ST. LOUIS -- With Jhonny Peralta's return looming, the Cardinals are already working through various solutions to make what will soon be an overcrowded infield more manageable. A recent surge by second baseman Kolten Wong may only complicate things further.After trudging through the season's first month trying to enact changes
ST. LOUIS -- With Jhonny Peralta's return looming, the Cardinals are already working through various solutions to make what will soon be an overcrowded infield more manageable. A recent surge by second baseman Kolten Wong may only complicate things further.
After trudging through the season's first month trying to enact changes to the setup of his swing, Wong has found positive traction recently. He entered Tuesday enjoying a 10-game stretch in which he's hit .355/.444/.516 with a .961 OPS. The results have been standout, sure, but so has the approach, with Wong extending at-bats with more regularity and showing improved plate discipline.
To get here, he said on Tuesday, he had to first accept a step backward.
"We knew it was going to be tough, because I was doing a lot of changes to my swing to work toward making it better," Wong said. "I told [hitting coach John Mabry], as long as I know what I'm working toward, I'll take the struggles early, and I can make the adjustments later."
Those changes, as Wong explained in more detail, had mostly to do with his leg kick, and he has shortened the distance his foot travels from start to finish as part of that timing mechanism. That, he said, has kept him from lunging after as many offspeed pitches and getting jammed by inside fastballs.
"Still, I don't really feel 100 percent comfortable with everything," he said. "But I'm starting to get more of a grasp of the concept we're trying to work on. From there it's constantly putting in more time and more swings until it gets to being more second nature."
A skittish start in which he hit .206/.291/.250 through May 10 also prompted Wong to survey his own catchers. He asked Yadier Molina and Brayan Pena what they would do to get him out if he were an opponent, and Wong used those scouting reports to reaffirm the necessity of the work he was doing to steady his stance.
Wong picked an optimal time to start piecing things together, too, as his playing time seemed to be in jeopardy as the Cardinals considered ways to keep Aledmys Diaz on the field alongside Peralta. Replacing Wong doesn't seem such a given now.
"You can't control the fact that we have a lot of infielders," Wong said. "Whatever [manager] Mike [Matheny] wants to do with the lineup, I have no control over it. I just have to be ready when my name is called."
• Right-hander Seth Maness, on the disabled list with inflammation in his right elbow, plans to resume playing catch on Saturday, two weeks after he was shut down. Maness has not picked up a ball since being placed on the DL.
• Jake Matheny, the fourth of Matheny's five children, was named the Gatorade Baseball Player of the Year in Missouri on Tuesday. Jake, like his father, is a catcher, and he earned the honor a day after graduating from Westminster Christian Academy. In 31 games in his senior season, Jake hit .414 with an .820 slugging percentage, 11 homers and 43 RBIs.
"It's a great honor, and something I know he was extremely excited about and proud of," Matheny said. "You can't help but be a proud dad as you sit on the sidelines and watch."
Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Read her blog, follow her on Twitter, like her Facebook page and listen to her podcast.