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Pitchers seeing early returns from hitting practice

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WASHINGTON -- Shortly after gathering in Florida to begin preparations for the season, the Cardinals' starting pitchers gathered together and set an offensive objective. Displeased with their results at the plate last season, the group wanted to improve with the bat and, even if the hits didn't fall, extend at-bats to make themselves a tougher out.

That led to extra pitchers' hitting work during Spring Training, the early returns of which have been positive. In three of the four games in this series, the Cardinals' starting pitcher helped his own cause by driving in a run. Adam Wainwright had two hits and reached base four times Thursday. Lance Lynn collected his first career RBI double in a one-run win Saturday. Shelby Miller drove in a run with a two-out double in the fourth Sunday. It was his third career double and third career RBI.

The only starter without a hit through 18 games is Michael Wacha, and he's taken only seven at-bats.

"[Hitting coach] John Mabry and [bench coach] Mike Aldrete have both been very clear with the expectation of a shorter stroke and just trusting the fact of putting the bigger part of the bat on the ball," manager Mike Matheny said. "I think they're doing a nice job with shortening up. I think it's starting to pay off."

Last season, the Cardinals ranked 11th in the National League with a .126 pitchers batting average, the lowest such mark from a St. Louis rotation since 1986. The group also struck out 139 times, a number they want to reduce.

Though still extremely early in the year, the Cards' pitchers were third with a .194 average entering Sunday. They had struck out 16 times in 36 at-bats.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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