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Taveras gives the gifts on 21st birthday

Cardinals' top prospect celebrates with home run, four RBIs
June 19, 2013

Wednesday night was Oscar Taveras' 21st birthday. The first shot was on him.

Taveras belted a three-run homer in the first inning and finished 2-for-5 with four RBIs as Memphis downed Round Rock, 9-4, on Wednesday night.

The performance pulled Taveras out of a 1-for-16 slump and was his first homer since coming off the disabled list on June 8 with a high-ankle sprain. St. Louis' top prospect had gone 7-for-34 (.206) in 10 games since then with a pair of doubles.'s No. 3 overall prospect added an RBI single in the top of the second, and the four RBIs doubled his output since suffering the injury sliding into second base on May 12.

Taveras said before the game the ankle still causes him some discomfort, more so when he runs than when he hits.

"I have problems a little when I run on the bases," he said postgame on the Redbirds' radio broadcast. "I try to get better every day, putting the tape on my ankle and exercising in the training room. I try to get better because that's hard to play that way. I just want to play. I want to help the team."

Taveras added that the ankle causes a little manageable discomfort when he swings. "When I try to push too hard, just a little. Not too much."

The outfielder was hitting .362 with a .988 OPS in May before the injury, and he is hitting .296 on the season. The home run was his fifth and the RBIs gave him 28 in 42 games.

The 21-year-old has spent the bulk of his time in center field this year. The move to center wouldn't be Taveras' first choice, but he's readily settled into the position.

"I like playing in the middle," Taveras said. "I like more to play right field, but they said play center field and I said, 'Hey, OK. No problem. I'll play wherever you want.'"

Taveras said his outfield work improved while spending time in Major League Spring Training camp, where Jon Jay took him under his wing and worked with him on his reads and routes.

"He said, 'I want to help you,'" Taveras said. "'You're a young guy, and you're one of the best hitters in the Minor Leagues. Everybody told me that.' I said, yeah, and he said, 'I want to help you on defense.'"

Brock Peterson and Chad Huffman also added homers for the Redbirds, with Huffman plating three runs and Peterson adding two. Ryan Jackson went 2-for-3 with two runs and two walks from the leadoff spot to boost his average to .322.

For Round Rock, Texas' No. 2 prospect Mike Olt hit his seventh homer and finished a triple shy of the cycle with three RBIs. The 24-year-old is hitting .199 with a .702 OPS for the season.

Jake Seiner is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter at @Jake_Seiner.