(BaseballStL) — In a day St. Louis fans have waited nearly two years for, the long sought, highly-touted prospect Oscar Taveras will be in the Cardinal lineup.
At times listed as the best prospect in baseball, Taveras has been part of an extremely talented AAA outfield that has sent a few players to the bigs already this season. Now, Big O will get his shot.
“I was so happy I called my mom, my family,” he said at his new locker Saturday. “She said good luck.”
Taveras was told during Memphis’ Friday night rain delay that he would need to pack a back for the Gateway City. Matt Adams was placed on the 15 Day DL with a calf strain, which opened a spot for the 21-year-old, who will bat sixth and play right field in his debut.
“I’d be lying to you to say I wasn’t excited for him- just like every young player- but especially one that there’s been so much excitement about,” Mike Matheny said in the dugout. “He’s an infectious player. When he’s going he can be contagious. Just his smile, the life he has, and the obvious fact that he can flat hit.”
Taveras’ energy and joy were evident immediately in his first media scrum in the clubhouse. Though he doesn’t speak English fluently, he worked without a translator, often taking breaks to smile or laugh before speaking thoughtfully to the circle of reporters around him.
It’s a positivity that some thought would be tested early in 2014. Following his ankle injury last season, Taveras watched several other members of the Memphis team around him get shots in the majors. Despite the frenzy building 280 miles to the north, the star prospect kept his focus on the task at hand
“People would say, ‘When are you going to be called up?’ I would say, ‘I don’t know I’m just doing my job,’” he said.
Matheny explained before the game Taveras’ approach was a good sign of his maturity. With positive reports coming from the AAA staff on his preparation and work ethic, the Cardinal manager believes his newest player fits the culture of the club.
“This year could have looked extremely different. He saw a number of guys kind of go past him. He sees [Randal] Grichuk up here and he sees [Shane] Robinson back and forth and he sees [Keith] Butler up here,” Matheny said. “Some guys who hand’t been on the forefront of everybody’s mind when they think about the Cardinals minor league system. You could see that as an opportunity to go backward. But he put his head down and bought into that concept we preach around here so heavily: Control the things you can control.”
He certainly controlled his bat. The lefty hit .325 with seven homers and 40 RBIs in 49 games this season. So far in six seasons of work, he’s posted a slash line of .321/.377/.524 and hit 52 home runs.
With the biggest game of his life just hours away, he was asked if he’ll be nervous when he hits the field.
“I’ll be ok… well… I don’t know, maybe,” he laughed. “I’ll just go out there and play. It’s the same game.” As to his thoughts when he saw he was hitting sixth behind Yadier Molina, the young outfielder’s face lit up and he said, “That was awesome!”