Johnson City Cardinals Notebook: 2011 Week 4

DH/3B Roberto De La Cruz hit three home runs to lead an eleven home run barrage by Johnson City this week.

The Johnson City Cardinals were 4-2 this week (18-7 overall).  They remained in first place in the five-team Western Division of the Appalachian League, two games ahead of the Elizabethton Twins, who have won seven in a row and nine of their last ten.  The Cardinals started their 2010 Championship season with a slightly worse 16-9 record.  The Cardinals have the best record in the league while the Twins have the second best.


I was able to attend five of the six games in person this week.  I missed the last game of the series last week in Pulaski, VA.  Those observations provide the basis for this report.


In case you missed a previous 2011 report, you can review them here: 


Johnson City Cardinals Notebook:  2011 Week 3

Johnson City Cardinals Notebook:  2011 Week 2

Johnson City Cardinals Notebook:  2011 Week 1

Johnson City Cardinals Pre-Season Notebook


Roster Changes


There were no roster changes this week.


The roster remains at 30 active players (max of 35).


Gary Apelian

Injuries/Playing Time


RF Gary Apelian (.333) rolled his left ankle in the last game of the series against the Bluefield Blue Jays on July 7.  Apelian missed five games before entering the last game of the Greeneville Astros series (July 14) as a late inning replacement.  Apelian hit a two-run home run in his first at bat after the recovery time on Friday night. 


C Kolby Byrd (.233) left the Princeton Rays opener early after being hit in the side of the head with a bat on a follow through while catching in the top of the fourth.  Byrd had concussion-like symptoms between innings after the incident but was cleared to play the next day by the team doctor.  He should not miss any scheduled playing time. 


2B Trevor Martin (Martin: Bad Break in the Opener) traveled to St. Louis a couple of weeks ago for a consultation with the Cardinals' Head Team Physician Dr. George Paletta, Jr. The recommendation was shoulder surgery.  Martin has now completed his surgery without complication.  Manager Mike Shildt indicated the surgery went exactly as the doctors expected it to go.  Unfortunately, Martin is out for the year but he should be ready for 2012 spring training.  It is too bad that Martin only got one game and three at bats in this year.  Shildt indicated that Trevor is a really great kid that suffered a very unfortunate injury.  Hopefully the surgery has corrected any future problems for Martin. 


Jonathan Keener

C Jonathan Keener (.045) has been undergoing some extra core conditioning that has reduced his playing time.  He was scheduled to catch Sunday night (this article was written Sunday afternoon). 


Team Statistical Review


With the exception of slugging percentage and home runs, the offense was again near their season average this week.  The batters posted a .269/.333/.524 line this week after a .278/.333/.376 line last week.  Their AVG/OBP/SLG line through 25 games this year is .273 (3rd)/.336 (6th)/.422 (2nd).  Their best placing in the league is first in both runs (161) and RBIs (134).  They are second in the league in at bats (894) and doubles (53).  They more than doubled their home run output this week.  They hit eleven home runs this week to improve their season total to 20 (5th).  They are eighth in the league in drawing walks (72).  Johnson City is, by far, the most efficient stolen base team in the league.  The Cardinals have swiped 28 bases while being caught just twice (93% success rate).  Steven Ramos alone has swiped 15 bases, all without being caught.  Ramos' total exceeds the entire Bristol White Sox team (14 SB, 11 CS). 


Steven Ramos


The defense committed eight errors that contributed to seven unearned runs this week.  The usually very reliable Neal Pritchard (four errors) committed two this week.  Pritchard's fielding error on Wednesday contributed to three of the unearned runs. 


The Cardinals pitching staff improved this week and continues to have the best team earned run average (3.23) after posting a 2.45 ERA this week.  They allowed five home runs this week to remain tied for second worst in the league (26).  Through their first 25 games, the pitchers have the best walks plus hits per inning pitched (WHIP) in the league (1.27), the most wins (18), the fewest losses (7), the most saves (8), the most holds (12), the most innings (228.1), the fewest walks allowed (68), the fewest runs allowed (106), and the fewest earned runs allowed (82).  The starters were 4-1 this week while the relievers were 0-1.




