JUPITER, Fla. -- Windows can close quickly in the major leagues, something Matt Adams found out last season. He'll try desperately to pry his back open this spring and beyond.
Adams, 27, looked like he was cruising for a nice little career back in 2014. The St. Louis Cardinals committed to him as their everyday first baseman and he generally rewarded their faith, putting up a solid 2.3 WAR season and batting .288. Only one NL first baseman with the requisite at-bats that season, Justin Morneau, had a higher batting average and he won the batting title.
Adams injected October magic into St. Louis by swatting a Clayton Kershaw curveball over the right-field wall to win the National League Division Series.
Then, 2015 happened. Adams' power fell off a table, his bad habits -- namely, an inability to hit left-handed pitching -- got worse and, at the end of May, it all came to a halt. He severely strained his right quadriceps, costing him 3 1/2 months. By the time he got back, the Cardinals had traded for Brandon Moss, who -- unlike Adams -- has shown an ability to consistently hit left-handers.
The Cardinals don't have an ideal situation at first base, but Moss profiles as a more likely everyday player and he'll get first crack at the position. That leaves Adams where, exactly? Is his opportunity to be an everyday player slowly slipping away?
"I don't look at it like that, just because that gets your focus away from where it needs to be," Adams said.
It's not as if his career is irredeemable, of course. The Cardinals will respond to productivity and Adams can force his way into at-bats if he produces. He said he feels he has made a breakthrough in his ability to hit left-handed pitching. He feels he was lunging at pitches, making him susceptible to the late break from left-handed pitchers' breaking stuff. Hitting coach John Mabry has worked with him on keeping a more balanced lower half.
Mike Matheny threw him into the fire on the first day of position-player workouts Tuesday by having him face Austin Gomber, a young left-hander who was the co-minor league pitcher of the year in the team's system.
Adams hit a soaring fly ball that would have easily cleared the fence if it hadn't been knocked down by howling wind. Adams' nickname is "Big City." When he connects, the ball can go a long way and the Cardinals could certainly use power this season. Thus, the window will stay open on Adams as long as he keeps it in place.
"He needs to drive the ball," Matheny said. "I mean, that needs to be on his mind right now."