ST. LOUIS — Baby steps. Able to swing the bat but still tentative with a glove on his hand, slugger Allen Craig of the St. Louis Cardinals probably won't get a chance to start Game 3 of the World Series as he did Games 1 and 2 at Boston. As a designated hitter, Craig is 2 for 7 (on singles) with a walk and two strikeouts in the Series.
Back at home for three games, the Cardinals won't have the luxury of a DH as they did at the American League city, and Craig's just not game-ready for defense as he recovers from a strained tendon in the middle part of his left foot.
Cardinals' GM John Mozeliak said it would be a "reach" for Craig to play the field yet, though it might happen before the Series is over. Craig spent several minutes during the Cardinals workout Friday afternoon taking grounders at first base. Nothing too strenuous, though, or which involved much lateral movement. Afterward he walked carefully, appearing to measure his steps, without wearing much of expression on his face. Inside, he said he "needed to get on the field" just to see how it felt.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said the process of getting Matheny back on defense won't be rushed, even with the season dwindling down to the final days. One of the reasons: The Cardinals want him available to pinch hit, and to be in the starting lineup again if the Series goes back to Boston.
Craig batted .315/.373/.457 with 13 homers and 29 doubles while driving in 97 runs during the regular season. He might have challenged Paul Goldschmidt for the league lead in RBIs had he played in more than 134 games. No matter, Craig's is a crucial bat for the Cards.
"Defensively we'll take whatever we can get," Matheny said. "Every day is another step. Tomorrow 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. Right now we're not rushing it ... [in case] he compromises his health and he goes backwards."
Baby steps. It probably all seems like a crawl to Craig.
- - - - - - -