By Matt Snyder
Cardinals utility man extraordinaire Allen Craig is ahead of schedule in his recovery from knee surgery, reports MLB.com.
Craig had the surgery in November and was said to be down for four to six months, meaning missing a large chunk of the early part of the 2012 season was a very real possibility. It still is, but the MLB.com report says Craig has the goal of being ready opening day. His new manager, Mike Matheny, won't go that far just yet.
"The job of the medical staff is to hold him back," Matheny said (MLB.com). "Once they start releasing him more, we're going to have more to work with. As far as what that lines out to [be], there are still other peaks to get to. I don't know if he's going to make that next one. He's where he's supposed to be and actually a little bit ahead. I'm listening to what they're telling me, and I'm not jumping too far ahead with my own conclusions that yes, he's going to be here. It's still too early to tell."
Craig, 27, hit .315/.362/.555 with 11 home runs in just 219 plate appearances last season. He appeared in game action at first base, second base, third base and all three outfield positions.
Though he's not a starter, Craig is one of the most important bench players in the majors. Not only did he show what he can do in the World Series -- when he came through in the clutch several times -- but he can play almost anywhere on the diamond. Considering the age of Carlos Beltran and Lance Berkman, and injuries bound to occur throughout a 162-game season, one would expect Craig to have plenty of opportunities to fill in this season.
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