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If the shoe fits: Fowler ramps up rehab

MLB.com @LangoschMLB

ST. LOUIS -- Progress was measured by which pair of shoes Dexter Fowler pulled from his locker on Wednesday.

For the first time since going on the disabled list with a right heel spur on June 25, the Cardinals outfielder was able to go through some of his baseball activities wearing cleats. As recently as Monday, Fowler said it was still too painful to slip them on and had therefore been doing his hitting and running in tennis shoes.

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ST. LOUIS -- Progress was measured by which pair of shoes Dexter Fowler pulled from his locker on Wednesday.

For the first time since going on the disabled list with a right heel spur on June 25, the Cardinals outfielder was able to go through some of his baseball activities wearing cleats. As recently as Monday, Fowler said it was still too painful to slip them on and had therefore been doing his hitting and running in tennis shoes.

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"Definitely a step in the right direction," manager Mike Matheny said on Wednesday. "Reports are that it feels good and he's not having an issue with the heel in the spikes, which is important."

The Cardinals have been intentionally ambiguous about a time frame for Fowler's return, as it will depend both upon how his foot feels and how quickly Fowler can regain his timing. The club has not ruled out the possibility of Fowler coming back before the All-Star break begins on Monday, even though waiting till the second half begins next Friday would net him four more days of rest.

"We've been, from the beginning, following along with whatever the medical team saw as needed, and there hasn't been this rush," Matheny said. "But there's also not going to be this intentional delay if things are measuring out for him."

Matheny said the possibility of a Minor League rehab assignment has not been discussed.

Alcantara adjusting

After wowing with his high-90s fastball in big league camp, Sandy Alcantara opened the season in Double-A, a level the Cardinals consider (along with Triple-A) one step away from the Majors. Alcantara was a popular pick, too, for those projecting which young arm could help the Major League team midseason.

But with two months to go in the Minor League season, it looks like Alcantara will likely spend a full season in Springfield continuing to work on fastball command and develop his secondary pitches.

Alcantara, the organization's seventh-ranked prospect, is 3-5 with a 5.57 ERA over his first 14 starts. He's allowed 11 homers in a hitter-friendly league after serving up eight from 2014-16. And Alcantara's strikeout rate per nine innings has dipped from 11.2 in 2016 to 7.6 in 2016.

"When you think about, at 21 years old, one of the things we learn is patience," said Gary LaRocque, director of player development. "There's not a rush, as far as that goes, because he's gone to that level and he's shown in flashes exactly what we would have expected. But it's a matter of consistency and a matter of him gaining the confidence at that level. And some players, it just takes a little bit longer."

Worth Noting

• Third baseman Jedd Gyorko was out of the lineup for a second straight day on Wednesday because of a sore left groin. However, he pinch-hit for John Brebbia in the fourth inning and drove in a run on a sacrifice fly. 

• The deadline to sign players taken in the 2017 MLB Draft is Friday at 4 p.m. CT. The Cardinals have already agreed to terms with each of their top 15 selections and 32 of the 38 players they picked.

• The Cardinals announced the addition of four new theme dates to their schedule: Billy Joel Night (Aug. 9), Negro Leagues Tribute Night (Aug. 10), IndyCar Night (Aug. 22) and Transplant Awareness Night (Aug. 24). For more details on each, visit cardinals.com/theme.

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter, and Facebook.

St. Louis Cardinals, Dexter Fowler