St. Louis Cardinals

August 3, 2014

'Pretty confident': Taveras has pounced on opportunity

After the St. Louis Cardinals traded slumping right fielder Allen Craig on Thursday, the organizational hope was that rookie Oscar Taveras would find a comfort zone.

Taveras has answered the call, helping jump-start a largely disappointing offense. In four games since Craig and right-hander Joe Kelly were dealt to the Red Sox, Taveras is 4-for-13 with one home run and five RBIs.

"Big hit," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "Even some of the balls he's not putting in play, you can see he's getting the good part of the bat (through the strike zone).

"That's what he's done; that's what he's done consistently through the minor leagues, at every level. He finds the barrel. It's just a matter of finding the holes."

Taveras is batting .220 with five doubles, two home runs and 11 RBIs in 36 games and 209 at-bats. His extended opportunity will enable the Cardinals to better understand what he can provide in future seasons.

Matheny believes they already have an idea of his wealth of talent.

"When he gets into big spots, I don't think they rattle him," said Matheny, who saw Taveras deliver a clutch two-run single Saturday in a 9-7 win over Milwaukee and come through with an RBI single Sunday in a 3-2 victory. "He enjoys being in those spots and believes he can do it, and he's done it."

Will playing every day help Taveras' mental approach?

"It can," Matheny said. "(But) I don't think that's an automatic. We had him playing every day when he first came up and it was still trouble for him to get a good feel for his swing. It just depends.

"Right now, I think he's confident that he can be a part of this team that's going to contribute. He's doing that."

Matheny said Taveras never doubted himself.

"He's always been a pretty confident player," Matheny said. "He's got a lot of faith in his ability and I think having a little success, for anybody, is the breeding ground for more success."

Taveras homered in his first game in San Diego after Craig was traded, a blast that Matheny called a "statement."

"We knew he was going to be in there getting a lot of opportunities, and he came (through) after the offense was sputtering," Matheny said. "With his ability, he's going to find some success."

Jay update

Center fielder Jon Jay is expected to return to the lineup at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday when Boston comes calling for a three-game series.

Matheny said Jay's tender left wrist had improved even more Sunday, and with the off day Monday, the .289 hitter should be ready to face Red Sox right-hander Rubby De La Rosa.

"We could probably push it, but we're just trying to take advantage of the extra off day and give him one more," Matheny said.

Jay hasn't played since Tuesday in San Diego when he suffered the injury on a check swing. Peter Bourjos has started all five games in center since Jay was idled and has gone 2-for-15.

In-house awards

Outfielder Magneuris Sierra on Sunday was recognized as the Cardinals' Minor League Player of the Month for July. Left-hander Tim Cooney received Pitcher of the Month honors.

Sierra, playing for the rookie-level Gulf Coast League Cardinals, batted .439 (36-for-82) with a .489 on-base percentage and nine stolen bases. Signed as a nondrafted free agent in July 2012, the 18-year-old Sierra leads the Gulf Coast League in average (.390) and hits (46).

Cooney, 23, was 3-0 with a 1.95 ERA in four starts for Class AAA Memphis, with five walks and 24 strikeouts in 27 2/3 innings. Cooney is tied for the Pacific Coast League lead with 10 wins.

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

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