On Tuesday night, after starting for the first time in the past three games and only the third time in the past week, Cardinals rookie second baseman Kolten Wong did not do anything to show that he deserves more starts. The lefthanded hitter, who has now entered into somewhat of a platoon with veteran Mark Ellis, went 0-for-4 and left a team-high six runners on base, which dropped his batting average to .222.
After getting off to a good start to the season, Wong has seen his batting average steadily fall from .280 on April 8 to its current unsightly status. To top it all off, he fell into his slump just as Ellis returned from the DL, prompting manager Mike Matheny to go with the proven veteran option more times than not. In fact, the platoon is not strictly a matter of there being a lefthanded or righthanded pitcher on the mound, as Matheny started the righthanded-hitting Ellis against Mets righty Jenrry Mejia on Monday night simply because he felt it provided a better matchup.
It’s difficult to determine what the most appropriate course of action is for Wong. Obviously the Cardinals would like to see him succeed right now, but if he can’t get it together quickly, the best thing to do may be to let Ellis get the bulk of the starts at second for a while and send Wong back to Triple-A to get regular playing time and try to find his groove. Lefthanded hitter Daniel Descalso could provide depth at the position for the short term, and ideally after getting about 100 at-bats in the minors Wong would be ready to return and reboot his season.
Of course, that would be a moot point if Wong is able to turn it around in the foreseeable future. The Cardinals owe it to him to give him a string of a few more consecutive starts and try to let him find his hitting stroke again. Then if he gets on a hot streak, he needs to be encouraged by getting the vast majority of the starts, with Ellis only playing second when Wong needs a day off or is matched up against a really tough lefthanded pitcher.
Wong’s progress or lack thereof should be one of the biggest Cardinals stories to follow over the next few weeks, and could end up being a major plot twist to the season if he is not able to work things out. It should be interesting to see how the second base situation continues to develop moving forward.