New Brewers second baseman Kolten Wong is a candidate for the injured list after aggravating a nagging left oblique strain during an emotional return to Busch Stadium on Thursday.
“This is an injury that I really was not trying to have right now,” Wong said after a 3-1 loss to the Cardinals dropped the offensively challenged Brewers to 3-4 to start the season.
Wong was held out of the lineup for Wednesday’s series finale at Wrigley Field because of what manager Craig Counsell called mild discomfort, but Thursday began on a high note. Wong was back atop Milwaukee’s order against his former team for the Cardinals’ home opener, and he teared up when catcher Yadier Molina stepped in front of home plate so that fans could deliver Wong a standing ovation.
Wainwright walked him on four pitches — “I could barely see,” Wong said — and he was still feeling healthy when he flew out in the second. But in his third at-bat, Wong said he felt his oblique “grab on me big time” as he struck out against one of Wainwright’s signature curveballs. When Wong batted in the seventh against reliever Andrew Miller, “I could barely even swing the bat.”
Doctors told him that they would know much more about the severity of the injury in 12-24 hours. The Brewers and Cardinals are off Friday before playing Saturday; first pitch is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. CT.
“I think the injured list is a possibility, but it’s not a sure thing. I think that’s the best way to frame it,” Counsell said. “It’s a distinct possibility, but we’re not definite on it yet. We’re going to give him some time, see how he feels when he wakes up [Friday]. He still has pretty good strength, which is a good sign.”
The timing is most unfortunate for the Brewers. Besides needing Wong in the lineup for his left-handed bat and in the field for his Gold Glove-caliber defense — they have scored only six runs in their four losses — the Brewers just traded away infielder Orlando Arcia to the Braves for future pitching depth.
That leaves Daniel Robertson as the only reserve infielder on the roster if Wong hits the injured list; Robertson’s miscue in relief of Wong allowed the Cardinals to score the tying run in the seventh inning Thursday as St. Louis came from behind to win. Keston Hiura, who moved to first base when the Brewers signed Wong to a two-year deal in February, could also move back to second.
“I’m open to whatever happens,” said Hiura who was hitless in his first 20 at-bats of 2021 before getting a double to drop in his second at-bat Thursday. “Wherever they tell me to play, that’s where I’m going to play, and I’m going to do the best I can over there.”
Or, help could come from the outside. The Brewers like veteran utility man Jace Peterson, who is on their alternate training site roster. And before Wong’s exit, MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal reported that the Brewers had agreed to sign veteran second baseman Dee Strange-Gordon to a Minor League deal. Gordon was released by the Reds at the end of Spring Training.
“You know, things like this happen,” Wong said. “It’s part of the game. We understand that injuries happen. And that’s something you really can’t control. So I just hope that this isn’t something too bad where I can hopefully get back sooner than later.”
It was a sour end to a bittersweet homecoming.
“You know, Waino was one of those guys where seeing him out there made me emotional,” Wong said. “Seeing Yadi take those steps in the grass made me emotional. Just seeing things when you played with the Cardinals, you saw them do for other guys who played here. To be the guy in that box to witness that, it was pretty crazy.”