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Pham has 'very big plans' for 2018 season

MLB.com @LangoschMLB

ST. LOUIS -- Just minutes after the Cardinals filed off the field following the end of their 2017 season, Tommy Pham had already shifted his attention toward what was ahead. He paused while packing up his Busch Stadium locker, and with the same candidness with which he conducts most of his interviews, made a promise.

"I have," Pham said, "very big plans for myself in this game."

ST. LOUIS -- Just minutes after the Cardinals filed off the field following the end of their 2017 season, Tommy Pham had already shifted his attention toward what was ahead. He paused while packing up his Busch Stadium locker, and with the same candidness with which he conducts most of his interviews, made a promise.

"I have," Pham said, "very big plans for myself in this game."

Those plans start with preparation. Pham vowed to return faster, stronger and better in 2018, and his active Instagram profile provides proof of that purpose.

Take his Thanksgiving week post, for instance, one in which Pham offered a peek into his offseason training. Buckled into a harness, the 29-year-old outfielder runs sprints on a treadmill programmed at 21.5 mph. He doesn't fall off.

The intensely self-motivated outfielder hopes to parlay a breakout 2017 season into an even bigger one in '18. For the first time in his career, he'll report to Spring Training knowing that the Cardinals have a place for him on their big league roster.

Pham projects to hit third in the lineup and open the year as the team's starting center fielder. Both are bold responsibilities for a player who began last season in the Minors and who has been plagued by injuries throughout his career.

This coming opportunity, though, has been every bit earned.

Video: CHC@STL: Pham races in for a nice running grab

"He's always been somebody that we thought had the ability to be a special player," Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said. "But to see him make the type of impact he's had on the club [last] year, it's obviously been something that has left a very positive impact on us. You look at his ability to play all three outfield positions, to hit in the middle of the order or early in the order, he gives you a lot of flexibility.

"And moving forward, that's exciting."

Yet, simply repeating his 2017 success isn't satisfying enough for Pham. Last year, he became the sixth Cardinals player to hit 20 homers and steal 20 bases in a season. Now, Pham is eyeing 30-30 -- a mark that has never before been reached in franchise history.

And the list of goals continues: Quicker in the outfield. Better disciplined at the plate. Stronger with his throws. More aggressive on the basepaths.

Pham wants it all.

Ask him how he's doing, and you're bound to get hear him quip, "Good. Just trying to be great." The answer isn't flippant, but rather a peek into the mind of a player so driven to be the best that he refuses to be caught content with previous success.

Pham wants to anchor the 2018 Cardinals. Now, he's going to get that chance.

"I play with intensity," Pham said. "That's just how I've always been. When you are looked upon to play every day, there's an element of consistency that your team looks for. I'll go [into the season] with the mentality that I need to be ready to play every day and produce."

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, Tommy Pham