Marcell Ozuna’s first season with the Cardinals has had its ups and downs, as Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch chronicled today, with a particular focus on the shoulder injury that has hampered Ozuna since last offseason. The Cardinals were undeterred by Ozuna’s shoulder issues when they traded for him, but increasingly recognized the effects the injury was having on his power output as he continued to turn in sluggish results. Ozuna finally relented to treatment in the form of a cortisone shot and a quick trip to the 10-day DL in late August. Since his return, Ozuna has performed much more in line with the team’s original expectations, hitting .324 with a .997 OPS in September. He’ll undergo further testing and strength training for the shoulder in the offseason, but presently, Ozuna is focused on the Cardinals hunt for the wild card and a potential one game playoff – likely against a division rival in Milwaukee or Chicago.
Here’s more recent news from the Redbirds…
- The Cards recalled Giovanny Gallegos from Triple A today, the club announced and Joe Trezza of MLB.com tweeted. The 27-year-old reliever – whom you’ll recall was one of the arms acquired from the Yankees in the late-summer swap for Luke Voit – will be available out of the St. Louis bullpen. With the playoff race nearing its apex, Gallegos isn’t likely to see a lot of usage, but an extra arm never hurts this time of year.
- Trezza also tweeted that Cards manager Mike Shildt expects Bud Norris (blister) to be available out out of the pen tonight. Norris was pulled in the 7th inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers last Sunday when the blister surfaced. Though the deposed closer has struggled at times this year, he figures to be an important piece of the puzzle in the final week. With the final six games against the division-rival Brewers and Cubs, there figure to be more than enough high-leverage, heart-pounding situations to go around – even if he’s not closing games.
- In a separate piece from Goold, Cardinals president of baseball ops John Mozeliak confirms some items of interest about the club’s future bullpen. Namely, current closer Carlos Martinez will indeed return to the starting rotation next season. A tight rehab timeline, coupled with the team’s needs, prompted Martinez’s move to the pen late this year. While it has worked out quite well thus far, however, it seems more happy accident than long-term strategy.
- Speaking of the late-inning mix, flame-throwing rookie Jordan Hicks will have no restrictions the rest of the way because of the built-in days off. Though he’s still roughly 25 innings shy of his total innings tally from last season, when he was pitching as a starter in the minors, Hicks has still been relied upon rather heavily in 2018. Pitching every couple of days is a different animal, as is the pressure the 22-year-old faces as a late-innings reliever in a pennant race. Regardless, Shildt will have unfettered access to his young fireballer as the Cardinals try to lock down a spot in the playoffs.
- As Goold also covers, the Cardinals have no intention of altering their starting rotation for the final week of the season. It’ll be Austin Gomber, Jack Flaherty, and John Gant facing off against Milwaukee starting Monday.