Johnson City Cardinals Notebook: 2011 Week 7

DH Roberto De La Cruz (.290) hit three of Johnson City's five home runs this week to help lead the first-place Cardinals (30-15) to a 5-2 record.

The Johnson City Cardinals were 5-2 this week (30-15 overall).  They extended their first place lead in the five-team Western Division of the Appalachian League to six games ahead of the Elizabethton Twins.  They are eight games ahead of the Kingsport Mets for a playoff spot.  The Cardinals have the best record in the league.  Johnson City is on pace to finish 45-23.  If they did, it would be their best finish since 1976. 


I was able to attend six of the sevengames in person this week.  I missed Sunday's game in Elizabethton.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 6

Johnson City Cardinals Notebook:  2011 Week 5

Johnson City Cardinals Notebook:  2011 Week 4

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


Breyvic Valera

Roster Changes


2B/SS Breyvic Valera (.455) was promoted from the Gulf Coast League Cardinals early last week:  Valera: Second Boost Upward.  The switch-hitting Venezuelan made his Johnson City Cardinals debut on Wednesday night in Bristol just two days after his 19th birthday.  Valera made an immediate impact with Johnson City by showing off his great speed on Thursday and Friday (5-for-7, three runs, two RBIs, three stolen bases).


The roster increased from 30 to 31 active players (max of 35). 


Injuries and Playing Time


RF Anthony Garcia (.317) returned Sunday night from a groin injury after missing four games.  Garcia appears to have lost his considerable momentum at the plate after the injury as he struggled to just a .167 batting average over six games this week. 


1B/DH David Bergin (.284) injured his shoulder on July 29 when he slid head-first into second base on a successful pickoff by the Bristol catcher in the second inning.  Bergin had just returned to the lineup after missing four games over five days.  Despite the discomfort, Bergin finished the game but was just 0-for-3 after the injury.  Bergin will travel to St. Louis and/or Florida later this week for further consultations on what appears to be a rotator cuff injury.  Unfortunately, the Tampa, FL native is out "indefinitely" per Manager Mike Shildt after 19 games and 67 at bats. 


3B/2B Neal Pritchard (.267) suffered back spasms on Tuesday night after pulling a single down the left field line in the first inning in Elizabethton (Pritchard: Back Off).   He has missed four games so far with rest being prescribed as the best treatment.  Pritchard is listed as "day-to-day" by Manager Mike Shildt.


Team Statistical Review


The offense, as expected, took a step back toward the norm this week.  The batters posted an impressive .276/.353/.412 line this week after a .322/.366/.577 line last week.  They hit 18 doubles, one triple, and five home runs in seven games.  Their AVG/OBP/SLG line through 45 games this year is .277 (1st)/.340 (2nd)/.447 (1st).  The Cardinals now lead the league in at bats (1589), runs (276), hits (440), doubles (108), home runs (42), RBIs (234), total bases (710), average (.277), slugging (.447), and on-base plus slugging or OPS (.787).  They are second in the league in triples (18) and on-base percentage or OBP (.340).  They are last in the league in drawing walks (129).  Johnson City remained the most efficient stolen base team in the league despite being caught five times this week in thirteen attempts. 


Hector Garcia

The defense committed six errors that contributed to six unearned runs this week.  SS Matt Williams (12 errors) added two errors this week but continued to play very solid defense with good range.  Williams had nine putouts and several impressive plays on Thursday night in Bristol.  2B Tyler Rahmatulla played his first two games this year at third base and struggled a little bit with his positioning on run-downs and extra base hits.  3B Hector Garcia made an impressive bases-loaded throw to first that required very good arm strength.  1B David Washington fielded some really hard hit line drives and scooped several low throws.  C Jonathan Keener blocked what seemed like a dozen potential wild pitches this week and showed excellent vocal leadership behind the plate. 


