Originally posted on Fox Sports Midwest  |  Last updated 3/14/12
JUPITER, Fla. -- If Matt Holliday is felling any extra pressure to produce with three-time MVP Albert Pujols gone from the lineup, he's sure not letting on so far. Holliday went 3-for-4 Wednesday in the Cardinals' 4-3 Grapefruit League loss to the Houston Astros, raising his spring average to .462 in five games. "It doesn't mean anything," Holliday said of the fast start. "It's nice to get a few hits but really, you're just trying to gear yourself towards the season. "It's always nice to get hits but you're just working on your swing and trying to recognize pitches and work counts and if you get results at the plate, then good." When Pujols signed a 10-year, 240 million deal with the Anaheim Angels in December, questions instantly turned towards Holliday and his ability to carry the load both in and out of the clubhouse. A fluky 2011 season caused the left fielder to miss time for a variety of reasons, from an emergency appendicitis the first week of the season to a moth getting stuck in his ear while he stood in the outfield. Holliday was also forced from the lineup because of a weight room incident that injured his back and spent time on the disabled list with a strained quad. As a result, the five-time All-Star finished with some of the lowest numbers of his career, hitting .296 with 22 home runs and 75 RBI in 124 games. With Pujols gone, Holliday instantly took over as the face of the franchise. He's the highest paid player and is expected to hit in the former slugger's traditional No. 3 spot in the lineup. But none of that seems to bother Holliday, who seems at ease this spring and could be primed for a big season at the plate. "Trying harder or trying to produce more never really does that," Holliday said. "I have high expectations for myself. I do every year. I come in expecting to have a great season and this year is no different." The five-time All-Star began the transformation this offseason, making himself more available to the media. He called at least three St. Louis talk radio stations unscheduled, one time challenging the host's claim that he was always injured. Holliday has taken to the new leadership role, inviting prospects Matt Adams, Kolten Wong, Ryan Jackson and Charlie Tilson to St. Louis for a weekend of hitting and baseball workouts during the winter. "For somebody to say, Hey, this is going to be your team, this is going to revolve around you,' and everything that's been said," manager Mike Matheny said. "I think he just takes it and realizes, I have a job to do no matter what's said. Talk is cheap, whether it's positive or negative, I know what I can do and I want to prove it.' "That's what I see. Has he said that to me verbatim? No, but I just see a guy going about his business and is ready to compete." Three weeks from Opening Day, Holliday looks ready to go.
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