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Out of options, G. Garcia aims for regular role

Infielder looking to expand responsibilities after breaking through as utility man in '16
MLB.com @LangoschMLB

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Greg Garcia has set his sights high this spring, boldly asserting that he's come into camp playing for a starting job. It's likely an unattainable goal (barring injury), yet it reflects Garcia's evolving perspective after a breakthrough year.

Last spring, Garcia was thrilled to make his first Opening Day roster and eager to serve in a utility role. Now, he's hungry for more.

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PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Greg Garcia has set his sights high this spring, boldly asserting that he's come into camp playing for a starting job. It's likely an unattainable goal (barring injury), yet it reflects Garcia's evolving perspective after a breakthrough year.

Last spring, Garcia was thrilled to make his first Opening Day roster and eager to serve in a utility role. Now, he's hungry for more.

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"Maybe in other peoples' eyes [being an everyday player] is far-fetched," Garcia said. "But I'm very confident in myself going into this year. I know I bring value to a Major League team. I think the Cardinals see that. They gave me a great opportunity last year, and I want to go out and work as hard as I can for this organization because it has given me so much."

In 2016, Garcia spent all but one month in the Majors, where he logged a career-most 257 at-bats. He hit .276/.393/.369, ranked second on the club with eight pinch-hits and made 16 starts during a 22-game stretch in August and September when the Cards were seeking some defensive stability in their infield.

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"I love the way he goes about it," manager Mike Matheny said. "He's one of those glue players who understands the organization and what he wants to do. Greg is a guy that's going to do what's best for the club. He's going to take whatever role. But right now he's doing a real nice job."

Video: Greg Garcia talks about family and baseball

Garcia, like pitchers Tyler Lyons and Miguel Socolovich, entered spring with no Minor League options remaining. There's significance to that, too. If any of those players doesn't land on the team's Opening Day roster, he can be plucked off waivers by another team.

In Garcia's case, that would likely happen. Thus, the risk becomes leverage.

"I feel like I've proven over the last three years that I bring value to a Major League roster," Garcia said. "Obviously, I want to be a Cardinal for the rest of my life. I came up with these guys, and this organization means a lot to me."

While Garcia seeks a larger role, the Cardinals continue to groom him for a utility job. On Sunday, he started at second base, one day after starting at short, which came one day after playing third. Garcia may even see a hint of time at first base before camp is over. He's also a candidate to open the season as the team's emergency catcher.

Garcia snapped an 0-for-11 start to spring in Sunday's 14-11 win over the Mets, when he reached base three times. He tallied two hits -- one of which drove home a run -- and was hit by a pitch.

"The versatility gives him a great chance, and then it's just an opportunity to show what you can do," Matheny said. "This spring, he's been taking really good at-bats. He's been smashing the ball and not getting a lot of results, but taking very good at-bats."

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Read her blog, follow her on Twitter, like her Facebook page and listen to her podcast.

St. Louis Cardinals, Greg Garcia