Uncertainty is hardly something new for Jedd Gyorko, who has been through this exercise before. It’s one in which he comes into camp assured a spot on the roster, but not necessarily one on the field.
His fit became a little less obvious following the acquisition of first baseman Paul Goldschmidt in December. That move prompted one for Matt Carpenter, who now plans to make third base his everyday home. That was where Gyorko made 71 starts last year.
So with the corner infield spots set and Paul DeJong and Kolten Wong returning to cover the club up the middle, Gyorko once again profiles as the team’s primary utility infielder. His work at all four infield spots this spring will reflect that.
“Any time you can get a guy like Goldschmidt, it’s huge for the team,” Gyorko said. “Unfortunately, it kind of puts me in a weird spot where I don’t really have a spot or a clear role. But in today’s game, you have to have that guy who can give guys breaks where it’s not that big of a [production] dropoff, and where you’re not losing power. You have to have a guy who can fill in or do well in situations.”
Gyorko also knows how quickly things can change. In his first year with the Cardinals, he ended up helping fill in for an injured Jhonny Peralta and an inconsistent Wong. In 2017, an ineffective combination of Aledmys Diaz and Peralta on the left side of the infield led to sweeping changes and more at-bats for Gyorko than initially anticipated.
Last year was the exception, as Gyorko entered camp projected to be the team’s everyday third baseman. Incidentally, he finished with the fewest plate appearances (402) of his six Major League seasons.
“It’s hard to tell sitting here on February whatever-it-is exactly how the season is going to go,” Gyorko said. “Things are going to happen. It’s just how it works. Stuff is going to go weird and not how you want it. It’s hard to predict. I’m just getting myself prepared like I do every year to go out there and play every day.”
Preparation this spring will require flexibility. Gyorko will see time at all four infield spots, though he’ll likely be used most often at second and third base this season. His career .819 OPS against left-handed pitching makes him an intriguing candidate to sub in for either of the team’s two left-handed-hitting infielders (Wong and Carpenter) against lefty starters.
Gyorko even offered to engage in some outfield work as a way to increase his versatility. It’s unlikely the Cardinals will have him dabble in that too heavily, mostly because of a lack of need.
“Jedd knows he has a lot of gloves in his bag,” manager Mike Shildt noted.
Gyorko is also aware of how important health will be. Hamstring strains knocked him out for stretches in both 2017 and ’18. He also missed time late last season due to a groin injury. In an effort to try and combat the recurrence of lower body injuries, Gyorko added more running into his offseason workouts. He also packed on a few additional pounds of muscle.
“I think I’ve prepared myself as much as I can,” Gyorko said. “Right now, I feel really good, and I feel like I’m in a really good spot.”
Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.