ST. LOUIS -- Shortly after Saturday's 7-6 loss to the Phillies, manager Mike Matheny invited his struggling slugger into his office. Marcell Ozuna plopped himself on the black couch that runs adjacent to the office door, and vented.Little has gone right for Ozuna at the plate or in the field
ST. LOUIS -- Shortly after Saturday's 7-6 loss to the Phillies, manager Mike Matheny invited his struggling slugger into his office. Marcell Ozuna plopped himself on the black couch that runs adjacent to the office door, and vented.
Little has gone right for Ozuna at the plate or in the field during his first seven weeks in St. Louis, the reigning National League All-Star now hitting .234/.275/.316 through 41 games. He's hitless in his last 22 at-bats over a five-game span in which he's left 21 runners on base.
"He was saying, 'Hey, get somebody else in there because I keep coming up in those key spots,'" Matheny recalled Sunday. "We said, 'We want you in there. We trust you.'"
Matheny loves the idea of a sharp Ozuna stirring the lineup from the cleanup spot. But the recent conversation resulted in swapping Ozuna out in place of rookie Tyler O'Neill, at least for a day. O'Neill was hitting fourth Sunday, while Ozuna received a "mental rest" his manager hopes helps snap him out of what's been a season-long funk.
"He's perpetually optimistic, which we love to have around here," Matheny said. "He's a guy who just wants to go. We knew that coming in. Part of it is him learning how to struggle. He didn't have extensive struggles last season. It's going to happen to everybody. Guys end up being better for it in the long run. But in the short-term, we realized he needs a day to take that mental break."
One of the more complete hitters in the National League last season, Ozuna blossomed in his fifth season with the Marlins in large part to the all-fields approach he matured into. This year, it's largely abandoned him. Ozuna's ground-ball rate has spiked, and his pull rate has grown disproportionately along with it. He's grounded out to the left side seven times in the last three games.
"Pull happy," Matheny said. "And that leads to rolling over balls. He doesn't need to pull the ball to put it out of the park."
Lyons leaving again
Because rehabbing reliever Tyler Lyons (sore back) threw just six pitches in his first appearance at Double-A Springfield on Saturday night, Lyons is preparing to throw again on Monday. He's expected to be activated after that, if all goes well.
"Health-wise I feel good," Lyons said. "I just want to get out and pitch again, be in a competitive mode and not just throwing bullpens. For me, that's all I wanted to get out of it, because I feel much better physically."
Lyons was worked hard before landing on the DL on May 9, appearing in 18 of the Cardinals' first 34 games. He figures to factor into the club's late-inning picture in some fashion, as it continues to figure out how to mitigate the struggles of Greg Holland. Lyons is 1-0 with a 6.17 ERA in 11 2/3 innings this season, after posting a career-best 2.83 ERA across 50 games last season.
Lyons is one of four Cardinals relievers currently on the disabled list, and the only one whose return is imminent.
Reyes nearly ready
Lyons had a front-row seat for Alex Reyes' dominant rehab start at Springfield on Saturday, so much so that Lyons worried if he'd even get in the game.
"Unbelievable. Electric. Unhittable," was how Lyons described it.
Reyes needed just 93 pitches dominate over 7 2/3 innings, striking out 13 in his third of four scheduled rehab starts. Only a final one at Triple-A Memphis stands between Reyes and May 28, the day he can be activated from the disabled list.
"What a poor Double-A team that had to face them yesterday," Matheny said, of Reyes and Lyons. "I think the stuff we're seeing from Alex is going to play anywhere."
Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.