Struggling St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong on Monday was optioned to Class AAA Memphis, where he is expected to get regular playing time.
Wong, 25, who signed a five-year, $25.5-million contract extension March 2, is batting .222 (28-for-126) one double, two triples, one home run and five RBIs in 49 games.
Wong’s departure makes room on the Cardinals’ roster for Jhonny Peralta to be activated. Peralta, 34, suffered a torn left-thumb ligament during a spring-training game March 5 and has not played this season.
Peralta likely will see the majority of his time at third base. Matt Carpenter will get most of the at-bats at second base, while rookie sensation Aledmys Diaz will continue to hold down shortstop. Diaz is hitting .328 with eight home runs and 30 RBIs in 54 games.
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Wong in spring training lobbied to be the Cardinals’ leadoff hitter, and the Cardinals were willing to give him an opportunity to seize the role.
But Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, despite Carpenter’s 28 home runs last season, decided to keep Carpenter in the leadoff spot to capitalize on his ability to work pitchers.
Carpenter has been hot lately and is batting .281 with 17 doubles, nine homers and 36 RBIs. His on-base percentage has climbed to .388, 12 points over his career average.
Wong has regressed offensively since last season when he batted .262 with 11 homers, 61 RBIs and 15 stolen bases in a career-high 150 games.
Wong and the Cardinals hoped he could boost his .321 on-base percentage and become a greater threat on the bases, but Wong’s on-base percentage has slipped to .306 and he has just three stolen bases.
Wong has had his moments, bad and good, in the postseason.
He was picked off first base to end Game 4 of the 2013 World Series against Boston, at Busch Stadium, after being inserted as a pinch-runner for Allen Craig.
Wong has four home runs in 19 playoff games, including a two-run shot in Game 3 of the NL Division Series in 2014 that gave the Cardinals a 3-1 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers at Busch Stadium.
Wong’s bases-empty homer in the ninth inning of Game 2 of the NL Championship Series in 2014, also at Busch Stadium, gave St. Louis a dramatic 5-4 win over the San Francisco Giants. Wong hit another homer in Game 4 of the series in San Francisco, although the Cardinals lost 6-4.
Peralta played nine games during an injury rehabilitation assignment. He batted .231 (6-for-26) with three doubles and one RBI at low-Class A Peoria, high-Class A Palm Beach and Class AA Springfield.
Peralta’s bat is expected to boost an already-potent lineup. The Cardinals are tied with the New York Mets and Washington for the NL lead in home runs with 76. St. Louis leads the NL in runs scored with 307.
Peralta batted .275 with 17 homers and 71 RBIs in 155 games last season. He did most of his damage in the first half, helping him earn a spot on the NL All-Star team.
Peralta’s lack of range probably makes him better suited for third base, where he’s played 213 games in his career. Diaz, 25, struggled defensively at shortstop in his first few weeks in the big leagues, but he has settled down lately and has begun to look more comfortable.
Still, however, Diaz has been charged with a major league-high 12 errors and has a .939 fielding percentage. Cincinnati’s Eugenio Suarez is the only other major-leaguer with a double-digit error total (10).
The Cardinals (30-27) began Monday in third place in the NL Central, 10 games behind the front-running Chicago Cubs. Chicago plays Monday night in Philadelphia.
St. Louis on Tuesday begins a six-game road trip to Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. Resurgent Mike Leake (4-4, 3.82 ERA) will pitch against the Reds at 6:10 p.m. Tuesday. He will be opposed by John Lamb (1-3, 5.58 ERA).
The Cardinals took two of three from the Giants over the weekend at Busch Stadium, rallying to win both games after dropping the series opener.