Ozuna continues tear with 5th HR in 4 games

April 17th, 2019

MILWAUKEE -- For all the attention -- rightfully -- heaped on Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich this week, another former Marlins outfielder has quietly been on a bit of an offensive tear himself.

Marcell Ozuna hit his eighth home run of the season Wednesday in the Cardinals' 6-3 victory over the Brewers at Miller Park, and now has five in his last four games.

"It's not surprising," manager Mike Shildt said before the game. "He's very capable. We talk about patience being a virtue. In our society, we don't have a lot of it and there isn't infinite patience in our game."

Ozuna homered in each of St. Louis' games at Milwaukee and over his last 15 games is now 17-for-58, with eight home runs, 13 runs scored and 16 RBIs. Compare that to his production through the first 10 games of the season when he batted just .211 with a double, two home runs and 12 strikeouts, Ozuna is starting to look much more like the player the Cardinals had in mind when they sent four prospects to Miami for him in December 2017 -- a month before the Marlins traded Yelich -- the eventual NL Most Valuable Player Award winner -- to Milwaukee.

"I've been saying since Spring Training that he's going to be a good player and he's on the right track," Shildt said. "People don't always like to be patient in our game but he's back to where he can feel free with what he's doing. He's got his timing back. He's a special guy with a special skillset."

Ozuna batted a career-best .312 with 37 home runs and 124 RBIs in his final season for the Marlins, but those numbers trailed off after coming to St. Louis, where he slashed .280/.325/.433 with 23 home runs and 88 RBIs in 148 games last season.

A right shoulder injury that bothered Ozuna throughout the 2018 season was certainly a factor, and he underwent surgery to address the issue in the offseason. The ensuing rehab process limited his usual winter workload so he was admittedly behind the curve when camp started in February and still working on his timing once the regular season got underway.

"I'm getting there," Ozuna said. "I'm working in the cage and doing my routine. I'll be fine."

Shildt agrees.

"As [former St. Louis manager] Tony [La Russa] would say, 'they're men, not machines'," Shildt said. "We talked about him feeling good in Spring Training, getting though the ball and a range of motion. So people thought he should start hitting home runs immediately.

"That would have been great but the reality is, there's a transition to get back to the right timing, the right feel. The message was always the same, though. He was confident because he feels good and he was getting through the ball.

"Now we're seeing the benefit of that but we were already seeing the measurables: he wasn't hitting as many balls on the ground, his exit speed was up and our eye test was telling him he was getting though balls, he was feeling good, the ball was carrying. Now it's transitioned into the game."

Ozuna raised his OPS to 1.069 with his Wednesday home run and is one of three Cardinals batters, along with second baseman Kolten Wong (1.051) and Paul DeJong (1.038) to have an OPS over 1.000, with Paul Goldschmidt (.913) not far behind.

"It feels good [being in the same lineup] with them," Ozuna said. "They have a good approach and they get on base all the time so I can drive them in. And if I can't, the guy behind me can."