Cards notebook: Wong is back, Cruz sounds off, George Kottaras a -

Cards notebook: Wong is back, Cruz sounds off, George Kottaras arrives

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By John Bailey By John Bailey

(BaseballStL) — Kolten Wong is nearly 100 percent. That’s good news for him and bad news for the rest of the league.  

Wong hit his fourth home run since returning from the disabled list a week ago, rewarding manager Mike Matheny’s faith in moving him from the eight hole to second in the line up.

Anywhere is fine with Wong. “As long as I’m in the line-up, I don’t care,” said the amiable 23-year-old. 

Wong acknowledged that there is difference batting second as far as the pitches he sees. “Pitchers don’t want to face (Matt) Holliday),” he said. “So I tend to see better pitches. 

His shoulder injury nearly completely healed, Wong can now finish his swing with authority. “It’s almost 100 percent. I have a lot more confidence at the plate. Before, I knew when I swung there was going to be pain. Rest was the key. I’m not all the way back, but almost.  A few more days of rest (during the All-Star break) will definitely help.”

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Tony Cruz recognizes his opportunity but regrets that it came in the fashion that it did. 

Cruz was a third baseman and occasional first baseman in the Cardinals low minor league system when the organization approached him about a change to catcher. “I was certainly open to it,” said the well-built Cruz. So the Cardinals sent him to work with Cardinals’ catching coordinator Dann Bilardello who spent hours with young Cruz on footwork, blocking balls, throwing and calling games. 

“I was in high Class A ball when I made the switch,” he said. “I learned the whole aspect of catching from (Bilardello), the mental approach to the game, not just the mechanics.” Cruz recalls that Bilardello told him that if all the managers and coaches were thrown out of a game, you would give the line-up card to the catcher because he’s the one that runs the game on the field. 

Now that his chance has come, Cruz has the complete faith and trust of skipper Mike Matheny and GM John Mozeliak, both of whom praised Cruz before the opener of the weekend series with the Milwaukee Brewers.

“I sat in on all the meetings (about hitters),” said the 27-year-old from Palm Beach, Fla. “It can be a little difficult to separate the (stress and involvement of catching) from hitting. But I’m getting it.”

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Before Saturday’s game, the Cards added back up catcher George Kottaras to the roster and optioned Audry Perez back to Memphis Triple A.

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Cards’ starter Lance Lynn said before Saturday’s game that he was just joking when he walked into the relievers meeting Friday. But Matheny said Friday that it was not out of the question that Lynn could pitch Sunday in relief if he was needed. The Cards don’t play again until the Los Angeles Dodgers come to town next weekend.

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