ST. LOUIS -- The four-day All-Star break came at an opportune time for Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong, who said the time away from the field gave his left shoulder additional opportunity to heal.
After spending 15 days on the disabled list with a left shoulder contusion, Wong returned to the team and played in eight games to close out the first half. He went 9-for-28 with five homers upon coming back, but did admit to feeling some minor discomfort if he stretched or jolted his shoulder too much.
On Friday, Wong felt none of it.
"My shoulder is feeling really good now," he said. "I just basically did nothing the entire break. I tried to get my body to 100 percent. It's never going to be 100 percent, but my shoulder is back to normal."
Wong opened the second half with a two-hit game in which he scored two of the Cardinals' three runs. He has hit safely in eight of nine games since returning from the DL, and his five home runs are the most by a Cardinals second baseman in July since 1977, when Mike Tyson also had five.
Wong's instant impact since coming off the DL has led manager Mike Matheny to deploy the second baseman as his No. 2 hitter for five straight games. Matheny has used 11 players in that spot, but has been hopeful that one of them would seize the opportunity to become a long-term fit, as Carlos Beltran was for much of the past two seasons.
Wong, who also brings an element of speed to the top of the lineup, is emerging as that guy.
"I'm not really thinking about hitting second. I'm just going up there and putting a good at-bat together and getting on base," Wong said. "When I was hitting eighth, it was more thinking about how I could get runs in or how I could get into scoring position. ... Hitting second, you have some stuff to think about. You want to get on base. Or if [Matt Carpenter] is on, I have to figure out how to get him over. You're definitely thinking out there of how you can execute."