ST. LOUIS — Since Juan Yepez arrived in the major leagues, all he's done is hit.
Yepez is second among qualified rookies in OPS (behind only his teammate Brendan Donovan), first in slugging percentage and tied for fourth in home runs.
On Monday against the Miami Marlins, he notched the first multi-home run game of his career. And it came in part thanks to some advice from the Cardinals' all-time great watching intently on the bench.
"You want to focus and try to do the job. I've gotta give credit to Albert (Pujols). He said, 'What's your plan'? And he told me, 'Just stay left-center and wait for that cutter and you'll hit it out.' And then he did and I hit it out. So credit to him," Yepez said Monday night describing his second home run.
If you've watched the Cardinals this season, you've likely noticed the friendship between Yepez and Pujols in camera shots of the bench after big moments.
The pair seems inseparable, and Yepez explained on Tuesday just how influential Pujols has been on his success so far in the majors.
"He's one of the best right-handed hitters in the history of the game. So it's like, just the way he thinks and some things that time will get me. Like what to expect in certain locations, you know. So I'm glad to have him telling me at such a young age," Yepez said.
Yepez, 24, is hitting .282 on the season with a .834 OPS, nine home runs and 24 RBIs in 156 at-bats for the Cardinals.
While Yepez has put Pujols' advice to work at the plate, the pair have also become close off of it, too.
"He's been like a dad to me. He tells jokes, laughs... We sometimes eat together. It's a special relationship and I'm happy and glad he's taking the time to teach me all his secrets," Yepez said.
The Cardinals' locker room runs the age gamut nowadays. With youngsters like Yepez, Donovan and Nolan Gorman contributing every day and veterans like Pujols, Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright still doing their thing, every stage of a player's career is represented in St. Louis.
"It's more maybe in the dugout before we both go out there. But yeah, it's an honor. It's an honor to be here. And not just Albert, everybody in this clubhouse. Goldy, Arenado, Yadi, Waino... All these guys. It's just a pleasure for me to be here," Yepez said.
And for the young guys, it can still be a wild moment to think that they're getting to learn from some of the best.
"If you told me when I was five years old that I'd be here playing with him, I wouldn't believe you," Yepez said.