JUPITER, FL. (KMOV.com) – Every player prepares his own way in spring training, with his own secret calipers to measure his progress. Satisfaction lies with each individual and no two are alike.
For Jedd Gyorko and Tommy Pham, those styles and intensity are polar opposite.
Gyorko, acquired from the San Diego Padres along with cash for outfielder Jon Jay, has not had a good spring by most measures. He is hitting just .200 with 13 strikeouts but has shown a better swing over the past two games. More importantly, he is making all the plays at second and shortstop, including a tough play Sunday that took him to the second base side of the bag Sunday, one of several he handled flawlessly.
He also committed a face-reddening base running gaffe, passing Matt Adams on a ball that one-hopped the wall off the bat of Brayan Pena. He was called out on the play and though the Cards had two singles and a double in the inning, they did not score a run.
After the game, the always cheerful, always positive Gyorko said he was getting close to being locked in in preparation for next Sunday’s opener. He said he made about as many plays in Sunday as he ever has in a game and credited Adams with picking him up on a couple of bad throws.
Gyorko smiled, laughed with reporters and shook his head at his poor base running. With Adams as second and the stocky West Virginia native at first, Pena hit a long drive to the right center field gap. Gyorko had the angle to see that it was not going to be caught and took off running. Adams could not be sure from where he was at second base and correctly stayed at the bag in order to tag up if the ball was caught. “Matt did the right thing,” Mike Matheny said after the game. “If a runner doesn’t get to at least third on that ball,” someone is going to be in trouble. Gyorko never stopped, brushed shoulders with Adams as he passed him and was called out. Pena got a double, Adams advanced to third and the inning, like so many this spring, died with no runs.
“That was pretty bad,” Gyorko said in all seriousness. “I have to pay better attention.” The incident thus discussed and now forgotten, Gyorko returned to his cubicle, examined his phone and resumed chatting with teammates.
Across the room, Tommy Pham dressed quietly and without speaking to anyone. By all measures, Pham had a productive day. His home run accounted for the only St. Louis runs and he added a single to raise his spring average to .273. But he was not happy.
“I would rather have four quality at bats (than a home run),” he said quietly, on his way to watch video of his swing. “I’m still trying to find consistency. It’s my swing, my vision, everything.” Pham is still getting adjusted to contact lenses that help him track the baseball better. “I don’t want this to be about my vision,” he said. “I’m still trying to get comfortable.” Pham is known for his deep, focused intensity that often distances him from his teammates.
“He’s aggressive in the zone but he’s still trying to find his swing,” said manager Mike Matheny. “I know he wants four quality at bats but we’ll take the home run, too,” he smiled. Acknowledging the 28-year-old’s almost disturbing intensity, Matheny said the coaching staff has to get him to use that in a positive way, to focus it away from failure and on to results.
As the Cards move closer to opening day with each player arriving at game-ready shape in his own fashion, Matheny has to find a way to allow each to get there in a way that suits each personality. Gyorko and Pham both want personal and team success.
How they achieve it is dictated by personality, not desire.