(Busch Stadium) The power is back for Randal Grichuk. Over the last 11 games, the St. Louis Cardinals centerfielder has hit .325 (13-40) with all but one of his hits going for extra bases–six doubles, a triple, and five home runs.
Not bad production since his recall from Memphis (AAA), which also happens to coincide with his manager telling him to just be himself without having to worry about coming out of the lineup.
“Just knowing that I can go out there and kind of play my game and be who I am and not try to do something else, it definitely gives you the confidence to go out there and play.”
Who Randal Grichuk is as a hitter can in part be defined as one that is seeking to barrel up and hit the ball hard–regardless of a strikeout.
“I think swings and misses are part of my game, it’s going to happen,” he explained. “But just barreling balls up in the strike zone and not letting the swings and misses outside of the strike zone affect the next swing and the next pitch that’s in the zone.”
Earlier in the day, his manager had elaborated on Randal now being allowed to be himself.
“The ability that he’s starting to have to let things go, which is part of that process–young players,” said Mike Matheny. “I think he’s trusting himself. He’s trusting the process because that’s where he is in his career right now, it’s him figuring out that process of what an at-bat should look like. Then trusting the fact…that the results will be there if you don’t give up on the process. The talent he has is going to eventually produce and he’s an exciting player.”
Is it the process or could the assurance of regular playing time also be a large contributor?
“Maybe,” acknowledged Matheny. “He needed to go through this progression. He needed, unfortunately–he’s not going to like me saying this, he needed a couple of trips to Memphis. It’s just part of the learning curve. It’s never fun and I know he’s hoping that never happens again, but he learned things about himself that he probably wouldn’t have been able to here.
“Where we were earlier in the season, we didn’t have the freedom to just let him play. We had other guys that were earning those opportunities to play. It’s just worked out now, mostly with Holly going down, it’s created more opportunity for Randal and for us to say it’s time to let him go.
“I still stand behind the fact, we haven’t necessarily said you’re going to be in there every single day but I did want him to have some of that freedom as you see September creeping up on us, it’s a different part of the year and now we just let it go. I think some of that really did sink in with him, but more importantly than anything else I think he learned from the adversity that he’s had for the majority of the season.”
One could argue the recent success is from the combination of continuing to refine the bat slot for his swing during the first option to Memphis with the mental relief of now playing almost every day.
“Yeah, I guess you could say that,” agreed Grichuk. “That first time when I got sent down, I was still trying to figure out what felt comfortable up top. I think I came up here and I did pretty well and I started feeling for it a little bit too much. I felt like I had the mechanics part down, but I still was trying to feel for the ball–trying to get hits, trying to get the outer jump. Not going out there and just swinging and seeing what happened.”
Matheny explained in part why the scenario did not exist earlier in the season, but what if it had? What if Randal Grichuk had been told weeks ago to just be himself? Would it have made as much of a difference then without the lessons learned in Memphis?
“I don’t know, that’s a tough question,” answered Grichuk. “That’s a real tough question. It’s one of those, we’ll never know I guess.”
photo credit: Bill Greenblatt/UPI, Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports