SAN FRANCISCO -- An offense that scored just four runs in a four-game series against the Dodgers gets a needed spark this week, as the Cardinals announced on Monday that top prospect Oscar Taveras will rejoin the club Tuesday in advance of its upcoming series in San Francisco.
The decision to callup the 22-year-old outfielder was not a reactionary move, manager Mike Matheny said, but rather one the Cardinals had been calculating since sending Taveras to the Minors on June 13. With the shift back to carrying 13 position players and 12 pitchers, the Cardinals believed the timing was now right.
"I don't want to pass two messages. One, that we never were in a state of urgency because we have been since Opening Day. And secondly, I don't want it to come across that we've lost patience with anybody," Matheny said. "I still see us having a group of guys with the potential to throw up some huge offensive numbers in consistent spurts. I guess the message here is: How can we improve our offense? And part of that is taking a known quantity we have in the Minor League level and seeing if we can somehow maximize him and use him with what we already have to make us even better."
Matheny was also clear that the plan is not to bring Taveras up as a replacement, but rather as a complement. He'll get regular playing time, but not necessarily an immediate everyday job. Taveras' fit as a corner outfielder will allow the Cardinals to spell time for Matt Adams, Allen Craig and Matt Holliday.
"We're trying to generate some offense," Matheny said. "I don't think this is going to be exactly like we saw before when we had him up where it was, 'Here you go, you're going to be in there every day.' But we're going to have to find some considerable time for him."
Matheny also did not rule out giving Taveras some time in center, a position the organization was previously reluctant to thrust him into. But the Cardinals will be selective in such opportunities, considering Taveras as a center-field option when other elements -- playing behind a ground-ball-style pitcher, playing in certain ballparks -- match up.
The challenge of shuffling playing time may not be all that different than it was a year ago, when the Cardinals were active in creating starting opportunities for Adams while he played behind Craig. One other byproduct of that timeshare was that it typically left Matheny with a big bat on his bench. That should be the same case now.
"We're going to try and be as creative as possible to get him playing time and make sure our other guys are getting the time that they deserve as well," Matheny said. "A lot of this is going to come down to, we're going to throw him in some opportunities, but he's going to have to produce. And if he produces, just like any of the other guys, you keep swinging it right, you're going to have the opportunities."
It was a lack of everyday at-bats that prompted the Cardinals to send Taveras back to Memphis in mid-June once Adams returned from the disabled list. Taveras hit .292/.358/.417 in 13 games during that most recent stint in the Minors.
"I think everybody understands he doesn't have a whole lot more to prove there," Matheny said. "He's done what he needs to do. We just need to figure out how he fits with us."
In the meantime, Adams has come back with a booming presence. In 16 games since returning, he has six homers, 11 RBIs and a .328 batting average. Though Craig leads the team with 40 RBIs, his overall production has been less than expected this year. He's hitting .255/.305/.368 as the team's primary right fielder.
Taveras, the No. 2 overall prospect on MLB.com's Prospect Watch, went 7-for-37 with three runs scored and two extra-base hits during his first stay with the Cardinals. He hit one home run, that coming in his Major League debut.
"A lot of things that I said before I still stand by," Matheny said. "He didn't look like he was overmatched. There were times when he didn't look as sharp as we know he can be. But he still put pretty good at-bats together. Not getting great results. One more thing that we're excited to see is him putting it together on a consistent basis at our level."
In order to create space on the 25-man roster for Taveras, the Cardinals optioned reliever Jorge Rondon to Triple-A. Rondon's stay with the Cardinals lasted one day, though he was able to make his Major League debut on Sunday. He pitched a scoreless inning and walked one.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.