While not as dramatic as the weight loss by teammate Matt Adams, add Stephen Piscotty to the list of St. Louis Cardinals that has working on a physical transformation this off-season.
“This is far and away the best I’ve felt athletically coming into any season,” he explained in a phone interview on The Brian Stull Show on WGNU 920AM. “Everything’s clicking for me this year, so I feel really good about it. Kind of heard the call from the Cardinals to get a little bit more athletic, so I’m trying to do my part and I’m really looking forward to getting after it.”
What does getting “a little bit more athletic” entail?
“For me, I need to get a little more explosive,” explained Piscotty, who trains at Sparta Science near his home in California. “I’m doing powerful movements–front squats, deadlifts, and pretty much trying to do low reps but a lot of weight. Just trying to get more explosive.
Agility and more speed work have also been a focus of his training.
“I am definitely a little bit heavier–the cool part about that, is it’s all been really good weight,” said Piscotty, who now weighs in at 217lbs after finishing last season at about 21o.. “My body fat is going down, but the muscle is going up. My weight is going up. Like I said, I’m just really excited.”
So with the added muscle, is there a noticeable difference in his power at the plate?
“That’s a good question,” answered Piscotty with a qualification. “I feel like I have and I’ve noticed that every offseason I have that feeling. You’re not playing everyday so all you have to do is go to the cage and you don’t have conserve any energy for a game later. I’ve noticed that pretty much every offseason the ball feels really electric, it just goes to show you if you’re rested and healthy you’re just naturally going to perform better and hit the ball farther. My answer is yes, but I’ve had that feeling before and it’s a good feeling and I’m going to continue at it.”
Besides the difference in strength, Piscotty also gives credit to a tweak in his swing.
“We saw a few things during the year that I wanted to clean up–not a huge overhaul, but definitely work to be done,” he shared.
“A couple of things that Mabry and I have talked about, I’m really starting to clean up now. It’s one thing to do it in the cage, it’s going to be another to get in some game situations in Spring Training and work through that. I’m very happy with where it’s at, the ball feels very good coming off the bat right now and hopefully, yeah, I’ll have a little more power. But it’s not a complete overhaul like I did a couple of off-seasons ago.”
Don’t expect the difference to be visible to the naked eye during an at-bat.
“It’s a pretty small movement–it has to do to with my wrists and not breaking them too soon, where I roll over pitches that I want to keep my barrel in the zone for longer,” continued Piscotty. “Even for me, I have to have the super sl0-mo on my IPhone going in order to see if I’m doing it correctly. It’s a very small thing, but it’s got a big impact on consistency and hopefully ball flight and how far it goes.”
The slo-mo video has been sent back to St. Louis for Mabry to review.
“I’ve sent him probably too much video, but he’s so great about taking a look and weighing in,” said Piscotty. “I’m actually going to try and find some time during this weekend coming up for the Fan Fest, to get in the cage a little bit and let him see it in person and kind of refine what’s going on so I can finish strong these last three or four weeks.”
So with the added muscle, ball jumping off the bat, and refined swing–plus the addition of Dexter Fowler at the top of the lineup, what about the idea of Piscotty batting cleanup or near the middle of the order this season?
“I’m ready for anything–it’s not going to change how I approach what I’m doing,” reiterated Piscotty, who has spoken before about a willingness to bat anywhere. “It just doesn’t really matter to me where I’m hitting.”
“I’d absolutely love to bat cleanup. If there’s a spot that Mike thinks I should be in, I’m just going to do it. Pretty simple as that. I’ve kind of said, the first time through the order, yeah you might bat with runners on but once that game gets going, I’ve batted fourth many times last year and I ended up leading off three of the four at-bats. Other than that first time through, I don’t think it matters much, but that’s just my opinion. So yeah, wherever I’m hitting–I’m hitting. It’s not going to effect me much.”
“I’ve actually been throwing the football more than I ever have,” he explained. “Trying to develop some rhythm. I feel like last year there was a little bit of a disconnect between kind of setting my feet and getting in the right position to throw. I felt I had the arm strength, but I wasn’t making very accurate throws so I’m trying to break that down a little bit and rebuild. I found the football to help get my timing and stuff has really, really helped.”
Piscotty will be part of the Cardinals Caravan that is stopping in Springfield, Joplin, and Rolla. He will then sign autographs from 2-4pm on Sunday at the Winter Warm-Up.
photo credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports, Bill Greenblatt/UPI,