KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- It was a "need-a-double-take" moment last week, with Randal Grichuk peeking his head into the Cardinals' clubhouse and urging his teammates to follow him to the multi-purpose room of the Spring Training complex.
"Time for Pilates!" Grichuk exclaimed.
Sure enough, a gaggle of players followed him out of the room and spent the next hour participating in a group-exercise class led by a St. Louis-area instructor. It was one of four sessions she hosted that day, two before the team worked out and two after.
"Guys are loving it," infielder Greg Garcia said the next day. "I think it's a way for us to get in there with an instructor and just sit down and stretch. Baseball players are always like, 'We have to go hit. We have to go throw. We have to go run.' We don't take that time to stretch like we should. So to have an organized class where a lady is telling you what to do is, I think, going to be beneficial to us, because sometimes we don't even know what to stretch."
General manager John Mozeliak said manager Mike Matheny approached him with a request to offer Pilates as an option activity in the team's workouts this spring. Mozeliak agreed, seeing this as another methodology to explore as the organization tries to improve its performance program, now headed by Dr. Robert Butler.
Butler, who was most recently a clinical scientist and professor at Duke University, started his new position with the Cardinals on Feb. 1. He has been tasked with helping the organization better understand how training, nutrition and fatigue can play a role in player performance.
The Pilates classes the Cardinals held this spring were a test case of sorts to see if players embraced the new approach of flexibility and core-strengthening training. With much of the feedback positive, the Cardinals plan to make sessions available to players during the season.
Mozeliak said the organization has not yet determined whether a Pilates instructor will come to the stadium to hold classes or whether they will be done via videos or a live stream.
"It's definitely tougher than you think," Grichuk said after his second Pilates class. "I feel like it's going to be a good way to stretch and have the mobility work that you don't get by just lifting weights."
Grichuk, who twice strained his back weightlifting last season, added that he would be interested in continuing with Pilates throughout the season. So does Kolten Wong.
"I love it," said Wong, who participates in yoga and Pilates classes on his own in the offseason. "I've always been a guy who prides myself in being agile, and Pilates gives you the option of getting all the little muscles stretched out. I'm definitely a big advocate of it."
Even Matheny stepped into class one morning to see what the new clubhouse craze was all about.
"You're sweating pretty good and feeling it," Matheny said afterward. "Really focusing on the core, which is so important for what we do. There's a strength component to it as well. The guys are responding well."