -- 's first home run as a member of the Cardinals landed somewhere beyond his old clubhouse. When he returned to the dugout, his most high-profile new teammate had a message for him.
"I'm really glad you're on my team," said, looking the slugger in the eyes.
"I am glad to be here," Ozuna responded.
St. Louis' new cleanup hitter showed why manager Mike Matheny's decision to put him in that spot was an easy one, crushing a second-inning solo shot against Twins starter to put St. Louis on the board in a game that finished tied at 3.
Ozuna pounced on a 2-0 fastball, launching it inside the left-field foul pole at Roger Dean Stadium, which the Cardinals share with the Marlins. The entrance to the Marlins' clubhouse sits down the left-field line. The Cardinals acquired Ozuna from Miami as the centerpiece of a four-player deal in December. The Cardinals hope he brings an impact bat to their order, the likes of which St. Louis hasn't seen in years.
In a breakout year for the Marlins last season, Ozuna hit .312/.376/.548, with 37 homers and 124 RBIs. The last Cardinals player to hit that many home runs in a single season was in 2011.
"Dangerous, dangerous hitter," Matheny said. "Every time he steps in there is going to be the potential for some damage."
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Hicks returned
The Cardinals returned hard-throwing prospect to Minor League camp following the game. The 21-year-old Hicks, the club's No. 7 prospect, as ranked by MLB Pipeline, impressed in both live bullpen sessions and game action, when he showcased his high-90s fastball and power slider. Hicks could factor into the team's late-inning plans at some point this season.
Injury update
Matheny revealed Thursday that he hasn't watched throw in person this spring -- and that's not an accident. Matheny has delegated responsibility to pitching coach Mike Maddux, bullpen coach Bryan Eversgerd and the Cardinals' training staff, who then brief Matheny with reports on Reyes' progress.
"I'm not allowed to watch it," Matheny said. "It's self-imposed."
Matheny worries that watching Reyes throw before the 23-year-old is fully healed from Tommy John surgery could prove too tempting.
"There is no reason for me to see it, because he's not on the option list," Matheny quipped. "He's doing exactly what he needs to do."
With the club on the road Wednesday, Matheny wouldn't have seen Reyes throw his first live batting practice since surgery, anyway. The 15-pitch session marked the latest step in Reyes' recovery, which the club hopes is complete by May 1.
"It was a huge excitement just to get back on the mound," the club's No.1 prospect said. "It's been a year, man."
Camp battle
Part of what made the most effective member of the Cardinals' bullpen last season -- and what makes him a sneaky closer candidate early this year -- was his ability to keep the ball in the ballpark. Throwing more sliders than ever, Lyons posted a career-best home run rate (0.50 per nine) that ranked better than that of more-celebrated relievers like , , and .
Which is why it was a surprise when Lyons allowed a home run in his spring debut Thursday, to light-hitting infielder . Adrianza hit just two home runs in 186 plate appearances last season, but he took Lyons deep for a two-run shot in the fifth. Lyons also walked and struck out a batter over an inning of work.

Lyons is the next-to-last closer candidate to debut this spring, and the first with a guaranteed roster spot to allow a run while doing so. Luke Gregerson is the club's only late-inning candidate yet to pitch this spring. His debut will come Saturday at Atlanta. 
Choose the next class of Cardinals greats
Today through April 12, fans can vote to elect the next members of the Cardinals Hall of Fame at cardinals.com/HOF. The 2018 ballot consists of Vince Coleman, Keith Hernandez, Jason Isringhausen, Ray Lankford, Scott Rolen, Lee Smith and John Tudor.
The two players with the most fan votes after the voting concludes will be announced as part of the fifth Cardinals Hall of Fame Induction Class on Friday, May 4, at 6 p.m. CT during a televised 30-minute Hall of Fame announcement special on FOX Sports Midwest, and also in a pregame ceremony at Busch Stadium before the Cardinals face the Chicago Cubs.
The formal enshrinement ceremony for the 2018 Cardinals Hall of Fame Class is scheduled for 3 p.m. CT on Saturday, Aug. 18, at FOX Sports Midwest Live! in Ballpark Village, as part of the 2018 Cardinals Hall of Fame Weekend.
Up next
The regular double-play combination of shortstop and second baseman will start alongside each other for the first time this spring when the Cardinals host the Red Sox at Roger Dean Stadium on Friday at 12:05 p.m. CT. was to make his second start of the spring, but instead he was to throw a simulated game and then return to his home in Florida to tend to what was called a personal matter. will start in his place. The game will be broadcast live on MLB Network, MLB.TV and Gameday Audio.