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Pham motivated to reach high expectations

Entering first full season, Cards CF spent winter getting 'more athletic'
MLB.com @JoeTrezz

JUPITER, Fla. -- After spring after spring of saying differently, Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak approached Tommy Pham this week with an unfamiliar message.

"Mo said I'm on the team this year," quipped Pham, sitting in the shade Sunday, after arriving in camp for good.

JUPITER, Fla. -- After spring after spring of saying differently, Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak approached Tommy Pham this week with an unfamiliar message.

"Mo said I'm on the team this year," quipped Pham, sitting in the shade Sunday, after arriving in camp for good.

Cardinals Spring Training information

An unfamiliar level of job security comes with Pham's increased status this spring, along with the weight and expectation of several new titles, now marked down in pen. Starting center fielder. No. 2 hitter. No longer a preseason possibility but a Opening Day anchor, one of the top outfielders in baseball, and, some say, a voice St. Louis needs.

It's a lot to live up to, even for a player talented enough to erupt like Pham did last year, when he became the first right-handed Cardinal to post a .300/.400/.500 slash line since Albert Pujols. Pham waited years to prove himself, and he spent this offseason motivated to prove the bat, the mouth, the whole thing, wasn't a fluke -- but a package worth waiting for. A relentless worker, Pham spent the winter speed training in Miami, in an attempt to "get more athletic." The constant swinging that defined previous offseasons took a back seat.

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"I was able to gain speed without sacrificing any weight, which I was excited about," Pham said. "I thought to get faster, I would have to get lighter, and that wasn't the case."

Now, the focus turns back to the diamond. Pham looked to be making up for lost time. On a day when his position-player teammates stuck to routine cage work, Pham hopped all around camp, a bat in his hands constantly. Pham was the only non-catcher on the back fields, where the pitchers throw, tracking during bullpen sessions. (He also made sure to track pitches during a brief visit to camp earlier in the week.)

"I need to get reacclimated to baseball," Pham said.

The first pitcher he stepped in against was Carlos Martinez.

Video: Outlook: Pham primed for another strong season

"Ball," Pham said, spitting at an inside slider.

"Strike," he said a pitch later, after a fastball hit the outside edge.

Later, Pham dug in against Jack Flaherty, and soon told the rookie right-hander he noticed a tell in his delivery.

"He was tipping his pitches," Pham said. "He should never get hit like he did last year, not with stuff like he has."

Tweet from @JoeTrezz: Tommy Pham talks hitting, tracks pitches from Carlos Martinez. pic.twitter.com/2DgCUBxLi8

The first real swings of the spring should come Monday, when position players will participate in live batting practice as part of their first official workout. Pham said he adjusted that slightly, too, in between the treadmill races and pro football workouts that defined his offseason. Gone is a hitch in his hand load that made his swing less level. Still ringing loudly is Mozeliak's message, which came with a caveat, of sorts.

"He also told me to be smart about how I prepare," Pham said.

Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.

St. Louis Cardinals, Tommy Pham