After hitting just .198 in the last month with only one homer, Randal Grichuk was optioned to Class A Palm Beach on Monday. (Bill Greenblatt/UPI)

By Rob Rains

In what has to be viewed as the Cardinals trying to send a strong message, outfielder Randal Grichuk was optioned to the minor leagues on Monday but not to Triple A Memphis.

Instead, Grichuk was sent all the way down to Class A Palm Beach, a move which general manager John Mozeliak admits is “a little out of the box.”

The move came after Grichuk was 0-of-8 in the last two games in Colorado, striking out in five of those at-bats, as his average for the season fell to .222. He was just 2-of-20 on the six-game road trip.

That was the continuation of a month-long struggle that saw Grichuk, 25, hit .198 with just one homer in 24 games since April 27, striking out in one-third of his at-bats.

Mozeliak said going to Palm Beach, where he will work with minor league hitting instructor George Greer, will allow Grichuk to try to make the adjustments he needs to make at the plate in a less stressful environment.

The number one area Girchuk needs to improve, Mozeliak said, is management of the strike zone. He has struck out 54 times in 167 at-bats.

“All of us who have gotten to see him over the years know he’s got a lot of power, a game-changing type swing, but right now it’s just not working,” Mozeliak said. “We had to do something different.

“Clearly the simple thing might have been to send him down to Memphis and let him get going, but we’ve all seen him hit in Memphis. I really felt like we had to do something different here and it’s a little bit out of the box, but he will work with George for a week or so and see how things go.”

Grichuk was informed of the move after arriving at Busch Stadium before Monday’s game against the Dodgers. He left without speaking to the media.

Grichuk’s poor performance was obviously the main factor in the Cardinals’ decision, but included was the recent strong contributions from Tommy Pham, and Monday’s return of Jose Martinez from the disabled list.

“Tommy has earned the right to keep playing,” said manager Mike Matheny. “That’s part of the situation.”

Matheny said he had a chance to speak with Grichuk and called it an “honest” conversation.

“There are no promises in this game,” Matheny said he told Grichuk. “Go play. You give guys opportunities and you never know what’s going to happen. But I will stand by the fact of the statements I’ve made before that this kid is a superstar talent. He’s got a couple of things he needs to fix. We’ve seen him do that in the past. We’ve just got to let him get right. We’ll let it take as long as it takes.”

Matheny said the conversation included a discussion about “where we are and where we need to get to, what’s in the way of him getting there, putting a game plan together of what we think he needs to do to get right and help us out.

“This is a hard game, a real hard game.”

Both Mozeliak and Matheny said they believed Grichuk understood the reasons for the change and the reality that he has to be more successful if he wants to stay in the major leagues.

“The bad spots are never going to end,” Matheny said. “It’s about making the changes necessary so they don’t last long. Hopefully it gets quicker and quicker for Randal along the way.”

Mozeliak did not put a timetable on how long the minor-league assignment will last for Grichuk.

“I don’t think this is a case of Randal not understanding,” Mozeliak said. “I just think he’s in a spot where at the major league level pressures are high and adjustments are sometimes difficult. Now he can hit the pause button and reset.

“As I’ve said this is a results-business industry. Right now he’s not getting it done.”

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