JUPITER, Fla. - Like a kid excited for the first day of school, Cardinals outfielder Jon Jay couldn't fall asleep late Sunday night as thoughts ran through his head about leaving early Monday morning to report to spring training in Jupiter.
So instead of tossing and turning in his bed all night, Jay decided to get up and make the 90-minute drive from his home in Miami to the Cardinals complex in Jupiter - at 2:30 in the morning.
Jay checked into his condo near Roger Dean Stadium and unpacked his bags early Monday morning before being one of the first players to show up in the Cardinals clubhouse.
"I didn't sleep all night," Jay said. "I was too excited and pumped up to be around everybody so I just got in my car and drove up here in the middle of the night."
Despite hitting .300 in his rookie season in the big leagues in 2010, Jay knows he's in for a battle just to make the roster this spring. Both Jay and Allen Craig were expected to see significant playing time in right-field before the club signed veteran Lance Berkman to man the spot.
Veteran Jim Edmonds was then signed to a minor league deal and will attempt to beat out Jay for a spot on the bench should he be healthy enough to do so.
"I wouldn't say it's disappointing because the Cardinals are known as one of the teams who will compete year in and year out and that's what happens when you are on a team like that," Jay said of the moves. "Sometimes it's better to be on a winning team and have a smaller role than to be on a losing team and have a bigger role. Hopefully I can stick around here and we can do some special things this year.
"I'm not too worried about who was brought in. If I can take care of what I need to take care of, everything will be fine. If I show up and I'm not ready and I don't do what I need to do to take care of, then I'm not going to merit a spot. I'm just looking forward to proving every day that I belong here."
Jay was hitting .396 when Ryan Ludwick was traded to the San Diego Padres. But he hit just .238 with nine extra-base hits in 176 at-bats from that point forward and was benched the final week of the season to ensure his batting average finish the season above .300.
Nobody expected Jay to continue hitting .396 the entire season but his dramatic drop off down the stretch was a concern. The left-handed hitting Jay said the slump was mainly just the law of averages playing out but admitted he has to be more consistent this year if he expects to remain in the big leagues.
"I went into a funk and it's one of those things where maybe it was a bad time to go into a funk," Jay said. "But I learned from it and this year it's going to be a test to see how quickly I can get out of that and how quickly I can make the adjustment. I take nothing but positive from last year and I got some valuable time here so I am looking forward to spring training and re-proving myself and continuing to show that I can play at this level.
"I think my hands were dropping a little bit too low but it was a combination of things. I was just missing pitches and not capitalizing on that. This is the big leagues. You miss your pitch and fall behind in the count and the pitcher is going to get you. I have to remember to work ahead in the count and continue to play my game. I'm excited for this year."
Jay is also the latest Cardinal to join the Twitter world. You can follow him @JonJayU.
Make sure you catch all the St. Louis Cardinals spring training news from beat reporter B.J. Rains, exclusive videos, commentary and much more at FOXSportsMidwest.com. All spring long, we will be consolidating a listing of all their daily Cardinals content in a special thread on The Cardinal Nation message board.