Over the winter, Marcell Ozuna worked out at a gym in the Dominican Republic with fellow countryman Robinson Cano of the Seattle Mariners.
Before heading off to the United States for spring training, Cano warned Ozuna that if he failed to hit 30 home runs and drive in 100 for the Marlins, he wouldn’t be welcomed back.
“He said, ‘If you don’t get 30, don’t come back to work out with us anymore,” Ozuna recalled.
Cano was kidding, of course.
But Ozuna made certain Cano couldn’t hold it against him if he fell short. And with one swing of the bat Friday, Ozuna reached both milestones, blasting his 30th home run, a go-ahead three-run shot in the Marlins’ 8-6 victory over the Padres that gave him 101 RBI.
On Saturday, he added to his tally with another solo homer run in the fourth inning against the Padres..
One of the first congratulatory phone texts Ozuna received on Friday was from Cano.
Another came from Barry Bonds, who was Ozuna’s hitting coach last season with the Marlins.
“Barry said, ‘My son, welcome. Now you’re in the club. You have to push for more numbers. One month to go,’” Ozuna said.
Ozuna’s accomplishments have been overshadowed in recent weeks by teammate Giancarlo Stanton’s improbable home run binge. But Marlins manager Don Mattingly said Ozuna’s season deserves the same recognition.
“Giancarlo’s had a terrific second half and really taken off,” Mattingly said. “But if you look at the whole season, Marcell’s probably been the most consistent.”
Last season, Ozuna enjoyed a strong first half and started the All-Star Game. But after he tailed off, Ozuna pledged to never let it happen again.
He worked out relentlessly in the Dominican over the winter.
And he set a goal of 30 home runs and 100 RBI.
“I didn’t tell anyone,” he said.
With a strong first half, Ozuna was selected to the All-Star team for the second year in a row. Mattingly said he leaned on Ozuna to keep up the pace in the second half and to avoid a repeat of 2016.
“I was going to stay on him,” Mattingly said. “He had a rough second half last year. I think he tried to hit homers, honestly. He tried to pull the ball, tried to hit homers, and when he came in after the break, he just wasn’t the same guy. And this year he just stayed the same.”
Nobody is happier than Ozuna.
“I worked hard during the offseason to do this,” he said.
With the 30-100 milestone out of the way and more than a month remaining, Ozuna’s final numbers could far exceed the goals he set for himself six months ago.
“For me right now, that’s over,” Ozuna said. “Everything from now on is extra.”
Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez spent only one season with the Marlins.
But what a season to remember. Hall of Famer Rodriguez and the Marlins won the 2003 World Series, and he has his mitt to prove it.
Rodriguez said he saved the catchers mitts from each of his 21 seasons in the majors. But the one he used with the Marlins in ’03 — the same one he used to tag out the Giants’ J.T. Snow at home plate for the final out of the National League Division Series — is on display at his father’s home in Puerto Rico.
“He has a trophy case, a museum of myself, and that glove is in Puerto Rico,” Rodriguez said. “That glove continued playing in the playoffs, and playing in the World Series.”
On Saturday, the Marlins honored Rodriguez in a pregame ceremony.
▪ Sunday: Marlins RHP Dan Straily (8-8, 3.83) vs. San Diego Padres LHP Clayton Richard (6-12, 4.89), 1:10 p.m., Marlins Park.
▪ Monday: Marlins RHP Jose Ureña (12-5, 3.68) at Washington Nationals (TBA), 7:05 p.m., Nationals Park.