Wong ready for duty again

News-DemocratMay 15, 2014 

— Second baseman Kolten Wong was back in the St. Louis Cardinals clubhouse Thursday but did not play in the team's 5-3 victory over the Chicago Cubs.

Wong, 23, was recalled from Class AAA Memphis on Wednesday when the Cardinals optioned rookie Greg Garcia. But Wong became sick and spent the next 18 hours in bed.

"It was weird," Wong said Thursday morning. "Yesterday when I woke up, I didn't feel sick at all. Then coming over (to the stadium) --I don't know if it was jitters of being back --I caught something. It must have been a 24-hour kind of thing where I just felt not good the whole day. I was in bed the entire night. I woke up this morning feeling way different."

Wong wasn't even sure until Thursday morning that the game Wednesday night had been rained out.

"You can ask my fiance," Wong said. "We were in bed from 2 o'clock until this morning. She was bringing me a little soup in bed. I couldn't even eat last night. I tried to get as much liquid as I could and just sleep."

Wong said the illness couldn't have come at a worse time.

"It was terrible," he said. "You don't want that, especially getting a chance to be back up. You don't want to tell them that you're sick. I was trying to see if I could push through it as much as I could, but when I got here, I couldn't even stand up that well.

"So I told them. I think they were a little disappointed, but luckily, it was only a one-day thing. I feel good. I'm actually pretty hungry right now, so after this (interview), I'm going to get some food."

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny wanted to give Wong an opportunity to get his legs under him after a day of inactivity.

"We'll have him back out there soon," Matheny said.

Wong did what the Cardinals wanted during his 15-game stint in Memphis. He shortened his swing, which helped him bat .344 with three doubles, two home runs and 10 RBIs. He also worked on his fielding, an area that wasn't a great concern for the Cardinals.

Wong said the key for him was "not looking it as a demotion."

"I looked at it as, 'You know, this is a chance for me to get better. Get my defense where it needs to be, get my offense, especially, where it needs to be,'" said. "Just take it as a challenge. That was the thing I did.

"I wanted to go in there and not be down about being sent down, but try and see how fast I could get back up. ... The first couple of days, I was still a little down the fact that I got sent down. But I knew I was there for a reason. I knew I didn't want to be there for too long. I wanted to put my best foot forward so I could get back up."

Wong was in a 2-for-15 slump that had dropped his average to .225 when he was optioned April 27. The Cardinals noticed his swing had become long.

When he arrived in Memphis, Wong reconnected with hitting coach Mark Budaska, who helped him iron out his deficiencies.

"I just worked on shortening it up," Wong said. "I widened my base a little bit and tried to lower my leg kick --just see the ball a lot more. With the high leg kick that I had, it was more trying to read the ball. Now that it's shorter and my base is wider, it's so much easier to see the ball.

"I'm definitely confident with myself and how I've turned around my hitting. (It) should be back to where it is. But you never know. This is the big leagues. I've still got to make sure I go out there every day and try to do whatever I can to get some hits."

Defensively, Wong said he made a greater attempt to read hitters and pitchers to help him be in position to make more plays.

"That was strictly me," he said. "I didn't want to give away hits to the right side. When I took that approach, it helped me a lot. I'm going to bring that here now and do whatever I can to take away hits from the right side."

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

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