Kolten Wong’s shoulder injury stemming from the end of last season might have some Cardinal fans worried. General manager John Mozeliak made it clear this past December at the team’s annual Winter Warmup, Wong is the guy they want at second base.
He’s been on a limited throwing program since arriving in camp and has said the shoulder is bothering him, but it isn’t to the point of needing surgery.
However, for a guy that spent a portion of last season in the minors and didn’t earn a ton of day-to-day action at second base, with utility player Jedd Gyorko hitting well, there’s a chance Wong could miss some time to start the season if he isn’t 100 percent.
For St. Louis, the team has more than a few options if Wong has to miss time. Gyorko, currently in a starting battle at third base with Jhonny Peralta, could slide over and play second. The team would lose some range in the infield, Wong can cover more ground than Gyorko, but it’s not too much of a downgrade.
Matt Carpenter, slotted to become the team’s everyday first baseman, is another option. Carpenter has played second in the past for St. Louis before moving to third and now to first. If Carpenter slides over to second, Matt Adams earns the chance to make his way back into the everyday lineup.
Wong batted 0.240 in 313 at-bats in 2016, with 75 hits and 23 RBI. Not great numbers, but again he was limited. The loss of his bat from the lineup won’t make a huge difference if the others are hitting as expected.
As Mozeliak’s stated, St. Louis is working towards a more athletic lineup as opposed to a power-hungry home run team. Wong’s speed could be missed, but he’s likely slotted to bat at the bottom half of the lineup anyways, so it’s not a huge loss.
The real loss of Wong would come from his energy. Without Matt Holliday, one of the team’s cornerstone captains, the Cardinals are finding leaders in the younger core.
Wong is one of those high-energy guys who brings a spark to the team when they need it most. Newcomer Dexter Fowler is already encouraging a lighter atmosphere in the clubhouse and on the field.
For example, Fowler told Wong to bring the boom box to the field for practice each day so the players can take turns playing their music. This has already lightened the mood of a club looking to get back on track after a tough finish to 2016.
Fans shouldn’t be as concerned with Wong’s injury or blow it out of proportion. Thankfully for Mozeliak, he opted to keep Adams rather than trade him. While this is partially due to not knowing how Carpenter will perform at first base, it also provides a backup plan in the event Wong does need to miss time.
Losing players before the season begins is never something a team wants to deal with, especially when they are a part of the projected starting lineup.
The Cardinals already lost starting pitcher Alex Reyes for the entire 2017 season, a huge loss in itself, from a starting rotation that has more question marks than answers.
As of now, Wong’s injury doesn’t appear to be serious, although it is concerning that an injury from last fall is still bothering him in February.
However, manager Mike Matheny and the Cardinals have plans and players in place in case they need to adjust for the start of the season.
[Featured Image by Andrew Burton/Getty Images]