Jon Rauch didn't make much of a lasting impression as a reliever during his brief and largely forgettable stay with the Marlins. But he might have made a significant contribution in a way that went unnoticed.
Marcell Ozuna said Rauch improved his throwing accuracy by changing the way the outfielder grips the baseball. Rauch told Ozuna he would receive better results if he threw a two-seamer with the palm of his hand "behind the seams." That slight adjustment flattened Ozuna's throws.
"The ball was diving before," Ozuna said. "Jon Rauch told me to grab the ball with the seams behind. I saw the difference right away. The ball went straight, straight, straight -- no movement."
Ozuna recorded his eighth outfield assist on Tuesday when he threw out the Braves' Chris Johnson at the plate. Only Arizona's Gerardo Parra and Colorado's Carlos Gonzalez -- with nine assists each -- have more. The Marlins team record of 20 outfield assists was set in 1998 by Mark Kotsay.
Rauch isn't the only person Ozuna credits with helping him defensively, and with his throwing, in particular. He said Marlins minor league outfield coordinator Tarrik Brock instilled in him the need to always hit the cutoff man and Marlins front office assistant and Hall of Fame outfielder Andre Dawson improved his footwork.
"Before I made a lot of mistakes when I threw because I threw high and the ball had a lot of movement," Ozuna said. "I worked on that during the offseason in winter ball, and then Rauch told me how to grip the ball to make it flat."