Doug White pitchers' pre-game meeting

The Cardinals pitching staff had an average week but improved to second in team earned run average (3.66) after posting a 3.92 ERA this week.  Through 45 games, the pitchers have the second best walks plus hits per inning pitched (WHIP) in the league (1.33), the most wins (30), the fewest losses (15), the most holds (23), the most saves (14), the fewest walks allowed (128), and the second fewest earned runs allowed (164).  The starters were 3-1 this week with one save while the relievers were 2-1 with three holds, two saves, and two blown saves.  The relievers inherited 9 runners this week and allowed just 3 runners to score (25% scored).  On the season, the pitchers have allowed 39% of inherited runners to score.   


Weekly Summary


The Cardinals opened the week with a six-game road trip.  The first three games were in Elizabethton, TN against the Twins (second in the West) and the last three games were in Bristol, VA against the White Sox (third in the West).  Saturday began a three-game series at home against the first place (East) Bluefield Blue Jays.


Sunday was an exciting 10-6 win in ten innings.  Roberto De La Cruz (.290) had two home runs and five RBIs as Johnson City had fifteen hits.  Anthony Garcia (.317) extended his hit streak to 11 games (team's season high) and Gary Apelian (.324) extended his hit streak to nine games.  Both of those streaks ended in their next games. 


Team pre-game workout

Johnson City lost their next two games in Elizabethton despite good pitching from everyone except Dyllon Nuernberg (2-2, 7.23 ERA).  The batters were a combined 2-for-18 with runners in scoring position over the two losses.  The Cardinals lost 4-2 Monday night despite allowing no earned runs.  1B David Washington (4 errors) let a grounder go through his legs in the fourth inning and then starter Eduardo Hiraldo (1-2, 3.82 ERA) lost some of his focus (2 walks).  Nuernberg was hammered Tuesday night in a 2-2 game in the seventh inning.  2B Tyler Rahmatulla (5 errors) had an uncharacteristic throwing error that led to two unearned runs in Nuernberg's seven-run seventh inning. 


The Cardinals bounced back well in Bristol by sweeping the White Sox.  Lefty Ben Freeman (3-2, 5.08 ERA) had his best start of the year Wednesday night allowing just three weakly hit groundball singles over five scoreless innings.  Johnson City won their eighth one-run game of the year on Thursday night in Bristol behind a solid start by Tyrell Jenkins (3-1, 3.73 ERA).  The Cardinals closed out the sweep Friday night in an ugly 10-8 slugfest that Bristol gift-wrapped for Johnson City in the ninth.  Four Cardinals relievers combined for five wild pitches, two blow saves, and one wild pitch while Bristol allowed four unearned runs, including two in the ninth after there were two outs and nobody on base.   


Tyrell Jenkins signs

After Jenkins' start on Thursday night, I heard reports that the Bristol White Sox MiLB internet broadcasters had stated that Tyrell was using a "cutter".  My first thought (later confirmed) was that they had not actually talked with Jenkins before making this statement but I confirmed that by talking with Tyrell before Friday night's game in Bristol.  After he graciously signed some autographs for some fans, he agreed to answer some of my questions.  Jenkins told me that he had also heard that he supposedly throws a "cutter" now.  He was surprised to hear that and he said he didn't know where it came from.  He also added that he does not throw a "cutter".  He stated that he was focusing on locating his four-seam fastball Thursday night and that was what created the 11 groundball outs.  He started to leave a couple of those four-seam fastballs up in the sixth inning (two singles and a double). 


Unsigned 42nd-rounder Cody Poarch

Tyrell did tell me that he "cut a couple of change-ups".  I will be the first to admit that I don't fully understand exactly what that means.  He stated that he remains a fastball, curve, change-up pitcher.  He played-down the two-seam fastball when I brought it up.  He said he focuses on the four-seam fastball and location down in the zone to generate good results.  Hopefully this will put the "cutter" comments to rest.  However, Bristol will also broadcast Jenkins' next start on Wednesday night in Johnson City so I am not betting on it.  


