Hamstring issue has Cardinals' Taveras facing big uphill climb

News-DemocratMarch 11, 2014 

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny tells reporters Tuesday that top prospect Oscar Taveras has no chance to make team if he can't get on the field for games.

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JUPITER, Fla. --Physical maladies are closing the door on Oscar Taveras' springtime opportunity with the St. Louis Cardinals.

The highly touted outfield prospect was sidelined for the third consecutive game Tuesday with what manager Mike Matheny described as a "tight" right hamstring. Taveras began the spring with soreness in his surgically repaired right ankle.

"The ankle seemed to be going well and now the hamstring's holding him back," Matheny said before the Cardinals were defeated 9-8 by the New York Mets. "His strength seems to be OK; it's just tight on him. ... Something didn't click right in the game the other day (Saturday)."

Even before the hamstring ailment, Matheny said Taveras was operating with a thin margin for error because of the ankle. Until last week, he had been hesitant to put much pressure on it.

"It's not possible without him being healthy," Matheny said regarding the likelihood of Taveras making the team. "He needed to come in and have everything go right in order for that to be a possibility. It's definitely something that's holding him up."

The Cardinals are fully aware of the kind of impact Taveras could make when healthy. But he hasn't been able to stay on the field since his bustout season of 2012 when he batted .321 with 37 doubles, seven triples, 23 home runs and 94 RBIs in 124 games with Class AA Springfield.

"We kept saying we needed to see him healthy before we could make any determination," Matheny said. "We say the same thing right now. We just thought we had kind of crossed that hurdle and (could) hopefully watch him play on a consistent basis. Now we're held up again.

"He's a little tentative now, too. He was going about 50 (percent) Monday. Guys who have had injuries that haven't healed up right are typically more hesitant to push it."

Matheny said Taveras' discomfort, unlike other physical issues, isn't something he can play through.

"It's a tough thing to try to decide," Matheny said. "You're cautious, always, to ever say, 'This is something you can go through' without making sure. I think everybody feels pretty good that he's been progressing in a good direction. We just hit another roadblock."

Contact reporter David Wilhelm at dwilhelm@bnd.com or 239-2665. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidMWilhelm.

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