ST. LOUIS -- Already scheduled to be in the Dominican Republic so he could participate in Sunday's graduation ceremony at the Cardinals' complex in Boca Chica, president of baseball operations John Mozeliak took the opportunity to make an additional stop and check in on rehabbing outfielder Marcell Ozuna.The two met
ST. LOUIS -- Already scheduled to be in the Dominican Republic so he could participate in Sunday's graduation ceremony at the Cardinals' complex in Boca Chica, president of baseball operations John Mozeliak took the opportunity to make an additional stop and check in on rehabbing outfielder Marcell Ozuna.
The two met for a few hours on Monday, with Mozeliak describing their conversations as "overall very positive." Ozuna, who underwent right shoulder surgery in late October, took multiple rounds of batting practice during the visit.
"Happy to report he is looking strong, working hard, and will begin his throwing program in early February," Mozeliak said a day after the meeting.
The Cardinals will monitor Ozuna's throwing throughout Spring Training, but they do expect the outfielder to build up quickly enough to be full go by Opening Day.
It's an encouraging report for a team that had been disappointed with Ozuna's choice of not rehabbing close to the team's complex in Jupiter, Fla. With a lack of oversight from the team's medical staff, some of the best glimpses of Ozuna's progress had been through Instagram videos he published of his various workouts.
What the Cardinals are hoping to avoid is a repeat of last spring, when Ozuna reported to camp with a compromised right shoulder. He battled through periods of pain and inflammation all year before choosing to address the injury with surgery, performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache.
"Anytime someone has offseason surgery sort of offsite and our guys don't have their hands on him," general manager Michael Girsch said, "we're sort of anxious to see when they come back where they are."
Ozuna, who is entering his final year before free agency, projects to be the team's starting left fielder and cleanup hitter for a second straight season. A healthier shoulder should help Ozuna on both fronts. He acknowledged late last season that the shoulder discomfort had altered the mechanics of his swing. It also clearly affected his arm strength, as Ozuna finished last, according to Statcast™, among qualifying outfielders in average velocity of his max effort throws.
Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.