Cardinals' plan is to get Randal Grichuk more playing time

CHICAGO -- One of the items on St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny’s agenda Sunday afternoon was a conversation in his office with outfielder Randal Grichuk. Matheny wanted to communicate two points: Grichuk now will be the team’s everyday center fielder again, essentially, and, that he wants him to be himself.

Matheny and the Cardinals hope and think that Grichuk can one be a pure hitter with power, but right now he is a power hitter with limited ability to get on base and a high strikeout rate. In Matheny’s words, they wonder whether he has been “caught in between,” trying to cut down his strikeouts and still hit with the power expected of him.

Grichuk is batting .220 and was twice optioned to Triple-A Memphis. While he’s playing for the Cardinals the next several weeks, the team’s scouts and front office will have a chance to evaluate whether they can afford to go into next season relying on him to be the center fielder.

“I want to see this kid free. It’s like we’ve got this stallion that we’ve got all pent up in the stable and I want to see him run. I want to see him play his game, just do his thing,” Matheny said. “I think that’s part of our job as teachers and coaches. There’s a key to every one of these kids and you’ve just got to find it.”

Last season, Grichuk, 25, had a .548 slugging percentage, but struck out in more than 31 percent of his plate appearances, an astronomical number. The team thinks he tried to change his approach too precipitously and that his evolution to a more complete hitter could take more time.

“His natural instinct is to let it eat and see how hard he can hit it and how far he can hit it,” Matheny said. “I do think he’ll get to a point where he can use more of the field and be a tougher out with two strikes, but meanwhile he’s more of a one-dimensional hitter who can hurt you at any particular time. That’s better than being a guy who’s kind of a master of none.”