Craig eager to return; hopes to be factor in World Series

News-DemocratOctober 21, 2013 

— Barring any setbacks, Allen Craig will be on the St. Louis Cardinals' roster for the World Series.

Craig, sidelined with a sprained left foot since Sept. 5, took live batting practice against Shelby Miller on Sunday at Busch Stadium as the Cardinals began preparation for the Boston Red Sox.

Game 1 will be at 7:07 p.m. Wednesday in Boston. Indications are that Craig will be the Cardinals' designated hitter in the games at Fenway Park, but the team didn't discount Craig playing first base in St. Louis.

"I feel good," Craig said. "We have our steady progression going and today wasn't any different. So I feel like I'm continuing to get better and (I'm) finding out what I can do.

"I'm happy with where I'm at. No complaints. I'm happy I'm going to be on the roster and give it a shot. I'm really excited."

Craig, however, later backed off slightly.

"I think all indications are pointing that way," he said of being cleared to play. "I haven't been told, 'Hey, you're on the roster,' but given my progress, I think I'm in a good spot."

Mozeliak said the timing of Craig's return couldn't be better, although he acknowledges that rust could be a factor.

"Whenever you've been out of a game for six weeks --or maybe almost two months now for Allen ... The thing is for him, he is such a prolific hitter that it's definitely worth the chance," Mozeliak said. "We're trying to give him as much living pitching as we can, but to simulate Game 1 of a World Series is virtually impossible.

"My understanding is he's swinging the bat pretty well, so if all things go well with him physically, he's certainly someone we think would contribute. If nothing else, he adds a little more pop off that bench."

Craig still hasn't worked on his defense during his rehabilitation, but he can envision that happening soon.

"I think it's a day-to-day thing to see how I feel and see how it goes," Craig said. "We're going to continue to progress and we'll see if defense comes.

"Games start on Wednesday, so I'm focused on getting myself ready mentally to take at-bats. The most important thing for me is to focus on competing ... rather than how I feel. But I feel like I'm improving. I feel pretty good. I'm not too concerned about that right now."

Craig hit several balls hard against Miller, breaking out of the box and simulating running he would do in a game. Craig later participated in baserunning drills under the supervision of trainers Greg Hauck and Chris Conroy.

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny called it "another good day" for Craig, adding that he "came out of the box well."

Matheny said Craig would give the Cardinals a huge boost.

"He was the No. 4 hitter for us all season long," he said. "The guy can drive in runs. He's another force in that lineup. So if we can have him, we'll be excited about it. If not, we also know that we've got other guys who can step up."

The Cardinals don't have to announce their roster until 10 a.m. Wednesday. If Craig is activated, it likely would come at the expense of outfielder Adron Chambers or second baseman Kolten Wong. Chambers has an experience advantage.

Cardinals General Manager John Mozeliak said Sunday that he foresees another 13-player, 12-pitcher roster for the World Series.

"We're fortunate we don't have to make any kind of statement right now," Matheny said. "We just keep watching him improve. We have another day tomorrow. We'll get to Boston (on Tuesday) and when we need to turn in a roster, everybody will know at that point.

"If Allen comes in, we obviously need to make a move. We'll have plenty of time to think about that and do what we think is going to give our team the most depth and chance to beat the Boston Red Sox."

Craig batted .315 with 13 home runs and 97 RBIs in 134 games in the regular season, playing first base, right field and left field. Matt Adams has played first base for Craig in the postseason.

"My swing feels good," Craig said. "These last two live-BP sessions, I've hit the ball decent and had some good at-bats. I'm just focused on seeing the ball and competing. I'm not worried about my stance or anything like that. I'm just going to go out there and hit the ball."

Contact reporter David Wilhelm at dwilhelm@bnd.com or 239-2665. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidMWilhelm.

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