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Arizona Fall League update

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

With the Cardinals’ run to the NLCS and the tragedy that followed, I haven’t offered much of an update on the happenings down at the Arizona Fall League. Let’s rectify that today.

The AFL, which began on Oct. 7 and continues for another two weeks, offers some of the better prospects in the game the opportunity to compete against their peers. The group of players representing the Cardinals are part of the Peoria Javelinas club, which is 7-11-2.

Here is some content that might be of interest as you follow along:

  • MLB.com’s Jim Callis, after his trip to Arizona, wrote about the participating Cardinals’ minor leaguers here. In particular, he highlights C.J. McElroy.
  • Video: MLB.com’s AFL report on the Cardinals.
  • Right-hander Sam Tuivailala to represent the Cardinals in Saturday’s Fall Stars Game, which will be televised on MLB Network (7 pm CT)
  • Story on how Cardinals infield prospect Justin Wilson helped Peoria to a 5-4 win on Wednesday.

And up-to-date results (current through Wednesday) on the Cardinals in the AFL:

  • RHP Mitch Harris (6 games): 7.2 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 7 K
  • RHP Tyrell Jenkins (4 starts): 0-2, 1.56 ERA, 17.1 IP, 14 H, 3 ER, 5 BB, 13 K
  • RHP Chris Perry (6 games): 5.2 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 8 BB, 2 K
  • RHP Sam Tuivailala (7 games): 2 SV, 9 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 5 BB, 8 K
  • C Cody Stanley (10 games): .263/.282/.316, 2 R, 2 2B, 4 RBI
  • INF Breyvic Valera (7 games): .273/.370/.273, 2 R, 2 RBI, 3 SB
  • INF Jacob Wilson (15 games): .268/.328/.393, 5 R, 5 2B, 7 RBI
  • OF C.J. McElroy (9 games): .160/.344/.200, 3 R, 1 2B, 4 SB

For more stats, schedules and stories, you can visit the Arizona Fall League website.

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Continuing to remember the life of Oscar Taveras

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Three days after a car accident took the life of 22-year-old Oscar Taveras and his 18-year-old girlfriend, several communities continue to mourn his loss. For those who may not have seen the following stories/photos/remembrances over the past 24 hours, here is a recap of some of the recent coverage:

  • MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez traveled to the Dominican Republic, where he joined a community mourning over its lost son. Here is Sanchez’s story of Taveras’ funeral and the outpouring of emotion in Taveras’ hometown. Cardinals pitcher Carlos Martinez and Taveras’ father, Francisco, were among those who talked with Sanchez.
  • As darkness came over St. Louis on Tuesday, bright lights shined over right field at Busch Stadium.
  • The World Series paused to remember Taveras before Game 6.
  • Kansas City starter Yordano Ventura dedicated his dominant Game 6 start to his late friend, Taveras. Ventura’s hat, on which he wrote ‘RIP OT #18′ is headed to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
  • On today’s podcast, national reporter Anthony Castrovince and I talked at length about Taveras’ life and the impact his death will leave on the Cardinals organization.

On an aside, I have gotten a lot of questions about plans the Cardinals may have to honor Taveras locally in St. Louis. Those have not yet been announced, though I’m told the organization is working on something. As soon as that information is made public, I will pass it along.

Over the last few days, I’ve taken some time to go back and read some of the stories on/watched some clips of Taveras — his potential, his arrival, his biggest hits and what we thought would be his future — as a way to remember not just the sadness that is, but the smiles that were. If you’d like to take that journey back in time, too, here are some recommended links:

And though it wasn’t published at the time, here is Taveras speaking about his future in one of his final interviews: “I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future or tomorrow. I’m going to keep working hard and we’ll see what happens. I want to be ready for any opportunity I get, for my manager and for the organization and do everything I can to win the games.”

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Remembering Oscar in St. Louis and the DR

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Thousands gathered in the neighborhood of Sosua, Dominican Republic, to celebrate the life and mourn the loss of Oscar Taveras on Tuesday. Here in St. Louis, folks continued to stop by Busch Stadium. Several placed items at a growing memorial at the foot of the Stan Musial statue.

