Found January 30, 2012 on
Fox Sports Midwest:
St. Louis Cardinals
Toronto Blue Jays
Los Angeles Angels
San Diego Padres
In two years in the big leagues, Cardinals outfielder Jon Jay has already won a World Series and played well enough that two outfielders were traded to give him more playing time.
But you won't see the 26-year-old Jay feeling like he has it made anytime soon.
After appearing in a team high 159 games last season and contributing both in the field and at the plate, Jay is motivated for even bigger things in 2012.
"I'm continuing to try to prove myself in this league," Jay said. "It's my third season, which is crazy, but I'm just trying to be consistent out there and help the team win. Nothing changes for me. I'm just trying to get better and get smarter."
Jay's first two big league seasons were eerily similar. He burst out of the gate with a fast start in both, allowing the Cardinals to make deadline deals to help the club.
The Cardinals traded Ryan Ludwick to the San Diego Padres for pitcher Jake Westbrook at the trade deadline in 2010, handing Jay the everyday spot in right field.
Last July, his production allowed the Cardinals to trade Colby Rasmus to the Toronto Blue Jays in a deal that brought back key contributors Edwin Jackson, Octavio Dotel and Marc Rzepczynski. Jay took over the regular spot in center field following the deal.
But both times Jay was handed a regular spot in the lineup following the trades, the Miami native struggled at the plate. Jay was hitting .396 at the time Ludwick was traded in 2010 but hit just .239 over the final two months to finish the year right at .300.
He was hitting .312 when Rasmus was traded on July 27 last year and proceeded to hit .222 in his next 21 games with 17 strikeouts and just three walks. He hit .277 the rest of the way, finishing at .297.
Jay had 24 doubles, 10 home runs, 37 RBI and 56 runs scored for the Cardinals in 2011 and shrugged off a playoff slump to provide a key hit in the tenth inning of Game 6 of the World Series to help fuel their dramatic come-from-behind win.
With six-time All-Star Carlos Beltran added to the outfield mix in the offseason, Jay is out to prove he's worthy of the everyday playing time from the start to finish in 2012.
"I feel like if you look at my whole year, I was pretty consistent defense, offense, helping the team win," Jay said. "Once you've tasted some success, you want to keep improving. That's the common thing you see from the guys who are great players in this league. They have a great year but they still want to build on it and keep getting better. That's what I want to do, continue to build my resume and continue to show that I can play out there.
"The biggest thing for me is just getting smarter out there. You know the pitchers better and they know you better, so just being able to make adjustments quicker and knowing what is the better formula to react to all that."
Jay was ticketed for another heavy workload in center field until Beltran was signed to help replace some of the offense lost when Albert Pujols signed with the Anaheim Angels.
Beltran will start the season in right while Allen Craig recovers from knee surgery, meaning Jay will get plenty of action in center early in the season. But when Craig returns, a healthy Beltran could cut into some of Jay's time in center.
But the uncertainty doesn't have Jay worried or disappointed. It's kept him humble.
"I'm going to prepare how I always do and be prepared to play every game," Jay said. "You never know what's going to happen. I just want to get myself ready so when I do get a chance to go out there, I can be consistent and help the team.
"I'm going to show up, be prepared and when my name is in the lineup, I'm going to play. I understand how this game works, we're out there to win and that's the bottom line. One of the things with Tony (La Russa) was he mixed and matched the lineups but it was always for a reason to win. And that's what we did."
New manager Mike Matheny and the Cardinals hope Jay helps them do plenty of winning this season.
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