The biggest news from the Cardinals in the last couple of days involves two key players to 2019, Marcell Ozuna and Matt Carpenter.
Ozuna Showing Improvement in Shoulder
Ozuna underwent surgery last October to repair his hindering right shoulder. Ever since, he’s been working to get ready for the upcoming season. However, he chose to do his rehabbing away from the Cardinals facilities in Jupiter, Florida. Because of that, the Cards struggled to monitor his progress.
All signs are pointing in a positive direction now, though. John Mozeliak had a productive visit with the Redbirds’ left fielder in the Dominican Republic after participating in the graduation ceremonies at the team’s complex in Boca Chica.
Mozeliak met with Ozuna for a few hours on Monday, both to discuss his progress and to develop a plan going forward. Mo said that their conversations were very positive.
Ozuna also took batting practice during the meeting. Tuesday, Mozeliak said of Ozuna, “[I’m] happy to report he is looking strong and working hard.” He also said that Marcell would start a throwing program in early February.
The Cardinals expect that Ozuna will be ready to go by Opening Day. He’s set to hit cleanup and play left field every day for the second straight season.
A healthy right shoulder could really benefit him both at the plate and in the field. He struggled to hit for power consistently last year and, according to Statcast, he had the weakest arm in the league among qualified outfielders.
The Cards are going to need him to be closer to what he was in 2017, also. They did add Paul Goldschmidt, which will clearly make the team better, but another power bat could be the difference between missing the postseason again and winning the division. A healthy Ozuna has the potential to be that power bat.
Matt Carpenter Ready For Third Base
Matt Carpenter has played all over the diamond after being drafted as a third baseman. He made his debut as a utility man, made his first All-Star appearance as a second baseman in 2013 and then was the everyday first baseman last season.
Now, after the Goldschmidt acquisition, Carp will go back to third. He’s excited about going back across the diamond too, saying, “I’m ready to go. Let’s do this. I mean, we got Paul Goldschmidt! I’ll play wherever to accommodate that.”
Carp has received more than his share of criticism for his defensive ability at third. Most of it comes from his throwing ability, or lack-thereof. However, he says he’s ready to prove that he can do a good job at the hot corner.
He will have the benefit, this year, of going into the season knowing his position. That will be a big advantage as he prepares mentally and physically for the 2019 campaign. He’s also coming off his best season at third: over 74 starts there last year, he compiled six defensive runs saved.
Mike Shildt is also looking forward to having Carp man the hot corner. “He more than held his own, the metrics support it. He gets a lot of action over there, and he’s moved around a little bit and was willing to do that. And it’s good to have him be an anchor at third a little bit more. I’m excited about Carp. And I think he’s going to do great stuff for us across the board,” said Shildt.
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