8/8/2014 12:52 A.M. ET
Days off costing Descalso, Ellis at-bats
By Jenifer Langosch and Alex Halsted / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- While the high concentration of off days in the three weeks after the All-Star break afforded the Cardinals built-in rest for their regulars and allowed the club to manipulate its rotation, it has not been a benefit to all.
The scheduled off days (eight in a 22-day span) have left little need for manager Mike Matheny to manipulate rest for his starting position players. But with a consistent lineup has come a shortage of at-bats for the players on the bench. That has been especially the case for Daniel Descalso and Mark Ellis.
Descalso hasn't started a game in more than a month, while Ellis has started just twice since July 5. Over the past 12 days, Ellis has taken three at-bats. Descalso has had more pinch-hit opportunities, though the 11 at-bats he's accrued in the past 31 days haven't given him much chance for traction.
"It's not fair to them once we get them in there and expect them to do [something], because they're not getting the chances," Matheny said. "But that's where we are right now. I feel like we're in a dogfight in this stretch, even though we're just in the beginning of August. They have the hand stacked against them to go in there and try to face the closer, try to face the setup guy in a big situation when they're pinch-hitting for the pitcher. It's a lot to ask."
The Cardinals have a chance to get an extra position player involved during their upcoming three-game series in Baltimore, though Matheny has suggested he will use the designated hitter spot in at least one of the games for Matt Holliday. That would not open up a spot for either of these two utility infielders.
While neither Descalso, nor Ellis, is expected to get more than occasional spot starts the rest of the way, the Cardinals nevertheless need their bats off the bench. The Cardinals would like to see improved production from their reserves, as the bench has produced a .220/.307/288 slash line this year. They are the only National League team without a pinch-hit home run.
Taveras extends hitting streak to seven games
ST. LOUIS -- Oscar Taveras has a lot to live up to, and he has needed two primary things as he delves deeper in his first season in the Majors.
The Cardinals solved the first problem, playing time, when they traded right fielder Allen Craig to Boston last Thursday at the non-waiver Trade Deadline. The second, patience, is starting to pay dividends, too.
In seven games since becoming the team's everyday right fielder last Thursday, Taveras is hitting .304 (7-for-23) with a home run, six RBIs and three walks while striking out only twice.
"He's getting big hits for us," manager Mike Matheny said after Taveras delivered a run-scoring single in the Cardinals' 5-2 win over the Red Sox on Thursday. "I see him getting closer to really getting comfortable. He's fouling off some tough pitches, and fouling them off hard."
Touted as the Cardinals best prospect since Albert Pujols arrived in St. Louis, Taveras hit .189 in his first stint in the Majors, which lasted 11 games before he was sent back to Triple-A.
Taveras hit .220 in the first 21 games of this stint -- coming off the bench in some instances and starting in others. He now has a seven-game hitting streak since the trade that opened up playing time in right field.
The Cards' top prospect is also becoming more comfortable on the corner.
"I like the aggressiveness he has in the outfield," Matheny said. "He was being aggressive out there. Those are things that he has been working hard with with [first-base coach/outfielder instructor] Chris Maloney in our outfield. He's getting better out there, too."
• Thursday's rainy forecast prompted the Cardinals to send Friday's scheduled starter, Justin Masterson, ahead to Baltimore earlier in the day. By flying out early, Masterson did not have to worry about turning around to pitch after a late-night/early-morning arrival.
• After pitching five of the past seven days, Trevor Rosenthal was not expected to be available out of the bullpen in Thursday's series finale. Pat Neshek, who did not pitch on Wednesday, has served as the fill-in closer when Rosenthal has been down for a game earlier this season.
• The Orioles have announced that Chris Tillman will start Friday's series opener and Ubaldo Jimenez will be activated off the disabled list to start Saturday's game.
• The Cardinals promoted outfielder Mike O'Neill to Triple-A on Thursday. O'Neill, who did play nine games with Memphis earlier this season, hit .269/.343/.347 in 92 Double-A games.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. Alex Halsted is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.