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With hot start, next step for Nolan Gorman is to test adjustments vs. lefties: Cardinals Extra

The results Cardinals second baseman Nolan Gorman has produced after he spent the past offseason adjusting his swing have been evident.

Gorman entered Tuesday with a .979 OPS, fourth-highest across the majors; a .600 slugging percentage, ranking second-best; and a team-high 33 RBIs that we tied for the sixth-most in the league.

All of that coming off a rookie season last year that ended with Gorman slashing .226/.300/.420 and back with Class AAA Memphis at the end of September before returning for the postseason.

“This is a really, really good hitter who has made adjustments to the league every year coming up through the system, and now he’s made an adjustment to the big leagues,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said pregame Tuesday. “So is it a surprise? Not really.”

But how might those changes translate for the left-handed swinging infielder against a left-handed pitcher?

“We’re going to have to find out,” Marmol said. “It’s allowed him to recognize pitches better, lay off the fastball at the top a little more, get to certain pitches with more ease. Now we’ll see what that looks like from a left-on-left standpoint.”

Gorman, 23, had taken just seven at-bats against left-handers to begin the year. He went hitless, drew two walks and struck out once in the limited opportunities and had not started a game in which St. Louis faced a left-handed starter.

Despite his productive stretch to begin the year, Gorman had been left out of the starting in lineup in recent games during which the Cardinals faced left-handers including in consecutive games against Boston who deployed southpaws Chris Sale and James Paxton.

Gorman got his first start against a left-handed pitcher on Tuesday when the Cardinals faced the Brewers and left-hander Wade Miley.

“I felt like today would be a good day for Gorman to be in there again against (Wade) Miley,” Marmol said.

The 23-year-old had one at-bat against Miley and grounded out to first base against the Brewers starter, who exited the game in the second inning with a left lat strain. Gorman later struck out looking on three pitches in the fourth inning against lefty reliever Holby Milner.

During his sophomore season, Gorman has shown improvements on some of the issues that led to a demotion during his first year in the big leagues. He’s cut his swing-and-miss rate on fastballs down from 33.1% to 25.2% in 2023, according to Statcast.

The fastball was a put-away pitch for 23.2% of his at-bats that ended with a strikeout a season ago. That figure is down to 14.9% as his walk rate has increased from 8.9% to 12.9% and his overall strikeout rate is down nearly 9% from where it was a year ago, per FanGraphs.

“There’s definitely demeanor and sometimes you can have that prior to success,” Marmol said of Gorman. “Sometimes you have some success and then it breeds confidence. With him, even when he was struggling last year, we saw a guy that didn’t panic. I remember a time in Chicago, he struck out his first three at-bats and you couldn’t tell if he was 3 for 3 or 0 for 3.”

“He was just the same guy, and it’s just part of his overall demeanor. Now we’re seeing it as a quiet confidence, but I think he’s been confident all the way throughout. He just ran into the league kind of pitching him tough.”

Carlson shows ‘progress’ but still day-to-day

Switch-hitting outfielder Dylan Carlson continued to be listed as day-to-day with a left ankle injury he sustained on Sunday, Marmol said. Carlson took swings as a right-handed hitter pregame Tuesday and felt “OK.” Carlson’s swings from the left side were “tougher” for the 24-year-old to put weight and pressure on his ankle.

Along with work inside the batting cage, Carlson was scheduled to go through activities in the Cardinals’ weight room to get a better judgment on how well he could jog.

Marmol, whose club rosters three catchers, said they will remain “patient” and give Carlson another day to see how he responds.

“There’s definitely progress made today. So that’s good,” Marmol said.

Knizner’s grand pinch-run appearance

During the same inning in which he entered the Cardinals’ 18-1 rout of the Brewers on Monday night, Andrew Knizner became the third MLB player to come into a game as a pinch runner and hit a grand slam later in the same inning, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

Knizner, who pinch ran for Paul Goldschmidt with no outs in the bottom of the eighth inning, drilled a 74.2 mph fastball from position player Mike Brosseau 401 feet to left field. Knizner joined Boston’s Gene Stephens (July 13, 1959) and Oakland’s Rajai Davis (Sept. 5, 2008) as the only players in Major League Baseball history to do so.

Cardinals infielder Nolan Gorman tries to flip a ground ball to first base from his glove on Tuesday May 16, 2023, against the Brewers at Busch Stadium.

Cardinals infielder Nolan Gorman tries to flip a ground ball to first base from his glove on Tuesday May 16, 2023, against the Brewers at Busch Stadium.

Daniel Guerrero

@TheDanGuerrero on Twitter

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