After going 6-0 the week before, the Gulf Coast League Cardinals came back to earth a bit last week at 2-3. To start the period, they dropped the first two games to the Mets by a combined score of 13-2 before squeaking out a 2-1 rain-shortened win in the series finale. Then they split two close games with the Marlins before rain forced Saturday’s game to be suspended after one inning. For the week, the Cardinals were outscored 26-17 and outhit 47-34 and they made six errors to their opponents’ three.
In that Saturday game, Luke Weaver made his second appearance, striking out two while allowing two ground-ball singles in one inning. As he did the Saturday before, Jack Flaherty was scheduled to follow Weaver, but this time he never got the chance because of the rain.
Highlight of the Week
On Friday, two other pitchers drafted last month by the Cardinals made their professional debuts. Andrew Morales, the 21-year-old right-hander selected 71st overall, pitched one quick inning, getting a fly out and then two swinging strikeouts. In his senior year at University of California-Irvine, the 6-foot, 195-pound Morales posted a 1.53 ERA in 135 2/3 innings to earn All-Big West Conference Pitcher of the Year. That heavy college workload, however, has the Cardinals cautious in handling Morales in his first pro season, as they are doing with Weaver and did with Michael Wacha and Marco Gonzales before them.
Following Morales to the bump Friday was Bryan Dobzanski, the Cardinals’ 29th-round pick last month. Dobzanski, an 18-year-old right-hander from Franklinville, New Jersey, also threw a scoreless inning, allowing one hit and striking out one.
Next to pitch was Davis Ward, the last overall pick in the draft, who continues to impress Cardinals brass. Ward quickly found himself in a predicament when the first three batters he faced all reached base on softly hit singles, loading the bases with no outs. Ward buckled down, though, and induced a double-play grounder and then another ground out to escape the jam, allowing only one run. He then pitched two more innings, mowing down the Marlins 1-2-3 in both, and left the game in a one-all tie.
The Marlins scored a run in the sixth against Nick Frey and four in the seventh off Steven De La Cruz, so the Cardinals entered the eighth inning with the top of their order due up, but trailing 6-1.
Edmundo Sosa opened the frame with a line-drive single, and advanced to third on Magneuris Sierra’s double. After the Marlins brought in a fresh pitcher, Julian Barzilli lined a single to score Sosa, and Elier Rodriguez stroked a single that scored Sierra. Derek Gibson followed with a single to left that scored Barzilli, narrowing the deficit to 6-4. After Ricardo Bautista flied out, Michael Massi lined a single to center that loaded the bases.
That’s when the managerial wheels began spinning in both dugouts more like a major-league game in October than a Gulf Coast League game in July.
With the right-handed DeAndre Asbury-Heath due up, hitting only .200, Cardinals manager Steve Turco sent up lefty-swinging Michael Pritchard to pinch-hit. Marlins manager Julio Garcia countered with side-arming lefty Alan Scott. Turco said later he could have responded with right-handed hitter Malik Collymore, but that would use up his only extra outfielder in the move, forcing him to put an infielder in left field. “Besides, I felt comfortable with Pritchard in that situation,” Turco said. “I felt that he’d come through for us.”
As it happened, Scott walked Pritchard on four pitches, and did the same to Frankie Rodriguez, forcing in the tying run. Scott then fell behind Sosa 3-0 for 11 straight balls before working the count full and getting Sosa to hit into a rare (for him) double play.
The Cardinals eventually lost 7-6 when the Marlins scored a run in the ninth against Tyler Dunnington. The five-run rally to tie the game was the Cards’ biggest inning of the week, though a three-run eighth inning, all with two outs, the day before to break a four-all tie was also a positive.
With a 4-or-4 performance Friday, Magneuris Sierra finished the week 7-for-15 to raise his average to .385. … Jorge Rodriguez allowed one run on three hits and a walk over five innings in a rain-shortened, complete-game over the Mets. The win tied him with Julio Mateo for the team lead with three.
Jery Then, a 19-year-old right-handed pitcher from the Dominican Republic signed last week by the Cardinals as an international free agent, was added to the roster. Fidencio Flores, 22-year-old right-handed pitcher from Nicaragua, was released.
As a right-handed pitcher who was generously listed on rosters at 6-feet (but was really 5-foot-10), Flores had an uphill battle from the start. He pitched well in the GCL in 2012 (1.59 ERA in 40 1/3 IP) but regressed last season. Though Flores led the 2013 staff in victories, pitching primarily in relief, his ERA ballooned to 4.69 in the same number of innings as pitched in 2012. He had not appeared in a game this season.
A Closer Look At:
These capsules are based on interviews with GCL manager Steve Turco:
Edmundo Sosa: The 18-year-old shortstop from Panama hit well last season in the Dominican Summer League and is off to a good start in the GCL. At 5-foot-11, 168 pounds, Sosa isn’t big but stands “head and shoulders above other guys in almost everything he does,” Turco said. Sosa “is not a practice player. He’s not going to wow you with what he does in a workout, but when you see him in a game he has a poise and savvy a lot of other kids don’t have.”
Turco said when he first saw Sosa spring training before last season, “I wasn’t sure he could stay at shortstop because his arm strength is barely average, but he does other things that indicate he could stay there.” Turco explained that Sosa has “an innate ability to read hops and a clock in his head to gauge runners.”
Magneuris Sierra: The best player on the GCL squad so far this season, the 18-year-old Dominican native is listed at 5-feet-11, 160 pounds, but he plays much bigger. The lefty-hitting Sierra “is a potential five-tool player who will develop easy power,” Turco said. “He has a good swing, a good approach; it’s going to be hard to stop him from hitting, especially at the lower levels, but I think he will hit at all levels.”
Playing in 17 of the GCL Cards’ first 19 games, Sierra is hitting .385 with 10 of his 25 hits for extra bases. He ranks second in the 16-team GCL in batting average and his 1.013 OPS ranks third. He also has stolen five bases without being caught.
Michael Pritchard: Signed as a non-drafted free agent from the University of Nebraska, where he was coached by two-time All-Star Darrin Erstad, who himself starred on both the Cornhusker baseball team and as the starting punter on their 1994 national championship football squad.
Pritchard “has a swagger about him and handles himself well at the plate,” Turco said. A smart hitter, the 22-year-old native of Omaha, Nebraska, uses the middle of the field and barrels up the ball. The 6-foot, 180-pounder was a two-time All-Big Ten honoree who amassed a stat line of .314/.376/.473 over his 60 games as a senior with a team-best 21 doubles and 49 RBI.
Turco said that as an outfielder, Pritchard “gets good reads and jumps, though his arm and speed are a tick below average. While his batting average through 17 games is .271, his 11 walks to only three strikeouts is a testament to his batting eye, patience and plate discipline.
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