ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals manager Mike Matheny was intentional on Tuesday afternoon when he sought out Matt Adams to praise the first baseman for his attitude and work ethic during a month in which playing opportunities have been limited. That reinforcement, Matheny hoped, would assure Adams that the team still sees a fit for him.
Three days later, Adams further reinforced that value.
With some previous success against Stephen Strasburg working in his favor, Adams drew his eighth start of the season on Friday and parlayed it into a three-RBI night. Though the Cardinals dropped their series opener to the Nationals, 5-4, Adams reinforced his place on a team that has rotated first basemen throughout the season's first month.
"That kind of took my confidence to another level, knowing that they still think I can help this team out a lot," Adams said of his recent conversation with Matheny. "We've been playing well with the guys we have been running out there, so I'm accepting my role right now and making sure I stay ready."
Adams saw the depth chart crystallizing as Spring Training played out. The club had another left-handed first baseman in Brandon Moss and a new first-base option in Matt Holliday. Furthermore, Adams' lack of defensive versatility would be limiting. A slow April start only seemed to bury him more.
But while others drew starts, Adams went about his pregame work with more intensity so that he could be productive when an opportunity came. It showed on Friday, as he helped the Cardinals to an early lead with an RBI single off Strasburg and then pulled the club to within one late with an opposite-field home run. It had been two weeks since he had driven in a run.
"The biggest thing for me is making sure I stay ready and know whenever my name is called, I know I'll be ready," Adams said. "I'm getting my cage work in and then taking BP a little bit more intentionally, focusing on just seeing the ball and hitting it where it's pitched instead of trying to hit homers in BP. It's going good right now."
Where his two hits went on Friday was notable, too. After focusing so much on using the whole field during Spring Training, Adams lined his single through a hole at short created by a defensive shift, and he poked his home run over the wall in left.
It was just the second opposite-field home run of Adams' career.
"He's done a great job of just really staying positive and getting his work," Matheny said. "I still see him as a guy who can play every day in this league and be an impact player. He needs to still see that, too."
Adams added a handful of nice defensive plays to further highlight what was statistically his best game of the season.
"The thing for me is being able to minimize [concerns about playing time] because I know it's out of my control," Adams said. "I'm just making sure I make the most of my opportunities when my name is called."