Here are some images from both scenes:

A mass is held for Oscar Taveras near his Dominican Republic home.

A mass is held for Oscar Taveras near his Dominican Republic home.

Thousands gather to pay their final respects to Oscar Taveras during a Tuesday burial service.

Thousands gather to pay their final respects to Oscar Taveras during a Tuesday burial service.

Cardinals right-hander Carlos Martinez, speaking through tears, talks about the loss and memory of his best friend.

Cardinals right-hander Carlos Martinez, speaking through tears, talks about the loss and memory of his best friend.

Items from the memorial outside Busch Stadium.

Items from the memorial outside Busch Stadium.

Items from the memorial outside Busch Stadium.

Items from the memorial outside Busch Stadium.

Items from the memorial outside Busch Stadium.

Items from the memorial outside Busch Stadium.

Items from the memorial outside Busch Stadium.

Items from the memorial outside Busch Stadium.

Items from the memorial outside Busch Stadium.

Items from the memorial outside Busch Stadium.

Items from the memorial outside Busch Stadium.

Items from the memorial outside Busch Stadium.

Items from the memorial outside Busch Stadium.

Items from the memorial outside Busch Stadium.

Items from the memorial outside Busch Stadium.

Items from the memorial outside Busch Stadium.

In his own words: Xavier Scruggs on his friend, Oscar

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

They were teammates for years in the Cardinals’ minor league system, grew to be close friends along the way and shared the joy of both making their Major League debuts in 2014. Here is Xavier Scruggs, in his own words, on what it was like to call Oscar Taveras a teammate and then to say goodbye too soon.

As written by Scruggs:

Matthew 5:4 — Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. 

I am hurt. I can’t help but think that this a bad dream. Oscar Taveras was family. He brightened up every single person’s day with such an amazing smile. Both his smile and laughter couldn’t help but put you in a great mood. I am selfish to think about how I have lost a great teammate, an awesome friend, and an amazing person. I say I am selfish because to think that just I am affected by this tragedy is self-centered. So many people are affected by this loss; however we need to rejoice in the fact that Oscar was even in our lives. I can’t believe I was even blessed to play with someone with such great talent. His ability on the baseball field was unreal. There are so many times when I couldn’t help but think that this game was too easy for him. His fluidity as a hitter was unmatchable. His love for the game was remarkable. As a teammate, I would marvel at the fact that he would be so sincerely disappointed when he was not perfect. For we all know that it is impossible to be perfect in this game;, however he found a way to make it seem tangible. It is weird how baseball will bring you close to someone that you might not normally associate with in everyday life. He was a true friend from the Dominican Republic. I am honored to be playing in a country right now that he brought so much joy to. Language was no barrier when it came to Taveras and I. I know it to be the same with everyone who played with him. We shared far too many laughs that should happen on a baseball field, but those who knew Oscar know that was just him. A loose, full-of-energy guy. I cringe at the idea that he is gone;, however I will continue to think back upon the amazing times we had together. This past season when I was in Triple-A Memphis and he was making his Major League debut, I watched him homer for his first hit and I remember thinking ‘He never disappoints’. It didn’t surprise me because a moment too big for most was just an opportunity for Oscar to show the world his talent. The baseball community has lost someone truly special. My prayers go out to his family, as well as his girlfriend’s family and anyone who has been affected by his lost. Thank you Oscar for touching the lives of so many. You will never be forgotten. You will forever be in our hearts. OT18

Tu Hermano, 

Xavier Scruggs 

Matheny releases statement on Taveras tragedy

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Since the day he took over as manager of the Cardinals, Mike Matheny has asked for his players to buy into the team as a family. He considers each player, each coach as a member of his family, and that is why you’ll find his words below so poignant and powerful. This is a manager who, like so many others in the Cardinals family, is hurting very deeply.

Matheny and general manager John Mozeliak are traveling to the Dominican Republic today to visit the Taveras family and represent the organization at a Wednesday funeral service.

Here is Matheny’s statement:

“I was asked last night to give some words regarding the tragic death of Oscar Taveras, but I just simply couldn’t.

