Ozuna moving past injury, eyeing next year

Ozuna moving past injury, eyeing next year

Ozuna moving past injury, eyeing next year

MIAMI -- Although Marcell Ozuna's season ended prematurely because of injury, he aims to make up for lost time playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic.

"I'm playing winter ball so I can get ready for next season and Spring Training," Ozuna said. "Then, I can make the team."

The outfielder was optioned to Double-A Jacksonville on July 22 but had season-ending surgery on a left thumb ligament tear four days later. He sustained the injury on a diving catch in a 3-1 win against the Rockies on July 22.

One week removed from surgery, Ozuna has already noticed improvement.

"It's great; it's OK," Ozuna said. "I feel like I'm getting better, and I'm working on that and then be ready for next year."

At the time of Ozuna's injury, he was slumping at the plate. He batted .214 (33-for-154) from June 4 to July 22, a stretch that dropped his clip from .336 to .265.

Ozuna and Derek Dietrich, who was also slumping at the time, were optioned to Jacksonville on July 22 to make room for Christian Yelich and Jake Marisnick.

After bringing both players up to the Majors ahead of schedule because of injuries to Giancarlo Stanton and Donovan Solano, the Marlins wanted to allow Ozuna and Dietrich to continue to develop their skills with the Suns.

"Those kids did an incredible job," president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said on July 23. "We rushed them here to the big leagues out of need; they had very little to almost no Double-A experience, and they did a great job for us."

Although Ozuna's injury will limit him physically until he begins winter ball, his eventual return to the field will allow the 22-year-old to get back to the skills that make him a key piece of Miami's future.

Ozuna leads the Marlins with eight outfield assists, sporting the arm, the athleticism and the experience to provide Miami with a rock-solid option in right field or center field.

Winter ball will help further develop a bat that showed plenty of life in the Majors with three homers, 32 RBIs, 17 doubles and four triples in 275 at-bats.

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter