New to CF, Cards utility man shows defensive prowess; involved in key moment on bases
By Nick Krueger
ST. LOUIS -- Sometimes the outfield can be an uneventful place, especially if a pitcher is dealing the way Cardinals starter Carlos Martinez was on Saturday. On his first day playing center field at the Major League level, Kolten Wong did much more than count blades of grass in the 4-3 loss to the Rangers.
He borrowed an outfield glove at Triple-A Memphis last week because he hadn't played the position since his freshman year of college. Thursday, Wong got his own and used it Saturday to catch three balls in the second, sixth and ninth innings.
"Obviously, there were some jitters going through," Wong said. "First fly ball, but then again I've caught millions of fly balls, so it looked just like any other fly ball after that."
Though he's still learning the position, Wong's biggest moment Saturday came on the basepaths. He singled in the fifth to score Martinez and advanced to second on the throw. After moving to third on a single by Stephen Piscotty, he tried to tag up on a fly ball to center field from Matt Adams. Wong was tagged out at the plate after Ian Desmond threw on-line toward home.
"In that situation, you've got to take that chance of him hopefully not making as good of a throw as he did," Wong said. "That's just part of the game. You're either going to get out or you're going to score."
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny was impressed by Wong's catch off the bat of Rangers pinch-hitter Ryan Rua in the ninth which was popped high into the air in shallow center.
"He had some good jumps, used his instincts," Matheny said. "I didn't think he was going to get to that ball coming into center field on Rua, but he did a nice job of closing the gap with speed."
Wong also went back on the catch in the sixth toward the wall when Nomar Mazara hit one deep toward left-center field. Though he had a 1-for-4 day at the plate, he showcased some versatility on defense that will be useful for the Cardinals moving forward.
Piscotty has also shown he can play center field when Brandon Moss is in the lineup, and Tommy Pham is now an option as well. Wong will have to continue to prove himself if he wants to continue to see the field.
"A lot of the guys who are moving, we're moving because we know they're putting us in the best situation to help us win as a team," Wong said. "If that means me playing center, right, left, then I'm all for it."
Nick Krueger is a reporter for MLB.com based in St. Louis. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.