Wong on return to STL: 'I’m excited for it'

April 8th, 2021

The following things can be true at the same time: cherished his eight years in St. Louis, from the Clydesdales and the Cardinals legends on Opening Day to the sea of red in the stands for all those postseasons. Wong can also return to Busch Stadium on Thursday for the Cards’ home opener on Thursday with a chip on his shoulder.

Wong is with the rival Brewers now, having signed a two-year free-agent deal after the Cardinals declined his club option for 2021.

“Absolutely. I think that chip has always been on my shoulder regardless of it’s from a team or from anybody,” Wong said. “I just think like whenever you kind of get let go from an organization or anything, it kind of leaves that impression in your mind that you know how good you are and they probably thought you weren’t good enough. It’s definitely something that’s going to be in the back of my head every single time I go back and give me that little extra motivation to play a little harder and do a little more.

“But at the end of the day I know how to compete with the best of them. I know how to play this game with the best of them, and I’m excited just to go out there and show them what they lost.”

Wong should get that opportunity on Thursday, though Brewers manager Craig Counsell gave his new second baseman a day out of the lineup on Wednesday in Chicago due to some oblique tightness. Counsell called the matter “nothing to be concerned about” and said Wong was day to day.

Presuming he is back in action, Wong said he was looking forward to watching the Cardinals’ traditional home opener festivities from a different vantage point -- the visitors’ dugout, rather than in a convertible or the back of a truck circling the warning track.

And he’s already envisioning what it will be like to dig into the batter’s box against his old friend Adam Wainwright, the Cardinals’ scheduled starter.

“It’s going to be cool to kind of witness it from a visiting perspective and see how magical that was,” Wong said. “I’m probably going to be the first guy to stand out there with ‘Waino’ pitching and ‘Yadi’ [Yadier Molina] catching. It’s going to be a special time. I’m excited for it.

“I think first [at-bat], I’ll probably get the love from [the fans], and after that it’s back to Cardinals-Brewers rivalry. It is what it is. Like I said, I enjoyed my time there, the fans were amazing, that city was amazing to me. I had a lot of ups and a lot of downs, and they kept believing in me. Just a lot of love all around. I’m excited to go out there and compete against those guys.”

Wong added, smiling, “I love those fans, but I hope they hate me at the end of the season.”

Suter gets to swing it
From the Department of Be Careful What You Wish For: Brewers reliever pitched so well Tuesday night that he earned himself an at-bat. It did not go well.

Suter struck out against Cubs reliever Dillon Maples while seeing a steady diet of filthy sliders, and he made sure to face the music after the game. At the end of his postgame Zoom interview, Suter asked, “No questions about the AB?”

"I got back in the dugout and go, 'a) that was bad, but, b) how do you guys hit that?'” Suter said. “Those were gross. I'm going to give myself an excuse because I haven't had an AB in a bit, but that was not a good welcome back. Those were bad. Good pitches, bad swings.”

It was a surprise opportunity. Counsell had planned for two innings of Suter, but he stretched him to three because of Suter’s efficiency. That opened the opportunity for an at-bat. In hindsight, Counsell said, he might have been better off instructing Suter to not swing.

“I might have some pictures on my locker, but that’s part of the game,” Suter said. “It’s a hard game. It’s hard to hit those pitches. I didn’t put myself in a good spot.”

For the record, Suter has had good moments at the plate, too. In 2018, he homered off Indians ace Corey Kluber when Kluber was at the height of his powers.

Last call
• Thursday is also a homecoming for the reigning National League Rookie of the Year Award winner, , who grew up in St. Louis. Williams’ 2020 season ended with a right shoulder injury, and he has surrendered a run in each of his two appearances so far this year, including Joc Pederson’s game-tying home run in the eighth inning of Wednesday’s 4-2 win over the Cubs in 10 innings.

"I'm not going to make any excuses for the way I pitched,” Williams said Monday, after he wasn’t able to complete his first inning of ‘21. “I expect better for myself. Not going to use the amount of innings or outings that I've had as an excuse. I need to be better for my team. They put me in that spot for a reason, and I need to get the job done, regardless."

• Corbin Burnes, the Brewers’ scheduled starter on Thursday, has two reasons to be glad Wong is on his team. One, Wong is a Gold Glove defender at second base. Two, Wong was 5-for-9 against Burnes as a Cardinal.

• Here’s another example of the Brewers’ helping pitchers access increased velocity: Veteran reliever Brad Boxberger’s 95.8 mph fastball to induce a double play in the ninth inning Tuesday was his fastest pitch since 2015, the first year Statcast started tracking. Boxberger threw three of his 13 fastest pitches ever tracked by Statcast in the outing. He was back on the mound Wednesday to record the final out of the Brewers’ win, stranding the bases loaded. 

“It’s a low heartbeat,” Counsell said. “That’s what he gives you.”