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Ozuna trained with star players in offseason


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JUPITER, Fla. -- On any given day in the offseason, it's basically a "who's who" of big league talent that gathers at Robinson Cano's baseball academy in San Pedro de Macoris in the Dominican Republic.


Cano -- the All-Star second baseman with the Mariners -- opens his place up to his friends, and there's no shortage of star power that trains in his gym and on his field. Among the regulars is Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna, a fellow Dominican.


Ozuna's training partners were often Edwin Encarnacion, Jean Segura, Eduardo Nunez, Leonys Martin, Carlos Santana and Welington Castillo. Yasiel Puig has also stopped by to hit.


"Monday through Friday," Ozuna, 26, said. "There was like seven or eight of us."


In the mornings, they'd be in the weight room. Before noon, they took the field.


The past few years, Ozuna talked hitting with Cano. The advice and training routine paid off as Ozuna was an All-Star for the first time in 2016. After Yoenis Cespedes and Dexter Fowler withdrew due to injuries, Ozuna started in center field for the National League in San Diego.


"It was one of the best days I've ever had in my career," Ozuna said. "My mom and dad were there. My wife, my sister, my family."


Ozuna went 1-for-2 with an RBI single in the NL's 4-2 loss to the American League.


The All-Star appearance is a reminder of Ozuna's potential impact. In the first half, his slash line was an impressive .307/.360/.533 with 17 home runs and 47 RBIs.


"He plays with a smile," manager Don Mattingly said. "He loves to play. He wants to be out there. He's not a guy that's looking for days off, ever."


But after the All-Star break, it was clear that Ozuna's game still is a work in progress. His second-half numbers were .209/.267/.342 with six homers and 29 RBIs. For the season, he finished .266/.321/.452 with 23 home runs and 76 RBIs.


"I think everything is a learning process," Mattingly said. "He had the big first half, and after the All-Star Game, he seemed to struggle. I think all of that is part of the process of learning. Playing the full season, the consistency we're looking for, and how do we prepare for that? How do we deal with all of that?"


Foremost in taking the next step, Ozuna needs to stay healthy. He came into Spring Training with some mild right shoulder tightness. It's nothing serious, and he's participating in all drills. But he won't play on Saturday in the Grapefruit League opener against the Cardinals.


"I just wanted to give him an extra day," Mattingly said. "It's pretty much as simple as that with him."


Ozuna also is starting off in a different position than last Spring Training. He's switched with Christian Yelich, who is now in center, with Ozuna in left.


Mattingly added Ozuna will play all over the outfield, occasionally seeing time in center and right.


"His defense in left field was Gold Glove-quality," Mattingly said. "When we moved him out there, his numbers came back really, really good. He's a weapon for us out there."





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