Gulf Coast League Cardinals Notebook: Week 5

The Cards' entry-level US club has a six-game winning streak. Ildemaro Vargas hit in six straight. Our on-site Jupiter reporter recaps last week's play as well as provides five in-depth scouting reports.

GCL East Standings

  W  L PCT GB
Marlins 19 9 0.679 -
Cardinals 18 11 0.621 1.5
Mets 16 13 0.552 3.5
Nationals 11 18 0.379 8.5
Astros 8 21 0.276 11.5
 

With a six-game winning streak, the GCL Cardinals passed the Mets to move into second place in the East Division, trailing the Marlins by only 1-1/2 games. In each of the six wins, the Cardinals went ahead for good in the seventh inning or later. The Cardinals are 9-6 at home and 9-5 away this season.

 

The Cardinals lead the five-team GCL East in runs scored (166 in 29 games) and walks drawn (107), but have fallen to third behind the Marlins and Nationals in batting average (.252) slugging percentage (.367) and OPS (.708). The Cardinals team ERA (3.55 and WHIP (1.27) are second in the division behind the Marlins.

 

Strange play of the week

The Marlins turned an unusual, but unofficial triple play on the Cardinals last Sunday. With the score tied at two in the top of the fifth, Jem Argenal reached first on an error and went to second on a single by Michael Knox. Sam Tuivailala grounded into a 3-6-3 double play, with Argenal taking third. Attempting to throw the ball back to the pitcher, Marlins 1B Felix Munoz threw the ball into the ground. Argenal took off for home, but 2B Luis Ortiz retrieved the ball and threw him out. The Marlins official scorer decided the third out was not a continuation of the double play, but it could have gone as a 3-6-3-4-2 triple play.

 

Comings and goings

3B Hector Garcia was promoted to Johnson City after going 3-for-3 with a walk in a win Thursday over the Marlins. Garcia was 11 for his last 24 at-bats in the GCL to improve his average to .321. … OF C.J. McElroy (3rd-round pick last month), 3B Philip Cerreto (rehab from Class A-Advanced Palm Beach), LHP Justin Wright (rehab from Palm Beach ) arrived. Wright pitched one inning and returned to the Florida State League team. Cerreto already has had an impact with a game-winning hit Sunday.

 

Weekly Recap

 

Monday, defeated the Nationals 6-4 (12 innings) in Viera: Willy Paulino gave up three runs in the last of the ninth to the Nationals to record his first blown save after five successful conversions, but the Cardinals scored two runs in the 12th. With two outs and no one on, Jem Argenal, Hector Garcia, Sam Tuivailala and Michael Knox hit consecutive singles to give Fermin Montanez, who allowed only one hit and struck out three in two innings, the win.

Cardinals highlight: Montanez allowed only one hit and struck out three in two extra innings to earn his first win on U.S. soil.

 

Tuesday, defeated Mets 2-1 in Jupiter: The Cardinals won on Breyvic Valera's walk-off sacrifice fly, which scored pinch-runner Leandro Mateo. Adam Ehrlich led off the ninth with a single. Mateo stole second, then advanced to third on Lance Jeffries' bunt single. One out later, Valera lofted a fly deep enough to left to score Mateo.

Cardinals highlight: Angel Tapia allowed one hit and a walk in two innings to earn the win.

 

Wednesday, no game.

 

Thursday: defeated Astros 6-5 in Kissimmee: After the Astros scored five in the sixth, the Cardinals came back with one in the seventh, two in the eighth and two in the ninth. Sam Tuivailala led off with a double and scored one out later on a single by Adam Ehrlich. Pinch-runner Leandro Mateo moved to second on pinch-hitter Hector Garcia's ground out. With two outs, Mateo stole third and scored when the catcher's throw got away.

Cardinals highlight:  Starting pitcher Brad Watson threw five scoreless innings for the second time in his last three starts.

 

Friday: defeated Marlins 4-3 in Jupiter: Ildemaro Vargas and Hector Garcia each had three of the Cardinals' seven hits as they took advantage of two Marlins errors in the ninth inning for another walk-off win. Dutch Deol reached on an error leading off the inning. Pinch-runner Victor Encarnacion advanced to second when the first baseman missed the throw on a pickoff attempt, and then moved to third on Breyvic Valera's line out to right field. Vargas' third hit of the game brought Encarnacion home with the game-winning run. Brandon Creath was the winning pitcher despite blowing the save when he gave up the first two earned runs of his pro career.

Cardinals highlight: Taking advantage of mistakes by the first-place Marlins, all four runs the Cardinals scored were unearned.

 

Saturday: defeated Nationals 8-6 at Jupiter: Lance Jeffries' first professional home run came at an opportune time, turning a 6-5 deficit in the bottom of the seventh into an 8-6 lead. Michael Knox started the rally with a one-out single. Pinch-runner C.J. McElroy stole second and advanced to third on a wild throw. Gerwuins Velazco walked. After Sam Tuivailala popped out, Jeffries hit a no-doubter over the left field fence. Willy Paulino got back on track with a two-inning save. Still looking for his first win of the season, starting pitcher Victor De Leon left after five innings with a 5-3 lead, but he came away with another no-decision when Angel Tapia gave up the lead and "vultured" the win.

