PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Mike Matheny had to pause for a moment during his morning chat with reporters, because what he was seeing from Allen Craig in the batting cage caught his eye. "Man," Matheny said, "he's coming unglued." This was, in case you're wondering, a positive term in this particular use, as Craig, less than four months removed from knee surgery, was belting balls all over the field and over the wall.
And it is offensive displays such as this one that have the Cards considering breaking camp with Craig on the 25-man roster, even if his body is not yet ready for the wear and tear of position play. Craig could latch on as a pinch-hitter initially, gradually building up his ability to play right field and first base.
"You've got to weigh what would be the value of just having him there being able to pinch-hit," Matheny said. "If that value will make our team better and we can cover not having him there, we just have to weigh those options." Craig made the trip north to take batting practice with the big league club and then took part in a Minor League game in the back fields at the Mets' complex. The Cards are pleased with his progress, though he's still building up a tolerance for running the bases and playing the field, and there has been no timetable announced for when he'll appear in a Grapefruit League game. Matheny said Craig would likely make his first exhibition appearance as a pinch-hitter in a home game, when the Cards have access to more Minor League bodies who could then take over as a pinch-runner for him. "He's got hurdles to still get past as far as being able to run the bases," Matheny said. But the swing has come along wonderfully, as Craig demonstrated Saturday morning. As Matheny spoke, Craig belted a blast over the wall in left-center field. "Nothing wrong with that one, huh?" Matheny marveled.