The Cardinals opened the week with a solid 5-1 win in Pulaski against the Mariners.  Starter Josh Lucas (3-0, 4.95 ERA) scattered eight hits, all singles, and wriggled out of several jams by allowing no runs through five innings.  Logan Billbrough (2-0, 2.84 ERA) collected his first hold.  Roberto De La Cruz (.268) hit his second home run of the year and Anthony Garcia (.324) was 2-for-4 with a double and two, two-out RBIs.  Steven Ramos (.360) extended his hit streak to eight games and Neal Pritchard (.284) extended his hit streak to seven games.  Tyler Rahmatulla, who was 0-for-4, ended his five game hit streak. 


After a league wide off-day on Monday, the Cardinals came home for a six-game home stand.  The Greeneville Astros came to town having lost all three previous meetings between the two teams in Greeneville, TN.  Lefty starter Ryan Sherriff (1-1, 4.80 ERA) fell behind 3-0 in the fourth after allowing four hits, including two doubles.  However, it was all Johnson City after that as the Cardinals pulled away to win 9-4.  1B David Washington (.220) hit a two-run home run to put the Cardinals ahead 4-3.  However, the star of the game might have been Kolby Byrd (.233).  With one out in the bottom of the fourth, Byrd coaxed a 13-pitch walk that opened the scoring flood gates for Johnson City.  Anthony Garcia (.324) hit his first home run of the year.  Steven Ramos (9 games), David Washington (8 games), and Neal Pritchard (8 games) all extended their hit streaks.  Lefty Kyle Hald (2-0, 2.16 ERA) collected his second professional win after putting out an Astros uprising in the fifth inning by striking out the last two batters of the inning swinging. 


Neal Pritchard


On Wednesday in game two of the series, Johnson City jumped out to a 4-0 lead after scoring two in the first and second innings.  RF Anthony Garcia (.324) had a two-RBI triple and C Jesus Montero (.261) had a two-RBI double.  The Cardinals, behind starter Eduardo Hiraldo (0-1, 4.58 ERA), had a 4-1 lead going into the fifth inning when the wheels fell off.  He loaded the bases with one out on a double, a hit batter, and a walk.  However, Hiraldo induced a potential double play grounder up the middle to 2B Neal Pritchard.  Pritchard attempted to field the ball as he was stepping on second base when he booted it.  The Astros scored one earned and three unearned runs that inning to take a 5-4 lead and they never looked back as they won their first game this year against the Cardinals by a score of 7-4.  Hiraldo took the tough luck loss and the Cardinal bats produced just one hit, a single, form the fifth inning on.  Neal Pritchard (8 games) and David Washington (8 games) each ended their hit streaks while Steven Ramos (10 games) extended his. 


Jose Pasen


On Thursday, the Cardinals brought the big-boy bats to the game and hammered the Astros in the rubber game of the three game series.  Johnson City hit five doubles, a triple, and three home runs in a 17-1 thrashing of the Astros.  SS Matt Williams (.267) had a double, a home run, and four RBIs.  Roberto De La Cruz (.268) added his second home run of the week while 2B Neal Pritchard (.284) got the silent treatment in the dugout after hitting his first professional home run.  Starter Jose Pasen (2-1, 2.86 ERA) was the recipient of superb run support that he really didn't need.  Pasen struck out eight and walked just one while allowing no earned runs over six innings pitched.  The Cardinals were an impressive 9-for-14 with runners in scoring position.  Roberto De La Cruz (5 games), Jesus Montero (5 games), and Steven Ramos (11 games) each extended their hit streaks.


Friday brought the first place in the East Princeton Rays to Johnson City for the first of six consecutive games between the two division leaders.  The Rays feature a roster that includes five first round picks (includes supplemental and compensation rounds).  Two of the top prospects in the Rays organization are Josh Sale and Justin O'Conner. 


