Must C Classic: Oscar Taveras homers for first ML hit

SAN FRANCISCO -- The hype wasn't quite the same as it was a month ago, when top prospect Oscar Taveras arrived in St. Louis with the outside expectation that he'd provide an immediate jolt to the offense. Eleven big league games and a two-week demotion later, Taveras returned to the Cardinals' lineup Tuesday eager to stick around this time.

"I'm ready now," said Taveras, who started in right field and hit second in the team's series opener against the Giants. "I'm ready to stay here. I'm going to do everything I can do."

The Cardinals haven't lined out precisely how Taveras will fit into what will be a rotation of position players, though the organization is committed to playing him regularly. On Tuesday, that was accomplished by sitting Matt Holliday.

Taveras' first stay in the Majors was relatively nondescript. He homered in his debut but went on to hit .189/.225/.297 in 40 plate appearances. Upon returning to Triple-A Memphis, Taveras batted .292/.358/.417 with four extra-base hits and nine RBIs in 13 games.

"I think any young player who comes up is always going to wonder how it's going to play out and what it's like at the big league level," manager Mike Matheny said. "So being here and understanding the routine and getting a feel for the league, I think, is always an advantage. Just put together good at-bats, that's it. There were times he did that and didn't find spots. If he keeps putting good at-bats together, he'll find holes. He just needs to keep doing what he's been doing."

Taveras said he can improve, too, by showing more patience at the plate this time around. He added that he is ready to play any of the three outfield positions. While the Cardinals prefer Taveras play in a corner outfield spot, the club is not ruling out using him in center field if the circumstance is right.

"I went back down to Triple-A and did a great job there doing [what I needed to]," said Taveras, ranked No. 2 overall on MLB.com's Prospect Watch. "Now they have given me another opportunity to stay here in the big leagues again. I'm more prepared now. I'm feeling more ready this time than last time."

Kelly, Wong do well in rehab appearances

NYM@STL: Wong lines single to center to plate run

SAN FRANCISCO -- Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong began a Minor League rehab assignment and pitcher Joe Kelly continued one in Triple-A Memphis' 8-5 loss Tuesday.

Kelly made his second rehab start for the Redbirds, this time throwing four scoreless innings on 49 pitches (31 strikes). The righty scattered three hits and two walks; he did not record a strikeout.

Kelly, who has been on the disabled list with a left hamstring strain since April 17, was pitching on three days' rest and is expected to need at least one more rehab appearance before rejoining the Cardinals.

Wong appears closer to a return, as he will be eligible to come off the DL on Sunday. He started at second and led off for Memphis in what was his first game since June 20. Wong, who has been sidelined by a left shoulder contusion, made an impact, too.

After doubling in his first at-bat and drawing a walk his next time up, Wong connected for a three-run homer to give Memphis an early lead. He finished 2-for-3 before being removed for a pinch-hitter in the eighth.

Worth noting

• Baseball's international signing period opens Wednesday for players who reside outside the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Teenagers who will turn 17 before Sept. 1 or by the completion of his first Minor League season are eligible, along with anyone already 17 years or older.

Per the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, clubs are allotted signing bonus pools based upon the reverse order of finish in 2013. The Cardinals have been given a cap of $1.8663 million, the lowest of all 30 clubs. Teams are subject to taxes or future signing limitations for exceeding their pool figure.

• Holliday was out of the Cardinals' lineup Tuesday for what Matheny described as a planned off-day. Holliday had started 19 straight games.

• Second baseman Mark Ellis was also out of the lineup, as Matheny thought that Tim Lincecum presented the best matchup of the series for Daniel Descalso, who started in Ellis' place. The Cardinals are also guarding against overuse with Ellis, who has been dealing with on-and-off left knee soreness this season.

• Tate Matheny, the oldest of Matheny's five children, was named to USA Baseball's Collegiate National Team on Sunday and began play Tuesday. Tate Matheny was drafted by the Cardinals in the 23rd round of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft before deciding to stick with his commitment to Missouri State University.

• Left-hander Rob Kaminsky, one of the Cardinals' two first-round Draft picks in 2013 and ranked as the team's No. 3 prospect, had the best start of his professional career Monday. Kaminsky pitched seven scoreless innings, allowing three hits and walking none. He struck out seven in the win for Class A Peoria.