Gyorko embracing utility role with St. Louis Cardinals
Feb. 23, 2016
JUPITER, Fla. (AP) — Jedd Gyorko's locker is getting crowded.
"It's starting to fill up with nothing but gloves," said Gyorko, who is expected to play as many as four positions as a utility player for St. Louis this season.
Along with his middle infielder gloves, Gyorko recently got one better suited for a third baseman and another for a first baseman.
The Cardinals are relatively confident the 27-year-old Gyorko can cover any infield position. What likely will determine how much time he sees at any of those spots, potential injuries aside, will be his consistency with the bat.
Gyorko hit 23 home runs as a rookie in 2013, and then hit only 10 the following season and 16 last year.
After a dismal start to 2015, Gyorko hit 13 homers in the second half of the season with San Diego. The Padres then shipped him to St. Louis in December for outfielder Jon Jay.
The trade surprised Gyorko.
"It's a weird deal getting traded, there's no doubt about that," he said. "Once I heard it was St. Louis I was excited. This is the best team in baseball for pretty much the last five years. It's a good spot to be."
The combination of second baseman Kolten Wong, shortstop Jhonny Peralta and third baseman Matt Carpenter combined to play in 459 games for the Cardinals last season, a workload that took a toll.
The Cardinals hope Gyorko, and to some extent Greg Garcia, will afford more opportunities for those three to rest.
A shortstop in college at West Virginia and a third baseman for much of his minor league career, Gyorko doesn't face many speed bumps re-acclimating himself to those positions.
He arrived at Cardinals camp six days prior to Monday's reporting date for position players. The biggest issues facing Gyorko when workouts begin Tuesday may be his ability to get enough work at each of his new positions.
"The early conversations with Jedd were be prepared to do whatever and we'll get you the work you want," manager Mike Matheny said. "You let us know what you need. If you're not getting enough work at a certain spot we'll find it."
Gyorko expects to spend much of the spring working on his swing.
A right-handed hitter, he is working on quieting his hands in the box in an effort to simplify his swing and take a more direct path to meet the ball.
"Expecting to come off the bench, the at-bats aren't always going to be there so it's going to be tough to get your swing in tune so I just tried to make it as quick and simple as I could to try to be able to repeat it over and over again," Gyorko said.
Playing home games at Busch Stadium, a ballpark not usually considered a good venue for hitters, may also help Gyorko get into an early groove. A .228 career hitter at pitcher-friendly Petco Park in San Diego, Gyorko hit .262 with two homers and nine RBIs at Busch as a Padre.
Though Gyorko only hit .247 overall last season, his average jumped to .282 against left-handers. Should the left-handed swinging Wong continue to struggle against lefties, Gyorko is likely to benefit with more at-bats.
But at outset of the season, Gyorko is preparing for pinch-hit at-bats with the knowledge that success in that role should lead to more opportunities.
"I think there's going to be plenty of at-bats out there for me from what I'm seeing, Gyorko said. "I feel comfortable at all four positions. I feel like if someone would go down or they need me for a few days here or there I think I'm more than willing to step in and fill those roles."