Roberto De La Cruz


The opener of the series was a good one as the Cardinals hit four home runs (Apelian-2nd, De La Cruz-4th, Williams-4th, and Garcia-2nd) in the first three innings to jump out to a 6-3 early lead.  Starter Ben Freeman (2-1, 4.82 ERA) was hittable over five innings pitched, allowing four runs, six hits, and two walks.  The Cardinals gave a 7-4 lead to the bullpen in the sixth and then held on for dear life as they collected a 7-6 win.  Jesus Montero (5 games) ended his hit streak but Steven Ramos (12 games), Roberto De La Cruz (6 games) and Gary Apelian (5 games) extended their hit streaks.  Roberto Canache (1-0, 2.25 ERA) and Logan Billbrough (2-0, 2.84 ERA) each collected their second holds and Heath Wyatt (2-0, 0.79 ERA) collected his second save. 


Saturday night was Tyrell Jenkins' fifth start of the year and five different radar guns (including three scouts) were trained on the young right hander from Texas.  Jenkins didn't disappoint the scouts as he showed his three pitch-array of a good fastball (92-94 MPH), a hard breaking curve ball that almost looks like a slider at times (76-80 MPH), and en ever improving changeup (82-84 MPH).  Jenkins allowed eight hits, including three doubles.  All three doubles were on his fastball while one single was on a curve ball and one single was on a changeup.  Four of his six strikeouts were called third strikes on his superb curve ball.  One of his swinging strikeouts was on a 92 MPH fastball while the other was on an 80 MPH slider-curve looking pitch, probably just a hard curve ball. Jenkins also had an impressively executed and well-timed pickoff at second base to SS Matt Williams.  Jenkins topped out at 94 MPH (except an error of 110 MPH on one of the scout's guns) but hit that on his 83rd pitch in the sixth.   


Luck wasn't with Jenkins in the sixth inning though as he allowed one run and one unearned run to allow the Rays to tie the game 2-2 after six innings.  The first run scored on a "seeing-eye" rolling single up the middle that barely eluded both Jenkins and Williams while the second run scored on what would have been the last out of the inning.  Jenkins showed off his athleticism and scampered toward the first base line to field a swinging bunt.  However, he found himself behind the runner as he threw to first base.  He leaped in the air and tried to throw it over the runner, only to see it glance off his helmet and go into right field for a throwing error and an unearned run. 


The rest of the game was very exciting to say the least.  Dyllon Nuernberg (2-1, 1.50 ERA) pitched a scoreless and hitless seventh and eighth inning to keep the Cardinals in the game.  Unfortunately, the offense was just 1-for-7 with four strikeouts over the same two innings.  Reliever Michael Santana (0-1, 0.69 ERA) came in for the ninth inning and looked to be in big trouble after allowing a one out single and double.  With the infield in and with runners and second and third with one out, Santana induced a fly ball to RF Gary Apelian.  Apelian lined up the catch at medium depth as the runner at third tagged up.  He made the catch and then uncorked a perfect one-hop throw to C Jesus Montero.  Montero fielded the throw flawlessly and blocked the plate well as he braced for a big collision.  Montero held on for the inning ending double-play and for Apelian's second outfield assist at home this year. 


The momentum was back with the Cardinals as Apelian led-off the tenth with a single but David Bergin (.260), De La Cruz, and Montero went down in order after that to end the inning.  Santana came back out for the tenth but controversy was the only thing that greeted him.  From Manager Mike Shildt's perspective and from mine as well, home plate umpire Charlie Tierney missed a few key strike calls.  Santana, who had no walks in his previous 41 batters faced, walked the leadoff hitter on five pitches.  He erased that with a well-timed 6-3 double play and then poured in what looked to be a perfect first-pitch strike to the next batter.  C Jesus Montero didn't move his glove but Tierney called a controversial ball.  The next pitch was deposited over the right field wall for a home run and a 3-2 deficit.  That set off Shildt, who was tossed by Tierney.  Shildt had to be physically restrained by field umpire Ron Teague.  Tierney and Shildt have some history from last year that likely contributed to the meltdown. 


