Cardinals turning power back on with long ball

Three home runs in two games gives Matheny something to joke about

Cardinals turning power back on with long ball

JUPITER, Fla. -- As he tired of the regular questions about his team's lack of power last season, manager Mike Matheny turned a stale topic into one he addressed with sarcasm. He'd quip, tongue-in-cheek of course, that he told his players not to hit home runs.

And so it was after the Cardinals went deep twice in Sunday's 5-2 win over Miami that Matheny, when asked about the pair of long balls, flipped his philosophy and deadpanned: "We like homers."

A club that ranked last in home runs last season with 105 was helped by two on Sunday, both from players elbowing for a spot on the Major League bench. Tommy Pham, two days after a four-hit performance, celebrated his 27th birthday with a two-run shot in the seventh. Four batters later, Randal Grichuk followed with another two-run blast.

It was the second home run in three spring at-bats for Grichuk, who has hushed any lingering concerns about the lower back soreness that limited him earlier in camp.

Here are additional news and notes from the day:

• Two-time Gold Glove winner Jason Heyward provided an early defensive highlight when he made a sliding catch on the edge of the bullpen mound in right-field foul territory. Matheny said it wasn't until Heyward "got up and tipped his cap and walked away" that he was assured Heyward wasn't hurt.

"I think he's only got one gear and it's full out," Matheny said. "It's a pleasure to watch him do that, [but] I see him diving into the mound and I'm not breathing for a couple seconds."

• Having already planned to get Kolten Wong one at-bat in the game, Matheny inserted Wong into the game as a fourth-inning pinch-runner so Wong could also take the opportunity to steal a base. Wong, who has said he would like to improve his baserunning leads and jumps this year, swiped second successfully.

At the plate, he went 0-for-2 with two strikeouts and is now hitless in his first seven spring at-bats.

"He was only supposed to get one at-bat," Matheny said. "He wanted the second one, too, which is nice to see. He'll get his timing right and locked in."

• Just as he's been splitting time at first and third during spring drills, Mark Reynolds logged innings at both corner infield spots in the game. Reynolds is slated to be the primary backup at both positions, though the Cardinals expect most of his appearances to come as a first baseman.

• Matheny confirmed that left-hander Marco Gonzales will get at least one more start as he auditions for a spot in the Cardinals' rotation or bullpen. Gonzales will next take the mound on Wednesday when the Cardinals travel to face the Braves in Orlando, Fla.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB and like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.