Have the Cardinals benched Oscar Taveras?

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When the Cardinals traded Allen Craig to the Red Sox for John Lackey the assumption was that the move had two goals for St. Louis: One was to bring in rotation help with Lackey and the other was to clear an everyday spot in the outfield and the lineup for stud prospect Oscar Taveras.

However, now the 22-year-old rookie is struggling with a .206 batting average and .530 OPS through 45 games and it seems as though manager Mike Matheny has decided to bench him. And it’s not the first time, as Matheny has previously held Taveras out of the lineup more often than Cardinals fans would like, before and after the Craig trade.

With a right-handed pitcher on the mound for the Padres in Tyson Ross the Cardinals have the left-handed-hitting Taveras on the bench for the second straight game in favor of the right-handed-hitting Shane Robinson.

Robinson is a 29-year-old career .232 hitter with a .615 OPS who has barely been able to stick around with the Cardinals as a fifth outfielder, so clearly something is up. Taveras, who was Baseball America’s third-ranked prospect both this season and last season, hit .318 with an .872 OPS at Triple-A this year.

Jonny Venters is still pitching

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Lefty reliever Jonny Venters was among a handful of players the Rays signed to minor league contracts, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Venters, 32, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2012 and has logged just 27 2/3 innings in the minors in the meantime due to a continuous battle with his elbow. According to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Venters has undergone four — four! — Tommy John surgeries.

When he was healthy, Venters was a fearsome late-game option for the Braves. He posted a 1.95 ERA with 93 strikeouts in 83 innings in 2010, and a 1.84 ERA with 96 strikeouts in 88 innings in 2011. His first-half performance in 2011 earned him a spot on the National League All-Star roster.

Venters has spent the last two years in the Rays’ system and he’ll try to make it a third.