ST. LOUIS -- There was a moment last week when, as Stephen Piscotty wrapped up his round of Triple-A batting practice, what he felt was affirmed by what others saw. At one point that reminder came from reliever Josh Lucas, who approached the outfielder and remarked: "You're back to the
ST. LOUIS -- There was a moment last week when, as Stephen Piscotty wrapped up his round of Triple-A batting practice, what he felt was affirmed by what others saw. At one point that reminder came from reliever Josh Lucas, who approached the outfielder and remarked: "You're back to the old Pisco."
Piscotty looked as such on Tuesday while reaching base three times and going deep in the Cardinals' 12-4 loss to the Padres at Busch Stadium. His fourth-inning home run was Piscotty's first since June 18, and just his second of the season to the opposite field.
"That's the first time this season I've really seen the ball jump for him in that direction, and it really jumped," manager Mike Matheny said. "[I'm] happy to see that he, like a few of the other guys we've put that assignment to, [was able to] go down and get it fixed and get better and come back. He did a great job of not falling into a trap of feeling sorry for himself or taking it as a slight. It was an opportunity to go get better, and that's exactly what he did."
The sample size (two games) is still tiny, but the early returns give Piscotty a starting point. He reached base three times on two singles and a walk in Sunday's game against the Pirates and tallied another multi-hit game on Tuesday. They represented Piscotty's first two-hit games with the Cardinals since July 3.
"I felt good. I felt crisp," Piscotty said after Tuesday's loss. "I felt like I had a bit of a continuation of what I was doing in Memphis. If I'm just hitting the ball hard, then I'm happy. Luckily, the hits are falling. It's been great to see it right out of the gate. It just gives me even more confidence."
That confidence has yo-yoed for Piscotty in a season that has challenged his rhythm. Two stints on the disabled list, along with a necessary personal leave of absence, complicated things for the right fielder, who had opened the season by signing a six-year extension.
Unable to generate sustained success, Piscotty understood the reason for his Aug. 7 demotion. He responded to it by using the time in a less-pressurized environment to simplify his mechanics and approach. From there, the confidence grew organically.
"I just feel a little bit crisper and cleaner at the plate," Piscotty said. "It was a good trip for me to go do. I definitely feel better in the box now."
It's still not entirely clear how the Cardinals will work Piscotty into the outfield mix. The club has five outfielders for three spots, and Piscotty's start on Tuesday came at the expense of Randal Grichuk, who has eight multi-hit games in his last 11 starts.
The Cardinals did not guarantee Piscotty an immediate return to an everyday role. For now, it seems as if production will determine playing time.
"It'll be just like we have been [doing]," Matheny said. "Trying to figure out what's going to be the best bet on any particular night."
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.