Cardinal Pitching At Full Strength

Throughout the fall, it was evident that the Cardinal would have a deep pitching staff this season. And now this week the pitching corps has received an added boost with the return of a pair of hurlers who missed the entire fall due to injury. Read on for their preseason starts plus notes on all of the other intrasquad game action out at Sunken Diamond.

The story of fall ball was certainly the overall strong pitching of the Cardinal hurlers.  And this was despite arm injuries to sophomore Matt Leva and promising freshman Nolan Gallagher that forced both to the sidelines for the entire fall.  But after months of recovery, both are back and both made their debuts on the mound during Tuesday's intrasquad game.

Leva finished last season with a 6-2 record and a 4.29 ERA over 35 2/3 innings pitched.  But the heat is now on if he's to keep pace with his fellow sophomore pitchers who all starred during fall intrasquad games.  It's unlikely that Leva will begin the season in the starting rotation, but he'll certainly play a major role on this pitching staff once again and would certainly be a potential fourth or fifth starter if it was needed come postseason time.

In Tuesday's intrasquad, Leva didn't look as if he hadn't thrown in a game in five months.  In three innings, Leva allowed no runs on just two hits and was in complete control during his entire stint on the mound.  A staple of Matt Leva's game is his excellent change-up and he had a good one going on Tuesday.  Overall, Leva walked just one batter and struck out two. 

In addition, Tuesday marked the debut of Gallagher and he also made quite an opening statement.  The Montana native fired two innings with only one hit and one run allowed.  The first thing you notice about Gallagher is that he possesses electric stuff.  He's clearly one of the hardest throwers on the team and throws a couple of excellent offspeed pitches.  Not surprisingly, control was an issue for Gallagher as he walked two and also uncorked a wild pitch.  But the freshman did record two strike outs and only one ball was hit hard off of him during his two innings.  Gallagher definitely has the stuff to be a contributor this season.  I've only seen him pitch once, so it's too early to tell how much he'll throw this year, but the early returns are very positive.

The theme of Tuesday's intrasquad game, if you can't tell already, was pitching.  Sophomore Jeff Stimpson, who likely will assume the role of closer this season, dazzled in his four innings on the mound.  Stimpson did not allow a single hit while picking up three strike outs in the process.  I've probably seen Stimpson have better stuff before, but at the end of the day, four no-hit innings will get it done every time.  Stanford should be in good hands in the late innings this season.

Freshman Erik Davis had a very solid outing as well.  In his four innings, he allowed five hits, but only one run.  Davis' control was excellent with just one walk and he fanned five (the high for any pitcher on this day).  One particular sequence especially caught my eye (and certainly those of the coaches) when Davis struck out Jed Lowrie and John Mayberry, Jr. back-to-back.  He K'd Lowrie looking on a beautiful change-up and then got Mayberry swinging on a darting slider.  Bottom line, this freshman class of pitchers may be small with just two scholarship players, but both Erik Davis and Nolan Gallagher are two premium talents.  They'll pitch a significant amount this season out of the bullpen and have the potential to be stars at this level.

The other pitcher to throw on Tuesday was junior Matt Manship.  Manship also had a solid performance with four shutout frames.  Manship is the type of pitcher who if he's able to gain confidence early in his outing, he's liable to really put forth an impressive lengthy performance like the one on this day.  Over his last couple of innings on Tuesday, Manship looked very comfortable on the mound pumping in first pitch strikes and showcasing excellent control. 

Pitching coach Tom Kunis is probably sleeping well at night right now.  Between the five pitchers who threw in this game plus the four who saw action on Monday (Mark Romanczuk, Jeff Gilmore, Greg Reynolds, and Blake Holler), the Cardinal have all the makings of a top-flight pitching staff.  With only three games every week (at least until April), it will be interesting to see how the coaching staff handles all of these pitchers.  With the impressive depth right now, you would think the starters shouldn't feel any pressure to throw seven or eight innings every time out.  This should make quite a difference as the season wears on.

Not much to report in terms of hitting on Tuesday.  Like in Monday's game, just the top 12 hitters on the club saw action.  Multi-hit games came from catcher John Hester who finished 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles.  Left fielder Ryan Seawell also had a strong performance going 2-for-5 with a double and a walk.  Jim Rapoport had the only hit off Gallagher when he ripped a double to deep right center field.  And to show you how impressive these five pitchers were on this day, the trio of Lowrie, Mayberry, Jr., and Chris Minaker went a combined 1-for-16 with four strike outs.

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Wednesday's intrasquad game was quite different from Tuesday's.  First, the coaching staff switched how the game was played.  Instead of just the top 12 hitters broken up into three groups, all 19 healthy position players had a chance to hit.  The Cardinal Team was clearly stronger than the White Team on paper and overall there was plenty more offense ...

Cardinal
1. Jim Rapoport, CF
2. Chris Minaker, SS
3. Jed Lowrie, 2B
4. John Mayberry, Jr., 1B
5. John Hester, C
6. Michael Taylor, RF
7. Adam Sorgi, 3B
8. Brendan Domaracki, LF
9. Zachary Gianos, DH

The first seven hitters in this batting order could very likely be what the Cardinal will start with 1-through-7 on opening night.  Sorgi continues to play an extensive amount at third base and the fact he's playing third with the other starting infielders is a sign the coaching staff is giving him a hard look over there.  And defensively, Sorgi continues to play well.  He's very smooth over at the hot corner with good range, soft hands, and an excellent arm.  He's also a natural leader.  If he hits, I have to think Adam Sorgi will be the everyday third baseman for this team.  On Wednesday, he went 1-for-3 with a ringing double off the wall in right.

Lowrie was the top hitter of the day for the Cardinal (who won the seven-inning game by a 5-2 score).  The All-American second baseman reached base all four times he came to the plate doubling twice and also walking twice.  Rapoport continued his hot hitting this preseason with a 2-for-4, 2B, RBI effort.  Freshman outfielder Brendan Domaracki also smoked an RBI triple to deep right center during the game.

White
1. Chris Lewis, 3B/2B
2. Ryan Seawell, OF
3. Ben Summerhays, 1B
4. Cameron Matthews, OF
5. Darren Gemoll, 1B
6. Joe Ayers, SS
7. Randy Molina, 2B/3B
8. Jeff Boes, C
9. Josh Corn, C
10. Ryan Kissick, DH

Not nearly as much offense from this team as they mustered only two runs on three hits.  Lewis played exclusively on the infield during the game, but of note, during the pregame infield/outfield drill, he was out in left field.  And he looked good out there showing off a pretty good arm.  Ryan Seawell and Domaracki were the other two players out in left field during the drill.

Sophomore Logan Ardis and junior Pete Duda pitched for the Cardinal team against the White team today and both did well.  Ardis went four innings allowing just one run while Duda went the final three innings also surrendering one run.  Both of these pitchers will certainly have to make the best of what game action they get with all of the quality arms on the staff.

Freshmen Rex Petrill and David Stringer threw for the White squad and had the difficult task of going up against the stacked Cardinal team.  Both of these pitchers certainly have talent, but look to be a year away from making any significant contribution during actual games.

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