JUPITER, Fla. — During Saturday’s pregame workout, St. Louis first baseman Matt Adams found himself in a rather unusual place.
Instead of him fielding throws at first base, manager Mike Matheny asked Adams to go to a practice diamond with St. Louis outfielders to listen to some tips from former Cardinals great Willie McGee.
“He’ll be on the back fields working there today — just having conversations and learning the nuances of it,” Matheny said before the Cardinals’ 5-4 loss to the Mets.
Such an experience would’ve been hard to imagine before Adams’ offseason conditioning and nutrition program helped him lose 30 pounds and reshape his body.
Reporting to camp at 240 pounds, Adams immediately noticed a difference at first base — one that translates well into outfield play.
“I feel like the first step is way quicker than what it used to be — even at first base,” Adams said. “I think everybody says, I wish I could have did this a couple years earlier or what not when they lose the weight to get in better shape. I feel like it was something that I needed to do this season and I’m glad I did it so like this, more opportunities would come about instead of just sticking with one position.”
Adams hit 15 home runs and batted .288 in 2014 when he started 132 games at first for the Cardinals. That’s the lone year five-year veteran started as many 70 major league games. Last season, Adams hit a career-high 16 homers but batted .249 in 297 plate appearances.
The past couple seasons he entered camp in a battle for the first base spot that ultimately resulted in a platoon. This spring, with left-handed hitting Matt Carpenter moving from first to third, Adams, who also hits from the left side, arrived in camp searching for a role.
After struggling with his timing early in the spring, Adams hit two homers and a double in his past three games prior to Saturday.
Earlier this spring, Adams took it upon himself to field some balls in left field during batting practice. But after hearing from McGee and Matheny, he’s now practicing with greater purpose.
“I feel like I could feel comfortable out there,” Adams said. “It’s just working on the reads, getting better at reading the ball off the bat and BP’s a good spot to do that.”
With plenty of first baseman mitts already in his locker, Adams elected to grab an outfielder’s glove in his yearly order from Rawlings but didn’t expect to need it.
After all, he doesn’t ever recall being an outfielder.
“Maybe in Little League,” said Adams, whose primary position will remain first base.
A few years ago the Cardinals did consider the possibility of Adams trying left field but those conversations never amounted to much.
Adams didn’t play any spots defensively on Saturday. Home plate umpire Nick Mahrley ejected him following his fifth-inning pinch hitting appearance for arguing a called third strike.
Matheny didn’t intend to insert Adams into left field on Saturday but said it’s likely he’ll be out there before the end of Grapefruit League play.
“I told him I was up for anything,” Adams said. “Whatever I can do to help this club and whatever I can do to work my way back into the lineup, I’m up for working.”