(Busch Stadium) As one would expect, Kolten Wong wants to play. But the St. Louis Cardinals second baseman is also trying to be smart about returning from his hamstring strain.
“It’s still there,” Wong updated before tonight’s game. “It hasn’t gone away. Just understanding when is the right time to push it and when isn’t.”
Complicating the decision is the Cardinals aspirations to clinch the National League Central Division. They enter tonight with a one game lead over Milwaukee. Even in a worst case scenario of the Brewers winning their next two and St. Louis losing to create a tie, the Cardinals are guaranteed no worse than a tiebreaker game on Monday with the losing team then moving on to the NL Wild Card.
“That’s the thing, do I focus on strictly playoffs or do I focus on coming back if tomorrow’s a big game for us,” Wong pondered. “This team’s been playing great baseball for the past six days I’ve been out so it’s just understanding what’s best for the team.”
With a St. Louis victory and Milwaukee loss tonight, the Cardinals would be the division champions. But a Milwaukee win pushes things back to least tomorrow.
“If I play today and something happens, I’d punch myself in the face knowing that if I waited one more day what could’ve happened,” Wong continued. “It’s such a touchy subject right now because of the predicament that we’re in.”
As he has been the past couple of days, Wong went through several baseball drills this afternoon. After estimating he was between 70-80% yesterday, Kolten again made progress.
“No pain, obviously there’s still that little knot kind of feeling in my hamstring,” Wong said. “Got up to probably 85-90% today. So pretty close.”
“It’s coming down to just running, everything else feels good. Ground balls feel good. Hitting feels good. Running is the only thing where I really feel it.”
But close is not all the way back. The idea of playing in a controlled manner is a possibility, but it also is counter to Wong’s all-out style and instincts. Could he keep things in check if there were the need to go all-out from first to third?
“It’s one of those where do I push it now and take the chance of blowing out and then being out for the real series that matters or do I wait and be ready for the playoffs?,” Wong questioned. “It’s a position that no one wants to be in, especially myself because obviously, I want to be out there with the team. I want to be fighting with the team. But it’s to the point right now where I don’t know where my hamstring–I know it’s better, but is it 100%? Probably not. Just understanding when is the right time, trying to figure that out.”
photo credit: Bill Greenblatt/UPI