Allen Craig likely only available to pinch hit for Cardinals in Game 3

Allen Craig, taking ground balls at first base, is likely only available to pinch hit in Game 3. (USATSI)
Allen Craig, taking ground balls at first base, is likely only available to pinch hit in Game 3. (USATSI)

ST. LOUIS -- His bat back but his foot still tentative, Allen Craig worked on taking ground balls at first base here Friday afternoon. But his availability to play first base in Game 3 Saturday night still seems remote.

Craig, out from early September until the beginning of this World Series with stretched ligaments in his foot, made a spirited return as St. Louis’ designated hitter for Games 1 and 2 against the Red Sox.

However, he still hasn’t moved around very much on his feet, and there is no DH for the next three games here. Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said Friday it is “unlikely” that Craig will be physically ready to play in the field by Saturday. That really wasn’t much of an upgrade from Mozeliak’s declaration Thursday in Boston that playing the field “would be a reach for Craig.”

The St. Louis cleanup hitter drove in 97 runs this year and clearly makes the lineup stronger with his presence. But the Cardinals made do without him in the Division Series against the Pirates and in the League Championship Series against the Dodgers.

Manager Mike Matheny characterized Craig’s glovework at an empty Busch Stadium Friday as “just beginning the movements.”

 “We’re not pushing this too hard and too fast,” Matheny said. “We’re very excited about what we’re seeing with him at the plate, and that’s the main thing. And obviously having the ability to throw him into the DH spot in Boston was what we were hoping for. And he put together some good at-bats for us.

 “Defensively, we’ll take whatever we can get. Every day is another step. Tomorrow, we’ll get him moving.”

Matheny also said Craig potentially could play in the outfield.

 “Right now, we’re not rushing it to where we feel we could put him in a spot to where he compromises his health and goes backwards and we can’t use him either as a pinch-hitter or potentially as a DH again.”

Craig had two singles in seven at-bats as the St. Louis DH in Games 1 and 2, drawing one walk and striking out twice.

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