Kolten Wong ran through one more pregame workout on Thursday evening at Coors Field to test his recovery from the second of two left oblique injuries to land him on the 10-day IL this season.
Barring any setbacks, it could be his final test before returning to active duty.
“I’m somewhat optimistic that he may be ready,” Counsell said as the Brewers took the field for batting practice. “We’re close right now.”
The Brewers have had many players go on the IL this season, and many have returned. But aside from Christian Yelich, few of the position players who have been sidelined are as critical to the club as Wong, who provides Gold Glove-caliber defense at second base to help the run-prevention, bats atop the lineup and pushes the hitter who has been filling in as the leadoff man, Luis Urías, lower in the order, thus lengthening the lineup because Urías has been producing of late.
Wong already made one comeback from this same injury and returned swinging a hot bat. He posted a 1.077 OPS in his first dozen games off the IL in late April and early May, then played steadily for about another month before re-injuring his left oblique on a swing against the D-backs on June 3.
“Look, we have lost four contributors to our position player group,” said Counsell, referring to Wong, center fielder Lorenzo Cain (strained right hamstring), third baseman Travis Shaw (dislocated left shoulder) and outfielder Tyrone Taylor (right shoulder) being on the IL as of Thursday. “You’re going to start paying a price for it. Kolten, he’s in there every day when he’s going. [When he’s hurt], that’s a big loss. And he’s at the top of the lineup. It changes Wicho’s [Urías’] sport in the lineup. Yeah, it’s been a loss, for sure. His defense is as good as there is.”
Said Corbin Burnes, who is scheduled to start Friday night: “The first time we lost [Wong], obviously it hurt. That was kind of a big hole and then we got him back and he came back tearing the cover off the ball, playing great defense, and then to have him go down when he was swinging a bat like he did obviously was a big blow to the team. Hopefully, it comes back and jumps right in and he's swinging the bat just like [he was], it could be huge for this offense.”
It’s also a simple matter of manpower. Thursday was Day 10 of 16 consecutive game days, and 33 games in 34 days leading to the All-Star break, in a 162-game season coming off 60 in the shortened 2020 regular season.
“It’s part of a baseball schedule. The Major League season does not cut you any breaks,” Counsell said.