Duncan's day twice as nice

Duncan's day twice as nice

FORT LAUDERDALE -- Chris Duncan's breakout was so big on Wednesday that it simply couldn't be contained. One league was not enough, neither was one stadium, nor even one county.

From the Minor Leagues to the Grapefruit League, from Roger Dean Stadium to Fort Lauderdale Stadium, from Palm Beach County to Broward County, Duncan put his slump to rest. First he singled, doubled and homered in Minor League games at the Cardinals' complex in Jupiter, Fla. Then he headed down the highway to meet up with the big league team, where he homered and singled in a win over Baltimore.

Duncan had a grand total of one Grapefruit League hit before Wednesday, which came back on Feb. 29. He's still hitting .107 this spring, but the five-hit day did wonders for his confidence.

"It felt good," he said. "It felt real good. It's good to build it back. I felt like I was getting closer. I stayed back and worked with Hal [McRae, hitting coach] on some things, then took it into the game and felt good. When you start feeling comfortable, you start to see the ball. I felt better."

Manager Tony La Russa has grown fond of using Minor League games to get extra at-bats for his players. They can bounce from game to game in the complex, getting numerous at-bats as opposed to three or four they'd get in one regular game. However, with the progress Duncan has shown, he'll be back with the big leaguers starting Thursday.

"He's been taking better at-bats," La Russa said. "He's got some confidence going. I'll play him tomorrow. I think it's one of those things that's real good for a guy. ... You can only send so many guys down there, but if you want to get a guy at-bats, it's very effective."

Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.