Braves notes: Ozuna has fun at first; prospect recovering from Tommy John surgery

Braves designated hitter Marcell Ozuna smiles as he walks to the baseball field during the first full-squad spring training workout at CoolToday Park, Tuesday, February, 20, 2024, in North Port, Florida. (Hyosub Shin /



Braves designated hitter Marcell Ozuna smiles as he walks to the baseball field during the first full-squad spring training workout at CoolToday Park, Tuesday, February, 20, 2024, in North Port, Florida. (Hyosub Shin /

NORTH PORT, Fla. — One reason that spring training is fun is because it contains many non-serious things.

On Tuesday, during the Braves’ first full-squad workout, Marcell Ozuna played … first base. And he didn’t just catch throws to first.

No, he was fielding grounders, turning and firing to second. He did the drills behind starting first baseman Matt Olson.

“I just think it’s a good way to get him active and keep him moving, and it’s good exercise,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “I’m gonna get him in some games there, just to be doing something other than just DH’ing.”

You heard it: We could see Ozuna at first base in spring training games.

Ozuna worked at first base last year. He started at first base for one team when the Braves held the pre-postseason intrasquad games in October. He’s also done drills at first.

And apparently …

“He’s OK,” Snitker said, indicating Ozuna isn’t bad there. “His hands are good. He looked good last year, so I told him after the season was over before we left that I was gonna do that with him. We’ll see how it works out and where it goes.”

Unfortunately for Ozuna, Olson plays every day. The Braves (knock on wood) won’t need another first baseman.

In 2017, Ozuna won a Gold Glove as a Marlins outfielder. In 2024, he’ll be the Braves’ primary designated hitter.

But hey, it doesn’t hurt to work on something else.

McCabe undergoes Tommy John surgery

Braves prospect David McCabe, who played in the Arizona Fall League in 2023, underwent Tommy John surgery in early February, according to a person familiar with the situation. He’s now rehabbing.

McCabe, a third baseman and first baseman, was playing catch this offseason and felt something in his elbow.

Tommy John surgery, which is most common in pitchers, is used to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament.

The Braves don’t release injury timelines for minor leaguers. But there are other position players who have undergone the surgery.

Bryce Harper returned to play less than six months after Tommy John surgery, which is reportedly the fastest return by a major leaguer who underwent the surgery. He’s the exception – not the rule. When Braves catcher Travis d’Arnaud underwent the procedure as a Met, it took him around a year to return to game action.

McCabe, a switch-hitter who is 23, rose to High-A in 2023. At Low-A and High-A combined, he had an .835 OPS with 17 home runs and 75 RBIs.

McCabe ranked No. 14 on MLB Pipeline’s list of the top Braves prospects at the end of last season. There were four position players ahead of him.

Last year, the Braves allowed McCabe to be an everyday third baseman to get reps. He felt he improved, even if it was a work in progress.

Winans dealing with back spasms

Allan Winans, a depth starter for the Braves, is dealing with muscle spasms in his lower back.

“Being a rotating athlete, it’s something that we have to deal with,” Winans said. “But we got a phenomenal training staff and a lot of guys to (help us). Doing better every day.”

Winans has been playing catch. He hasn’t thrown a bullpen session since first feeling the lower-back spasms during his first side session in North Port.

Winans started dealing with this at the alternate site ahead of last year’s postseason. He spent a lot of time in physical therapy during the offseason, and his back felt great.

Then …

“A little bit of travel, some downtime here, getting hot, getting cold and getting hot again, it grabbed a little bit in my first bullpen,” Winans said. “Nothing too crazy. Just some muscle spasms. I think a lot of people can relate to some back issues. Just getting through it like the rest of us.”

There’s a competition for the fifth spot in the rotation this spring. Unless he blows away everyone, Winans probably is on the outside looking in because the Braves have a lot of talented options. Reynaldo Lopez, Bryce Elder, AJ Smith-Shawver and Huascar Ynoa appear to be the main competitors, though the Braves have shown they’ll take the best-performing player.