Pham Now Can See New Role

ST. LOUIS—With the moves the Cardinals made this offseason—and one they didn’t—late-bloomer Tommy Pham can clearly see the opportunity presented him this spring. It helps that he has new contacts.

Pham, 27, had his rise to the majors complicated by injuries and ailments, not the least of which was an eye condition discovered back when he was in Double-A that has, at times, limited his vision.

Back in 2009, with his average deteriorating as rapidly as his eyesight, Pham relented to an exam and learned he had keratoconus.

The narrowing of the cornea limited his vision without the help of contacts or glasses. He has tried to remain vigilant when it comes updating is prescription, but has been reluctant to do so during a season because of the adjustment. That made 2015 difficult.

“My vision was off, but I found ways to get the job done with them,” Pham said. “I feel like once I have (contacts) in the season, I can’t really make too much excuses with them.”

Pham hit .327/.398/.503 in the minors in 2015 and vaulted to the majors for a .268/.347/.477 big league debut.

The Cardinals have cleared the way for him to see more at-bats more consistently in 2016.

The team was unable to re-sign Jason Heyward to play right field, allowing prospect Stephen Piscotty to see time there and not as a fourth outfielder, and the Cardinals traded veteran Jon Jay to San Diego.

Jay had served as the starting center fielder or fourth outfielder in recent years, and that is the role that Pham has been earmarked to handle.

He has his sights set this spring—and it only begins with the new hybrid contacts he will wear to see sharper from the start.


• Despite some concern about depth in the outfield, the Cardinals brought only two non-roster outfielders to spring training: Carlos Peguero, last with the Rangers and Red Sox, signed as a minor league free agent, and Jeremy Hazelbaker, who earned an invite to spring training with a .333/.403/.594 line after joining Triple-A Memphis in 2015.

• As the Cardinals intend to reshape their medical staff for 2016, the club has hired a Duke University professor, Dr. Robert Butler, to oversee a “performance department” that will oversee and direct training and recovery approaches at all levels, including close work with the major league trainers.

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