St. Louis Cardinals

Injured Cardinals inching closer to return

Cardinals outfielder Randal Grichuk on the Cubs series, wild-card race

St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Randal Grichuk talks Monday about the series with the Chicago Cubs and the tight wild-card race in the National League. The Cardinals and Cubs play three games this week at Busch Stadium, with the Cardinals battling
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St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Randal Grichuk talks Monday about the series with the Chicago Cubs and the tight wild-card race in the National League. The Cardinals and Cubs play three games this week at Busch Stadium, with the Cardinals battling

After throwing to hitters Monday, St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Michael Wacha expressed confidence that he would be activated from the disabled list Wednesday.

Wacha has been sidelined with a stress fracture in his scapula and hasn’t pitched in a game since Aug. 8. He threw to Brayan Pena, Jose Martinez and Alberto Rosario.

“I felt really good out there on the mound,” the 25-year-old Wacha said before the Cardinals fell 4-1 to the Chicago Cubs. “I was throwing it to where I wanted it to be and all the stuff was coming out pretty nice. I was pretty happy with it.

“Some ground balls, some popups, a couple of strikeouts. But overall, the stuff felt good coming out of the hand, which I was really happy about and was really looking forward to seeing.”

Wacha won’t be able to return as a starter since he doesn’t have enough time to build arm strength. But he has no misgivings about working out of the bullpen.

“The plan going forward, depending on soreness and stuff, is getting back out there Wednesday. That’s the plan right now,” Wacha said. “Activated, hopefully. I feel like I can get hitters out, for sure, with the way (pitches) were coming out.”

Holliday hits, fields

Another injured Cardinal, left fielder Matt Holliday, took batting practice on the field for the first time since he suffered a broken right thumb Aug. 11 against the Cubs.

Holliday could be close to returning from the disabled list, perhaps as early as this week.

“I felt good,” he said. “I didn’t have any restrictions and it felt nice to hit. We haven’t really come up with an exactly when (I will return). There’s a couple more hurdles they would like me to go through before I really think about playing in games. We’ll see how it responds (Tuesday) and go from there.”

What hurdles?

“Live BP, potentially off Wacha or Trevor (Rosenthal), or somebody like that,” Holliday said. “We’ll see how it goes. It’s exciting to be out here and take batting practice.”

Holliday said he had “been doing some grip stuff” with the bat before being cleared to hit. However, he is aware that the thumb still might be sore.

“The last couple of days is when I’ve really been able to kind of progress to swinging a bat,” Holliday said. “Throwing has been no issue. I won’t know until the first time I get jammed how (the thumb) feels. But so far, so good. I’m not restricted in any way.”

Wong leads off

Kolten Wong, batting .323 (10-for-31) over his last nine games with a .436 on-base percentage, played second base and led off in the series opener Tuesday against the Cubs.

It’s the ninth time Wong has led off this season.

“It’s more about Carp, more about our offense as a whole, trying to get something rolling,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said of Matt Carpenter dropping from leadoff to third.

“It’s always nice to see Carp lead off with those doubles,” he said. “Actually, it would be really nice to see him do it with two guys on base. We’ve used him in a number of different roles. He’s just such a valuable bat in our lineup. Bouncing around until it looks right, feels right.”

Wong certainly has looked and felt right of late.

“He’s just had a simple approach. He’s having fun,” Matheny said. “I think he’s starting to use some of the energy he has on the defensive side and he’s carrying that over to (the offense, and I think he has confidence. That’s usually the result of having success.”

Oh unavailable

Closer Seung Hwan Oh, who has 17 saves and a 1.87 ERA, was unavailable Saturday and Sunday against Milwaukee with a sore groin. Oh said he wasn’t available Monday, either.

“It’s getting better day by day, so it should be ready to go pretty soon,” Oh said through interpreter Eugene Koo. “(Tuesday) I should be ready to go.”

Oh injured the groin pitching the ninth inning Friday. He was able to complete the save, however, as the Cardinals nipped the Brewers 4-3.

No Diaz

Aledmys Diaz was activated Sunday, but still is working his way back to full strength. Diaz suffered a broken right thumb July 31 against Miami.

“It’s very exciting for me to come back and help the team,” said Diaz, who took batting practice and fielded grounders Monday. “Right now, I’m focusing on being 100 percent.”

Matheny didn’t rule out the possibility of Diaz playing off the bench Monday, and indeed, that’s what transpired when Diaz grounded out to second as a pinch-hitter in the sixth.

“Possibly,” he said. “We need to see him throw and watch him field, watch him move, watch how he swings, see everything he’s doing and how it’s progressing. He had a couple days in a row in Springfield, too, that we have to see how he bounces back from.”

Diaz tried to refine his swing in two games with high-Class A Palm Beach and two games with Class AA Springfield, which was participating in the Texas League playoffs.

“It’s tough when you lose 1 1/2 (months),” Diaz said, adding that the minor-league assignment “helped with my confidence.”

“I felt good out there and just played,” he said. “That’s the way I took it. I prepared myself for the big-league playoffs this year in the minors.”

David Wilhelm: 618-239-2665, @DavidMWilhelm

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