Craig gets at-bats in Minor League game

Craig gets at-bats in Minor League game

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- It may have come with little fanfare and on the backfields of the Cardinals' spring complex, but Allen Craig reached another benchmark in his return from offseason knee surgery on Tuesday. For the first time since Game 7 of the World Series, Craig took at-bats in an actual game.

Before appearing in a Minor League game on Tuesday, Craig's only at-bats had come during coach-pitched batting practice. Because of the flexibility Minor League games offer, Craig was able to limit his participation to only hitting in Tuesday's game. He batted, but did not run or play in the field.

"I like the idea of having things for him controlled," manager Mike Matheny said. "Certainly it's something to be excited about, him taking another step forward."

Craig, who is expected to begin the season on the disabled list, will continue to get at-bats in Minor League games before working his way into more on-field activity, including playing defense and running the bases. The Cardinals will not consider using Craig in a Grapefruit League game until Craig has hit all those checkpoints.

"I think that timeline is one of those things, once again, that you have to reach those plateaus and see how he feels," Matheny said. "If he feels good, then we move forward. We have to see how his body reacts."