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Wong: Breather chance to 'enjoy' playing

SAN DIEGO -- Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong is starting to understand the daily grind of the baseball season, and the ups and downs that come with it.

Wong entered play Saturday hitting .149 (10-for-67) with no extra-base hits in 18 games in the month of August. In Friday's game against the Padres, Wong went 0-for-3, and committed an error mishandling Yadier Molina's attempt to catch Justin Upton stealing, although Upton would not end up scoring.

The 24-year-old found out on Friday night after talking to manager Mike Matheny that he would be out of the starting lineup Saturday. Although Wong admits he prefers to be playing, he understands taking a step back might be necessary in order for him to find his groove again.

"I am definitely not a guy who likes to take days off, I love being in there every day," Wong said before the game. "This gives me a chance to kind of go back and realize this is just a game and start enjoying it."

Wong -- who went 0-for-2 after entering Saturday's 8-0 Cardinals loss in the fifth inning after Matt Carpenter was ejected for arguing a strike-three call -- said he wants to focus on realizing the game isn't as big as he is making it.

Wong admits that often being his own worst critic is something he has struggled with throughout his career, but he has looked toward his teammates for advice on how to get over the hump.

"It's one day. You don't know what's going to happen. It could change and turn me around, it could be the same," Wong said. "Learning how to take this with a grain of salt is something I am going to learn from. Players told me last night that I should enjoy [the game] and understand I'm a good player."

Wong added that this year being his first full season is new territory for him and might have taken a toll on him recently.

"I don't think anybody in this league right now isn't a little tired," Wong said. "I'm still up here learning, understanding that I am young and figuring out how to get myself ready."

Wong said he felt his swing was getting a little long, and Matheny agreed.

"He has terrific bat speed. He has the gift of getting the barrel to the ball, and that's one of the things he has to trust," Matheny said. "When things are off, you start to cheat, you start to guess, and the you don't trust. A swing like his goes down to him trusting that he can get to about any pitch, and he has very few holes when that happens.

"But right now, he's going through what every player who has ever played this game has gone through, that you don't feel it so you try to force it, and usually that doesn't help, but you don't know what to do, so you just kind of grind your way till you figure something out." 

Matheny said it wasn't definite that Wong will be back in the starting lineup for Sunday's series finale, but it is something they will evaluate.

Beth Maiman is an associate reporter for
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