MILWAUKEE -- Manager Mike Matheny noticed something different about Oscar Taveras on Friday, "an edge" as Matheny would later describe it. He saw it while Taveras extended a pinch-hit at-bat nine pitches, the last of which he hit for an RBI single. And he felt it when Taveras returned to the dugout.
"He came back afterward and high-fived me and had a little bit of edge there, too," Matheny noted. "I said, 'That's OK. I'm there with you. Now, take off.'"
Taveras parlayed the positives of that pinch-hit appearance and the subsequent placement in the lineup into a performance that included a two-run homer, the difference in the Cardinals' 5-3 win over the Brewers on Saturday.
"When I saw my name in the lineup, I pushed myself to have a good game," Taveras said, through a translator, after the game. "I wanted to do something special. I know I have to work hard for those positive things."
The positives have been tough to come by for Taveras as of late. He hasn't surged to the start most expected of the top prospect, and his playing time has been reduced with the recent resurgence of Peter Bourjos and return of Randal Grichuk. Taveras' start on Saturday was his first in five days.
"I think he's done a nice job of trying to make some improvements and realizing that it's not just going to come and that he's going to have to work his way through it, and respecting the fact that this league is going to try to be one step ahead of him, always," Matheny said. "But when he's right and he's got his swing right, he's the kind of guy who can hit a lot of different pitches, he can plug a lot of holes. He's making good adjustments."
Taveras had been unable to turn everyday playing time into results good enough to warrant the Cardinals continuing to start him in right field. While he homered in his first at-bat after the Cardinals traded Allen Craig on July 31 to clear the way for Taveras, the 22-year-old hadn't gone deep again until Saturday.
Taveras hit a pedestrian .244/.292/.289 with four doubles and eight RBIs in August.
"I feel a lot different and have made an adjustment since I got here," Taveras said. "I've been working hard in the cage with the hitting coaches. I think that's part of the good results I'm getting in all the work."
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.