I charted every pitch Jenkins threw (velocity, location, and pitch type).  I sat behind the three Cardinals pitchers charting the pitches (Hiraldo, Sherriff, Lucas) and sat near the St. Louis Cardinals executives that were at the game.  I also saw one of the executives talking with 42nd round (unsigned) 2011 draft pick Cody Poarch outside the Johnson City clubhouse in Bristol.


Umpire Dale Ford

Saturday night was a good win in what could be an Appy League playoff preview.  Former MLB Umpire Dale Ford worked home plate in an entertaining and quick game.  The Cardinals beat first place Bluefield in a solid 7-3 win to even the season series between the Blue Jays and Johnson City at two games each.  Ryan Sherriff (2-1, 3.94 ERA) recorded his second win while Kyle Hald (4-0, 2.52 ERA) bounced back from a rough outing earlier in the week in Elizabethton to record a save.  The entire nine-inning game saw a total of just four pitchers used.  The big offensive blow was an opposite-field three-run home run by C Jonathan Keener (.200) that gave the Cardinals the lead. 


Jonathan Keener

Johnson City 10 @ Elizabethton 6, Cardinals Minor League Notebook: 08/01/11

Johnson City 2 @ Elizabethton 4, Cardinals Minor League Notebook: 08/02/11

Johnson City 3 @ Elizabethton 9, Cardinals Minor League Notebook: 08/03/11

Johnson City 8 @ Bristol 1, Cardinals Minor League Notebook: 08/04/11

Johnson City 3 @ Bristol 2, Cardinals Minor League Notebook: 08/05/11

Johnson City 10 @ Bristol 8, Cardinals Minor League Notebook: 08/06/11

Bluefield 3 @ Johnson City 7, Cardinals Minor League Notebook: 08/07/11


Starting Pitchers and Pitch Counts


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 still have approximately 85-pitch limits while the two tandem starters have been allowed to exceed their early-season 60-pitch limits. 


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)


8/1:  Eduardo Hiraldo:  81 pitches, 50 strikes, 11-for-20 first-pitch strikes.

8/2:  Jose Pasen:  83 pitches, 50 strikes, 12-for-24 first-pitch strikes.

8/3:  Ben Freeman:  88 pitches, 58 strikes, 13-for-20 first-pitch strikes.

8/4:  Tyrell Jenkins:  84 pitches, 58 strikes, 18-for-23 first-pitch strikes.

8/5:  Josh Lucas:  67 pitches, 44 strikes, 14-for-24 first-pitch strikes.

8/6:  Ryan Sherriff:  75 pitches, 47 strikes, 15-for-23 first-pitch strikes.

8/6:  Kyle Hald:  54 pitches, 34 strikes, 8-for-15 first-pitch strikes.


Tyler Rahmatulla

Who's Hot (Hitters)


Six different batters hit .333 or better this week.  That list, in decreasing order of weekly batting average, included:  Ronald Castillo (.462), Breyvic Valera (.455), Neal Pritchard (.429), Tyler Rahmatulla (.417), Gary Apelian (.346), and Matt Williams (.333).


2B/3B Tyler Rahmatulla hit .400 or better this week over 20 or more at bats.  He led the team this week with ten hits.  Rahmatulla leads the team in batting average (.326), OBP (.419), and OPS (.979).  Rahmatulla (.326) was 10-for-24 (.417) with three runs, one double, three RBIs, three stolen bases, and two walks over six games this week.  Rahmatulla is tied for second in the league in doubles (15), third in OPS (.979), fifth in OBP (.419), sixth in slugging (.560), seventh in batting average (.326), tied for ninth in walks (21), and tied for tenth in triples (3).


Roberto De La Cruz

Roberto De La Cruz (.290) is second in the league in slugging (.593), tied for second in home runs (11), fifth in total bases (86), and sixth in OPS (.929). 


