On Saturday, the St. Louis Cardinals announced that the club had placed rookie second baseman Kolten Wong on the disabled because of the shoulder he first injured back in early June against the Royals.
On June 3, Kolten Wong clubbed a grand slam off Royals ace James Shield that was the rookie's first major-league homer. Later, Wong jammed his shoulder while diving in an attempt to field a ball and was forced to leave the game early. At the time of the shoulder injury, Wong's batting line sat at .266/.329/.344 at the time—punchless, but with a solid OBP.
The next day, Wong did not start, but made a pinch-hitting appearance. On June 5, the second game after suffering a jammed shoulder, Wong was back in the lineup. But the Hawaiian was unable to overcome a balky shoulder. Wong went 0-for-3 before being pulled in the fifth inning due to his shoulder once again barking. MLB.com's Robert Folkoff reported:
"There's no tear or anything structurally bad, but I bruised it pretty good," Wong said. "It's tough because I want to be in there."
Wong said there's pain when he tries to complete his swing or make a quick motion to take off running.
"It's just inflammation," Wong said. "Hopefully, I'm not out too long. That last at-bat, I knew I had re-aggravated it."
Parsing the quotes of a player, manager, and general manager about an injury is always tricky. Wong's shoulder is no different. It was inflamed. He attempted to play and "re-aggravated" it. I'm not sure how exactly one re-aggravates an inflamed shoulder. It seems to me that the shoulder was either inflamed or not before the June 5 game. At any rate, Wong received a cortisone injection in his injured shoulder, sat out three team games, and was back in the lineup for the start of the Rays series on June 10.
It now seems that Wong should have rested his injured shoulder a bit longer—perhaps even 15 days.
From his return against the Rays on June 10 through Friday night's start against the Phillies, Wong played in eight games and notched 28 PAs. His batting line over that span? .077/.077/.154. That's a .231 OPS. Playing injured dropped Wong's BA 30 points, OBP 37 points, SLG 29 points, and OPS 67 points to: .228/.282/.304/.586.
But it was more than results as reflected by stats. To watch the rookie was to behold a player who didn't look quite right physically—like maybe Wong was experiencing "pain when he tries to complete his swing or make a quick motion to take off running," to quote Folkoff's June 5 article from MLB.com. This is something manager Mike Matheny noted in his comments to the press regarding the move to place Wong on the DL:
"I think they go hand in hand," manager Mike Matheny said of Wong's shoulder and struggles. "He's really trying to grind though, but since that happened, you've been able to see that he hasn't been able to get a good finish on the swing. We're going to make the move."
Matheny didn't explain why the club waited so long to make the move. One wonders whether Wong attempted for too long to play through pain, unsuccessfully walking that trickiest of lines between being a tough ballplayer who plays through pain during the 162-game grind of the season and playing injured to the detriment of the team. Navigating that terrain requires forthright communication with the manager. For those of us with no firsthand knowledge of the situation, it's difficult to assign responsibility for why the club allowed Wong to play hurt for so long when he was obviously hampered. Hopefully Wong doing so didn't exacerbate his shoulder injury.
On the DL, Wong will get the rest and treatment his injured shoulder needs. Shane Robinson will once again be promoted to the major-league club to take the roster spot left vacant by Wong's disabling. And we'll get some combination of Mark Ellis and Daniel Descalso at the keystone for at least the next two weeks. Get well soon, Wong.