Wong returns to Majors with improved swing
ST. LOUIS -- Feeling improved after dealing with a day-long stomach illness that struck him immediately upon returning to St. Louis, Kolten Wong returned to Busch Stadium on Thursday eager to show that the work he did to right his swing in Triple-A will translate into continued success in the Majors.
Wong, however, will have to wait one more day before getting back onto the field.
Citing a desire to give Wong until Friday to get healthy, manager Mike Matheny chose to start Mark Ellis in Thursday's series finale against the Cubs. Wong was expected to be available as a pinch-hitter, if needed.
"You're always worried about dehydration," Matheny said. "I think we've all been there. Trying to get your legs back under yourself the next day isn't necessarily the best way to jump back into what we're doing here. Hopefully give him a day to get himself feeling strong again. Hopefully we'll have him back out there soon."
Though Wong only spent two weeks away from the big league club, he described his work with Triple-A hitting coach Mark Budaska as fruitful. Wong dedicated time to watching video, from which he determined that a much-exaggerated leg kick was one of the reasons why he was fouling so many balls back and swinging at pitches he normally would have laid off.
He worked to reduce that leg kick and went on to hit .344/.382/.484 with 14 runs scored, 10 RBIs and five stolen bases in 15 games.
"Now that [the leg kick] is shorter and my base is wider, it's so much easier to see the ball, because there are not so many things moving," Wong said. "It's real small, real compact, where it needs to be."
It helped, too, that Wong was able to play daily. At the time of this demotion, he was not getting those needed repetitions with the Cardinals.
"It got me right back into where I need to be," Wong said. "I'm the kind of player that I need to play as much as possible. I love being in every game. When I got the amount of repetitions that I got down there, it just makes me always on time with everything I'm doing."
Wong said he focused also on his defense, particularly aiming to improve his reads on balls hit to his right side. He also began to journal, using the writing exercise as a way to keep track of his progress, thought process and adjustments. It was a suggestion first offered by Matheny back in Spring Training.
Wong's ability to make the necessary adjustments as quickly as he did earned him a short Triple-A stay and another chance to prove himself a capable everyday Major League second baseman.
"I looked at it as, 'This is a chance for me to get better, get my defense where it needs to be and my offense especially where it needs to be,'" Wong said. "That was the big thing -- I wanted to go in there and not be down about being sent down, but to try and see how fast I can get back up. The first couple days I was still a little down in the fact that I got sent down, but I knew I was there for a reason. I knew I didn't want to be there. I wanted to make sure I put my best foot forward so I could get back up here."