Second baseman Kolten Wong is trying to get back to the basics.
Wong, who is 1-for-14 and was 6-for-34 on the St. Louis Cardinals’ 6-3 homestand, said Wednesday that an expanded strike zone is the culprit.
“For me, going back and looking at things, it’s about swinging at strikes,” Wong said following batting practice. “The swing is feeling good; I’ve hit some balls hard. They’re just right at people. That’s how this game goes.
“It’s just all about bringing these (pitchers) into my strike zone. If I allow them to nit-pick and pick the corners, and basically judge how I’m going to have my at-bats, that’s when I start falling into things like I’m falling into right now. So it’s more about bringing these guys into my strike zone and not allow the umpire or them to judge how I’m going to do.”
Wong, 24, acknowledged that he is still adapting to the grind of being an everyday player at the major-league level.
“I’ve been playing every single day,” said Wong, who is batting .259 with 11 homers and 48 RBIs. “I think it’s a process of learning how to take care of my body, understanding that it’s a grind and just realizing I’m not going to be perfect every day. There’s going to be times where you go into slumps. You’ve just got to realize you’ve got to shake it off, continue to play and try to figure it out.”
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said Wong’s at-bats have been inconsistent.
“I’m seeing some games where he’s putting together some good at-bats,” Matheny said. “Other games, he’s a little lost. You’re going to have those times where it’s just not as easy. He’s had a real good season. He’s been consistent all the way through. He’s just going to have to weather the storm and figure out how to get better for the long run.
“He’s not far off. He’s in a spot where he needs to have a couple of good games and get the confidence going. Then it will snowball.”
Wong said his body feels good overall, especially considering it’s August. But he admits there are times he has battled fatigue.
“Every once in a while, you start getting tired and things aren’t as crisp,” Wong said. “So I’m going back to try to (sharpen) everything up, clean up everything. I’m still excited. I’m still confident in myself. It’s just a matter of time until I break out of it.”
Swinging at strikes, not pitches that are just off the plate, will make all the difference.
“It’s that much more on the barrel,” Wong said. “Maybe I can find a hole and drive it through. Little things like that. The reason I’ve been making outs is because I’m swinging at pitches I shouldn’t be swinging at.”
Matheny long has pointed at Wong as being a player that cares, sometimes to a fault. Wong admits he can be hard on himself, but that’s how his motor runs.
“I’m still struggling with that now,” Wong said. “You don’t ever want to be that guy who everyone is tapping, ‘Don’t worry about it. You’ll get through it.’ But at some point, that is going to happen. Eventually, you’re going to fall into a little slump. That’s what I’m in right now, but I’m still confident I’m going to get out of it really soon.”
One thing’s for sure: Wong won’t have to look over his shoulder and worry about seeing his playing time reduced. Matheny is committed to Wong for the present and future.
“He’s our second baseman,” Matheny said. “He’s been great defensively. We’re talking about a kid who, legitimately, could have been on the All-Star team. We’re talking about an All-Star-caliber player. You don’t just bail on him when he hits a spot where he’s not getting the hits. Kolten is a legitimate player and one of the better second basemen in baseball.”