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St. Louis Cardinals take on Oakland Athletics at Busch

St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Paul DeJong watches the ball in the first inning on Tuesday, June 25, 2019, during a game between the Oakland Athletics and the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium. Photo by Brian Munoz, bmunoz@post-dispatch.com

Shortstop Paul DeJong, hitting .157 (nine for 57) since June 25 with no extra-base hits and just one run batted in, was dropped to No. 6 in the Cardinals’ order for the first time on Wednesday. DeJong has slipped to .249 with 37 RBIs for the season.

“He’s had a nice year but lately he’s not as productive up in the lineup,” said manager Mike Shildt, who said fatigue had nothing to do with DeJong’s dropoff although Shildt did check signals with the performance and training staffs.

“Paul’s in good shape,” said Wong. “He’s a young man.”

After a nothing-for-four game with two strikeouts, DeJong, who has hit mostly second and third this season, vowed, “I’m going to get going. I guarantee that. It’s a matter of time.

“I feel I’m right there. Maybe a little overaggressive at times. But other than that, I’m putting the ball in play for the most part. I’ve just got to find some barrels. But I keep playing defense, though. ”

DeJong’s keystone partner, Kolten Wong, was not even in the lineup, missing a rare start against a righthanded pitcher in Pittsburgh’s Chris Archer. Wong, hitting .246, had been in the lineup for nearly every game a righthander had started against the Cardinals this season.

Wong and Shildt had a long discussion in the manager’s office before Wednesday’s game and Shildt conceded that part of it dealt with Wong being out of the lineup. Wong also was pinch hit for in the ninth inning on Tuesday night but did come into Wednesday’s game for defense in the ninth.

“We’re in a stretch of 17 in a row coming out of the (All-Star) break,” said Shildt, although Wong did not start the first game after the break either against Arizona lefthander Robbie Ray.

Shildt also said that Wednesday starter Daniel Ponce de Leon wasn’t necessarily a ground-ball pitcher. That then offered Shildt a chance to alter the infield defense and get both Tommy Edman and Yairo Munoz into the lineup.

“It was just a break,” said Wong. “I haven’t been playing when ‘Ponce’ is pitching and I play when ‘Dak’ (Dakota Hudson) is out there.

“It’s above my pay grade, I’m going to say,” he said. “I’m good, man. You can’t hurt me,” added Wong, who has missed only two games entirely.

GYORKO, REYES UPDATES

Third baseman Jedd Gyorko, recovering from a calf strain and subsequent right wrist surgery, took 15 swings against a tee on Wednesday. He reported that he hit the ball every time.

More seriously, Gyorko said he was looking forward to going on a rehab option in a couple of weeks, on or about Aug. 1.

“The calf feels good. Everything else is coming along,” said Gyorko. “I don’t want to get too excited about anything yet because there’s still a lot of steps to go.”

Gyorko, who hit 61 homers in his first three seasons with the Cardinals, has two homers and a .196 average in only 38 games.

“It’s been a struggle,” said Gyorko. “But the most important part of the season is still coming.”

Righthander Alex Reyes, whose latest setback was a pectoral strain, is back in Jupiter, Fla., rehabbing rather than in Memphis, where he is on the Class AAA roster. “Baby steps,” said Shildt of Reyes’ advancement. “Not as many steps as he’d like — to move forward. He’s still healing. Playing catch.”

There is no timetable for his return to pitching. “It’s very loose right now,” said Shildt.

“They’re pretty optimistic that there’s nothing serious (with Reyes’ health). But we’ll always say that with a caveat.”

EXTRA BASES

Rookie catcher Andrew Knizner doubled for his first big-league hit after 10 hitless at-bats and will give the ball to his mother. . . . Of the 14 Cardinals who have stolen bases this season, the person who has the most in one season at 32 in 2016, has none this year. It is Paul Goldschmidt.

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Rick Hummel is a Cardinals beat writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.