Cardinals first baseman Matt Adams feels he has the swing to produce the power expected of a second-year slugger who hit 17 home runs last season in limited duty.
Now, if he could only find a way to get the pitches.
“Yeah, early in the count, try to get more of a pitch that I can drive to the gap and do damage with,” Adams said Wednesday before the Cardinals-Cubs game was postponed by rain. “I think it’s just me being too aggressive early in the count instead of letting them come to me and getting a pitch I know I can drive.”
In the middle of an offense that has slipped gears so far this season, Adams has been consistent, hitting at a .307 clip despite some struggles with runners in scoring position. But he’s also been seeking that extra-base thump. Of his team-high 46 hits, 31 have been singles. Opponents routinely shift their infielders to the right side of the field — his pull side — and he continues to defy the shift by flipping singles to left field. The price, at times, has been an ability to wait for the pitch that he can power over the defense, wherever it is.
A contributing factor is where pitchers are testing him.
“They’ve done a good job of going away and then coming back in,” Adams said. “It’s just a matter of me sticking with my approach and staying up the middle and being able to recognize the ball away and the ball in so I don’t get tied up. … This year, I went back to the approach hitting the ball where it’s pitched, and right now I feel like I’ve done a good job of doing that.”
Where the biggest difference has been for Adams is on the pitches on the outside edge of the strike zone. Those pitches he used to roll over into the heart of the shift for groundouts. Last season, Adams was five for 62 (.081) on pitches on the outside, lower edge. This season, according to BrooksBaseball.net, he’s 14 for 37 (.378) in those same zones. The contrast is he has two homers in 150 at-bats so far this season vs. 17 in 296 last summer, or one every 17.4 at-bats.
Bothered by elbow irritation each of the past two seasons, Adams has returned to a brace on his right elbow as a preventive measure. He felt some soreness this season when the elbow would hyperextend on him. That brace prevents that, but he insisted it does not muzzle his bat.
“I had some good success with it last year, but that’s not why I put it back on to look for success again,” he said. “I put it back on to keep that elbow feeling good. It keeps me in my slot. It doesn’t limit my swing whatsoever.”
There was more to Peter Bourjos’ move up in the order to seventh than just his recent surge at the plate. Manager Mike Matheny allowed Wednesday that freeing Bourjos from the No. 8 spot, right ahead of the pitcher, allowed the speedy outfielder to bunt more often for a base hit and could free him up to steal. Bourjos had a bunt single and stole third base in the Cardinals’ 4-3 victory Tuesday night.
Keeping Bourjos there in the seven spot could change in the coming days as the Cardinals integrate Kolten Wong to the order.
“It’s not just for the bunting, but also for the running,” Matheny said. “But if you start playing with that lineup much and you put Kolten in there — he would be closer to the top — there’s not a lot of spots (for Bourjos) except for down at the bottom. We’re going to have to toy around with that a little bit. I want him to continue to be aggressive. He would be crazy not to continue to have that in his repertoire.”