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DeJong resumes on-field BP, facing Matheny

Shortstop could start rehab assignment (hand fracture) next week
MLB.com @JoeTrezz

MILWAUKEE -- More than a month of waiting turned into tangible results for Paul DeJong on Friday, when the recovering Cardinals shortstop took on-field batting practice for the first time since fracturing his left hand on May 17. It was the latest positive step for DeJong, who has a few hurdles left to clear before a rehab assignment.

That could come next week, after DeJong sees the doctor again in St. Louis. He'd regained 80 percent of the "grip strength" in his hand at last testing, DeJong said, enough for him to ramp up his hitting over the past week. DeJong, who had already been cleared to participate in fielding drills, transitioned from tee work to live batting practice Thursday, when he took between 20-30 swings off a pitching machine.

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MILWAUKEE -- More than a month of waiting turned into tangible results for Paul DeJong on Friday, when the recovering Cardinals shortstop took on-field batting practice for the first time since fracturing his left hand on May 17. It was the latest positive step for DeJong, who has a few hurdles left to clear before a rehab assignment.

That could come next week, after DeJong sees the doctor again in St. Louis. He'd regained 80 percent of the "grip strength" in his hand at last testing, DeJong said, enough for him to ramp up his hitting over the past week. DeJong, who had already been cleared to participate in fielding drills, transitioned from tee work to live batting practice Thursday, when he took between 20-30 swings off a pitching machine.

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Friday, he swung for the first time against a live arm -- his manager's -- early in the afternoon at Miller Park. Mike Matheny threw five rounds to DeJong in a session separate from the rest of the team, during which DeJong cleared the fences multiple times.

"I felt the ball was jumping off my bat the same way as it normally does in BP," he said. "I felt like a normal swing. That's what I'm trying to get mentally. Going back out there and not having to think about the injury. I feel like I'm getting very close."

All that's left for DeJong is to recover that final 20 percent of strength in his wrist and hand. He's incorporated weighted exercises into his rehab to do so, after focusing much of his recovery on his lower half and conditioning. Part of the new regime: "farmer's walks," where DeJong will hold two dumbbells at his side and inch forward for a predetermined amount of time.

DeJong reported no pain after his batting-practice session Friday. The next test, he said, will be seeing how his hand responds to non-ideal contact.

"It feels normal off the barrel," DeJong said. "It might hurt more if I hit it off the end or get jammed."

The runner-up for National League Rookie of the Year in 2017, DeJong was hitting .260 with eight home runs, 19 RBIs and an increased walk rate at the time of the injury.

Poncedeleon could pitch
The Cardinals have not decided who will start Monday against the Indians in Michael Wacha's rotation spot, though the club continues to leave its options open. Part of that process was limiting right-hander Daniel Poncedeleon's workload during his start in Memphis on Thursday night. Poncedeleon, who is a candidate to start along with John Gant and Dakota Hudson, threw three scoreless innings against the New Orleans Baby Cakes on Thursday. He struck out three, walked one and did not allow a hit.

Some bookkeeping
The Cardinals announced the signing of four more amateur players this week, two Draft picks and two undrafted free agents. The signings included 35th-round selection Liam Sabino (3B, University of Pittsburgh), 36th-rounder Cole Kreuter (3B, UC Irvine) and free agents Jacob Slyvester (RHP, Mid America Nazarene) and Joe Freiday (C, Virginia Tech).

St. Louis has now signed 35 of its 41 Draft picks. Three of the six who remained unsigned are participating in the NCAA Division I College World Series: Texas Tech's Steven Gingery (fourth round), North Carolina's Brandon Riley (14th round) and Zack Gahagan (39th round).

Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.

St. Louis Cardinals, Paul DeJong