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Ozuna makes winning look easy

Marcell Ozuna

Marcell Ozuna [Bill Greenblatt/UPI photo]

Marcell Ozuna and Mike Matheny share a common goal: get to the post season.

Adding a player like Ozuna will help.

The former Miami Marlin described the Cardinals as “a good team that may get in the playoffs.”

“That team [the Cardinals] fights every year for the playoffs. That, I like,” he said.

Matheny likes Ozuna. “I think our organization did a great job of being very aggressive, even kind of outside our norm [in aquiring the two-time All-Star selection],” Matheny said. His addition bolsters both the Cardinals offense and defense.

Last season, the 27-year-old outfielder batted .312 with 37 home runs and 124 RBIs for the Marlins. He had a .376 on-base percentage, a .548 slugging average and an OPS of .924. All were career bests. He also earned a Gold Glove Award – his first.

The Cardinals acquired Ozuna in exchange for minor league outfielder Magneuris Sierra and pitching prospects Sandy Alcantara, Zac Gallen and Daniel Castano.

“I think the most interesting internal debates we’ve had is when you look at our position players. They’re all good, but we needed great,” Cardinals President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak said. “We were able to do that with Ozuna and we think … he’s going to pull some people up with him.

“Whenever I watched him, I was like, ‘He could be so good.’ What do great players do that other players don’t? When they do things, they make it look easy. He always had a quick bat, would hit the ball hard, and I always just sort of wondered why he didn’t do more. Clearly, last year, he did.”

The outfielder from the Dominican Republic set career-bests nearly across the board last year – and he did so while playing largely in the shadow of former teammate Giancarlo Stanton and his major league-best 59 home runs. As good as Ozuna was offensively last season, he also won the Gold Glove in left field – where he’ll play with the Cardinals in an outfield that’s expected to feature Tommy Pham in center and Dexter Fowler in right.

Pitcher Adam Wainwright is glad to see Ozuna sporting a Cardinals uniform.

“I love having him. Looking back at our game with the Marlins last year, we patterned our game around Ozuna,” Wainwright said. “I mean they had some great young players but, at the time, he was the hottest guy in that lineup. He’s improved so much over the last two years. He’s an incredibly big, strong guy.

“Talent-wise, he is one of the best hitters in the National League and one of the toughest outs in the National League.”

Starter Luke Weaver is glad he doesn’t have to pitch to Ozuna anymore.

“He’s a stud,” Weaver said. “I don’t want to face him.”

Tommy Pham added, “I was in Florida when I heard about it and I was pumped. He killed us. He killed us this past season. He hit all of our pitchers and he used the whole field. He won a Gold Glove. He’s a guy who can impact the game not only offensively but defensively.”

Ozuna’s longtime friends Yadier Molina and Carlos Martinez have long teased him about bringing his skills to St. Louis.

“Marcell Ozuna is one of the best players in the National League,” Molina said. “I’m happy with that.”

For his part, Ozuna said he feels no added pressure as the big bat to the middle of the lineup.

“There’s no pressure. Just play the game, enjoy the game and have fun,” Ozuna said. “If you have fun and your family is OK, you’re going to play well … Being in the lineup is the best part. Hitting eighth or leadoff, it’s being in the lineup that’s important to me. Playing every day makes me feel happy.”

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