“First of all, it felt like a bad dream that could not be real, and when reality kicked in, my words didn’t even seem to make sense. To say this is a horrible loss of a life ended too soon would be an understatement. To talk about the potential of his abilities seemed to be untimely. All I wanted to do was get the guys together and be with our baseball family.  I know the hurt that comes along with buying into the brotherhood of a baseball team. That hurt is just as powerful as the joys that come with this life. Not to say it is even close to the depth of pain his true family is going through, but the pain itself is just as real. The ache is deep because the relationships were deep, and forged through time and trials.

“To the many fans who have already reached out with condolences, and to the many more who are in mourning, thank you for taking these players in, like they are one of your own. This level of care is what sets our fans apart.

“In my opinion, the word “love” is the most misused, and misunderstood word in the English language. It is not popular for men to use this word, and even less popular for athletes. But, there is not a more accurate word for how a group of men share a deep and genuine concern for each other. We loved Oscar, and he loved us. That is what a team does, that is what a family does. You will be missed, Oscar.”

A jovial young man, a budding superstar, lost too soon

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Toward the end of the regular season, I joked with Oscar Taveras that he had been around long enough that he could stop calling me ‘ma’am’ during each of our interactions. I told him it made me feel old, though, in fairness, I guess I was to him, a 22-year-old kid. He laughed and noted that he probably wouldn’t be able to break the habit. That’s how he had been taught, he added.

And then he shook my hand.

Almost every one of our conversations — and goodness, now I know we didn’t have enough of them — ended with a handshake and a smile. Always gracious with his time and ever eager to show off how far his English speaking skills had come, Taveras brought joy to my job. He had such a sweet swing, but also the heart to match it. I’m glad I got to know that part of him, too.

For all the negative storylines that may have emerged from his season — Would he live up to the hype? Could he get in shape? Did he fit in the clubhouse? — there was never one iota of doubt that Taveras loved what he did. He was a respectful young man, trying to find his way in a game that had always come so naturally to him. Had he been given the chance to have a full career, I’m sure he would have gotten there.

We’ll always remember this…

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/gameday/index.jsp?gid=2014_05_31_sfnmlb_slnmlb_1&mode=video&content_id=33333153&tcid=vpp_copy_33333153

And this…

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/gameday/index.jsp?gid=2014_10_12_sfnmlb_slnmlb_1&mode=video&content_id=36800103&tcid=vpp_copy_36800103

Those were two swings that, now we know, bookended a career cut so tragically short.

The emotions are still raw, the suddenness of this all too real. As the baseball world was getting ready to tune into Game 5 of the World Series, general manager John Mozeliak received a phone call that punched him in his gut. Manager Mike Matheny declined interview requests, noting he couldn’t get himself composed enough to speak publically just yet.

Matheny has worked hard to create a clubhouse culture where players and staff are like family. You’ll understand, then, why this hits the organization like the loss of a family member.

The Cardinals will release further information on funeral arrangements in the coming days. More information about the accident will also be learned.

For now, let me direct you to MLB.com’s coverage of this tragedy and the memories that remain of a kid with such a genuine love for life and baseball:

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Oscar Taveras killed in car accident

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

The Cardinals were hit with devastating news on Sunday, when it was learned that top prospect Oscar Taveras was killed in a car accident back home in the Dominican Republic. Taveras’ agent, Brian Mejia, confirmed the news to MLB.com. Reached by phone, general manager John Mozeliak said that he, too, had heard from Mejia, but that the organization was waiting for a few more details before confirming the news with a public statement.

Mozeliak did say: “Obviously, we have deep condolences to his family. We are still waiting for more details before issuing a full statement.”

Taveras was 22.

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A change of seasons. And a thank you.

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Forgive me for not posting this thank you earlier, but season wrap-up duties and a spot on our MLB.com World Series coverage team has kept me quite busy since the Cardinals’ season ended last Thursday. In fact, I’m back in San Francisco right now, though this time to assist with coverage of Missouri’s other postseason participant.

Anyways, as you all continue with the transition from in-season to offseason, I did want to pause and offer a sincere thanks to all who have followed MLB.com’s coverage during this 2014 ride. I have enjoyed interacting with many of you through various social media forums, and I appreciate you making cardinals.com a regular stop as you seek comprehensive Cardinals coverage. I know you all have limited time and so many other options, so thank you for sticking around.

