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Top prospect Taveras on verge of return

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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Oscar Taveras is getting closer and closer to making his spring debut.

Taveras, the Cardinals' top prospect, has been sidelined in Spring Training as he makes his way back from surgery on his right ankle. Taveras, who boasts a .320 career average in the Minor Leagues, went through running drills for manager Mike Matheny at Hammond Stadium on Thursday.

The outfielder looked good enough for the skipper to envision his return to the lineup soon, but the weather forecast made sure that wouldn't happen against the Twins. Matheny made his lineup plans with the expectation of rain, and sure enough, a steady downpour started an hour before gametime.

"He wasn't favoring it as much," said Matheny of the running drills. "He hit the bag running full-speed with his bad ankle. He was able to slide. Today isn't a good day for it, so we'll probably stay away from him. But he definitely took a step forward and made himself a possibility for tomorrow."

Taveras, ranked by MLB.com as the No. 3 prospect in baseball, played in just 47 games last year before the ankle injury ended his season. He batted .306 with five home runs for Triple-A Memphis, but he really turned heads by batting .321 with 23 homers for Double-A Springfield in 2012.

Taveras, just 21 years old, will still have plenty of time this spring to play himself into shape. The Cardinals are just trying to be as prudent as possible in limiting his exposure to injury.

"He's right there," said Matheny early Thursday. "We're about [at the] time to make that decision. We've just got to make sure he's got a couple other things that he needs to pass -- mostly running and hitting bases and being able to not favor [the ankle]. And sliding's another thing. That's how he hurt himself."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"event":["prospect" ,"spring_training" ] }
{"event":["prospect" ,"spring_training" ] }