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After early results, Edman returns to leadoff

Cardinals second baseman showing improvement at plate, consistency on defense


ST. LOUIS — The Cardinals’ new leadoff hitter — for the time being, at least — is the same as the old one.

Tommy Edman, who took 525 of his 641 at-bats from the leadoff spot in 2021, is back at the top of St. Louis’ lineup after being moved down in the order early in the season. Even though Edman ranked second in the National League with 41 doubles last season, the Cardinals were unhappy with his low walk rate (38 in 691 plate appearances) and his sagging on-base percentage (.308).

After experimenting with Dylan Carlson in the leadoff role early in 2022, the speedy Edman steadily worked his way back to the top by being one of the most consistent Cardinals hitters thus far. After singling from the No. 1 hole in Friday’s 6-2 loss to the D-backs at Busch Stadium, Edman has hit safely in 15 of St. Louis’ 19 games and has boosted his batting average to .318.

Edman’s work at the plate — more specifically, his improvements in waiting for pitches in the zone to drive the ball — caught the eye of Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol and earned the heady second baseman his old job back as the team’s table-setter at the top of the lineup.

“He’s done a nice job of taking advantage of the opportunity,” Marmol said. “He is walking at a higher rate. And he’s not just putting balls in play that are on the edges [of the plate]; he’s actually waiting for pitches that he can do something with. It’s a combination of him doing more damage and a higher walk rate. If he continues to do that, I don’t see a reason to change that for the moment.”

Edman was one of the few bright spots on Friday, when Adam Wainwright uncharacteristically struggled with his control and a St. Louis offense that hammered out 18 runs over the previous two games mustered only five hits. After his hard-hit single in the seventh, Edman immediately added his fifth stolen base of the season, tying teammate Harrison Bader for the NL lead.

Earlier in the night, Edman was one of five Cardinals players to receive their 2021 Gold Glove Awards. Edman was joined by nine-time winner Nolan Arenado, four-time winner Paul Goldschmidt, repeat winner Tyler O’Neill and Bader in a pregame ceremony.

While Edman’s spot in the batting order has been fluid, his strong defense has been steady again this season. He came into Friday tied for first in the Major Leagues with five defensive runs saved.

“I knew that I was a Gold Glove-level defender going into last season, but it’s good to get that recognition,” Edman said recently. “But there are lots of areas where I can still improve, and I’m still working on some things. It’s fun getting after it defensively. Playing well defensively is an expectation of this organization.”

There’s also an expectation within the Cardinals’ organization that Wainwright will be sharp with his command. However, the 40-year-old ace walked five Arizona batters in the loss. That was the most Wainwright had issued since walking a career-high seven against the Cubs on June 2, 2019.

“Just not good enough,” said Wainwright, who passed 2,400 career innings pitched in the outing. “I don’t know why it’s jumping in and out of command like that. I just didn’t command the ball like I needed to on any of my pitches.”

Edman has worked to gain better command of the strike zone as a hitter, leading to steadier production. Last season, he too often rolled over on balls outside of the strike zone, causing his batting average (.262) and OPS (.695) to drop. This season, Edman already has three home runs and two doubles.

Most importantly, Edman is now walking once every 2.1 games, as opposed to once every 4.2 games last season. Whereas right-handed pitching was tough for him last season (.308 on-base percentage), he is thriving this season (.452 OBP) by being more selective at the plate.

“He’s one of those players who has a high aptitude and is able to make adjustments in terms of making the changes that we were asking of him,” Marmol said. “He understood the downside of what he was doing, and we’re seeing a better version of him now. … We saw a couple of the doubles and homers he hit early that showed he can get the ball in the air pull side, which is what he was struggling with [last season]. So that was an early indication that it was starting to click more with him.”

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