4/9/2014 5:41 P.M. ET
Wong proving more than capable of everyday role
By Jenifer Langosch / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- Any lingering questions about Kolten Wong's readiness to be an everyday player in the Majors continue to fade, as the second baseman has made himself an immediate contributor.
With eight hits in his first 29 at-bats, Wong sits just one shy of matching his total from 59 at-bats last season. It wasn't until Tuesday night that Wong collected the first RBIs of his Major League career. The fact that it took so long was a reminder of how little went right for him a year ago after being called up in August.
"I think it's just more confidence in myself this year," Wong said. "I definitely want to bring that confidence back. I had it all through the Minor Leagues, and when I came up last year, I had that star-struck … I didn't know what was going on. I was kind of in awe that I'm in the big leagues right now. This year, I want to come with that confidence and play with the mindset that I belong here."
The Cardinals never had much concern about Wong's defensive ability, and he's showed off his range with several impressive plays already. On the offensive end, Wong found a home in the second spot of the batting order against right-handers and has reached base at least once in six of his first seven starts. He's also swiped two bases, the team's only two steals so far.
With Mark Ellis on the disabled list and unable to challenge Wong for playing time, Wong has positioned himself not to have any of it taken away even once Ellis returns, which could be as early as Friday.
"Kolten just keeps impressing us," manager Mike Matheny said. "What he's doing on the bases -- good jumps and good instincts -- but I also think all the way around."
Scuffling Craig given reprieve in finale vs. Reds
ST. LOUIS -- Allen Craig, mired in a 3-for-31 start to the season, was out of the lineup on Wednesday as manager Mike Matheny decided to give him a day off to work on his swing and refresh mentally. Jon Jay took Craig's place in right field for the game.
"It's some extra time to get in here, get some extra swings and get out of the routine that isn't working for him right now," Matheny said. "He's really close. I know he is. He feels it. We're seeing some things that look like it. We're just breaking it up here to give him a few days to get things changed."
Craig was the only Cardinals position player not to reach base in Tuesday's win, and he's tallied just one hit in nine at-bats since the start of the homestand. The struggles are magnified, too, because of the timing. Craig actually had a worse eight-game stretch in 2013 -- he went 1-for-27 from July 25-31 -- but that was easier to mask because he was batting .334 when it started.
"Ideally, we'd all like to get off to a fast start and be [clicking] on all cylinders going forward," Craig said. "But sometimes it doesn't work out like that. I had a pretty good spring. The first couple of games [this season], not so good. But things are going to get better."
Craig came out of Spring Training feeling right with his swing. He batted .313 in 17 Grapefruit League games and impressed with his mobility around the bases after recovering from a foot injury.
Asked if there was any physical issue holding his cleanup hitter back, Matheny answered in the negative.
"There are a number of different things that go into it, and none of them feel right for him right now," Matheny said. "I don't care how much success you've had or how long you've played. They're inevitable. It's just a matter of how quickly you can get through it and the lessons that you learn, hopefully, help you for the next time. Because it will happen again."
• Ellis (patella tendinitis) tested his left knee with some running in the outfield on Wednesday morning and later joined his teammates for infield work. Ellis, who is eligible to come off the disabled list on Friday, has been increasing the amount of baseball work he's done each day this week.
Though Matheny had earlier said Ellis would likely need to go out on a rehab assignment before returning, he noted on Wednesday that those Minor League at-bats may not be necessary.
"You just kind of watch and see what happens," Matheny said.
• Jay's start in right field was his first since the 2011 season, when he started 30 games at that position. His first two starts this year came in center field in place of Peter Bourjos.
• The Cubs have lined up their starters for the club's upcoming trip to St. Louis and will have Jeff Samardzija (0-1, 1.29 ERA) pitch on Friday, Carlos Villanueva (1-2, 4.26 ERA) on Saturday and Edwin Jackson (0-0, 1.69 ERA) on Sunday.
• Triple-A Memphis scored six times in the ninth inning on Tuesday to earn a 9-4 win over Omaha. Outfielder Randal Grichuk drove home the go-ahead run with a single and finished 2-for-5 in the game. Eric Fornataro earned the win after pitching two innings of scoreless relief.
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.