With expectations high on Randal Grichuk this season, the St. Louis Cardinals outfielder is rounding back into shape after a sports hernia surgery in early December.

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“I’m throwing and I’m hitting, started agilities last week,” said Grichuk, who shared he is actually ahead of schedule and fully expects to be ready by the start of Spring Training. “Been running for a few weeks now. Getting close to where I need to be.”

That’s good news for the Cardinals, who instead of pursuing free agent help have placed part of their faith in the 24-year old outfielder and the belief he is ready for more opportunity.

“I feel like none of that really affects me,” said Grichuk of the “aging core” conversations taking place. “I think the team that we have is a great group of guys. We have a great group of old, veteran players who can kind of teach the younger guys. And I think we have a lot of core guys, younger-wise, who can mature and develop into the veteran players that we have and hopefully be here for a long time.”

MLB: Atlanta Braves at St. Louis Cardinals“When you watch Grichuk play, it’s not unreasonable to say if he had 600 plate appearances he’d hit 30+ home runs,” stated General Manager John Mozeliak. “I hate saying things like that because then all of a sudden you’re like putting these expectations, but I do think he has loads of talent.

“Now, the negative side can say well, he hasn’t shown he can play everyday. He gets hurt a lot. All of that I get, but to me it’s still about creating a place or an opportunity for these guys.”

Grichuk agrees that hitting 30 home runs isn’t out of the question.

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“I try not to do a goal statistical-wise, but I think 30 is a realistic goal if we had to set something on there,” he said.  “I had 17 in a little over 300 at-bats last season. I feel pretty confident if I can get in a little groove I should be able to get to.”

As for the injuries, Grichuk also spent time last season on the disabled list with an inner elbow muscle-ligament strain that limited his ability to throw the ball.

“It’s good,” he said of the elbow. “I got it looked at against this offseason. They said it was healing good. Took another couple months off. And I’m starting a rehab program two weeks ago throwing-wise, and I haven’t had a problem with it yet.”

Grichuk suggested he might try to “save some bullets early in the year” in terms of airing it out, but doctors have told him not to expect a long term problem with the elbow.

“I don’t know if something like that will heal totally ever,” he said. “I think it’s going to heal enough to where I don’t feel it or notice it, you know, unless something crazy happens.”

In the meantime, Grichuk is finishing his rehab and preparing to head into Spring Training and fight for a job.

“Definitely not taking anything for granted,” he said. “I’m going to go in there and fight like it’s not my job to lose but it’s my job to win.”

photo credit: STLBaseballWeekly.com, Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports

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