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Grichuk disappointed to lose starting spot

MLB.com @LangoschMLB

ST. LOUIS -- As Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty separated for the offseason, they anticipated that their time as teammates was ending. The Cardinals' offseason priorities were evident, and among them was an intention to clear some outfield clutter.

Piscotty was part of that purge. So was Magneuris Sierra. Both were dealt away in December. And those moves did bring clarity to Grichuk's future fit, though not in the way the former first-round pick would have preferred.

ST. LOUIS -- As Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty separated for the offseason, they anticipated that their time as teammates was ending. The Cardinals' offseason priorities were evident, and among them was an intention to clear some outfield clutter.

Piscotty was part of that purge. So was Magneuris Sierra. Both were dealt away in December. And those moves did bring clarity to Grichuk's future fit, though not in the way the former first-round pick would have preferred.

Grichuk, the team's Opening Day cleanup hitter each of the past two seasons, finds himself now buried fourth on the outfield depth chart. The acquisition of Marcell Ozuna, along with the emergence of Tommy Pham, knocked Grichuk out of a starting job.

"Obviously any time you lose a starting spot, it's disappointing," Grichuk said on the final day of the Cardinals' Winter Warm-Up event. "I felt like last year was kind of up and down. It wasn't consistent enough. We needed an impact bat in the middle of the lineup, and, fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you want to look at it, it's an outfielder. It's good for the team, rough for me. But I'll still roll with it."

Video: Grichuk looking forward to helping Cards in any role

Grichuk had ample opportunity to alter the Cardinals' plans. Had he performed more consistently the past two seasons, he may have risen as a priority player. Steps forward, however, were almost always met by steps back for Grichuk. Since 2016, he has slashed .239/.287/.477 with a .764 OPS and 99 OPS+.

But there's potential that still intrigues the Cardinals, and, most importantly, a defensive versatility that the club still values. Grichuk's ability to play all three outfield positions can provide roster protection for the Cardinals. And it's why the organization hasn't felt it necessary to push Grichuk in the trade market this offseason.

For Grichuk, that reality is sinking in.

"I'm going to go into the year the same way, being prepared, fighting for a job, even if it's not possible," Grichuk said. "It's going to be difficult, giving it all you've got in the opportunities you've got. … I hope [the other outfielders] feel confident in themselves, and you don't want anyone doubting themselves. But hopefully they know I'm there, and if I get an opportunity, I'm going to try to make the best of it and not look back."

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