Wong wants to finish season on his terms

Wong wants to finish season on his terms

ST. LOUIS -- Kolten Wong hasn't had the season he'd hoped for, but he still wants to finish it on his terms. He feels he could start against the Pirates this weekend to help lift the Cardinals into a Wild Card spot, although he hasn't started since slipping and injuring his shoulder on the left-field grass in the first inning at Wrigley Field last Friday.

Wong, who received a cortisone shot on Monday, pinch-hit in the ninth inning on Wednesday night and came through with a triple off the wall in left field, but he remained stranded, as the Cardinals couldn't drive him in to tie the score. Despite the end result -- a 2-1 loss to the Reds -- it was still a positive outcome for Wong.

"Just kind of talked with the hitting coaches, who were watching his work, and they said it looked like he was in a good spot," manager Mike Matheny said. "That is a tough assignment after not seeing live at-bats the last several days. We needed to take our best shot at it, and he ended up coming up big for us."

Wong's primary issue remains his ability to throw, according to Matheny. He threw off a trampoline in the training room on Thursday but wasn't in the lineup against the Reds.

"It's dramatically different now," Wong said of his shoulder. "I'm able to move my arm now, where before I couldn't even lift it above my shoulder. I can actually make a full circle. It's still sore, but I know I can play through it."

The temporary setback seems like a perfect encapsulation of Wong's season. He will post career lows in nearly every offensive category since he became a regular player, appearing in more than 100 games in 2014 and 2015.

"It's been the toughest season of my career," he said. "Just coming in after last year and the year that I had and hoping to get more playing time and have stuff thrown on my shoulders, and for that not to happen, it's been tough."

All this comes after Wong signed a five-year, $25.5 million contract last offseason to stay in St. Louis through 2020; he admits that has weighed on him at points this season.

"I've always wanted to be a guy who shows I deserve things," he said. "When I got that contract from the Cardinals, I wanted to be that guy, and I wanted them to give me that chance to be that everyday guy. ... I think I tried to live up to that contract and show everyone that I deserved that contract, but how everything played out also affected it as well."

Wong started 14 of the first 17 games this season but couldn't hit his way into an everyday spot. The emergence of Jedd Gyorko didn't help, but Wong thinks his struggles, the undefined role and a trip to the Minors have helped him between the ears. He even has a desire to write a book about his time in the Majors once he's done playing.

"Mentally it has helped me become a better player and a better person," he said. "I'm not going to allow anything or any situation to determine how I'm going to play this game."

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.