Wong returns for Cards; Holliday still out

Second baseman notches pinch-hit in return from concussion

Wong returns for Cards; Holliday still out

PITTSBURGH -- Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong (concussion) wanted to start Thursday, but after being cleared by doctors pregame, he had to settle for coming off the bench -- an opportunity he took advantage of in St. Louis' series-opening 4-1 win over the Pirates.

Wong, who banged his head following a catch in the first game of Tuesday's doubleheader against the Cubs, was held out of the nightcap and Wednesday's tilt.

However, he entered Thursday's game in the sixth inning as a pinch-hitter, fighting out of an early 0-2 count and lining a single to right field. He stayed in the game at second base, moving Matt Carpenter over to third and Mark Reynolds from third to first.

Wong's singles in return

Wong said he felt comfortable, and Cardinals manager Mike Matheny was happy to see his second baseman back on the field.

"Fortunately he didn't have to go on the DL, able to get him cleared and right back in there," Matheny said. "He made an impact today."

In his second and final plate appearance, Wong was hit in the back by a 99-mph fastball from reliever Arquimedes Caminero. Thankfully for the Cardinals, Wong felt fine after the game.

"It's not anything new," Wong said. "It's going to leave a mark, but hey, chicks dig scars."

Meanwhile, Matt Holliday (right quad strain) could be activated from the disabled list as early as Friday. Matheny said his outfielder, who was voted as a starter for the National League All-Star team, won't likely play defensively this series but could be used as a bat off the bench.

In an important series between the two top teams in the National League, the Cardinals could use Holliday's offense. He's hitting .303 with three home runs and 26 RBIs in 178 at-bats this year, and is a career .293 hitter against the Pirates.

Matheny said Holliday, who has been working on agility and ran again Thursday, took another step in the right direction.

Holliday an NL starter

"He's been pushing it from day one," Matheny said. "We're taking all of the information and making sure that he's taking the proper steps, not rushing it, and not putting himself in a situation where he'd go backward."

The 35-year-old injured his quad while tracking down a fly ball June 8 against the Rockies and was placed on the DL the next day.

John McGonigal is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.