Cardinals highlight: Jeffries' home run.

 

Sunday: defeated Mets 3-2 in Port St. Lucie: Trailing 2-0 and held to one hit through seven innings, the Cardinals rallied for three runs in the eighth. The big blow was rehabbing DH Phil Cerreto's second double of the game, which drove home Reggie Williams, who was running for Dutch Deol, and Leandro Mateo. Deol started the inning with a walk, and Mateo did the same. A sacrifice by Ildemaro Vargas moved both runners into scoring position before Cerreto launched his game-tying ground-rule double. Michael Knox followed with a double that brought Cerreto home with the eventual winning run.

Cardinals highlight: Cesar Aguilar and Cole Brand combined to hold the Mets hitless over the last four innings, setting the stage for the Cardinals' sixth consecutive win.

Who's Hot/Not

2B Ildemaro Vargas was 11-for-24 during a six-game hitting streak that ended when he went 0-for-2 on Sunday. … 1B Michael Knox is 10 for his last 27 at-bats, raising his average to .239. 1B-OF Jem Argenal has four multi-hit games in his last seven... After giving up an earned run in three consecutive outings, RP Cesar Aguilar has allowed only one hit and no runs over his last five appearances. … OF Victor Encarnacion has one hit in his last 14 at-bats, but still leads the team in OPS at .899.

A Closer Look at …

By the end of the GCL season, we will have at least one report on every player who appears in a GCL Cardinals game. This week, we look at three new position players and two returning relief pitchers. Most of these analyses are based on interviews with GCL Cardinals manager Steve Turco. This week we'll look at two position players and three pitchers, including our first look at some of the 2011 draftees.

 

Leandro Mateo: The 21-year-old, switch-hitting Dominican is making his pro debut in the GCL after signing last year. Mateo will play mostly at second base, with some time at third base now that Hector Garcia has been promoted. Cardinals manager Steve Turco said Mateo has the arm strength to play shortstop but needs to learn to charge ground balls more aggressively. A plus-runner and good base stealer, Mateo has a short swing, handles the bat well, is an adept bunter, has a disciplined eye at the plate and makes good contact, though does not possess much power.

 

Adam Ehrlich: A 19-year-old catcher selected in the sixth round of this year's draft out of Campbell Hall H.S. in suburban Los Angeles, Ehrlich gave up a scholarship to Loyola Marymount University to sign with the Cardinals. With a reputation that his defensive skills as a receiver were ahead of his hitting skills, Ehrlich has opened Turco's eyes with his work with the bat and "inate intangibles." Ehrlich has shown a "remarkable ability to make adjustments," Turco said, including his adjustment to wood bats. "He doesn't seem to be handicapped with wood as much as other first-year guys," he said. "He gives quality at-bats almost every time up. You don't see that from young hitters too often."

 

Victor De Leon: The hard-throwing Dominican signed in 2009 and turned 19 in April. Though his statistical line so far this season (0-4, 5.83 ERA with 33 hits allowed in 29-1/3 innings and only 13 strikeouts with as many walks) is not impressive, a fastball that touches 97 and sits on 94 makes him a good prospect. "He's blessed with talent and has all the ingredients to be a big-league pitcher," Turco said of the 6-foot-2, 180-pound right-hander. Like almost every other GCL pitcher, De Leon needs to improve consistency and command. Learning to throw his off-speed pitches (slider and changeup) for strikes when he is behind in the count will make his fastball more effective.

 

Brandon Creath: The 6-foot-3, 200-pound 21-year-old Californian was the Cardinals' 44th round pick this year out of Embry-Riddle University, where he transferred after two years at Allan Hancock Community College. A right-hander with an unorthodox and deceptive herky-jerky delivery, Creath has "interesting" stuff, Turco said. Along with a fastball that sits at 94, Creath throws a curve and a splitter. Turco said Creath should have more confidence in his splitter, which Turco thinks is better than his curve. He also said Creath is a little slow to the plate with his delivery, but would do better if he was quicker with his delivery and less excitable.

 

Dail Villanueva: A 21-year-old Venezuelan left-hander, Villanueva signed in 2009 and pitched some in the Venezuelan Summer League that year and last. Villanueva was roughed up a bit in first start in the GCL, but has had five solid starts since then. In his past four starts, each lasting five innings, he has not allowed more than two runs or two walks. Villanueva possesses a fastball, which touches 94 and sits on 90 with late life, along with a curveball (70 to 77 mph) and changeup. Turco said what has impressed him most about Villaneuva so far is his ability to battle and give him five solid innings every time out, even when he does not have his best command.

 

On deck

Monday, no game; Tuesday, vs. Astros; Wednesday at Marlins, 10 a.m.; Thursday at Nationals; Friday vs. Mets; Saturday, no game; Sunday, vs. Astros.

 

 

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