Gary Apelian (.324) was 9-for-26 (.346) with four doubles, five runs, two walks, and three RBIs over six games this week.  Apelian is first in the league in doubles (16) and eighth in batting average (.324). 


Ronald Castillo (.241) is tied for fifth in the league in triples (4).


David Washington (.236) is tied for tenth in the league in triples (3). 


Matt Williams

Matt Williams (.273) is fourth in the league in runs (35), tied for sixth instolen bases (13), and tied for seventh in walks (22). 


Who's Not Hot (Hitters)


C/DH Kolby Byrd (.221) was 0-for-14 (.000) with four strikeouts over three games this week. 


CF Steven Ramos (.297) was 3-for-27 (.111) with eleven strikeouts over six games this week.  Ramos is second in the league in runs (40), tied for third in at bats (175), fourth in stolen bases (17), and tied for fifth in hits (52). 


Jesus Montero

C Jesus Montero (.217) was 1-for-7 (.143) four strikeouts over two games this week. 


RF Anthony Garcia (.317) was 4-for-24 (.167) over six games this week.  Garcia is tied for fifth in the league in in triples (4), tied for sixth in doubles (12), eighth in OBP (.401), and eighth in OPS (.925). 


Who's Hot (Pitchers)


Three pitchers either allowed no earned runs this week or had a WHIP of 1 or less over at least three innings pitched.


Ben Freeman

Ben Freeman (3-2, 5.08 ERA, 1.51 WHIP, 3.74 BB/9, 7.75 K/9) was 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA, a 1.20 WHIP, and a 10.8 K/9 over five innings pitched this week.  This, of course, was just one week after making the "Who's Not Hot" list for pitchers. 


Eduardo Hiraldo (1-2, 3.82 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 3.31 BB/9, 6.4 K/9) was 0-1 with a 0.00 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, and 9.66 K/9 over four and two thirds innings pitched this week.


Ryan Sherriff (2-1, 3.94 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 1.82 BB/9, 6.1 K/9) is the only pitcher on the staff to have not thrown a wild pitch or hit a batter (29 and two thirds innings pitched). 


Logan Billbrough

Logan Billbrough (3-0, 3 SV, 1.66 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 1.66 BB/9, 11.6 K/9) was 1-0 with a save, a 0.00 ERA, a 1.00 WHIP, and a 15.75 K/9 over four innings pitched and three games this week.  Billbrough has allowed no home runs over 21 and two thirds innings pitched this year.


Who's Not Hot (Pitchers)


Two pitchers posted ERAs of 6.75 or greater over three or more innings pitched this week.  Kyle Hald (6.75 ERA) recorded his first save over eight innings pitched and Josh Lucas (7.20 ERA) gave up two home runs over five innings pitched. 


Dyllon Nuernberg (2-2, 7.23 ERA, 1.82 WHIP, 5.8 BB/9, 10.1 K/9) was 0-1 with a 47.0 ERA over one and one third innings pitched this week. 


Matt Rein

Matt Rein (1-0, 2.70 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 4.50 BB/9, 11.7 K/9) recorded his second blown save, a 5.39 ERA, and a 2.40 WHIP, over one and two thirds innings pitched this week. 


Week Eight Schedule


Game 46 (Sun):     Hiraldo vs. Bluefield Blue Jays

Game 47 (Mon):     Pasen vs. Bluefield Blue Jays

Game 48 (Tue):     Freeman vs. Bristol White Sox

Game 49 (Wed):     Jenkins vs. Bristol White Sox

Game 50 (Thu):     Lucas vs. Bristol White Sox

Game 51 (Fri):       Hald/Sherriff @ Elizabethton Twins

Game 52 (Sat):      Hiraldo @ Elizabethton Twins



Follow Shawn Kerrick on Twitter.

© 2011 The Cardinal Nation - and All rights reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten, broadcast or redistributed.

The Cardinal Nation Top Stories