Ozuna steps into spotlight with lights on

MIAMI — Don’t always put too much on Spring Training performances. If you do, you may make some mistakes in evaluations.

Marcell Ozuna is a prime example. The 23-year-old entered camp as the frontrunner to win the Marlins’ center field job. But for much of Spring Training he struggled at the plate, and he finished with a .177 average in Grapefruit League play.

More than the numbers, Ozuna had some holes in his swing he needed to correct. He was overly aggressive and had his timing off. Until the final 10 days or so, the club considered sending him to Triple-A to open the season.

But in the final week and a half, Ozuna picked things up. He ended up winning the center field job, and on Monday night, Ozuna stepped up with a huge night, going 3-for-4 with a home run, single and double in Miami’s 10-1 win over the Rockies.

“We talk about it all the time, Spring Training is not always a springboard to the season,” manager Mike Redmond said. “I always talk about the lights. When the lights come on, you see what guys are made up. Today, O-Zo came out, and had a big night.”

Ozuna was a teammate of Jose Fernandez in the Minor Leagues, and the two are close friends. Before Monday’s game, Fernandez gave his buddy some advice.

“O-Zo and I have an incredible relationship,” Fernandez said. “We played in the Minor Leagues together. Today, I walked into the clubhouse, and I told him, ‘I just want you to do something, take it easy, relax.’ He’s incredible. His ability is incredible. It came out perfectly. I am so happy seeing guys have success. Everybody is working hard. Everybody wants to impress. We want to prove we’re a team, and we can play baseball.”

Joe Frisaro

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