Craig takes next step toward return, faces live pitching

Craig takes next step toward return, faces live pitching

Craig takes next step toward return, faces live pitching

ST. LOUIS -- Allen Craig estimated that he stood in the batter's box for an estimated 10 simulated at-bats early Friday afternoon. The live batting practice session "went well," the first baseman said afterward, and it is the latest step in Craig's efforts to be cleared to return for the World Series.

A few hours later, as the Cardinals were celebrating a 9-0 win that punched their ticket to the Fall Classic, Craig expressed an optimism that he would be ready to go when the World Series opens Wednesday (6:30 p.m. CT air time on FOX, 7:07 p.m. first pitch).

"I think I'll be ready," Craig said. "I'm going to give it my best shot. I feel good. I feel like I'm progressing in my rehab. If I had it my way, I'm going to be out there. That's what I'm anticipating. I wouldn't miss it for the world."

Craig faced rehabbing left-hander Jaime Garcia, as well as reserve pitchers Jake Westbrook and Sam Freeman, during the session, which marked the first time Craig had faced live pitching in six weeks. Craig suffered a Lisfranc fracture to his left foot on Sept. 4, and he has been rehabbing the injury since.

Craig needed some help, though, knowing that it was in his teammates' hands whether the season would extend long enough for him to be able to return.

"It's definitely not been easy to watch," Craig said. "It's been one of the hardest things in my career to not be able to finish out the season with these guys, because we have such a great group. It's been tough to watch. For them to continue to win and to give me a shot to play means a lot. It's not about me, but personally I'm really excited about it."

In addition to taking swings on Friday, Craig did some on-field running. The Cardinals expect to have Craig repeat the live BP session again in the next day or two. Though Craig may not be ready to play the field next week, the Cards do anticipate that he will be an asset as a designated hitter and pinch-hitter in the World Series.

"It was exciting for me the way I felt, because I'm still recovering from an injury, but it was exciting to see him out there feeling good and swinging the bat good," Garcia said. "He's a guy that wants to be out there, and he's been doing everything that has been asked of him. He wants to be out there so bad, so I think he's going to be ready to go."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. Chad Thornburg is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.