The Cardinals mustered only a two-out walk in a four batter bottom of the tenth as they went down to a 3-2 defeat.  Gary Apelian (6 games) extended his hit streak but Steven Ramos (12 games) and Roberto De La Cruz (6 games) both ended their steaks.  Ramos' hit streak was the longest so far this year for Johnson City (Six Cardinals Legally Streaking). 


Johnson City 5 @ Pulaski 1, Cardinals Minor League Notebook: 07/11/11

Appy League Off-Day

Greeneville 4 @ Johnson City 9, Cardinals Minor League Notebook: 07/13/11

Greeneville 7 @ Johnson City 4, Cardinals Minor League Notebook: 07/14/11

Greeneville 1 @ Johnson City 17, Cardinals Minor League Notebook: 07/15/11

Princeton 6 @ Johnson City 7, Cardinals Minor League Notebook: 07/16/11

Princeton 3 @ Johnson City 2, Cardinals Minor League Notebook: 07/17/11


Starting Pitchers


As a reminder, listed below are the starting pitcher rotations for Johnson City.  As published previously (Cardinals Short-Season Minor League Rotations), Johnson City utilizes a six-man starting rotation that includes seven different pitchers.  This is a change from the last four years, which saw Johnson City use a "piggyback" system:  Cardinals Move to Six-Man Minors Rotation.  The third position in the six-man rotation includes a "piggyback" or "tandem" of two pitchers.  The six lone starters currently have 85-pitch limits while the two tandem starters have 60-pitch limits.  As you can see below, we may be starting to see a few of the pitchers extended out a little bit. 


Starting Pitchers (7): 

RHP Tyrell Jenkins (1)

RHP Josh Lucas (2)

LHP Kyle Hald (3A) and LHP Ryan Sherriff (3B)

RHP Eduardo Hiraldo (4)

RHP Jose Pasen (5)

LHP Ben Freeman (6)


Starter Pitch Counts


7/12:  Ryan Sherriff:  66 pitches, 44 strikes, 13-for-19 first-pitch strikes.

7/12:  Kyle Hald:  60 pitches, 36 strikes, 7-for-15 first-pitch strikes.

7/13:  Eduardo Hiraldo:  80 pitches, 46 strikes, 10-for-20 first-pitch strikes.

7/14:  Jose Pasen:  87 pitches, 57 strikes, 13-for-25 first-pitch strikes.

7/15:  Ben Freeman:  81 pitches, 49 strikes, 11-for-22 first-pitch strikes.

7/16:  Tyrell Jenkins:  85 pitches, 52 strikes, 17-for-27 first-pitch strikes.


Gary Apelian


Who's Hot (Hitters)


Three different hitters hit .300 or better AND had on-base percentages of .400 or better this week.  All three of those slugged .783 or better.  Those three are featured below in decreasing order of batting average for the week. 


RF Gary Apelian (.333) was 3-for-7 (.429) with a home run, a walk, and no strikeouts in three games this week.  Apelian is tenth in the league in batting average (.333). 


DH Roberto De La Cruz (.268) was 8-for-22 (.364) with six runs, two doubles, three home runs, and five RBIs in six games this week.  De La Cruz is tied for sixth in the league in home runs (4). 


Anthony Garcia


RF Anthony Garcia (.324) was 8-for-23 (.348) with six runs, two doubles, a triple, two home runs, and eight RBIs in six games this week.   Garcia is tied for eighth in the league in triples (2). 


CF Steven Ramos (.360, fifth in the league) saw his 12-game hit streak come to an end this week.  Ramos leads the league in runs (29), hits (36), and stolen bases (15).  He is third in at bats (100) and tied for sixth in games (24).


2B/SS Tyler Rahmatulla (.301) is fifth in the league in doubles (8), tied for eighth in triples (2), and tied for tenth in walks (11). 


Neal Pritchard


3B Neal Pritchard (.284) hit two home runs this week and leads the team in RBIs (18) and on base percentage (.400). 


