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Ozuna's late arrival prompts start for O'Neill

MLB.com

ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals outfielder Marcell Ozuna was a late scratch from the starting lineup prior to Wednesday's I-70 Series finale against the Royals. Manager Mike Matheny said Ozuna arrived late to Busch Stadium after sleeping in. Tyler O'Neill started in left field in Ozuna's place.

"He's human, things happen. This guy couldn't possibly be a better teammate how he goes about it. He couldn't be more regretful not being here today on time," Matheny said following his team's 5-2 loss in 10 innings. "We don't have a lot of rules, but that's one of them. You're not here on time, you don't get to be in the lineup. He understands that and now we move forward."

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ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals outfielder Marcell Ozuna was a late scratch from the starting lineup prior to Wednesday's I-70 Series finale against the Royals. Manager Mike Matheny said Ozuna arrived late to Busch Stadium after sleeping in. Tyler O'Neill started in left field in Ozuna's place.

"He's human, things happen. This guy couldn't possibly be a better teammate how he goes about it. He couldn't be more regretful not being here today on time," Matheny said following his team's 5-2 loss in 10 innings. "We don't have a lot of rules, but that's one of them. You're not here on time, you don't get to be in the lineup. He understands that and now we move forward."

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Ozuna said he was trying to get some sleep before waking up and seeing his watch and realizing he was late.

"I made a mistake," Ozuna said. "Everybody can make a mistake. We're human."

Ozuna broke out a bit from his season-long slump this week, posting consecutive multihit games, including a three-hit effort in Tuesday night's 5-1 loss at Busch Stadium. O'Neill made his fifth straight start in the outfield on Wednesday.

Video: KC@STL: O'Neill bounces throw home to nab Goins

O'Neill, who went 1-for-4 with a run scored in the loss and threw out Ryan Goins at the plate, entered the finale 8-for-16 with three home runs and six RBIs since being recalled from Triple-A Memphis on Friday.

Shortstop update
Yairo Munoz made his second straight start at shortstop on Wednesday for the Cardinals, the hole manager Mike Matheny is constantly trying to fill in light of Paul DeJong's left hand injury. Munoz had a career day with four hits on Tuesday against the Royals.

Video: KC@STL: Munoz notches 4 singles for first 4-hit game

"Like Tyler O'Neill, you get in there and you get four hits, no matter how you get them, there's a good chance you'll get an opportunity, especially when we have an opening like that," Matheny said. "We're still trying to evaluate every day."

Matheny praised Greg Garcia and Jedd Gyorko as well for filling in during DeJong's absence. Going forward, these three players will be mixing and matching into games.

"Jedd has done a pretty nice job. There's things he needs to work on, but he's a good option when they need bats," Matheny said. "Greg Garcia we saw make a couple really nice plays. We know that he can fit in there. Still trying to get a good solid look at Munoz and see what he can do."

One of the biggest difficulties for the Cardinals finding a temporary shortstop has been scheduling, Gyorko said.

"This all happened really fast. We've had a bunch of day games, so we've only been able to get a couple days' worth of grounders," Gyorko said. "Until Pauly gets back, it's going to be a work in progress."

Fowler sits again
Matheny is still trying to work out what to do with Dexter Fowler, who was 0-for-4 on Tuesday night. The slumping Fowler was out of the lineup on Wednesday for the third time in five games.

Harrison Bader started in his place.

Fowler is hitting .155 through more than a quarter of the second year of a five-year, $82.5 million contract.

Still, the Cardinals believe Fowler will bounce back.

"[Fowler]'s a fighter, man. He's going to go out there and try to do his job. Everybody goes through those stretches and the hardest part is getting out," first baseman Jose Martinez said. "We've got his back and we know he's trying every day to help the team win. He has five homers and 20 RBIs, so he's trying to help us win."

Kelly nearing return
On the disabled list for the past week with a right hamstring strain, Carson Kelly said he'll begin a rehab assignment on Thursday that should be brief. Kelly said he will catch Alex Reyes' final rehab start at Triple-A Memphis, then Kelly will start another game there on Friday.

Kelly is planning to be activated when eligible on Saturday. He was 2-for-18 at the plate in eight games filling in for Yadier Molina before landing on the DL last week in Minnesota.

Kelly is expected to resume the bulk of the starting duties upon his return, regulating Francisco Pena back to a backup role and Steve Baron to Memphis. But whether Pena or Baron remain with St. Louis could depend on the health of Pena's right knee. He suffered a severe bruise after being clipped by a foul ball on Wednesday.

Video: KC@STL: Pena stays in after foul ball off his knee

Pena stayed on the ground for several minutes after suffering the injury, but he finished the game. He was limping in the Cardinals' clubhouse afterwards, where he said he didn't expect to miss any time. But how Pena feels after Thursday's off-day could go a long way toward determining that.

Sean Collins is a reporter for MLB.com based in St. Louis.

St. Louis Cardinals, Paul DeJong, Dexter Fowler, Greg Garcia, Jedd Gyorko, Yairo Munoz, Tyler O'Neill, Marcell Ozuna