By Rob Rains
JUPITER, Fla. – Paul DeJong came into the Cardinals’ spring training camp motivated to show that all the work he put in on his swing this winter was going to pay off, allowing him to hold onto his start as the starting shortstop.
Nearly halfway through the shortened camp, he appears to be doing just that.
DeJong had two hits, including a double, drove in a run and scored once in Friday’s 5-4 win over the Washington Nationals. The hits raised his spring average to .400.
“He has a lot more conviction to what he is doing,” said manager Oli Marmol. “He’s trusting his stuff a lot more. He is just on time with his swing, you can just tell, handling both sides of the plate better. It’s fun to see.
“He’s taking this spring very serious. He’s committed. He knows what’s at stake and he’s taken advantage of it. He’s looked really good.”
DeJong hired a private hitting coach after last season’s .197 performance and worked with him all winter. He is happy to see the changes that he made providing early results.
“It’s nice to be able to put it together in a game,” DeJong said. “Up there trying to do all my prep work. My stuff in the cage has been great. It’s good to compete in some at-bats and get some results.”
DeJong knows he is competing with Edmundo Sosa, who also is hitting .400 this spring.
“It’s easy to fall into traps,” he said. “OK I get a hit in my first at-bat but in my second at-bat I rolled into a double play. Now for me it’s about not giving anything away, especially my later at-bats. If I do have a good first at-bat I need to keep the pressure on to get two hits or draw a walk or do something to help the team.
“I can’t forget that every time I step up to the plate I have a chance to do something great and seize that opportunity as much as I can. I see what I’m capable of and I see it kind of coming together and I know what it feels like. I feel good about where I am.”
Other news and notes from Friday:
High: Harrison Bader drove in two runs with a second-inning double and later added a single in the fifth.
Low: Nolan Gorman got the start at second base and was 0-of-3, dropping his spring average to .125 with just two hits in 16 at-bats.
At the plate: Paul Goldschmidt was 1-of-3 but struck out twice as his team-leading average dropped to .455 … Dylan Carlson started in the leadoff spot and was 1-of-3 …Nolan Arenado had two hits in three at-bats, including a double.
On the mound: Drew VerHagen, one of the pitchers competing for the open spot in the rotation, got the start against the Nationals and retired the first six hitters he faced. He didn’t have as much success in the third inning, allowing a pair of solo homers … Genesis Cabrera threw a perfect inning in relief while Ryan Helsley, making his first appearance of the spring, pitched around a single and a walk in his inning of work.
Off the field: Yadier Molina caught Miles Mikolas for four innings and went 0-of-4 in an intrasquad game on the backfields of Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium. It’s likely he is going to make his official spring debut on Sunday, Marmol said … In his four innings, Mikolas threw 47 pitches, 36 for strikes. He allowed five hits and three runs. He faced Tommy Edman twice, who grounded out both times. Edman is going to get more work on the backfields this week to get extra at-bats against righthanded pitching … Jordans Hicks threw his first live batting practice of the spring … Veteran infielder Cory Spangenberg, who has spent the last two seasons in Japan, will join the Cardinals on Saturday as a non-roster player … In other roster moves, Aaron Brooks was added to the 40-man roster, pitcher Alex Reyes was moved to the 60-day injured list, pitchers Packy Naughton, Johan Quezada. Angel Rondon and T.J. Zuech were optioned to the minors and non-roster pitcher Zack Thompson was re-assigned to the minor-league camp.
Looking ahead: Steven Matz will make his second start of the spring on Saturday as the Cardinals host the Marlins on Saturday.
Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains