Wong Works On The Pivot

First-round pick hones double play mechanics





ST. LOUIS—When first-round pick Kolten Wong left Busch Stadium after signing his contract and taking batting practice with the big league club in June, coach Jose Oquendo gave him a parting gift: a DVD of second basemen turning double plays.

"As soon as I got to (low Class A) Quad Cities and got my place set up, I watched it," Wong said. "I watched it every night. I wanted to figure it out. That first game, I hope I didn't just get taken out. I wanted to work on the things he put (on the DVD) so that wouldn't happen. I still watch it."

Wong, 21, was the 22nd overall pick in the 2011 draft, and he was one of the first premium picks to sign, insisting he wanted to get a quick start on his pro career. He was every bit the hitter advertised coming out of Hawaii, batting .335/.401/.510 in 47 games for Quad Cities and emerging as a top-of-the-order hitter for the eventual Midwest League champions. Wong had 22 extra-base hits, including 15 doubles.

But he made the biggest impression with his improvement in the field.

During his visit at Busch, Wong spent time with Oquendo in the field. The Cardinals' third-base coach and longtime utility infielder worried that Wong put himself in position to get mulched by a runner. His pivot was pure college ball. The fact that he could get upended by an oncoming runner preoccupied him as he started games with Quad Cities. But with Oquendo's instruction, the DVD and the guidance of minor league instructors Johnny Rodriguez and Mark DeJohn, Wong got more comfortable with a different turn. His footwork improved, and by the end evaluators viewed him as more than an average fielder.

Wong has good arm strength for the position and by accelerating instincts he put himself in position for a promotion to start 2012. It's possible that Wong could open the season in High-A Palm Beach with the possibility he'll vault quickly to Double-A Springfield.

REDBIRD CHIRPS

• For new manager Mike Matheny's staff, the Cardinals considered several candidates from the minor league system, and Chris Maloney, who was one of six finalists for the major league manager spot, was a favorite for a coaching job.

• Among the players released by the Cardinals at the start of the offseason were outfielders D'Marcus Ingram, Edgar Lara and James Rapoport and pitcher Bryan Augenstein, who was on the Opening Day major league roster before a severe groin injury interrupted his season and cost him an extended look in the majors.