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Grichuk returns, slugs record-setting homer

478-foot shot longest by Cards player at Busch III
MLB.com @LangoschMLB

ST. LOUIS -- With renewed confidence and a fixed swing, Randal Grichuk returned to St. Louis on Sunday and immediately showed it all off.

One of three players called up from Triple-A Memphis before the game, Grichuk slotted into the cleanup spot, where he started a two-run second inning with a single and then crushed a 478-foot home run to help lift the Cardinals to an 8-4 win over the Pirates. The homer, which came off Grichuk's bat with an exit velocity of 109.3 mph, according to Statcast™, was the longest by a Cardinals player in the 12-year history of Busch Stadium III.

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ST. LOUIS -- With renewed confidence and a fixed swing, Randal Grichuk returned to St. Louis on Sunday and immediately showed it all off.

One of three players called up from Triple-A Memphis before the game, Grichuk slotted into the cleanup spot, where he started a two-run second inning with a single and then crushed a 478-foot home run to help lift the Cardinals to an 8-4 win over the Pirates. The homer, which came off Grichuk's bat with an exit velocity of 109.3 mph, according to Statcast™, was the longest by a Cardinals player in the 12-year history of Busch Stadium III.

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The only one hit farther came off from Milwaukee's Keon Broxton, who launched a 489-foot home run earlier this month.

"I knew off the bat that it was a no-doubter," Grichuk said. "Being the farthest is pretty impressive considering some of the Matt Holidays and guys like that [who] have played at this stadium. [It] felt good off the bat."

Video: Mozeliak discusses the Cardinals' roster moves

The two-hit night offered Grichuk some positive reinforcement that his time away hadn't been wasted. He opened the year as the team's starting left fielder, but lost his place on the Cardinals' roster when, after 167 at-bats, he was hitting .222/.276/.377 with 54 strikeouts and four home runs. The Cardinals first sent him out to work with offensive strategist George Greer in Florida. Together, they talked hitting, and Grichuk took so many swings that his hands began to blister.

He then moved his work to Triple-A Memphis, where things started out slowly before Grichuk found his footing. He said he felt especially in sync with the timing and rhythm of his swing last week as he pieced together an eight-game hitting streak. He hit five homers during that stretch.

"I felt like I got out of my head and a lot more feel for my swing," Grichuk said. "I just felt like I was going up there swinging and having fun and not thinking too much. I was just kind of hitting what was thrown to me [and] staying with my approach.

"It was kind of good to take a step back and breathe, to be able to work on some things in a less-intense atmosphere, less-pressure atmosphere, and really be able to simplify things."

During Grichuk's time away, general manager John Mozeliak noted that at some point this year, the Cardinals were going to have to have to allow the 25-year-old outfielder to "sink or swim" at this level. In other words, the Cardinals were ready to ditch the prospect label and determine whether he Grichuk for the long term.

Grichuk's opportunity for a fresh impression came when Dexter Fowler was placed on the disabled list. And regular playing time should be available to him, at least until Fowler returns.

"I think for [Grichuk] a lot of this is about confidence and finding his swing," Mozeliak said. "I think when you look at sort of what his performance was down there, it really wasn't all that different than what he's done in the past. But I feel like when he was up here last time, he was going down a path that just seemed like it was somewhat endless. It was really more of a timeout to allow him to go work on things without the pressures of the big leagues."

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.

St. Louis Cardinals, Randal Grichuk