ST. LOUIS -- Kolten Wong battled to play through a shoulder injury for more than a week in June, and it appears that battle could linger the remainder of the season.
The good news for Wong, who was activated from the disabled list on Sunday, is that the shoulder has improved enough to allow him to produce and return to the field.
"I wouldn't say it's 100 percent, but it's pretty close," the Cardinals second baseman said. "I'm able to finish my swing now without any pain and kind of get back to where I was before I got hurt."
Wong jammed his left shoulder into the ground on a diving play June 3 and missed four of the next five games, before ultimately fighting through the injury to remain on the field.
During a span of 10 games after the injury, though, Wong went 2-for-30. The pinching in his shoulder worsened to the point of him not being able to finish swings and sitting out batting practice before going on the DL June 21.
"I wanted to try to push the pain and keep pushing, but it got to a point where it was really affecting my play," Wong said. "I felt like this was just the best way to go."
Wong had two cortisone shots in his shoulder -- one in the front and one in the back -- shortly after going on the DL. He went 5-for-11 in three rehab starts at Triple-A Memphis before being activated Sunday, with outfielder Shane Robinson being optioned to Triple-A.
"It's never going to be back to normal," Wong said. "You play 100-something games, your shoulder is never really going to feel good. It feels great right now. I've been swinging the bat and finishing my swing without any pain."
In 15 games dating back to the start of May before injuring his shoulder, Wong was 18-for-57 with eight runs scored and 10 RBIs. He was back at second base Sunday for the series finale against the Marlins.
"Part of the game at this level is you've got to push," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "That's part of the beauty and the challenge of this game is to not just play 162 [games], but figuring out how to make it through when the majority of time you don't feel good."
Matheny shows faith in closer Rosenthal
ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals manager Mike Matheny had no interest in entertaining the idea of using Trevor Rosenthal in any other role but to finish games.
After two straight days of difficult ninth innings -- the second of which ended in Rosenthal's fourth blown save this season -- Matheny noted that two days do not warrant such discussion.
"Trevor has done a terrific job," Matheny said. "You look up on that saves leaders [board] -- there's a couple losses and some outings that hurt his ERA -- when it comes down to closing the door and getting saves, he's a guy that's doing a great job."
Rosenthal, with 26 saves, ranks tied for second among National League closers. Before allowing four runs in 1 1/3 innings over the last two games, Rosenthal hadn't allowed a run in 12 straight outings.
The right-hander entered Friday's game with a three-run lead, and he left the bases loaded with a game-ending double play after allowing two runs to score. On Saturday, Rosenthal surrendered the game-tying run in the ninth and the game-winning run was charged to him after his exit, inflating his ERA to 3.76.
Rosenthal was expected to be unavailable out of the bullpen Sunday after throwing a combined 54 pitches in two days. He most certainly is still the Cardinals' top option to finish games.
"We want our closer to feel like he's the king of the world when he walks out on that field," Matheny said. "[Friday], I didn't even want someone up in the 'pen. I went out there and I told him, 'You're our guy, you've got to figure out how to get this done.' He sees me getting two guys loose down there, he's going to doubt whether I'm telling him the truth.
"I believe there's a psychological advantage when a guy knows, 'I'm the guy.' That's a great spot to be in."
• Matt Holliday, who exited Saturday's game in the eighth inning with a left knee contusion, was back in the Cardinals' lineup Sunday.
"We're going to be watching him," Matheny said. "He felt good when he came in today. He got up really early and had some treatment done."
• Joe Kelly threw 72 pitches (41 strikes) in his third Triple-A rehab start with Memphis on Sunday. Kelly allowed one run on three hits and a walk before being removed after 4 1/3 innings. He struck out three. The Cardinals previously said they expect Kelly (left hamstring strain) to make a fourth rehab start before being activated from the disabled list.
Alex Halsted is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.