October revealing talent of unheralded Grichuk

Extra player in '13 trade, promising Cards rookie OF keeping cool on big stage

October revealing talent of unheralded Grichuk

ST. LOUIS -- Usually, when teams make a trade where each is getting a Major League player in return, the prospects also named in the deal aren't given much attention.

That's not to say the Cardinals didn't have an inkling about what they were getting in Randal Grichuk when they obtained him almost a year ago after a swap with the Angels that landed Peter Bourjos. It's just that Grichuk had yet to debut as a Major League player, leaving most of the fan base, other than those who closely track the happenings of Minor League players, knowing little about the newly obtained outfielder.

It's safe to assume they know who he is now. The 23-year-old Grichuk is versatile and speedy, able to play all three outfield positions and, most importantly, appears to be comfortable on the big stage.

If a player's development is accelerated tenfold during the playoffs, Grichuk should be set up for a steady season in 2015 and beyond. He hasn't been flawless during the first two games of the National League Division Series against the Dodgers, but he's been effective. Heck, he did what few established veterans in this game have been able to -- he homered off the seemingly indestructible Clayton Kershaw in Game 1, several innings before everyone else also got to him in a very un-Kershaw-like outing.

  Date   Matchup Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 3   STL 10, LAD 9 video
Gm 2 Oct. 4   LAD 3, STL 2 video
Gm 3 Oct. 6   STL 3, LAD 1 video
Gm 4 Oct. 7   STL 3, LAD 2 video

Still, a rookie who goes deep off the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner, who also happens to be a favorite to win the NL MVP trophy this year? Pretty impressive.

"Randal's one of those players that I don't think many people have heard much about," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "I think they're going to continue to hear about him, one, because of the skill set he has, but, two, just the makeup. This guy's relentless already, he's paying close attention to our veterans and how hard they work, he just goes about the game the right way."

Add to that his simple natural ability, and Matheny senses Grichuk shouldn't have any problem sticking in the big leagues.

"You mix that with what he does on the talent side, both offensively and defensively, and on the bases, and he's going to be an exciting player to watch for a while," Matheny said.

This season is ending rather atypically for Grichuk, as compared to the average rookie. Most players who are just now getting acclimated to the Majors are not playing in October. But in other respects, the regular season was relatively normal for Grichuk, in that it was an up-and-down experience: called up to the big leagues, sent down to the Minors and called up again, and so on.

Most players, save for the super-duper All-Stars, usually go through that ebb and flow during their rookie seasons. Grichuk was no different. He debuted for the Cardinals on April 28, and after nine games, he was optioned to Triple-A Memphis. He returned to St. Louis on May 30, and about a week later, he knocked his first home run in a game against the Blue Jays.

He was optioned back to Memphis shortly after and didn't return until the end of August. By the end of the regular season, Grichuk had appeared in 47 games, hitting .245 with three homers and eight RBIs over 110 at-bats.

"The first two times I came up, I think I let the hype and all the distractions get the best of me," Grichuk said. "I got my feet wet those first two times, got to see what it was all about up here, and then this last time around just really played with confidence."

With the calendar flipped to October, there is no more time for feet-wetting. Grichuk is keenly aware of this, and what he lacks in experience, he's making up for with poise.

"I just kind of put everything else beside it and just realized that baseball is baseball," he said. "It's what I've been doing my whole life."

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.