JUPITER, Fla. -- Top prospect Oscar Taveras, whose health never allowed him to make the impression he wanted this spring, was optioned to Triple-A on Thursday afternoon along with right-hander Eric Fornataro and catcher Audry Perez. This latest round of cuts leaves the Cardinals with 46 players remaining in Major League camp.
The Cardinals entered camp open to the possibility of Taveras, 21, playing his way onto the Opening Day roster with a stellar spring. Instead, he hardly played at all. Though he was expected to be fully recovered from the right-ankle surgery he had in August when he reported to camp, Taveras showed a hesitancy to trust that ankle in conditioning and running drills. That cost him the first week of Grapefruit League games.
Once cleared, Taveras played in two games (1-for-6) before a right hamstring strain forced him to be pinch-hit for in the second one. He has not been back on the field since Saturday.
"I think there were a lot of question marks coming into camp, and unfortunately, they all weren't answered," general manager John Mozeliak said. "He was slowed early on by his ankle and then most recently with a slight hamstring strain. Therefore, we could just never really get him going. And as we enter the final two weeks of Spring Training, as our regulars start to stretch out, it's going to be hard to get him playing time. We just felt it made the most sense to allow him to get his work and get his timing back. If you think about all the time he missed last summer plus what he missed in this camp, we just want to give him the best chance of success and we feel that's getting him at-bats."
Mozeliak said Taveras is "very close" to being game-ready again and should be in a Minor League game within the next two days. Mozeliak added that it is too early to know whether Taveras will be ready to open the season with Triple-A Memphis or if he will need to stay back in Florida to make up for any of the lost time.
Taveras will play one of the two corner outfield spots, Mozeliak said, once he does begin his Triple-A season. Taveras appeared in 47 games for Memphis last year before the ankle injury sidelined him in May.
"I think in the end he probably knew this was coming, the fact that he hasn't played yet," Mozeliak said. "You can't hold a spot forever. At some point, in this game, you're judged for what you do on the field, and he was having trouble getting on the field. For us, I think we would be doing him a disservice if we were to going to just squeeze some at-bats between now and Opening Day just to get him on the roster."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.