Taveras getting closer to full strength

Taveras getting closer to full strength

JUPITER, Fla. -- Cardinals top prospect Oscar Taveras increased the intensity of his running on Monday and continues to creep closer to being entirely uninhibited in his workouts.

Taveras, who had right ankle surgery in August, estimated that he pushed himself at an "80 percent" effort level during Monday's conditioning work. He likely won't be included in the Cardinals' lineup for their Grapefruit League opener on Friday, but his spring debut should not come that much later.

The organization is merely taking its time building Taveras up to full speed. Running the bases and changing directions while sprinting are some of the last hurdles Taveras still has to clear.

"He's got plenty of time to continue to get ready and move in a good direction without limitations," manager Mike Matheny said. "To have everybody ready is nice to have. But if we can push guys back a little bit, that's all right as long as they're still getting better."

Taveras, 21, is candid about his goal of breaking into the Majors in 2014 -- and should he stay healthy, he likely will. The Cardinals are open-minded about considering him for an Opening Day roster spot, but are also waiting to see how he is affected by missing so much time last year.

Taveras was limited to 174 at-bats in 47 games before the ankle injury ended his 2013 season.

"I feel good. I feel ready for the season," Taveras said after Monday's workout. "I feel good when I'm hitting, too. I hit live today, and I felt great. I'm ready to play, but I don't know what's going to happen this year. I'm just going to play hard."

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.