3/31/2014 10:07 P.M. ET
Wong earns No. 2 lineup spot after strong spring
By Jenifer Langosch / MLB.com
CINCINNATI -- Kolten Wong not only played his way onto his first big league Opening Day roster, but his standout spring also made him manager Mike Matheny's first choice for a two-hole hitter.
Having auditioned several players in that spot during Grapefruit League play, Matheny settled on Wong while still remaining open to making changes based on matchups and who is hitting well. Wong certainly is the latter after finishing the spring with 18 hits in his last 38 at-bats. He led the team in hits, runs (10) and doubles (five) despite going hitless in his first 10 at-bats.
"What we've seen from Kolten this spring is a good, patient, very mature at-bat for a young player," Matheny said before Monday's season opener. "He's been disciplined in the zone. He's been taking good passes at the ball when he gets something that he likes. Everything is leading in the direction that he could be that sort of player.
W: Wainwright L: Cueto SV: Rosenthal
"Whether he's that sort of player right now or for an extended period of time remains to be seen, but he fits there well for now. We'll continue to watch him and see how the lineup comes together. But we do have some other guys who can bat in that position, and we'll be always watching and figuring out what helps fit best."
While Wong's place in the batting order isn't permanent, his presence in the lineup is expected to be -- at least, for a while. This will be Wong's first sustained opportunity to start at second base for St. Louis, which traded away David Freese in November envisioning that Wong would be a part of the club's Opening Day infield.
With Mark Ellis on the disabled list through at least the first nine games of the Cardinals' season, Wong will get his chance to prove that last year's first impression -- a .153/.194/.169 slash line over 62 plate appearances -- should not be a lasting one. This time, he has told himself to relax and have fun.
"Going out there and knowing that I worked as hard as I possibly could during the offseason and during Spring Training, now it's my time to just go out and enjoy this experience," said Wong, ranked by MLB.com as the Cardinals' second-best prospect. "I just go out there and really try to put my best foot forward and do whatever I can. I'm just happy to be in the lineup. If it's second or ninth, I'm just excited to be starting. It's a crazy day for me."
He is one of six Cardinals experiencing Opening Day for the first time, even though five of them have already appeared in the World Series.
"Everyone always dreams of getting to do this," Wong said. "For me, it's a dream come true. I'm just excited for it to happen already. I definitely worked as hard as I could during the offseason hoping to get in this sort of situation. For it to happen, it really meant a lot to me."
Adams hits ahead of Peralta to break up righties
CINCINNATI -- With Matt Carpenter and Kolten Wong hitting atop the lineup, the Cardinals had one other left-handed bat to fit into their Opening Day slate. After weighing his options, manager Mike Matheny decided that Matt Adams best belonged behind catcher Yadier Molina and ahead of shortstop Jhonny Peralta in the sixth spot.
Placing Adams in front of Peralta breaks up what would have otherwise been a string of four consecutive right-handed hitters in the heart of St. Louis' order. Matheny said Adams' past results in Great American Ball Park also factored into his decision on where to bat his first baseman.
Adams has one double and three homers in 19 previous at-bats in the Reds' ballpark. Two of those home runs came in extra innings of the Cardinals' Sept. 4 victory over the Reds last season, a game Adams entered to replace an injured Allen Craig.
While Adams is in the Opening Day lineup for the first time in his career, Peralta represents the eighth Opening Day shortstop to start for the Cardinals over the past eight seasons. Though Peralta hit seventh on Monday, the Cardinals will consider batting him as high as second as the season progresses.
Waino keeps Hamilton off bases with four K's
CINCINNATI -- The Cardinals spent last season trying to keep Reds leadoff hitter Shin-Soo Choo off the bases. Now, they have the task of stopping another leadoff man from running.
Choo followed a large contract to Texas over the winter, opening up room for speedy center fielder Billy Hamilton atop the Reds' lineup. Hamilton arrived in the Majors last year having swiped 395 bases in 502 Minor League games. He went on to appear in 13 games for the Reds -- six as a pinch-runner -- and stole 13 bases in 14 attempts, his first two coming with Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina behind the plate. He was 9-for-9 in his stolen-base attempts this spring.
"I'm ready," Molina said of his next showdown with Hamilton. He's still waiting, too, as Hamilton had no chance to showcase his speed in the season opener.
Adam Wainwright, who said he put a "big emphasis" on Hamilton during his pregame scouting work, struck the center fielder out four times in Monday's 1-0 win.
"I knew if we were going to have success with the Reds, we have to get him off the bases," Wainwright said. "He can really cause some havoc out there. To keep him off the bases [Monday], looking back, it was probably one of the keys to the game. In a 1-0 game, keeping him off first is a big deal."
The Cardinals' infielders were also prepped, aware that Hamilton will be unhesitant to try and bunt his way on base. St. Louis watched video of Hamilton's spring in preparation for facing him this week.
"It's nice to get a little more of a look at his swing and try to figure out a game plan," manager Mike Matheny said. "He's a good player, he's an exciting player. And I know the Reds are of the viewpoint that he's going to continue to get better. And when you mix that kind of speed with improving talent, that's somebody we have to pay a lot of attention to at the top of the order."
• The Cardinals are expected to give Peter Bourjos the majority of their center-field starts, and that began on Monday, even though Jon Jay had strong career numbers (10-for-21) against Reds starter Johnny Cueto. So why Bourjos over Jay?
"What we see right now is that Peter Bourjos has had a very good spring, and I think going into this year realizing he's going to have the ability to go out there against some right-handed pitchers," Matheny said. "What he brings for us defensively is something we're going to see pretty often."
Bourjos, who turned 27 on Monday, batted .324 this spring.
• Six players -- Wong, Michael Wacha, Kevin Siegrist, Keith Butler, Carlos Martinez and Seth Maness -- on the Cardinals' roster experienced their first Major League Opening Day on Monday. Each of the six made their big league debut midseason in 2013.
• Siegrist opened the season with the longest active scoreless streak (25 innings) in the Majors. Jay carried a 14-game hitting streak into 2014.
• The Cardinals plan to hold a brief workout at Great American Ball Park on Tuesday, which is an off-day on the schedule.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.