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Diaz working hard to fix hitting deficiencies

MLB.com

PHOENIX -- As the season nears its halfway point, second-year shortstop Aledmys Diaz remains in search of the offensive traction that came so easily as rookie. On Monday, that work continued mostly in the batting cage, where Diaz dedicated extra time after being given his third day off in a week's span.

"I think it's going to be a tough season for me as far as the hitting aspect. But I'm just staying positive," said Diaz, who entered Tuesday's game against the D-backs with a season OPS+ of 80, 54 points lower than it was in 2016.

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PHOENIX -- As the season nears its halfway point, second-year shortstop Aledmys Diaz remains in search of the offensive traction that came so easily as rookie. On Monday, that work continued mostly in the batting cage, where Diaz dedicated extra time after being given his third day off in a week's span.

"I think it's going to be a tough season for me as far as the hitting aspect. But I'm just staying positive," said Diaz, who entered Tuesday's game against the D-backs with a season OPS+ of 80, 54 points lower than it was in 2016.

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"I don't feel good at home plate, but at the same time, I'm trying to do my best for the team by getting on base and scoring runs. Everybody talks about the second year [being tough]. I'm just trying to work on being more disciplined at home plate, and hopefully it starts getting better over the next couple weeks."

Plate discipline has been a large part of the problem for Diaz, who, according to Statcast™, has swung and missed at 14 percent of the pitches outside the strike zone. That's five percentage points higher than it was a year ago.

"He's just not seeing the ball," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "He's committing early, way before he's had a chance to have any pitch recognition. Hitters go through that, and it's just no fun when you're going through it. You're just hoping to get your swing started on the right one to where you can make something happen. But then as you get deeper in the count, you just find yourself very vulnerable."

There have been other troublesome trends as well, including a decrease in average exit velocity (from 88.7 mph in 2016 to 84.7 mph in 2017) and a tendency to pull the ball more often.

Diaz's .260 batting average would be much lower if not for the his ability to beat out 21 infield hits. Last year he had 24 infield hits when he batted .300.

"When you use the whole field, it's better for everything," Diaz said. "I think it's one thing I have to work on the next couple weeks, that when there is a pitch outside, be able to hit it the opposite way. If you look at the good hitters in baseball, they use the whole field to hit.

"It's part of the game. It's a long season. I'm struggling right now at home plate, but I'm hitting .260. As soon as I get my timing back, I can move past the bad result and help my team."

Diaz acknowledged that his right thumb, the same one he broke last July, is still sore after being jammed by a pitch on Friday. However, Diaz does not expect it to be a serious issue moving forward.

On the move

• Assistant hitting coach Bill Mueller rejoined the team on Tuesday after several weeks away tending to a family matter. Mark Budaska, who filled in during Mueller's absence, returned to his position as Triple-A hitting coach.

• Outfielder Adolis Garcia, who received a $2.5 million bonus when he signed a Minor League deal with the Cardinals in February, earned a promotion to Triple-A Memphis on Monday. Garcia, 24, hit .283/.341/.430 with a .771 OPS in 67 Double-A games, most of which he started in right field.

• Promoted to Memphis with Garcia was right-hander Zac Gallen, a third-round pick from the 2016 MLB Draft. Gallen opened the year with a 1.62 ERA in nine Class A Advanced starts before moving up to Double-A, where he appeared in four games. Gallen made his Triple-A debut on Monday and struck out eight in a loss. He allowed three runs on six hits over five innings.

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, Aledmys Diaz