Oscar Taveras injury: Cardinals' GM implies OF's problems are mental

Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off an ankle injury, highly touted outfield prospect Oscar Taveras must master mental aspects of the game in order to succeed at the major league level, says Cardinals GM John Mozeliak.

Coming off an injury is physically difficult to overcome. But, as St. Louis Cardinals GM John Mozeliak sees it, Redbirds phenom Oscar Taveras will need to learn how to do so (and quickly) if he wants to succeed, according to a piece in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch published Wednesday.

Taveras, a extremely promising outfield prospect in the organization, has appeared unwilling to let loose in spring training for fear of reinjuring himself following a season-deleting ankle injury last year. As such, projections for him to reach his full potential or maintain pace in development have been hampered by his seeming unwillingness to go full speed in preparation for the regular season.

Mozeliak believes that much of the struggles may be related to overcoming the hardest mental part of rehab: fear of reinjuring yourself. "That's what we're seeing," the general manager told reporters regarding Taveras's inability to perform at the level of his potential, "There is not a physical cause. It's just more human nature - you want to pull back and not do something that you may feel is going to injure yourself."

The general manager feels that the struggle may go beyond a concern over aggravating the injury, and extend to an overriding fear of failure, however. "I think the hard thing when you're labeled as a can't-miss prospect, the expectations are so much higher for you," Mozeliak said about the potential future All-Star. "Not only are they extremely high for Oscar, but he's so young. And you look at the success he had at the minor leagues, he really never hit a speed bump."

While Mozeliak is certainly concerned about the ability of the young man to contribute some of the struggles to a fear of failure, he is not without hope, telling reporters that when Taveras has been on the field, "he performed very well." But, ultimately, the proof is in the pudding, or WAR, and losing time (and trajectory) in his development is of the deepest concern for his boss.

"Originally when we came out and said he'd been cleared to do all baseball activity, he was," Mozeliak said. "And then right after that happened, he was out on the back fields, doing some running drills, and apparently did not look very good, and was quite apprehensive in the drills he was currently doing. So at that point, all of a sudden, the trend line changed a little bit."

Recouping from an injury is hard for anyone, and when there's a microscope on you the size of St. Louis, it's probably even harder. But, despite what he's shown physically, it appears that Taveras is excited to get back in the swing of things, according to discussions Mozeliak has had with the young man's agent. "I know he desperately wants to get into games," the GM told reporters. "He (Roman) wanted me to know that Oscar wants to play.

But, until Taveras steps up, Mozeliak remains skeptical, "I said ‘Just know that there might be a little disconnect here, in what I'm hearing and what you're telling me.' ''

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