Jay helps 'Birds to third straight win

There's not a player on the Redbirds' roster having more fun than outfielder Jon Jay.

The joy he has when he takes the field is not because of the results he's had in the team's first 13 games. Instead, it's the reason why his numbers have been eye-pleasing.

Jay came into this season determined keep his head clear of the things that can frustrate a young player, which happened to him during the first half last year. The result has him riding a 13-game hitting streak to start the season as the Redbirds won their third straight game, beating Iowa, 6-5, Wednesday at AutoZone Park.

"You know like when you're a little kid, you go out and you don't think about stuff," Jay said. "You just go out and have fun with your teammates. That's what I'm trying to do here."

Jay's carefree approach has him showing signs of being a much more disciplined and confident hitter. As the Redbirds' leadoff hitter, the 25-year-old left-handed batter is hitting to all parts of the field. And when he's not busy collecting hits, Jay is drawing walks; he has seven.

"I'm just trying to swing at strikes," he said. "I know if I can just swing at strikes, I'll be all right. That's the biggest thing I'm working on. I'm just staying relaxed and trying not to do too much thinking. I'm clearing my head and having fun."

The win over Iowa was the Redbirds' third straight come-from-behind victory. It's not a coincidence that Jay has played a part in all three rallies.

Monday night against Oklahoma City, the St. Louis Cardinals' second-round draft pick in 2006 had an RBI single and scored the tying run in a three-run rally that led the Redbirds to a 4-3 win. On Tuesday, he had an RBI fielder's choice and scored in a three-run rally that led to a 4-3 win.

And against the Cubs on Wednesday, Jay drew a two-out, bases-loaded walk that kept alive a four-run rally to give the team another win.
"I know last year he didn't have a great first half, and he was kind of disappointed about it," center fielder Shane Robinson said. "It's good to see him swinging it like he is. He's our spark that gets us going."

Jay leads the Redbirds with a .364 batting average and is second on the team with 10 RBI. He entered Wednesday's game third in the Pacific Coast League in stolen bases with seven, third in hits with 19 before he added a double, and second in runs scored (14).

Last season, Jay bounced back from a slow start to hit .281 with 10 homers and 54 RBI. He was second on the team with 20 stolen bases.
"He's one of my favorites,'' Redbirds manager Chris Maloney said. "I've never seen a guy that loves to play ball more than him. He's like a Little League kid out there. He's excited. He plays hard and plays smart, just a lot of natural ability. He's a pleasure.

"I think he's just evolving, especially with his bat. His defense and all the other stuff was always there. I think he's learned how to turn on the ball a little bit. That's what it's going to take for him to play at the next level and he's doing very well."

Jay is rated the Cardinals' 13th-best prospect by Baseball America. After spending all of 2009 and part of 2008 in Memphis, the former University of Miami star is hoping this is the year he gets his first call-up to St. Louis.

But for that to happen, Jay realizes he must continue focusing on just having fun.

"I'm just trying to keep things simple," he said. "I'm trying to get on base. We've got some guys that can drive in some runs, so I'm just taking it one pitch at a time and try to swing at strikes and see what happens."

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