Grichuk becoming established weapon against lefties

Grichuk becoming established weapon against lefties

ST. LOUIS -- In the immediate days after the Cardinals completed a four-player November swap with the Angels, most of the attention surrounded the hometown hero lost (David Freese) and the speedy center fielder gained (Peter Bourjos). Yet the only non-Major Leaguer included in that deal may just be the most impactful of the two as the Cardinals seek another October run.

Randal Grichuk homered for a second straight night on Saturday as he continues to tear up left-handed pitching. Now 10-for-28 against lefties since returning from the Minors, Grichuk has emerged a key position player among manager Mike Matheny's crowded bench.

"You have a guy that is a plus-runner, plus-defender, plus-arm and the ball comes off his bat like only a handful of guys in this league," Matheny said. "We'd love to see that kind of confidence when he walks in against a right-hander as he does against a lefty. But I think that comes in time. There's nothing that you shouldn't like. Then all the intangibles, the things you see in there that we put a high value on, you can check that box, too."

It is becoming a given that Grichuk will be in the lineup any time the opponent starts a lefty, and the outfielder has given Matheny a back-pocket ace to pull out later in games against a lefty reliever. That was the case on Saturday, when Matheny sent Grichuk up to pinch-hit for Oscar Taveras against Ryan Dennick. Grichuk tattooed the first pitch he saw some 448 feet into the stands in left-center.

"We're watching swings of certain guys through this league, they fall down and their helmet falls off and all kinds of things since they're swinging so hard," Matheny said. "Randal is a very controlled power. That's exciting for us to see and watch as he hopefully continues to build on that."

The home run was the first pinch-hit blast of his career (second of the season for the Cardinals), though he has excelled in that role despite no previous experience as a non-everyday starter.

"I feel like I have a good mindset coming in off the bench," Grichuk said. "I know I'm going to be facing a lefty. I love facing lefties. In a pinch-hit role, I've talked to guys and they want you to be aggressive. I have no problem with facing lefties and being aggressive, so I feel it's a great situation."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.