(BaseballStL) — With the reactivation of first baseman Matt Adams, a St. Louis clubhouse spot needed to be cleared.
With several pitchers still on the mend, a position player was the logical choice, and Oscar Taveras’ shoulder was tapped. Talking Friday before the series opener with the Nationals, GM John Mozeliak said the decision to move Taveras back to AAA was one rooted in opportunity for consistency.
“We need Oscar to be playing every day. If we weren’t going to get him every day at bats here he’s much better off doing it in Memphis,” he said. While Taveras heads back to the Redbirds, fellow big-swinging outfielder Randal Grichuk remains with the Cardinals.
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Grichuk has a couple things going for him. First, he played all of last year while Taveras missed a major chunk with an ankle injury, meaning he could afford to see sporadic use while Oscar needs consistent work more immediately. Second, he has far more defensive versatility. Lastly, perhaps the most glaring hole on the Cardinal roster in recent years has been the absence of right-handed power off the bench. Grichuk hit 22 homers in 2013, and 10 in the first 41 games of 2014 in the minors.
Mozeliak cited those traits, saying they offered manager Mike Matheny options, when explaining the decision of picking which man to send south.
Taveras’ first call up started theatrically when he ripped a homer in his second at bat in the pouring rain. From there, his stats took a bit a of a dive, and he finished hitting .189 in 11 games. Still, Matheny said the young outfielder didn’t look lost in the big leagues, saying he didn’t believe the prospect was overmatched.
“I think he did a pretty nice job here but we all know there’s another level there in his game,” he said. “There’s some mechanical things he’s going to work on. Oscar is a very- raw is not the right word- he’s got his own feel. He doesn’t do too much mechanically. He has a simplified approach which is part of the beauty of what he does, but there’s a couple things our hitting guys have noticed that probably could be worked on and help him with the consistency.”
That work will ready him for the next opportunity for return, whenever that may be. Mozeliak was clear in saying he wouldn’t be surprised to see Taveras back in the majors this season, but until he can be guaranteed consistent playing time, he needs to be in AAA.
“He could have made the decision a lot harder if he had put up big numbers but he didn’t,” the GM said. “We still believe in his development and believe that’s the most important thing.”
Matheny said Taveras’ professionalism impressed him during his call up, and added that when he got the news he was going the Memphis, the 21-year-old had a good conversation with the Cardinal manager on what needed to happen to ensure a return to St. Louis.
“He’s been a real pro since we got him here. He’s been very coachable,” he said. “The work, the preparation and how he’s about playing on the defensive side, it’s all been very impressive. So I wasn’t surprised when he came and sat and asked some good questions and had good conversations on what he needed to do to come back here and be the player he’s been at every other level.”