(BaseballStL) — It may have been a shaky start on Opening Day for Kolten Wong, but the rookie second basemen has all but erased that memory eight games into the season.
The 23-year-old has seven hits in 23 at bats, five walks, two RBIs, a double and a triple. He’s stolen two bases, reached safely in six games and been on base more than once in four of them.
Want to take Cardinal news with you wherever you go? Download the mobile app.
He’s done it while bouncing between the eight spot and the two spot in the order, something his manager says is an indication of adjusting to the major leagues.
“He’s going about his at bats, looks to me, the same no matter where he’s at in the order and that’s a sign of maturity.” Mike Matheny said.
Wong is averaging 4.16 pitches per plate appearance in his eight games, well above the MLB average of 3.83.
On Tuesday, he saw 22 pitches in his five appearances, including an eight-pitch walk and a four-pitch single. His shortest at bat was one toss from the mound, which he roped for a two-run triple.
"I think it’s just more confidence in myself this year. I definitely want to bring that confidence back. I had it all through the minor leagues and when I came up last year I kind of had that starstruck- you know, I didn’t really know what was going on," Wong said. "I kind of had this awe like ‘I’m really in the big leagues right now.’ This year I want to come with that confidence and play with the mindset I belong here."
In the field, he has steadied after an Opening Day error. It’s too early in the season for meaningful defensive stats, but Wong’s glove has looked professional grade.
His range is an upgrade over the converted Matt Carpenter (a third baseman by trade), snagging liners way up the middle and tracking down pop ups up the right field line with ease. Eyes can lie where numbers don’t, but he doesn’t look like he’s having any trouble getting to balls at either edge of his zone.
"There first couple games are a little rough," Wong said after Tuesday's win. "At the start of the season you want to try and make an impression right away, but after a couple games I started to relax a little bit."
Wong is also growing sure of his gut on defense, another clear sign he's feeling more like himself.
“Kolten is starting to use some more instincts and the more he’s seeing these teams and these hitters and how we are pitching them, he’s starting to be more proactive in where he’s moving,” said Matheny.
In Monday’s contest, after Billy Hamilton reached on a double and found his way to third, Wong gloved a sharp grounder, then sprinted to the line to catch him in a rundown. After running him back to third, the second baseman took up position where Matt Carpenter had been, and later took a throw from Yadier Molina and raced down Hamilton for the out.
“Kolten took the initiative to replace, which is normally not a place where he’d be. It was a great heads up play,” Matheny said. “A guy like that could probably stay in it until the runner gets to third base.”
In 2013, Wong arrived early to the stadium daily to work on his fielding mechanics. Often saying baseball is a game of failure, he young Cardinal continues to slavishly to cut down on his own instances of it. His work ethic and improvement has not gone unnoticed.
"Kolten just keeps impressing us," Matheny said.