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Taveras pursuing Classic opportunity

JUPITER, Fla. -- Wanting to get an extended look at one of the organization's rising special talents, the Cardinals invited outfielder Oscar Taveras to participate this year in his first Major League Spring Training.

Yet, almost as quickly as Taveras arrived in Jupiter for workouts, he spoke about departing. It was a possibility, too, that caught the Cardinals by surprise.

While meeting with media members Friday, Taveras brought up the possibility of playing for Team Canada in the upcoming World Baseball Classic. Though Taveras was born in the Dominican Republic, he holds dual citizenship because he spent time living in Montreal as a child.

Taveras said his agent had recently talked to him about the possible opportunity to join the Canadian team next month.

"I'm going to talk to the team right now," Taveras added. "Maybe [I'll play]. Maybe not. That's a decision for the team and the agent."

At the time of Taveras' comments, the Cardinals were unaware of his interest in the Classic. The organization is not likely to encourage such participation. If Taveras were to leave for the Classic in March, he'd miss the opportunity to work with the Major League coaching staff and to shadow some of the Cardinals' other outfielders.

The Cardinals also expect that there will be plenty of playing time available for Taveras in Grapefruit League play.

"You look at Carlos [Beltran] going to the World Baseball Classic," manager Mike Matheny said. "You know that Matt [Holliday] is not going to be playing every day through the spring. There is going to be opportunities in the outfield. I plan on getting a good look at [Taveras], no question."

Matheny said he reached out to Taveras a few times this winter and spoke some Spanish to him in their phone conversations. His message was simple: Play hard. And play the game right.

Matheny said he would deliberately group Taveras with Beltran to initiate some mentorship. Friday, it was Jon Jay who took Taveras aside. The two discussed some specifics about playing center field.

"I have come here to improve my defense … and run the bases hard," said Taveras, noting the two facets of his game that he particularly wanted to improve.

Taveras' calling card, though, will continue to be his offensive ability, which some contend is already strong enough for Taveras to be able to hold his own at the Major League level. He will still most likely begin the season in Triple-A.