While the St. Louis Cardinals are confident Marcell Ozuna is their starting left fielder for 2019, how far along he has progressed in his recovery from cleanup shoulder surgery is not quite as clear.
“I think he’ll be ready to go in spring,” President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak said. “I’m not overly concerned. He’s going to spend the remainder of his offseason in the Dominican Republic, which is not ideal in terms of our medical staff being able to get a firm grasp of where he’s at. But I’m going to pop down to the DR a week from today and so, hopefully, I can get a sense of where he’s left. But candidly, with three weeks remaining before we go there (to Jupiter), there’s not a lot you can do. He has promised me that he will be ready, so I guess I’ll have to take him at his word.”
Scheduled to be in the Dominican next week for the first graduation ceremonies of the Cardinals Baseball Academy in Boca Chica, Mozeliak also plans to check-in with Ozuna.
“Perfect world, he’s at our Jupiter complex, right?,” Mozeliak continued. “It’s just easier to manage and keep track of. But he’s one of these guys that – I’m a little nervous to say this – he’s gonna play. I mean, like, last year he was injured quite a bit and wouldn’t even opt out of the lineup so he’s gonna show up and he’s gonna be a positive contributor. The question would be how much, but I don’t know if being in Jupiter vs being in the Dominican would’ve changed the outcome of that anyway.”
Reliever Brett Cecil didn’t have a specific injury to recover from this season, but has impressed the Cardinals with the changes he’s made to his off-season routine.
“You’re going to notice some weight loss when you see him,” Mozeliak shared. “He’s had a very active off-season. Sort of back to the observation of intentionally staying in touch with people, but he’s been someone who’s been very aggressive in his off-season strategy to get himself in better shape. He’s in a good spot right now. And so we’re feeling pretty good about where he is. And so that’s exciting.”
The outlook for fellow reliever Luke Gregerson is a little more clouded.
“This off-season has not been perfect for him,” Mozeliak said. “I think there could be some questions going into Spring Training on usage and how quickly he can get going. But our fingers are crossed that he could still be someone who helps us this year.”
A right shoulder impingement helped limit Gregerson to appearing in only 17 games last year and he finished the season on the 60-day disabled list.
“He’s begun his throwing program, but it just hasn’t felt perfect for him,” Mozeliak continued. “When we signed him he was coming off just a robust amount of innings and pitches and how he was used. I guess what you learn, sometimes it just doesn’t go on forever. That’s what we learned. So in his case, it’s trying to put the pieces back together a little bit and give him a fresh start. But it’s a competitive bullpen and so the one good piece of news we have is we can be a little patient.”
photo credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports