Marcell Ozuna returns to play in Miami for first time as a member of the Cardinals
A few hours before first pitch a man in a Marcell Ozuna jersey wandered into the Marlins’ dugout Monday afternoon.
“There he is!” shouted former Marlins’ teammate Derek Dietrich playfully.
But as Dietrich knew, it wasn’t Ozuna, whom the Marlins affectionately nicknamed ‘Big Bear’ visiting his old stomping grounds.
It was the Big Bear’s own ‘Papa.’
Ozuna’s father, Marcelino, flew in a day earlier from the Dominican Republic to see his son play his first game in Miami since joining the St. Louis Cardinals.
“He got a little confused,” Ozuna joked while talking to reporters pregame. “It’s great. Family is everything to me. The first thing he said to me was I want to see you play.”
Ozuna first signed with the Marlins in 2008, and went on to become a two-time All-Star outfielder, put up career numbers during his final season in Miami last year when he hit .312 with 37 home runs and 124 RBI.
Ozuna, 27, has had a tougher go-around this season in his first year in St. Louis. He entered Monday’s game hitting .265 with 13 home runs and 59 RBI in 423 at-bats (108 games).
Ozuna, who was traded by the Marlins to the Cardinals in December as one of the major moves in Miami’s roster overhaul under its new ownership, caught up with several of his teammates and coaches on the field.
“I saw a lot of my teammates and they said they miss me,” Ozuna said. “I miss them too. It’s emotional. We had good times and some difficult times.”
One of the most difficult times for Ozuna was losing his teammate and good friend Jose Fernandez, who was killed in a boating accident in September of 2016.
“All the time I think of Jose,” Ozuna said. “On his birthday the other day I thought about all the good times I spent with him. I hope God has him in that beautiful place and allows me to feel his presence always.”
The Marlins reinstated pitcher Sandy Alcantara on Monday and optioned him to Triple A New Orleans.
Alcantara landed on the disabled list on July 4 with a right axillary infection and has not pitched since he made his Marlins’ debut on June 29.
Alcantara, 22, pitched three rehab outings in Jupiter and allowed six runs (five earned) on 10 hits, five walks and one hit batter while striking out eight for a 3.97 ERA.
“I don’t think anybody was happy with fastball command and what they’ve seen out of him in three outings he’s had,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “We just felt like we want him to have that progression to keep going and let him get in rhythm.”
Alcantara threw 84 pitches in his most recent outing and touched 95 mph on his four-seam fastball, which is lower than the 97-98 mph he’s thrown in the minors earlier this season.
Alcantara averaged 98.6 mph last season the 39 times he threw his four-seam fastball during his brief major-league stint (8 2/3 innings) with the Cardinals.
“Everybody knows I can throw hard and when I have to throw 100, I’ll throw it,” Alcantara said. “This year I don’t know why I haven’t been able to get it up to that speed, but I’m just working on strengthening my arm and hopefully it gets back up there again.”
Mattingly said there was no concern of any health issues related to the dip in velocity.
“We do want him to be more aggressive with his four-seamer and we want to see him throw it where he wants,” Mattingly said. “We know the two-seamer is part of his repertoire and the changeup too, but we also know we traded for a guy who has a chance to be a No. 1 so we want him to be aggressive with his fastball and be that guy.”
ON THE FARM
Marlins shortstop prospect Jose Devers has been promoted from Single A Greensboro to Single A advanced Jupiter.
Devers, 18, came to the Marlins as part of the Giancarlo Stanton trade last December along with second baseman Starlin Castro and pitching prospect Jorge Guzman.
Devers, who doesn’t turn 19 until December 7th, was hitting .273 with 12 doubles, four triples and had 13 stolen bases at Greensboro.
Reliever Drew Rucinski (right groin strain) is scheduled to throw two innings or 40 pitches on Tuesday in Jupiter as he continues his rehab assignment.
Tuesday: Miami Marlins RHP Pablo Lopez (2-2, 4.67 ERA) vs. St. Louis Cardinals RHP Miles Mikolas (11-3, 2.75), 7:10 p.m., Marlins Park.
Wednesday: Marlins RHP Trevor Richards (3-6, 3.92) vs. Cardinals RHP John Gant (3-4, 4.12), 7:10 p.m., Marlins Park.