SS Matt Williams (.267), in a rare double-top-ten combination, is tied for fifth in the league in walks (13) and tied for sixth in the league in home runs (4). 



Who's Not Hot (Hitters)


C/DH Kolby Byrd (.233) was 2-for-15 (.133) with two doubles in five games this week.  He arguably had the best at bat of the week (see above). 


Ronald Castillo


LF/CF Ronald Castillo (.183) was 2-for-12 (.167) with a double in four games this week.  His two triples are tied for eighth best in the league.



Who's Hot (Pitchers)


Pitchers with walks plus hits per inning pitched (WHIPs) of 1 or less with at least three innings pitched this week included Logan Billbrough (0.67), Kyle Hald (0.75), Jose Pasen (1.00), and Dyllon Nuernberg (1.00).


Kyle Hald (2-0, 2.16 ERA, 0.72 WHIP, 12.4 K/9) has the highest strikeout rate among the seven starters (38% of batters faced).


Pitchers with strikeouts per nine innings pitched (K/9) of 9 or more with at least three innings pitched this week included Jose Pasen (12.0), Kyle Hald (11.25), Tyrell Jenkins (9.0), Logan Billbrough (9.0), and Ryan Sherriff (9.0).


Heath Wyatt (2-0, 0.79 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 1.6 BB/9, 15.1 K/9) is tied for first in the league in games (9) and tied for eighth in saves (2).  Wyatt leads the team in K/9 and has the highest strikeout rate (42% of batters faced) of all eighteen pitchers. 


Michael Santana (0-1, 0.69 ERA, 0.69 WHIP, 0.69 BB/9, 6.9 K/9) is tied for third in the league in games (8) and is tied for fourth in holds (2).  Santana leads the team in BB/9 and he has the best groundout rate of all eighteen pitchers (42% of batters faced). 


Manuel De La Cruz (0-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.57 WHIP, 1.3 BB/9, 12.9 K/9) is third in the league lead in holds (3).  The lefty De La Cruz has inherited eight runners and allowed just two to score.  De La Cruz has the best strikeout plus groundout rate (75% of batters faced) of all eighteen pitchers. 


Tyrell Jenkins (1-0, 2.73 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 10.25 K/9) is tied for first in the league in games started (5), second in strikeouts (30), tied for sixth in innings pitched (26.1), and seventh in ERA.  Among the seven starters, Jenkins has the lowest walk rate (4.5% of batters faced) and the best strikeout plus groundout rate (55.5% of batters faced). 


Jose Pasen (2-1, 2.86 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 9 K/9) is eighth in the league in ERA. His throwing action is shown in the series of eight pitches below.



Logan Billbrough (2-0, 2.84 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 1.4 BB/9, 9.9 K/9) is one of the few pitchers consistently keeping the ball in the ballpark.  He has allowed no home runs over 12.2 innings pitched this year.  Billbrough had two holds this week will walking none and striking out three over three innings. 


Who's Not Hot (Pitchers)


Ryan Sherriff (1-1, 4.80 ERA, 1.27 WHIP) was the only pitcher this week with at least three innings pitched that also had a walks plus hits per inning pitched (WHIP) of 2 or greater and an earned run averages (ERA) of 5 or greater.


Eduardo Hiraldo


Eduardo Hiraldo (4.15), Ben Freeman (7.20), and Ryan Sherriff (6.75) were the only pitchers with ERAs above 4 with at least 3 innings pitched this week. 


Week Five Schedule


Game 26 (Sun):  Lucas vs. Princeton Rays

Game 27 (Mon):  Hald/Sherriff @ Princeton Rays

Game 28 (Tue):  Hiraldo @ Princeton Rays

Game 29 (Wed): Pasen @ Princeton Rays

Game 30 (Thu):  Freeman @ Kingsport Mets

Game 31 (Fri):  Jenkins @ Kingsport Mets

Game 32 (Sat): Lucas@ Kingsport Mets


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