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Texas notes: Cards' Taveras all smiles

Outfielder celebrates 20th birthday with All-Star, Futures nods
June 26, 2012
Oscar Taveras paused before a recent interview to apologize that his English wasn't better, but the Springfield Cardinals outfielder already knows the right word to describe the state of his career.

These days, everything is "awesome."

Leading the Texas League in hitting? Awesome. Celebrating his 20th birthday while playing Double-A baseball? Awesome. Voted an All-Star and named to the World squad for the Futures Game?

Well, you get the picture.

"I'm really happy. That's really awesome for me," Taveras said of his Futures Game selection. "My family is very happy."

Taveras, St. Louis' top hitting prospect, will join Springfield second baseman Kolten Wong for the Minor League showcase July 8, part of MLB All-Star festivities in Kansas City. It's yet another accomplishment for Taveras, who, despite entering pro ball at a young age, plays like he's making up for lost time.

Taveras, who turned 20 on June 19, has a league-best .323 average after hitting .386 for Quad Cities to dominate the Midwest League last year. He jumped over the Class A Advanced level to start this season in Double-A and hasn't concerned himself with the numbers, only what they represent.

"I don't pay attention to that too much," Taveras said. "I just continue to play hard."

Springfield manager Mike Shildt says Taveras' progress, while impressive, is not that surprising once you get to know him.

"He's got a real skill set," Shildt said. "He's got a high IQ with what he's doing at the plate. He has a serious, aggressive nature and tremendous hand-to-eye coordination. He's got the ability to be super aggressive with his swing and yet stay on balance."

Taveras has played all three outfield spots and projects as a right fielder because of his plus arm, though he plays center for Springfield.

"He's not a natural center fielder but he has some skills," said Shildt. "He's very playable there."

Taveras credits his growth as a player to hard work while growing up in his native Dominican Republic. He signed with St. Louis as a 16-year-old and said he was thrilled to be part of an organization that has won 11 World Series.

"That's awesome for me too," Taveras said. "I'm really happy for that. Maybe next year or this year, I don't know, maybe I'll play in the big leagues."

Shildt knew Taveras had a chance to be something special the first time he saw him as manager at Rookie-level Johnson City.

Taveras was supposed to start the 2010 season at Johnson City but a minor injury delayed him by a few games. When he finally did show up, Shildt batted him seventh to help ease him in. Though Taveras didn't reach base that game, Shildt could see he had a talented hitter on his hands and never batted him lower than second the rest of the year.

"After the third at-bat I was like, 'I don't have to protect this guy at all,'" Shildt said.

In brief

Texas showdown: Right-hander Cody Buckel, who posted a Minor League-leading 1.31 ERA at Myrtle Beach, made his Double-A debut with Frisco on Sunday and faced Corpus Christi righty Jarred Cosart, the Astros' top pitching prospect. Buckel took the loss after giving up two runs on five hits and three walks, striking out three in four innings. Cosart went six innings to get the victory, striking out one, walking two and scattering four hits to cap a week's performance worthy of Pitcher of the Week honors.

Extra special: Nate Freiman's two-run homer in the bottom of the 11th inning lifted San Antonio to a 5-3 victory over Corpus Christi on Thursday, ending the third straight extra-inning game the teams had played. Corpus Christi won the first two, 4-0 and 2-1, and both went 12 innings.

Stingy stint: Arkansas held Northwest Arkansas to two hits Friday and lost, 1-0. So the Travelers went one better Saturday as starter Ariel Pena combined with Caleb Graham and Kevin Johnson on a one-hitter in Arkansas' 4-0 victory.

Todd Traub is a contributor to