Future stars Taveras, Polanco start against one another for first time

News-DemocratJuly 8, 2014 

— Two of baseball's future stars were on the field together for the first time Tuesday night at Busch Stadium.

Oscar Taveras played right field for the St. Louis Cardinals, while Gregory Polanco started in right for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Polanco was 3-for-5 on Tuesday, while Taveras was 2-for-4 as the Cardinals defeated the Pirates 5-4.

Taveras, 22, has been the Cardinals' top-rated prospect for the last three years. Polanco, 22, has helped the Pirates go 17-10 since his debut June 10. Both are left-handed hitters from the Dominican Republic.

The Cardinals hope, with time, Taveras can make similar contributions as Polanco, who is batting .299 with three homers and 13 RBIs in 27 games.

"That's our hope whenever we bring up a young player, that they translate all of the excitement and things they've been able to do at the other levels and they put it in play here," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "Polanco is an exciting player.

"You watch a Carlos Martinez and the life he brings (to the Cardinals) is contagious. It's fun to watch, I'm sure, as a fan because it's fun for us to watch."

Polanco has a head start on Taveras, but there's plenty of time for Taveras to catch up. He began Tuesday hitting .200 with one homer and four RBIs in 18 games.

"You watch Polanco make great plays and it makes his teammates raise their eyebrows a bit. They realize he's a talented kid," Matheny said. "I don't think we've really had Oscar hit that stride yet, but he's done it for too long at every level for us not to believe that's something we're going to see."

Still waiting

Right-hander Joe Kelly remained with Class AAA Memphis on Tuesday, but General Manager John Mozeliak said he will arrive in St. Louis on Wednesday.

However, the Cardinals have not yet committed to Kelly as their starter Friday in Milwaukee.

"I haven't seen Joe personally, but what we want to do more than anything else is get him in here and make sure everything looks right and feels right before making a full statement," Matheny said. "Everything is pointing in that direction (Friday)."

The Cardinals were linked Tuesday to the Boston Red Sox and a possible trade for right-hander Jake Peavy, who is 1-7 with a 4.64 ERA in 18 starts. But Mozeliak said Monday that he is comfortable with a rotation of Kelly, Adam Wainwright, Carlos Martinez, Shelby Miller and Lance Lynn.

Mozeliak seems more inclined to add hitting before the July 31 deadline. The Cardinals are tied for 13th in the National League in runs scored (330) and rank last in home runs (53).

Day off for Craig

One of the Cardinals' hitting disappointments, Allen Craig, didn't play Tuesday. Craig is batting .246 with seven homers and 43 RBIs. His slugging percentage against right-handed pitchers is .320.

Matheny said it's as much about a break for Craig as it is keeping other players active and involved. Each game, the Cardinals have six players for four spots (left, right, center and first base).

"It's just the same program," Matheny said. "We've got to get guys in there. (Craig) came out and got some early work and (he) continues to try and get a good feel."

World Cup craziness

Several pitchers were still in the Cardinals' clubhouse Tuesday as Germany racked up five goals in the first 30 minutes of its 7-1 victory over Brazil in the semifinals of the World Cup.

Cardinals reliever Jason Motte said Brazil's whopping five-goal deficit so early in the game was like an opponent scoring 15 runs in the first inning of a baseball game.

Contact reporter David Wilhelm at dwilhelm@bnd.com or 239-2655. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidMWilhelm.

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