Cardinals top outfield prospect Oscar Taveras was supposed to arrive in the major leagues by the middle of the 2013 season, but he suffered a severe high right ankle sprain last May and eventually needed surgery to repair the damage. He wound up appearing in just 46 games for the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds and was shut down for good in August.
Now, of course, the focus shifts to the 2014 campaign. And the 21-year-old hard-swinging Dominican is hoping that this will finally be his breakthrough summer. Taveras spoke Saturday to fans and media at the Cardinals’ annual Winter Warmup in downtown St. Louis. Via MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch:
“With the work that I’ve done this week and what I’ve done at home with the trainer, I feel 100 percent,” Taveras said through interpreter Marissa Diaz, a member of the Cardinals’ community-relations department. “In spring training, I hope to get stronger and be back with the team. … I’ve been working really hard with my ankle. Physically, I feel prepared. I feel good. Last year was off because of the ankle. I felt bad because I wasn’t on the team. But I was watching the team, watching my friends play hard. That got my spirits up to work hard this year. If God has it, I will be on the team this year in 2014.”
Taveras is a .320/.377/.518 career hitter in over 1,500 minor league plate appearances. With experience at all three outfield spots, he’ll be in consideration for an Opening Day roster spot this spring in Cardinals camp.
Blue Jays’ outfielder Anthony Alford will miss at least 4-6 weeks after undergoing surgery on his left wrist, the team announced on Saturday. Alford was placed on the 10-day disabled list earlier in the week after sustaining a left hamate fracture on a foul pitch, and could miss significant time in what looks to be a lengthy rehab process. MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm reports that the procedure has been scheduled for next week and will be performed by Dr. Donald Sheridan in Arizona.
Alford, 22, was called up to the majors from Double-A New Hampshire last Friday. He went hitless in his first three outings, finally catching a break against the Brewers on Tuesday when he pinch-hit a leadoff double in the seventh. The injury occurred two innings later when Alford fouled off a pitch in the ninth inning, fracturing his wrist in the process.
Alford will join eight other players on the Blue Jays’ disabled list, including outfielders Steve Pearce (calf strain), Dalton Pompey (concussion) and Darrell Cecillani (partial shoulder dislocation). He’s expected to be replaced by 24-year-old outfield prospect Dwight Smith Jr.
Good luck getting a hit against the Nationals this weekend. Stephen Strasburg followed Max Scherzer‘s 13-strikeout performance on Friday with a dazzling outing of his own on Saturday afternoon. The right-hander whiffed a career-best 15 batters in seven innings, allowing just three hits and a walk in the Nats’ 3-0 win.
It took Strasburg several innings to get into a groove after pitching into (and out of) a jam in the first inning. The Padres loaded the bases with Allen Cordoba‘s leadoff single, a throwing error by Ryan Zimmerman and a four-pitch walk to Cory Spangenberg. By the third, Strasburg was cruising, striking out the side on 18 pitches and keeping the Padres off the basepaths until the sixth. He recorded his 15th and final strikeout in the seventh inning, catching Padres’ prospect Franchy Cordero swinging on a 1-2 pitch to effectively end his outing.
While 15 strikeouts set a new career record for the Nationals’ ace, he came close to reaching the mark twice before. The first time, he struck out 14 of 24 batters during his major league debut against the 2010 Pirates, though the 5-2 win did little more than keep the Nationals neck-and-neck with the Marlins at the bottom of the NL East. Five years later, he tied his 14-strikeout record against the 2015 Phillies, tossing a one-hitter in eight innings to cement his ninth victory of the season.
The only one who doesn’t seem overly enthused by the new record? Strasburg himself, who told MLB.com’s Jamal Collier and AJ Cassavell: “It’s pretty cool, but there’s another game five, six days from now. I’ll enjoy it tonight, but back to work tomorrow.”