Wong sees future return to second base

July 3rd, 2016

ST. LOUIS -- Though Kolten Wong understands that an opportunity to get into the Cardinals' lineup for the foreseeable future is tied to his ability to play center field, he's not shy in asserting his desire to eventually work his way back to second. And the Cardinals don't necessarily disagree.

As Wong reminded on Saturday while making his first start at second base since June 5, he has the tools to be a dynamic defender there. His play on a Chris Carter grounder to the left of second base was highlight reel-worthy and showcased the speed, arm accuracy and arm strength that led the Cardinals to stick Wong at second to begin with.

"I know that [Matt Carpenter] is doing a great job at second, and I'm not going to take that away from him, [but] eventually I'll get back there," Wong said. "I see second base as my position, and obviously, I'll be back there soon. But right now, I'm just trying to get in the lineup and play where I can."

Asked if Wong's skillset could turn him into a super-utility player (think: Ben Zobrist), manager Mike Matheny agreed that "you could put [Wong] almost anywhere on the field." But he, too, went back to Wong's potential in the infield.

"I think he has the skillset to be a tremendous second baseman," Matheny said. "I think that's the natural fit for him."

For now, though, second base isn't going to be a regular option. Wong filled in there while Carpenter left town because of a death in the family, but the Cardinals' greater need is coverage in center. Despite not playing center field since college, Wong has taken to the position rather well. The club also considers him an option in left field, whether it be in a spot-start situation or as a late-game defensive replacement for Matt Holliday.

Ultimately, too, what Wong does at the plate will dictate how intentional the Cardinals are about getting him involved in the field. He has enjoyed some positive traction offensively since returning from Triple-A Memphis. Wong has hit safely in eight of his 10 starts. He collected his fifth extra-base hit of the season to spark Saturday's 3-0 win.

"I'm just not trying to do too much," Wong said. "I'm just trying to make sure I go up there and have good at-bats and try and barrel balls. There have been numerous instances where I've barreled balls right at guys this whole season so far. It's been a big learning experience for me so far this season, so I'm just going to keep putting my head down and grinding away."

Worth noting

• Matheny said he feels no urgency to name Seung Hwan Oh -- or anyone else -- the team's new closer. It was Oh, however, who took the first save opportunity since Trevor Rosenthal's removal from the closer's role, and Oh converted it with a perfect inning.

"It's not like we put a 'C' on their chest because he's the closer or give him a better locker," Matheny said. "I don't feel like we have to give titles and roles."

• Catcher Eric Fryer, who was designated for assignment by the Cardinals last week, has been claimed by the Pirates. The Cardinals knew it was unlikely that Fryer would skirt through waivers unclaimed. As a replacement for an injured Brayan Pena, Fryer made eight starts and went 14-for-38 with the Cardinals. With the Pirates about to begin a series at Busch Stadium, the Cardinals will see their former catcher this week.