MIAMI • Tommy Pham made his sixth straight start in the outfield for the Cardinals on Wednesday night. In the first five, he had been explosive, hitting three homers and three doubles and driving in six runs.
If this is the last chance the 29-year-old Pham will have to impress the Cardinals’ manager and staff, he certainly is running with it.
Pham, asked if he thought this might be his last opportunity to show something here, said, “I would sort of say, ‘Yeah.’ But one thing I did learn down in Triple-A is that ... if it doesn’t work with one, there’s always other teams that have interest.”
But Pham, who has been up and down from Class AAA to the majors in each of the last three seasons, battling vision and injury problems along the way, said he wasn’t particularly interested in going somewhere else.
“St. Louis is the only team I’ve ever played for,” he said. “I was drafted by them and been in this organization a long time (since 2006).”
Pham, who had nine homers but 71 strikeouts in 159 at-bats last year, thinks this is the right time. “I’m confident in my ability,” he said. “I believe I can perform at a very high level at this level.
“When I was evaluating myself with my Triple-A hitting coach (Mark Budaska), everything was where we wanted it. My line-drive percentages were higher. My strikeout percentages were at their lowest. I was hitting fly balls everywhere in the outfield. They have a spread sheet down there where they grade quality at-bats. A walk and a hit are quality at-bats, so over 50 percent of my at-bats down there were quality at-bats. We knew I was going in the right direction.”
Pham, who has had an eye disorder called keratoconus, has struggled for years to find the right contact lenses. This spring, he thought he had the right mixture but discovered the lenses were too small.
“We needed to make them larger and we needed to fine-tune the prescription a little,” said Pham, who got the adjustments after laboring in spring training with 16 strikeouts in 41 at-bats and a .209 average, which got him sent to Memphis.
Is this the best Pham we’ve seen? “Just give it a month and see where we are,” said Pham, who said his defense also had improved because he could see the ball better.
“For the most part, I’m controlling the strike zone and hitting the ball hard,” he said. “And last year, my vision affected my defense more than my offense.”
Manager Mike Matheny said, “We’ve seen a couple of runs of really good Tommy Pham when he’s seeing the ball. For him, that (phrase) has a different level of meaning.”
Pham also said he had been given more freedom by Matheny to steal bases and Pham said, “I’m all for the bags, especially kind of selfishly saying that Adidas (his shoe brand) gives me a lot of money for stolen bases.”
PONCEDELEON HAS SURGERY
Injured Memphis righthander Daniel Poncedeleon had surgery in a Des Moines hospital to relieve pressure on his brain, Matheny said, after the pitcher was hit on the right side of the head by a line drive in Memphis’ game at Iowa on Tuesday. He had been carried off the field after being hit.
“We’re just praying for that to go well,” Matheny said. “He’s still not great. There’s still a lot of uncertainty as to how that’s going to progress. I don’t have all the technical terms for you. Very serious.”
Poncedeleon has been in the last two Cardinals camps in spring training and is 2-0 with a 2.17 earned run average in six starts for Memphis this year, striking out 25 and walking 13 in 29 innings. The 6-foot-4 Poncedeleon has a 25-13 career minor-league mark.
WAINWRIGHT MAKES A CHANGE
Adam Wainwright, who pitched five strong innings Tuesday before being nicked a bit in the sixth and charged with three runs when lefthander Brett Cecil couldn’t stem the tide, didn’t use his once-trusty cutter in his 97-pitch performance.
“It was on timeout,” joked Wainwright, referring to recent games in which that pitch had been hit hard. “When it’s done disobeying, it will be out of timeout, just like my children,”
Wainwright threw his slow curve at a high of 77 and a low of 66, to go with a 92-93 mph fastball, on occasion. He was pulled in a 1-1 game with the bases loaded and one out.
“Oh, he wasn’t happy,” said Matheny.
Matheny said he didn’t put much stock in the Cardinals returning home in first place but he said, “We’ve heard plenty of noise in the other direction so I guess there’s some comfort in that.”
The manager indicated that injured center fielder Dexter Fowler would be ready to play in the field on Friday at home after suffering what Fowler terms a lat injury while diving for a ball a week ago Thursday. ... Right fielder Stephen Piscotty, who is on the 10-day disabled list with a hamstring injury, is eligible to come off when Boston is town early next week. Matheny said he didn’t know if that would happen, although he has been told Piscotty was progressing well. ... Infielder Jhonny Peralta, still recovering from an upper respiratory infection and bad reaction to medicine for it, is in Jupiter, Fla., competing in rehab games, but he has been in the field only a couple of times. “There may be a time where we’ll bring him in and put him through a workout and see how he’s moving,” said Matheny.