"You saw how I played," Jay said upon returning to the Cardinals' clubhouse on Friday. "I couldn't hit the ball. I wasn't myself. It was obvious that I was out there not able to perform. I was hitting .220 or whatever it was. That's not me."
Jay has been battling weakness in his wrist for several seasons, though until this year, he has remained productive despite it. Last year, he posted a .323/.406/.392 second-half slash line despite feeling so much discomfort in his wrist that he stopped taking pregame batting practice. He hoped to remedy the issue with wrist surgery, which he had a week after the season ended.
Results did not immediately follow, however. Jay was limited in Spring Training and then found himself changing his swing to compensate for the weakness. Driving balls has been a particular issue.
"I knew I was going to have the surgery, and I knew my ligament was fixed, and I knew it was going to take a while to come back to full strength," Jay said. "I know in my heart that I did everything I could all year to be out there."
The Cardinals did not immediately insert Jay back into the starting lineup, as manager Mike Matheny instead plugged Peter Bourjos into the center-field spot on Friday against Pittsburgh lefty J.A. Happ. Jay entered the game in the sixth inning and went 0-for-2. The Cardinals have had a plethora of players fill in at center -- Bourjos, Tommy Pham, Randal Grichuk, Stephen Piscotty and Jason Heyward among them -- and will likely continue to mix and match at that position, even with Jay healthy.
Production will dictate playing time.
"We'll be anxious to get him in there and see how it plays for us," Matheny said. "He did a nice job in Memphis and seems to really feel strong. He was focused during that rehab time of really shutting his swing down and trying to get the range of motion and strength back in the wrist. There were some things he just wasn't physically able to do because of his physical limitation. He's pretty excited about what his swing feels like right now."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB, like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.