Craig takes grounders, could play first in St. Louis

Craig takes grounders, could play first in St. Louis

Craig takes grounders, could play first in St. Louis

ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals cleanup hitter Allen Craig took ground balls at first base Friday for the first time since spraining his left foot in early September, providing a sliver of hope that his duties could expand beyond pinch-hitting for Games 3-5 of the World Series at Busch Stadium.

Craig served as the Cards' designated hitter in Games 1 and 2 in Boston, when the teams played under American League rules. He had two hits, a walk and two strikeouts in seven at-bats, which were notably competitive considering his seven-week layoff.

Manager Mike Matheny struck a cautious tone after Craig's afternoon workout, saying Craig was "just beginning the movements" necessary to play in the field.

"We're not pushing this too hard and too fast," Matheny said. "We're very excited about what we're seeing with him at the plate, and that's the main thing. Obviously, having the ability to throw him into the DH spot in Boston was what we were hoping for, and he put together some good at-bats for us.

"Defensively, we'll take whatever we can get. Every day is another step. [On Saturday], we'll get him to take more ground balls and get him moving. He also has the potential to possibly play in the outfield, so we're giving him a little more work and exposure out there."

Craig's bat was a driving force of the Cardinals' 97-win regular season. He batted .315 with a .373 on-base percentage and 97 RBIs in 134 games, while hitting a Major League-best .454 in 130 at-bats with runners in scoring position.

Matt Adams filled in at first base during Craig's departure and hit .315 with eight home runs in September, but the slugger has been limited to a .245 average and one home run in his first 13 postseason games. In the outfield, Craig could provide insurance for right fielder Carlos Beltran, who suffered bruised right ribs making a catch against the wall in Game 1, but was able to come back for Game 2, in which he went 2-for-4 with an RBI.

"Right now, we're not rushing it to where we feel we could put [Craig] in a spot to where he compromises his health, and [then] he goes backwards and we can't use him either as a pinch-hitter or potentially as a DH again," Matheny said.

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