ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – Before Marcell Ozuna has even put on a St. Louis Cardinals jersey, his spots in the field and the lineup may have already been determined by the St. Louis Cardinals decision makers. As we learned at Winter Warm-Up this past weekend: Mike Matheny wants him to bat cleanup and John Mozeliak has him playing in left field.
Pitchers Adam Wainwright, Carlos Martinez and Luke Weaver all expressed similar relief, with one of “the best hitters in the National League” headed to Jupiter, Fl. to participate in St. Louis’ Spring Training and not the Miami Marlins. Wainwright talked about his bat path, Martinez was looking forward to having one of his “best friends” in the dugout and Weaver simply said
Ozuna was just as excited.
“I love St. Louis, I like the crowd mostly,” Ozuna says. “They make me feel like you have to fight to give a smile to those guys who are yelling and that you have to make something special at the game.
“And that has made me feel like you have to battle, every at bat.”
With the addition of Ozuna, Mozeliak, the Cardinals president of baseball operations, told us that the 2018 Cardinals outfield will feature Tommy Pham in center field, with Ozuna in left and Dexter Fowler in right. Which has the potential, Pham believes, to be the best in the majors.
“We’re gonna be one of the most athletic (outfields) for sure,” Pham says. “I don’t know how we stack up to other teams overall in athleticism but we have to be at the top.”
Matheny put together the top-four spots in his “perfect lineup” for the 2018 Cardinals, with Fowler leading off, followed by Pham, Matt Carpenter and Ozuna. He hit cleanup in nearly 70-percent of Miami’s games in 2017, slashing .306/.372/.536.
“Whether he likes it or not with what he’s been able to do in his career,” Matheny says. “He’s in a leadership position to the point of guys are going to listen and follow and sometimes be changed by the things he says and the way he goes about his business.”
Ozuna’s addition also leaves Randal Grichuk, Jose Martinez and a number of outfield prospects fighting for the fourth and fifth outfield spots. Grichuk, 26, is at an advantage, Mozeliak says, because he’s shown the ability to play all three outfield positions – however there are a couple prospects, Harrison Bader and Tyler O’Neill, who could provide the same thing.”
“You know I’m going to go into the year the same way, prepared, fighting for a job even if it’s not possible,” Mozeliak says.