Ozuna: Arm strength down but will come back

April 10th, 2019

ST. LOUIS -- With a first-inning swing on Monday that produced the hardest-hit home run in the Majors this season, looked like a player no longer inhibited by shoulder weakness.

That’s mostly true on the offensive end, Ozuna confirmed, but he acknowledged to still being a work in progress when it comes to getting enough zip on his throws.

Citing his arm strength as at “55 percent,” Ozuna described in detail on Tuesday the work he continues to do to regain strength following offseason surgery on his right shoulder. That includes therapy, pregame exercises and daily work with coach Willie McGee, who is helping Ozuna correct his throwing mechanics.

Ozuna cited the latter as most critical in his efforts to improve in the field.

“I’m not throwing to my target,” he said. “Sometimes I’m throwing wild. The rhythm is going crazy -- going around, going to the side, throwing down, up. The release point is not there yet.”

That was evident on Monday when Ozuna bounced a throw to the cutoff man while the Dodgers scored the go-ahead run in the fifth inning.

“It’s because I had surgery to clean up the arm, [which], for a long time, didn’t move,” he said. “I feel like I’m getting stronger. I think it’s going to be good. I have confidence that my arm is going to get back to where it was before.”

The data is too limited to conclude whether Ozuna is making strides. While he did make a throw in Pittsburgh last week that, at 84.4 mph, was harder than any he had last year, it’s still far from what Ozuna used to offer. In 2016, for instance, Statcast tracked 16 throws from Ozuna at 90-plus mph.

And then there have been the repeated issues with accuracy.

“It’s good to hear that he’s always looking for improvement,” manager Mike Shildt said. “He’s really put some serious energy and effort into getting the arm back into shape. It’s good to hear he thinks he’s got more. It’s just a matter of consistency -- following a plan and building on what he’s doing. Like anything, it takes some time to come back from any kind of setback or surgery, of course.

“I can’t ask for anything more than what this guy is doing. He’s showing up early. He’s getting treatment. He’s out with Willie and the training staff working on his throwing now. It’s something he’s taken ownership in and is driving.”

Teams haven’t been as noticeably aggressive running on Ozuna as they were last season, but they will take advantage if improvement doesn’t come. Ozuna, who is optimistic that he’ll be closer to full strength by the end of the month, expects to thwart that aggression soon.

“I’m going to get them,” Ozuna said. “I lost my trust throwing [last year], and they knew I had a bad arm. But they’re going to pay for that.”

Rehab roundup
• Carlos Martinez (right shoulder cuff strain) remains on target to throw a bullpen session at Busch Stadium on Friday. It will represent his first time on a mound since having to halt his throwing program during the first week of Spring Training. Over the past week, Martinez has been extending the distance and intensity of his flat-ground throwing.

(right shoulder impingement) made his third appearance for Class A Advanced Palm Beach on Tuesday, striking out one in a scoreless inning. The Cardinals will reevaluate whether he is ready to move elsewhere to continue his rehab assignment. Shildt noted that Gregerson has recovered well from his first two outings.