Grichuk continues to draw starts over Taveras
GM says Cardinals rookie should learn, grow from postseason absence
ST. LOUIS -- While the Cardinals don't intend to draw any conclusions about Oscar Taveras' long-term fit based on his rookie-season struggles, general manager John Mozeliak did say on Sunday that he hopes Taveras views his absence in the lineup this postseason as "a little bit of a wakeup."
"I don't think we're going to look at what has happened over the last six weeks and determine his future," Mozeliak continued. "But look, Oscar has some things that he needs to work on. No doubt about it. Clearly right now the manager is more comfortable playing [Randal] Grichuk or putting [Jon] Jay there and putting [Peter] Bourjos in center."
Manager Mike Matheny suggested as much on Sunday, noting that defense was the reason he stuck with the right-handed-hitting Grichuk in right field against Giants right-hander Jake Peavy, instead of giving Taveras, a left-handed batter, his first postseason start. Since hitting a home run in his first postseason at-bat, Grichuk is 2-for-19 with eight strikeouts.
Matheny did bump Grichuk down to the eighth spot in the lineup after having him bat in the two hole in four of the team's first five playoff games. But it's Grichuk's glove that the Cardinals see as most valuable at the moment.
"We're sticking with what we use right down the stretch, and defense is a big part of that," Matheny said. "We do like the at-bats that he's potentially able to put together as well, so it's not one of these opportunities or times to start making big changes."
Taveras remains one of Matheny's more intriguing pinch-hit options, and that appears to be the role he'll hold for the rest of the month. It's a far fall from the expectations in spring that Taveras would become an impact player in St. Louis before the end of the season. He struggled offensively when given chances, and the Cardinals have watched him gain weight and subsequently slow down on defense.
While Taveras remains a part of the club's future plans, the organization will challenge him to report to Spring Training in better shape.
"I think his first priority needs to be on quickness," Mozeliak said. "Obviously, when you look at his defense right now, it's definitely different than others who play there. We still believe he's an offensive player, and given opportunities, we still believe that he will hit."
Acknowledging Taveras' weight gain over the past year, Mozeliak added: "It probably doesn't help."
The Cardinals will recommend that instead of participating in winter ball over the offseason that Taveras, a native of the Dominican Republic, remain in the United States to work through a supervised conditioning program.
He'll have plenty of outfield competition next year, too, with Matt Holliday, Jay, Bourjos and Grichuk all still under team control. Outfield prospect Stephen Piscotty will also be in the mix competing for playing time.
As for the present, however, the Cardinals at least remain hopeful that Taveras can offer a pinch-hit postseason assist.
"What he needs to do is work on every facet of the game," Matheny said. "We gave him a lot of at-bats and saw some good ones. We know that's there. We believe he's going to be a very good hitter. We think there is some work he needs to do on the defense side. It's a tough time of year to get him to go out there and prove that or work on it."