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When should Cardinals fans start to worry about Oscar Taveras?

When will it be time to panic about top St. Louis Cardinals prospect Oscar Taveras?

Injured in June last year, it was curious that he wasn't able to heal before the end of the 2013 season. But here we are eight months later and he STILL isn't ready to play in practice games?

I'm starting to think this isn't your run of the mill ankle injury. And, with the way the Cardinals like to downplay the seriousness of their players' maladies, I'm a little bit afraid that Taveras might have something that's fatal.

Is he a slow healer? Was it a bad operation when he tried to get it surgically repaired? Was it a career-threatening injury to start with?

The Redbirds are deep and don't desperately need an extra corner outfielder right now. But I believe Taveras is a part of the club's plans for 2014 and a central piece of the architecture beyond this season. It's going to be a huge disappointment if he can't get past this and become a big contributor after we've spent the last three years eagerly anticipating Taveras' arrival.

The slugging outfielder was supposed to make his spring debut over the weekend but manager Mike Matheny pegged him as running at 80 percent and said that wasn't good enough to crack the lineup.

It was the right call. The last thing Taveras needs at this point is a setback. It's wise to let him build up his strength before he tests the ankle in a game. Especially when the original injury kept the player out nearly three-quarters of a year.

I just hope this is a matter of caution more than a matter of confidence in his health.