Marcell Ozuna has gone from the Marlins’ doghouse to starting center fielder for the National League All-Star team in one year’s time.
Ozuna’s comeback continued on Saturday when NL All-Star manager Terry Collins announced he would start in Tuesday night’s game in San Diego after outfielders Yoenis Cespedes and Dexter Fowler pulled out because of injuries.
“It’s going to be awesome,” Ozuna said. “I dreamed of being an All-Star. But an [All-Star] starter in one year? It’s impossible.”
A slumping and out-of-shape Ozuna was demoted to the minors about this time a year ago.
“He had his ups and downs, and he lost confidence,” Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. “I remember it like yesterday. We were in Chicago. He was having a rough stretch. And you could see him hang his head. He was just completely lost.”
Now, the happy-go-lucky Ozuna is all smiles. He credited his offseason workout regimen and the help of Marlins hitting coach Barry Bonds for this year’s success. Hill also praised Bonds for being a positive influence on Ozuna.
“When you talk about bringing a Barry Bonds on board to your coaching staff, that’s what you hope that he can impart on your players,” Hill said. “We were hopeful that one of the greatest hitters of all time could allow [Marlins hitters] to reach their potential and beyond.”
On the way back
Suspended second baseman Dee Gordon will begin playing in minor-league rehab games next week as he prepares for his July 28 return to the Marlins.
Hill said Gordon, who received an 80-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs, will begin his rehab work on either July 17 or 18. He’ll also start facing live pitching in simulated games before his 10-game rehab period begins.
Gordon will not be eligible to play in the postseason if the Marlins get there.
Keeping Jose fresh
Jose Fernandez will make his first start after the All-Star break on either July 18 or 19 in Philadelphia — the fourth and fifth games back — as the Marlins continue to control his usage.
“What it does is cut starts out,” manager Don Mattingly said of the team’s program to ease the pitcher’s workload one year after returning from surgery. “I’d rather do it that way and have him all year rather than get to a point where he’s not competing. You don’t want to have your best guy shut down.”
The Marlins have already skipped one of Fernandez’s starts and plan to do the same later in the season.
In addition to Fernandez, Mattingly said the Marlins are also keeping a careful eye on Adam Conley, who is pitching his first full season in the majors.
“We’ll watch his innings,” Mattingly said. “We’re a little concerned because we see some games where one start he’ll be electric and the next start he won’t be quite the same. So I think we do have to watch him.”
Mattingly said, however, there are no plans at the moment to push back any of Conley’s starts as they have done for Fernandez.
“Right now there are no true plans for [Conley],” Mattingly said. “But we’ll watch him and just keep an eye on his innings, and if there’s a place to cut it back then we’ll cut it back.”
▪ Marlins reliever Carter Capps said he is scheduled to begin a throwing program on July 19 as he works his way back from Tommy John surgery. The team is hopeful that Capps, who had the surgery in March, will be ready for Opening Day next season.
▪ Sunday: Marlins RHP Tom Koehler (6-7, 4.40 ERA) vs. Cincinnati Reds LHP Cody Reed (0-3, 9.00), 1:10 p.m., Marlins Park.
▪ Monday-Thursday: All-Star break.
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