For those who may visit this blog more regularly than the other sites I maintain, let me encourage you to make Cardinals.com your primary stop. That is where you will continue to find the most comprehensive team coverage, including this offseason, as I’ll be posting stories almost daily over there. This blog will serve as a supplement to that coverage, but it won’t be updated as frequently.

For those connected through social media, I will continue to provide daily updates on Twitter (@LangoschMLB) and Facebook (Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com). I also maintain a Flipboard page (St. Louis Cardinals for MLB.com) for those who like to consume their news on a tablet.

As mentioned above, you can expect regular Cardinals content throughout the offseason in order to keep you up-to-date on player movement, Hot Stove speculation and 2015 projections. For those who may have missed it, several stories have already been posted this week:

Again, thank you for your continued interaction and interest.

Wainwright undergoes right elbow surgery

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

After pitching through on-and-off elbow discomfort this season, Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright had a piece of cartilage trimmed from his right elbow on Friday. The procedure is not expected to affect his readiness for Spring Training, as Wainwright should be able to resume throwing in eight weeks, after six weeks of physical therapy.

The Cardinals confirmed the surgery after the fact, this news coming just days after general manager John Mozeliak announced that doctors had examined Wainwright’s elbow last Friday and prescribed him rest. After that press conference, Wainwright received a second opinion on his elbow, at which time it was determined that surgery was the best way to address the issue. He had an MRI as part of both examinations.

Wainwright missed one start due to elbow tendinitis in June and then fought through discomfort at various points afterward. There were times when Wainwright had to alter his mechanics as a result, though he repeatedly insisted that he was not concerned that continuing to pitch would cause additional damage to his ulnar collateral ligament, which was repaired when he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2011.

Talk about his elbow problems went away in September, when Wainwright went 5-0 with a 1.38 ERA to help lead the Cardinals to a division title. But it quickly resurfaced during the postseason when manager Mike Matheny hinted that Wainwright was not at full strength. Wainwright couldn’t get through five innings in either of his first two playoff starts.

Nevertheless, the organization referred to reports about Wainwright pitching through elbow pain this postseason as “overblown.” Wainwright did quiet the speculation, at least briefly, with a strong seven-inning start in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series. It would be the last time he pitched.

The assumption regarding Wainwright’s elbow issues was that it had to do with the fatigue of throwing 519 2/3 innings since the start of the 2013 season. No Major League pitcher has carried a heavier two-year workload. Mozeliak had already said the club will be more deliberate in curtailing that workload next year so as to avoid putting such a strain on Wainwright’s arm.

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Oscar Taveras on weight, winter ball

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Hours before Oscar Taveras hit the second of four Cardinals homers in Game 2, general manager John Mozeliak offered some pointed comments about the rookie right-fielder’s season and what is expected of him this offseason. If you missed the full story, you can catch up on the details here.

Since then, Taveras, speaking to MLB.com Spanish reporter David Venn, addressed some of those comments, including the topics of weight and winter ball.

“I’m a little heavy; I’ve gained a few pounds,” Taveras said. “But I’m working on that, and physically I feel good. When this [season] is over, I’m really going to prepare myself. I’m going to come back [to St. Louis] less heavy and ready for next year.”

Speculation is that Taveras has gained about 20 pounds since undergoing ankle surgery last August.

When asked about the possibility of Taveras playing winter ball this offseason, Mozeliak said he would prefer to have the young outfielder engage in a stringent and supervised workout regimen, preferably here in the US. Getting Taveras in shape, Mozeliak said, was more a priority than getting Taveras additional at-bats.

Taveras, however, said he would like to play for the Aguilas Cibaenas club in the Dominican Winter League.

“That’s the decision I’ve made,” Taveras said. “Now I have to wait and see what the team says. But I’ve decided I want to play at least in December to keep in shape and keep working on my routine, my personal training. I need to play more. That’s why I want to play, to get in shape.”

It was unclear whether Taveras and the Cardinals have had a conversation yet about Taveras’ offseason plans. There is always the potential that the two sides come to some sort of compromise that would allow Taveras to play just a portion of the DWL season.

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