Grichuk's new approach paying dividends

Grichuk's new approach paying dividends

ST. LOUIS -- Prior to the All-Star break, the Cardinals' outfield situation was murky. With an overflow of players for the three positions, there were questions about how the group would look as the team moved forward.

But with the re-emergence of Randal Grichuk as a consistent offensive weapon alongside a healthy Dexter Fowler and a still surging Tommy Pham, the outfield is no longer surrounded by question marks. Grichuk put together his fifth two-hit day in the last six games in Sunday's 6-3 loss to the Braves and has earned his starting role.

"Mechanically, I feel good," Grichuk said. "I'm trying to stay within an approach that I take up to the plate. I feel like I've done a good job of that and not trying to think about what [the pitcher is] going to do to me, what he's trying to throw to me, and try to hit his pitch."

The road to consistency hasn't come easily. Earlier this year, Grichuk was sent down to the Minor Leagues for about a month to work with hitting coach Mark Budaska on his swing and mental approach to the game. He also dealt with a strained lower back, which forced him to the 10-day disabled list in the middle of July.

Things seem to be finally falling into place for Grichuk, and his numbers reflect it. During the Cardinals' eight-game winning streak, which ended with Sunday's loss, Grichuk hit .375 with three doubles, one triple, one homer and seven RBIs. He has elevated his average from .228 at the start of the streak to its current .243.

Part of what has helped is a mindset that he carries into at-bats that he didn't quite have earlier this season or last.

"There's a lot of things that you say and do in here that don't necessarily click, even though you're saying it or doing it," Grichuk said. "It really stuck with me this time going down, about hunting your pitch and sitting on what you want to hit and not worrying about if the pitch is a strike -- who cares? And if he strikes you out on it, [it] doesn't matter. Stay with your approach and your plan and swing at good pitches and you should be all right. ... I think I'm in a good place mentally, and swing-wise it feels good."

In addition, Grichuk is using a shorter swing, which has helped him hit better. He has hit 11 of his 15 home runs this season since working on his approach.

"[He has] just a really good approach, not trying to do too much, and a nice short swing," manager Mike Matheny said. "I think we're seeing him learn. As our team's getting better, he's one of the guys getting better. He's learning the strike zone, he's controlling the strike zone better and then not trying to do too much and being rewarded for a nice, simple short-stroke approach."

That progression has resulted in Grichuk's ever-increasing confidence in his tools, a confidence that has been reflected on the field.

"Consistency, luck becomes involved, finding holes, finding a place," Grichuk said. "I feel good. Kind of once you get a hit in your first at-bat, you kind of relax and you go out there with some confidence. You build off that [with] each at-bat."

Alaina Getzenberg is a reporter for based in St. Louis. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.