Adams uses small ball to beat shift

Adams uses small ball to beat shift

ST. LOUIS -- Having opposing defenses shift him to pull the ball has become so commonplace that Matt Adams says he doesn't even notice it much anymore. That doesn't mean, however, he isn't out to exploit it.

Adams laid down the second successful bunt single of his career in Monday's 10-3 victory over the Phillies, showing off the technique he improved with increased repetition this spring. After years of listening to his manager urge him to consider foiling the shift with a bunt down the third-base line, Adams has begun to buy into the philosophy.

"I'm feeling more comfortable with it this year, for sure," Adams said. "If it's that open [on the left side], I'm going to try it."

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It's not just about the immediate result, either. While Monday's two-out bunt extended an inning, it also altered the Phillies' defensive alignment against Adams in his later plate appearances. In showing that he can lay down a bunt, Adams may draw the third baseman closer to his natural position and therefore open up another hole elsewhere.

The shift, of course, was irrelevant to Adams later in the game when he connected for his third home run of the season.

Gaining the confidence to bunt was part of a larger focus this spring for Adams, who believed he had fallen into bad habits last season that precluded him from hitting many balls the opposite way. In 60 games last season, Adams hit 16 balls to left field.

Correcting that has required Adams to stay on his back foot longer so that he has more time before committing with a swing. There has been some subsequent diversity to his spray chart, with Adams hitting seven balls to left field, 17 to center and eight to right in the team's first 26 games this season.

"It's something I'm happy that he's working on," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "It's nice to be rewarded for that approach because it's the right approach.

Adams, who entered the season with one career home run to left field, has already hit another.

"I think I'm in a good spot," Adams said. "I feel like I'm seeing the ball good, and I'm letting the ball get to where I need to be able to drive it instead of just flick it over there to left field. Everything is falling into the right spots."

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB, like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.