Pham searching for swing, Cards roster spot

Outfielder hasn't been able to dial in mechanics at plate

Pham searching for swing, Cards roster spot

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- An Opening Day roster spot may be slipping away for Tommy Pham, who has been stuck searching for his swing instead of using Spring Training to showcase it.

Pham entered camp in strong position to make the Cardinals' roster as a fourth outfielder, but he did little to solidify his standing. Instead, Pham has been toying with swing changes and waiting for something to click, all the while watching Jose Martinez have a standout camp.

"Yeah, it's frustrating for me right now," Pham said. "I feel like I could put up very good numbers in this game offensively. I just have to prove that I can do it over the course of a season. I'm trying to figure out, just like everybody in this locker room, what makes me great."

Pham, who has been in the organization since 2006, has been handcuffed by injuries and vision problems throughout his career. Now, it's his swing that has him puzzled.

Pham started making changes to it following a stint in winter ball this offseason, and he was thrilled by the early results.

"My batting practices were amazing," Pham said. "I was mis-hitting balls out."

But when Grapefruit League play began, Pham quickly found himself late on fastballs. He started 4-for-23 and abandoned the changes he had made.

Since then, Pham has been making near-constant tweaks, eagerly awaiting positive results. Pham's work has focused on shortening his swing, getting his hands in the right place and plate discipline.

"The tough thing about this is when you're working on something, you want some kind of results to know that what you're working on is going to work," Pham said. "Even if it's a lineout, you need to know that, OK, this is working."

Pham entered Sunday's 5-2 win over the Braves just 7-for-35 with six walks. He tallied his first extra-base hit with a double off Atlanta's Julio Teheran, but also pushed his spring strikeout total to 13. Reducing the strikeouts was a necessity after last season, in which he struck out in 27 percent of his at-bats.

That, along with his 3-for-30 finish, negated some of the other good, including the fact that he ranked 14th in the Majors with an average exit velocity of 93.4 mph (minimum 80 balls in play), according to Statcast™.

Now, Pham has fewer than two weeks to improve his spring impression and make a final push for a roster spot. The Cardinals are likely to keep only four outfielders, which means he'd have to knock aside Martinez for a job.

"The focus is figuring out a way to make the most of the opportunities," manager Mike Matheny said. "You go and you watch him one day have a real nice approach and the next day, something is a click off. That's really what this game is -- not necessarily just this Spring Training for him, but the challenge of this game -- to find those consistent at-bats to where it feels right."

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Read her blog, follow her on Twitter, like her Facebook page and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.