St. Louis Cardinals: Can Tommy Pham Stick In the Big Leagues?
By Nathan Grime
Tommy Pham returned to the St. Louis Cardinals roster Friday night in Atlanta in place of the injured Stephen Piscotty, and drew the start in center field.
Tommy Pham, the 29-year old outfielder drafted eleven years ago by the St. Louis Cardinals, is back in the big leagues. Regular right fielder Stephen Piscotty strained his right hamstring Thursday night against the Milwaukee Brewers, and the next day Pham got the call in his place.
Pham made his major-league debut late in 2014 after spending nine arduous years in the minor leagues without making it to the show. Since breaking into the big leagues three seasons ago, he’s been on a carousel ride between the major leagues, the minor leagues, and the disabled list.
He got only two at-bats in six games at the end of the 2014 season, but appeared in 52 games with the Cardinals the following year, and 78 games in 2016. Earlier this year, it appeared he would make the Opening Day roster as the team’s fourth outfielder.
Jose Martinez earned that role instead, and Pham was sent back to the minor leagues to begin the season. At Triple-A Memphis, he slashed .283/.371/.500 with four home runs and nineteen runs batted in over 25 games to begin the year.
Now he gets his chance to make an impact again in St. Louis. In the last three seasons, he hit .245 with fourteen home runs and thirty-five runs batted in in 314 at-bats.
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He got the start in center field and hit eighth in the Cardinals’ lineup for their series opener against the Atlanta Braves at brand new SunTrust Park Friday evening. In his first two at-bats, he doubled and hit a two-run home run. His double was mere inches away from clearing the boards.
He ended the night 2-for-4. With Piscotty out for the next two weeks or so, Pham will likely be a regular in the St. Louis outfield. Even with Dexter Fowler day-to-day and set to return to action before Piscotty, Pham could still be a candidate for regular playing time in Piscotty’s absence.
He’ll have to again battle with Martinez. In the Spring, he and Martinez battled for a roster spot. Now, they’ll battle for playing time in right field. Pham got off to a good start Friday night, driving the ball into center and right-center field with authority.
The point of intrigue with Pham this time around will be what the Cardinals decide to do with him once Piscotty is ready to return from the disabled list. Third baseman Jhonny Peralta is also set to make a return from the DL soon, although it’s possible the Cardinals demote a relief pitcher instead of a position player to make room for Peralta.
If Pham gets regular time and performs like he did Friday night, he could make that roster decision for the organization a bit more complicated. Only time will tell regarding Pham’s fate with the Cardinals this time around.
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Will this stint be only a cameo until Piscotty returns? Or will it be the chance he needs to finally gain traction and stick with the big-league club over the course of the entire season? Pham is an exciting player to watch. He’s athletic, quick, and the ball jumps off of his bat when he barrels a pitch up and could be an integral part of an offense that appears to be stirring.