Pham talks breakout, vision in Q&A
What a year Cardinals outfielder Tommy Pham had in 2017. In only 128 games, Pham became the first member of the Cardinals to record 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases in a season since Reggie Sanders in '04. Pham also was one of just seven MLB players to record a .300 batting average, a .400 on-base percentage and a .500 slugging percentage last season.
A few hours before Opening Day against the Mets, MLB.com caught up with Pham to discuss both last season and what the future holds for the Cards' rising star.
MLB.com: Can you believe the season you had last year?
Tommy Pham: Yes, I can believe the year I had, because it's everything I thought I could do. I was just consistent all the way around -- defensively, offensively. I managed to get on base, cut down my strikeouts. I drove the ball a little bit. I was able to do everything I wanted. There is still room for improvement. I would say I did a better job helping the pitchers out whenever I could.
MLB.com: Who helped you have a great season?
Pham: Just mainly the opportunity, because, last year, I was able to get two months of consistent playing time before everyone was back [from injuries] and ready. By the time everyone was back -- and the team saw what I did -- it was hard to take me out of the lineup.
MLB.com: How did you manage to have such a great season despite having keratoconus, a rare vision disorder?
Pham: I had the right corrective lenses to allow me to play at a high level. I'm constantly eye-checking myself, only because I have to play. When I don't play, I don't wear my lenses.
MLB.com: You credit Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow -- who had previously been in the Cardinals' front office -- for getting your vision corrected. How did that happen?
Pham: When I was first diagnosed with my condition, he set it up to get tested. He just always believed I was too good of an athlete to struggle in this game. [After 2007], I hit a lot of home runs, but I struck out a lot, and Jeff thought it was my vision rather than my actual swing. ... sure enough, he was right. A big thanks to Jeff.
MLB.com: Do you talk to Luhnow often?
Pham: I don't see him often. But I did see him last year on the back fields before we played Houston during Spring Training. I told him I was struggling. He wanted to congratulate me for what I overcame. He told me I should get my vision checked again, because I'm too good to struggle in this game. I got my vision checked before Spring Training ended, and he was right.
MLB.com: Fair or unfair, you struggled this past Spring Training and the media mentioned your vision problems. How do you feel about it?
Pham: People struggle in this game. If anything, I was looking at my mechanics before my vision. My mechanics were not there quite yet. It's getting better. It wasn't there at the moment. When I'm struggling, people are going [to question my vision]. They don't know anything about me. I use my own doctors. I don't even go through the team. The only people that know about me is me and my eye doctor.
MLB.com: What improvements would you like to make this year?
Pham: I would like to be consistent again and play more games. If I could get out on the field 150-plus games, that means I'm very consistent and I'm helping the team win.
MLB.com: The National League Central is a tough division. How tough are the Cardinals?
Pham: I think we have a great underrated team, but you have to go out there and execute. That's the tough part about this game. It's going out there and executing consistently. There are a lot of great teams -- not only in the league, but in our division. It's going to be a dogfight for us. But we have an unknown potential, unknown talent. If we go out there and we focus on getting better every day -- focus on the task at hand -- we are going to be good.