Oscar Taveras is hitting and Mike Matheny is happy

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Oscar Taveras is playing and playing well lately, easing Cardinals fans’ concerns about manager Mike Matheny frequently benching the 22-year-old rookie for lesser talents, and now Matheny is full of praise for the work Taveras has put in to get better.

Matheny told Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post Dispatch that Taveras has made “huge adjustments” since a slow start to his MLB career, adding:

He’s really worked hard in the cage with [hitting coaches John Mabry and David Bell] on his approach and shortening his swing a bit. Even his outs were pretty loud. He’s definitely taking steps in the right direction.

It’s too small of a sample size to get truly excited yet, but Taveras is in a 9-for-22 stretch right now and has hit a combined .280 with just 13 strikeouts in his last 100 plate appearances. And perhaps most importantly Matheny is playing him and saying positive things about him, which is a big change from just a couple weeks ago.

Taveras was a consensus top-10 prospect coming into each of the past two seasons and the Cardinals’ front office cleared the way for him to take over as an everyday player–and future middle-of-the-lineup force–by trading Allen Craig to the Red Sox.

Report: Rangers sign Jordan Lyles to two-year, $16 million deal

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The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reports that the Rangers and pitcher Jordan Lyles have agreed to a contract. ESPN’s Jeff Passan provided the details, reporting that it is a two-year, $16 million deal.

Lyles, 29, split last season between the Pirates and Brewers, performing much better with the latter. Overall, he compiled a 4.15 ERA with a 146 strikeouts and 55 walks across 141 innings. It was a return to full-time starting for Lyles, who had performed mostly as a reliever from 2016-18.

The Rangers also inked Kyle Gibson to a three-year, $30 million contract last week. Gibson and Lyles will join a rotation that also includes Mike Minor and Lance Lynn as well as youngster Kolby Allard.