Ozuna looking to land job in Marlins' outfield
Now healthy, 23-year-old is bidding to win starting position in center
JUPITER, Fla. -- Thumb taped and covered by a batting glove, Marcell Ozuna steps into the batters' box without any hesitation on the back fields at Roger Dean Stadium.
Upbeat and enthusiastic as ever, baseball is fun and games all over again for Ozuna.
In the middle of last season, the 23-year-old found himself dealing with a painful thumb injury, which required surgery and ended his season in late July.
Healthy, Ozuna is a frontrunner to win the Marlins' starting center field job.
"I feel OK," Ozuna said. "I feel ready to make the team, and have a good season."
Ozuna injured his thumb making a diving catch against the Rockies at Coors Field. The diagnosis was a ligament tear and an avulsion fracture.
In October, he was cleared to play winter ball in the Dominican Republic, where he played in 34 games and batted .277 with two homers and 12 RBIs in 141 at-bats.
Admittedly, Ozuna had some concerns when he first faced live pitching.
"I was a little scared," he said. "I was thinking the ball was going to hit me. But after one week passed, I felt better."
Now, in Spring Training the only sign that he had a thumb issue is the extra layer of tape he wears.
Power is expected to be part of Ozuna's game. But it is developing. In 70 big league games, he batted .265 with three homers and 32 RBIs.
Before he was called up from Double-A Jacksonville, he belted five homers in 10 games.
Ozuna's big league promotion came the day after Giancarlo Stanton went on the disabled list with a strained hamstring.
"He came up and did a nice job for us filling in," manager Mike Redmond said. "When Stanton was hurt, he played right. He plays a great right field. We asked him to move to center to keep his bat in the lineup. It was a fairly easy transition for him.
"For a guy who doesn't profile as your prototypical center fielder, body-wise, he did a nice job covering ground. He's got a great arm. He does give us that flexibility where he can play left field, center field and right field. We'll see how he does out there in Spring Training. He could be a good weapon for us."
Hatcher understands time to impress is now
JUPITER, Fla. -- It wasn't until the day before Spring Training started that Chris Hatcher knew for sure he would be in camp with the Marlins.
Hatcher was designated for assignment on Feb. 11 to make 40-man roster space for reliever Carlos Marmol. Four days later, the 29-year-old right-hander was outrighted to Triple-A New Orleans and invited to Spring Training as a non-roster invitee.
"It's a business," Hatcher said. "It's not like it came as a surprise. They've given me plenty of chances and I haven't proven myself yet. I feel like I still have an opportunity to make the ballclub. I'm not going to treat it any differently than if I were on the roster.
"I'm going to go about my business every day as I have been doing. Whatever happens happens."
The Marlins have a couple of relief positions open, and Hatcher is striving to win one of them.
A converted catcher, Hatcher has been pitching for three seasons. He's enjoyed success in the Minors, posting a career 2.26 ERA in 163 innings, plus 50 saves in 57 chances.
But Hatcher hasn't been able to achieve any sustainable success in the big leagues.
He's seen action with the Marlins in parts of three straight seasons, dating to 2011. His numbers have been shaky in 29 games, and 33 2/3 innings. His ERA is 7.22, and in 2013, his ERA was 12.46 in 8 2/3 innings.
In the early stages of Spring Training, Hatcher has been gaining some notice. He's establishing a downward plane on his fastball, and he is seeing better results.
When he's encountered trouble, his front elbow rotated, causing his back elbow to drop. The combination resulted in elevated pitches.
"When you get under the ball, the ball starts riding on you a little bit," Hatcher said.
Still, Hatcher is striving for a balance. He notes he's attained success in the Minors pitching up in the zone.
"I had some success in the Minor Leagues pitching up in the zone," Hatcher said. "If you can drive the ball down, down, down and then you change eye level with a high heater, and then you come back with some offspeed, it's helpful."
• A few days after the Marlins relaxed their policy on facial hair, manager Mike Redmond is showing stubble. Sunday was his second day without a shave. Redmond said he has never had a beard and that he is waiting to see if he can tolerate the itching he assumes will happen. Moreover, his wife isn't due into camp for a while.
• No. 3 starter Henderson Alvarez took most of Sunday off as he arrived at camp feeling ill. He had thrown a live batting practiced session on Saturday. His illness and his pitching on Saturday were unrelated.
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.