It didn't take long for Wong to prove his manager's prescience. His two-out single to right-center in the third off Twins starter Kyle Gibson scored the Cardinals' first run.
Later, in the fifth inning, Wong, playing second base, flashed his defense. With one out and runners on first and second, the Twins' Max Kepler laced a screaming liner a liner right at Wong, who made the catch and threw to second to catch the speedy Byron Buxton trying to get back to the base. The double play ended the inning and snuffed out a potential Minnesota rally.
"A big hit and nice plays defensively," Matheny said after the game, a 2-1, 10-inning loss. "He did a nice job today."
Athleticism and defense were two areas the Cardinals spotlighted in the offseason.
"I think the athleticism was something that [general manager John Mozeliak] talked about a lot," Matheny said. "The ability to move, the ability to incorporate speed, which helps all over the place. I think the defense was just another different topic of things we should be better [at]. Kolten has that athleticism obviously and he's a better defender than what he even showed."
Wong, 26, was the Cardinals first-round (22nd overall) pick in 2011 out of the University of Hawaii, making his Major League debut in 2013. In 121 games last season he appeared in 88 games at second base with 71 starts, eight games in center field (seven starts), six in left (three starts) and four in right.
Occasionally Wong will flash a little flair, too. Which is fine with Matheny.
"I think there's times that he adds that and it's something he's kind of tried to describe," Matheny said. "He wants to be himself, which nobody's getting in his way from being. I think a lot of times players don't feel they can do those sort of things, maybe until they feel a little more comfortable in the game. It's part of the process. But he's making the plays, and if he can do that more consistently, more power to him. I just want guys making the plays, and how they get them done isn't necessarily a priority for us -- just the fact that they do get it done on a consistent basis."
Maureen Mullen is a contributor to MLB.com and covered the Cardinals on Monday.