St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Matt Adams isn't concerned about where he will be on the team in October. He's just glad to be a part of it.
With Allen Craig continuing to nurse a foot sprain from early September, Adams has flourished as the everyday first baseman.
We're starting to see the Matt Adams that dominated as a Springfield Cardinal breaking records and driving baseballs into orbit. He's doing it again, only now it counts—big time.
His swing early in the season was spot on both for power and for average. I've always described him as a hitter with power, not a power hitter.
"I tend not to like to swing for home runs at all," Adams said. "My approach is just gap-to-gap, and if I square it up, then the bat's gonna be able to carry it out of the park."
Regardless, he's showing that power off again down the stretch. Adams said Wednesday morning that he sees only one reason—playing time.
"I think it's just that I'm getting enough at bats," Adams said as he prepared for the teams final match-up against the Washington Nationals. "I just show up at the ballpark and do the same thing I've done since I first came up last year."
That same preparation is the same whether he's starting at first base or batting from the bench. Adams changes very little because he says it can mess up your timing.
Routine is everything in baseball.
"I show up to the park watch my video, do my early hitting, make sure my swing feels good in batting practice and then I'm ready to take it into the game," he said. "I treat it just the same."
He's going to carry that same mentality into his first major league postseason, because even October isn't coming with certainty for the 25-year-old from Philipsburg, Pa. Of course, Allen Craig lacks that same certainty.
With Craig's foot sprain keeping him sidelined for a still undetermined amount of time, it's difficult to predict where each will be as the postseason gets underway.
"Right now, I'm just taking it day-by-day," Adams said. "We're missing Allen and we hope he's back for the playoffs. He's a big part of this lineup."
Of that, there is no doubt. Craig has been borderline inhuman with runners in scoring position this season, batting .454/.500/.638.
That's why Adams says Craig's return is a key component of the Cardinals' regular season success.
"If [Craig returns], I'll accept the role going back to the bench and being a key pinch hitter in the later innings," he said. "If that doesn't happen, I'm ready to play."
Adams, who was largely considered to be a blocked player prior to this season, is just grateful to be able to help the team. That's no Bull Durham cookie-cutter answer like you might first think—he means it.
He's genuinely excited to be where he is, of course, since he spent three years as a minor league first baseman in the same organization as Albert Pujols.
The future is much brighter for Adams than it might have once seemed.
Now, instead of wondering if he'll ever reach the major leagues, he will be getting his first taste of October baseball. The veterans on the team who have been through it time and again have been quick to share their wisdom with the left-handed slugger.
"They keep telling us that it's something special—that we should soak it in and be proud that we're making it to October," Adams said. "We just have to continue working hard and make sure that we're playing the ball that we know how to play."
After Wednesday's game, when asked by a large group of reporters about whether he watches the scoreboard, Adams answered like a veteran himself.
"I think that if we scoreboard watch too much we're going to lose focus on the field," he said. "As soon as we go out on the field we've gotta go out there and play our best game."
In September, Matt Adams is playing his best game. Batting .325 with eight HR and 15 RBI in Craig's absence is quite the accomplishment and worthy of his recent attention.
The day will soon come when people stop thinking of Adams as "the other first baseman."
All quotes obtained firsthand by the author.
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