St. Louis Cardinals: Wong Comes Clean About Shoulder

Sep 20, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong (16) reacts after not being to score a run in the first inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 20, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong (16) reacts after not being to score a run in the first inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /

The St. Louis Cardinals are again releasing injury information about a player during spring training.

Structural damage or not, Kolten Wong has finally come to acknowledge the lingering effects of a six-month old injury to his throwing shoulder. This news was released by the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday.

The St. Louis Cardinals $25 million-dollar second basemen spoke to the media in Jupiter on Saturday, coming clean about the level of discomfort he has played with since his short-lived tryout in left field for the Cardinals on September 23.

Wong lost his footing on a soggy September day in Wrigley Field, landing face-first in a manner that jarred his right shoulder (see tweet image below).

Whether or not Wong should have even have been put in the situation to start the game in left-field despite minimal reps at the position is another debate, but the experiment that looked to be a solution for the struggling 26-year-old may have more unwelcome ramifications that originally thought.

While it is common for a pitcher to not pick up a ball for a structured period of time in the off-season, it was reported that Wong did not throw for the first three-months of the off-season due to ongoing discomfort.

St. Louis Cardinals fans likely find Wong’s injury troublesome thanks to the lack of offensive production that has come from the second base position since Matt Carpenter’s move to third base in 2014. That said, Mike Matheny assured the media that Wong will be in the lineup come Sunday’s game against the Marlins and that this injury does not affect his ability with the bat.

Personally, it is hard to wrap my head around the fact that athletes who are paid millions to be in tune with their bodies and be in tip-top shape would return to spring training with unidentified injuries, or nagging old injuries in this case.

In his defense, Wong did receive a cortisone shot to help alleviate what sounds like a decent amount of lingering inflammation in his throwing shoulder; but I digress.

It is easy to start snowballing negativity when it comes to Spring Training injuries, as the Cardinals have taken blow after blow with the news of Alex Reyes and the frustration in light of Kevin Siegrest’s shoulder in 2017.

On the bright side, Wong is doing everything in his power to stay on the field, even if he is self-admittedly not at one-hundred percent.

Playing hurt seems to be a thing of the past in today’s MLB, as the age old saying “rub some dirt on it,” has lost its meaning as the years have gone on.

Before we all jump on Wong for not being as transparent as we would have liked him to be with his shoulder, I think his desire to stay on the field and chase a pennant with the Cardinals should overshadow the questions as to why the news of a potential long-term injury just made news today.

Pitchers miss starts due to blistered fingers, and catchers taking “scheduled” days off in today’s game, but a player playing through an injury gets more belittlement and ridicule than anything else.

Personally, say what you want about his ceiling and the St. Louis Cardinals investment and nurturing approach to his development, Wong is a throwback and this situation is proof.

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It is pretty black and white as to why Wong has kept the tenderness of his shoulder under wraps: he wants to stay in the lineup. After a lackluster year of slashing .240/.327/.355, as well as a trip down I-55 to Triple-A Memphis in June, the former 2011 first-rounder has much to prove in 2017 and is setting out to do just that.

As humbling of an experience as it probably was for the 2016 opening day second basemen to get sent down to the minors, one can only imagine the size of the chip on the Hawaiian’s shoulder he has had since his return to the majors later in the season.

Wong’s winter MRI showed no structural damage, and despite Saturday’s revelation to the media, the general consensus around camp is that while his spring throwing program and strength regiment has been altered, Wong will break camp as the starting second basemen on opening day.

My all-too-early prediction for the Cardinals’ second base situation is that Wong will be penciled in to start opening day and the shoulder injury will be a non-issue, but personally it is hard to believe that this is strictly an injury that only causes a hindrance during the throwing motion.

Batting left handed, Wong’s follow through depends on his bottom hand, which would be his right arm, and despite his two-handed finish, the extension and recoil of the right arm through the swing before and after contact is all to similar to the throwing motion in my opinion.

While he may not be the Cardinals’ best defensive option at second-base in 2017, Jedd Gyorko is the team’s return slugger, and the second man on the depth chart behind Wong at second-base.

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All this being said, it is hard not to respect Wong’s level of commitment to his club and desire to be out on the field. While this situation will be an interesting one to keep an eye on, his throwback mentality could do today’s game some good.