JUPITER, Fla. -- While manager Mike Matheny's static spring lineups have eliminated any suspense as to where he'll fit right fielder Jason Heyward into the Opening Day batting order, there are still unknowns about the sort of production Heyward will provide from that No. 2 spot.
Three seasons ago, Heyward profiled as a middle-of-the-order threat, slugging a career-best .479 and driving home 82 runs. Last year, Heyward posted decreased power numbers but also the highest on-base percentage (.351) of his career.
Asked to describe his ideal two-hole hitter, Matheny cites the same characteristics he does when discussing a player who profiles to hit third. Matheny has emphasized that to Heyward, too, telling the outfielder that he wants him to carry a run-producing mentality from a place in the order that is sometimes set aside more for a table setter.
"I've been talking to him about the psychological approach to batting second," Matheny explained. "I told him [on Tuesday], 'I don't know that there's going to be a time this year when I'm going to tell you to give yourself up to get the runner over. I want you driving the ball. I want you with that mindset. You're going to get the runner over at times when you mishit a ball, but I don't want that being your thing, to give up an out. I want you smoking it, no matter where they pitch it.'"
That's the sort of approach that Heyward has said he let himself pull back from when the Braves needed him as a leadoff hitter.
While the Cardinals are hopeful of freeing Heyward's power potential, at this point in spring, the right fielder has shown little of it. Heyward has a hit in seven of his nine starts, but all seven hits have been singles. He actually has some company in that regard, as two other projected everyday position players -- Matt Carpenter and Yadier Molina -- are also still seeking their first extra-base hit. Another, center fielder Jon Jay, has not yet made his Grapefruit League debut. Kolten Wong connected for his first on Thursday.
Though the Cardinals are still waiting for Heyward to showcase his ability to drive the ball, they have taken note of his aggressive baserunning and defensive range in right field.
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.