Fowler hit by pitch in first game back

X-rays on right hand negative, but Cards being cautious

Fowler hit by pitch in first game back

CHICAGO -- After a week spent nursing a swollen and bruised left knee, Dexter Fowler passed his final series of medical tests and returned to the Cardinals' lineup on Saturday. He went 2-for-3 in a 4-1 loss to the Cubs, but also required X-rays on his right hand after getting hit by a ninth-inning pitch.

Those X-rays came back negative, Fowler confirmed, but the Cardinals will wait to see whether his hand swells before determining his status for Sunday's series finale at Wrigley Field.

Fowler missed the previous five games after colliding with the outfield wall while trying make a catch last Saturday. Once the swelling subsided midway through the week, Fowler accelerated his on-field work with an eye on returning for this weekend's series against the Cubs, with whom he played from 2015-16.

"He's excited to get back in there," manager Mike Matheny said. "He's had some good games for us in our uniform. We've seen too many good games when he was wearing theirs. He's an impact player."

A return to the field was not so imminent for second baseman Kolten Wong, whose nagging lower back tightness kept him out of the lineup again on Saturday. Wong was removed from Friday's game due to the same issue, and he's now been absent from the lineup in seven of the club's last 13 games.

Matheny also confirmed that Seung Hwan Oh remains unavailable out of the bullpen due to hamstring tightness.

Baez plates Avila in the 6th

Fielding foibles
A day after Carlos Martinez made another costly fielding mistake, Matheny said the Cardinals "are not ruling anything out" in their efforts to help Martinez regain confidence in his defensive ability. That includes designating opportunities for Martinez to engage in pregame fielding and throwing work.

It's more likely, however, that the Cardinals will wait for Martinez to get additional in-game opportunities and hope that if he can execute properly, his confidence will grow.

"We can do all the work we want, but he's just got to get to that place, like we talked about with his pitching, where he can control the emotion, control your mind and control your body all at the same time," Matheny said. "He should be an exceptional defender, in my opinion. He should be one of the best in the game. And I believe he will be."

On Friday, Martinez couldn't turn a comebacker into an inning-ending double play with the Cardinals trailing by one in the sixth inning. It was the third time in five games that Martinez complicated things for himself by being unable to start a double play.

In a one-run loss to the Padres on Aug. 24, it cost him two runs. Six days later, against Milwaukee, it cost him three in another one-run defeat. Friday's game unraveled even further. Martinez finished his outing with a career-high seven runs allowed.

Worth noting
• Matheny said the Cardinals plan to roll their rotation over in order following Monday's off-day. If those plans don't change, that would line up Jack Flaherty, Luke Weaver and Martinez to start in Cincinnati.

• Triple-A Memphis will have another opportunity to clinch the Pacific Coast League championship on Saturday when it faces El Paso in Game 4 of the best-of-five series. First pitch is scheduled for 8:05 p.m. CT. Memphis dropped Friday's game, 3-0.

• Cubs catcher Willson Contreras received a two-game suspension after his mask made contact with home-plate umpire Jordan Baker in the fifth inning of Friday's game. Contreras appealed the suspension, however, which meant that he could play in Saturday's game against the Cardinals. Additionally, Contreras and Cubs pitcher John Lackey received fines.

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.