Oscar Taveras last played a professional baseball game on July 15, 2013. It is now March of 2014, and Taveras still is not being allowed to see game action. With each game that passes without Taveras in the lineup questions continue to mount, and the story has the potential to become a controversy if not handled properly by the ball club.
To recap a timeline of events, Taveras first injured his ankle on May 12, 2013. He then rested the injury until June 8 of the same year, and played games up until June 23, when he appeared reinjure the ankle sliding into second base. Taveras then only appeared in one more game on July 15, and the club subsequently announced that Taveras’ injury was not responding to rest, and that he would have season-ending surgery. That surgery was performed on August 22 to repair some ligament damage and bone chips. Every indication from the club was that Taveras would be ready for action for 2014.
However, things quickly changed once Spring Training came.
First, Taveras was limited from running at full force by the club, a seemingly necessary activity for a baseball player.
Next, on February 27, 2014, General Manager John Mozeliak announced that Taveras was “cleared for all baseball activities.” [Emphasis added] At this point it seemed safe to assume that Taveras would soon be found in a Spring Training lineup or at least pinch hitting to get him some much needed at bats.
Alas, this was not the case. On February 28th, the very next day, Manager Mike Matheny announced that Taveras was only running at “80 percent” which is "not good enough” to put him into exhibition games. Matheny’s statement was an apparent contradiction of the statement made by Mozeliak 24 hours earlier. During yesterday's broadcast Fox Sports Midwest announcers went further indicating that Taveras may not be in a game for another week or longer.
Today St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz and beat reporter Derrick Goold tried to provide some more clarity. Miklasz did mention the word controversy, but said it was too early to put that label on the story. At the same time, Miklasz hinted that there are some on the club who are questioning what exactly is going on with Taveras. Goold gave some more insight, indicating that Taveras may have a mental struggle in overcoming the injury. Goold said that Taveras is physically healthy, but that he developed some “bad habits” by favoring the injured ankle last year, and that Taveras is still following those habits today. Goold said the club wants to see Taveras be more “aggressive” and cut loose with the ankle.
What makes the story more complicated is that Taveras himself has not spoken on the issue. At the beginning of Spring Training Taveras said he was ready to go and excited to get back into games, but since then there has been the sound of silence.
Currently, the lack of more definitive statements from the team is leading to confusion and at least the appearance of a conflict between Mozeliak and Matheny, or Taveras and Matheny, or perhaps a mix of all three.
Is this a story of Matheny being hard on a rookie that he believes is not pushing it hard enough, or is this Matheny having sympathy on someone coming back from a complicated injury. Why would the club's general manager announce that Taveras is baseball ready only to have the manager pull back later? Does Mozeliak believe that Taveras should be able to ease into games when Matheny thinks differently? Why are even more mixed messages coming unofficially through the Fox Sports Midwest broadcasts?
Stay tuned for more updates, and hopefully some answers.