Oscar Taveras, one of the St. Louis Cardinals' top prospects, was supposed to be competing for a spot on the 2014 major league roster at this point in the spring. He was supposed to be earning at-bats, showcasing his talent and pushing manager Mike Matheny to make a very tough decision to send him to the minor leagues. That decision was not so hard.
Due to an ankle injury that required surgery near the end of last season, Taveras was very reluctant to step onto the field this spring. Though team doctors had cleared him to play, he continued to favor the ankle, fearing that he may aggravate the injury and take another step back in his progression.
While hesitant to trust his ankle, Taveras ended up straining his hamstring. Speculation has surfaced that the hamstring injury my be related to the unwillingness to test the ankle, as Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch points out when he writes, "With Taveras unable to take the field and do many of the workouts, his conditioning started to wane, and favoring his right ankle may have contributed to the right hamstring injury."
Taveras, slowed by the injuries early on, has been reassigned to minor league camp. He has made his debut on that side of the complex already and has begun the journey to try to reach the major leagues this season. That journey is something that Matheny wants him to think very hard about.
Mathney is a strong believer in hard work and earning your spot. The reassignment to minor league camp should be a motivational factor for his young star. Matheny's personal blog reflects that sentiment very well:
With almost 60 guys left in camp right now, I realize that I will have almost 35 of those tough conversations with guys who will not be able to make our club. I hope to remember the feeling of not making that team, many years ago, and the disappointment of a dream being delayed. I realize that I will most likely be part of their motivation to get better and make it to the next level, and I hope that I am around to celebrate with them when they beat the odds, and use their disappointments to help them reach their dream of getting to the Big Leagues. I will tell them, just like I told my son, 'get to work and prove 'em wrong.'
Over the next few months, Taveras can let his production speak for itself. He can show a strong work ethic and prove that he wants to be in St. Louis. He has the opportunity to do exactly what his future manager expects him to do.
Indeed, Taveras has every chance to "get to work and prove 'em wrong."