The opening of the season couldn't have been set up much better for the loyal fans of Springfield as the Cardinals faced the Frisco RoughRiders, Double-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers, who, as many of you well know, the St. Louis Cardinals defeated in a thrilling World Series this past October.
Cardinals fans had a lot to look forward to as prospects Trevor Rosenthal, Kolten Wong, and Oscar Taveras had each made the jump from Quad Cities over Palm Beach to begin the season with Springfield. The awareness and excitement was largely created not only from the final announcement of the minor league rosters but also that the many of the fans had a chance to preview the team the previous Monday in an exhibition game against St. Louis held at Hammons Field.
Thursday, April 5: Frisco 1 at Springfield 0
Unfortunately, the excitement of the first game itself did not quite live up to the hype. Much like the exhibition game, there was a complete lack of offense as the Cardinals only managed to scrape up a total of four hits and fell 1-0. Scott Gorgen, coming off Tommy John surgery, received the opening day start for the Cardinals and gave up the only run in 2 2/3 innings pitched while striking out six. Kevin Thomas, Eric Fornataro, and Sam Freeman each threw two scoreless innings.
Most of the buzz after the game came from fans talking about the brilliant play made by Wong late in the game as he snagged a ball to his left and regained his footing to throw out the runner at first. Wong also collected his first Double-A hit in the loss to Frisco.
Friday, April 6: Springfield 4, Frisco 1
Friday offered much more excitement for the Cardinals as John Gast was given the nod and was impressive in the win. Gast accounted for seven innings pitched, one earned run, and seven strikeouts. The Cardinals were finally able to get on the board with some offense as Wong stole the show with three RBI on two triples and a single up the middle. Taveras also added some offense with an RBI double.
Wong and Taveras showed impressive power and the ability to drive the ball late in the count as both of Wong's triples landed up against the wall as did Taveras' double.
Saturday, April 7: Frisco 6 at Springfield 1
Saturday brought rain. Rosenthal was forced to wait out a 2 ½ hour delay before finally taking the mound for the Cardinals. Rosenthal was solid in his Double-A debut as he had four strikeouts in four innings with his only mistake being a solo home run to big leaguer Brad Hawpe. The Cardinals, however, again struggled to get runs across the plate as they managed an impressive 12 hits but only one run driven in, plated by Jake Shaffer on a double. Shaffer was 2-for-4 on the day.
Second baseman Wong added another hit to his short but impressive Double-A resume and Taveras looked like he was starting to find his stroke, adding another double though hitting only .167 through his first three Double-A games.
Sunday, April 8: Springfield 13, Midland 5
Easter Sunday finally brought the offensive rain the Cardinals had been looking for as they managed 13 runs on 12 hits in a 13-5 win over the Midland Rockhounds. Taveras erupted for three hits in five at-bats including a home run and three RBI. Seeing his home run swing was a sight of beauty as the teenager turned on a pitch and deposited the ball against the PFI Western sign beyond the right field wall at Hammons Field. Wong was no less impressive as he went 2-for-3 with two RBI, two walks and a stolen base. Xavier Scruggs contributed with a home run and two RBI. Adam Shaffer, Nick Derba, Raniel Rosario, and Jose Garcia each added an RBI.
Michael Blazek made the start for the Cardinals but did not have a strong outing as he was touched for eight hits, five earned runs, and three batters walked in just four innings pitched. Kevin Thomas earned the win for the Cardinals as he added two strong scoreless innings in relief of Blazek. Eric Fornataro, Sam Freeman, and Keith Butler each added a scoreless inning out of the pen.
Monday, April 9: Midland 5 at Springfield 4
On Monday, the Cardinals sent Tyler Lyons to the mound first time since he faced the St. Louis Cardinals in the exhibition the previous Monday. The left-hander looked strong in his outing as he went 4 2/3 innings allowing just one run on four hits. Lyons did, however, yield four walks. Justin Wright, who entered the game in relief of Lyons, was responsible for three earned runs in just 2/3 inning. Jesse Simpson gave up an additional run in 1 2/3 inning and Eric Fornataro and Jorge Rondon each added a scoreless inning.
The Cardinals offensive star of the game was Raniel Rosario who was 2-for-3 with a home run and three RBI. The outfielder's long ball landed just beyond the outstretched glove of Rockhounds' left fielder and former Springfield Cardinal Shane Peterson. Wong attempted to spark the Cardinals in the 9th inning with a monster home run that landed on the Cardinals indoor training facility, known in recent years to be the landing zone for Colby Rasmus and Matt Adams home runs. Unfortunately, the rally fell just short as the Cardinals fell 5-4. The win went to ex-Springfield Cardinal pitcher Gary Daley.
Tuesday, April 10: Springfield 5, Midland 2
The Cardinals wrapped up their three-game series against Midland with a 12:08 p.m. afternoon start on Tuesday. Scott Gorgen made his second start of the young 2012 season and was very impressive, striking out six batters in six innings, allowing only one run on three hits. Keith Butler and Sam Freeman were equally impressive in relief as they continued to hold the Rockhounds to just one earned run.
Offensively, the Cardinals struggled to get going. Rockhounds starting pitcher A.J. Griffin held the Cardinals hitless through the 6th inning. The Cardinals finally got on the board as the struggling Tommy Pham and Jake Shaffer each plated two and centerfielder Adam Melker tacked on a fifth run for the 5-2 Cardinals win.
The Cardinals completed their first home stand with three wins and three losses. In these first six games, the offense has been a bit sporadic but the pitching has been much more consistent, especially in relief, which is new for Springfield in 2012.
John Gast – Of all the starting pitchers during the first rotation, Gast looked the strongest and sharpest. It's only one start and it's also early. Gast allowed only one run while striking out seven and walking one in his first outing.
Kolten Wong – The 2011 first-rounder has been nothing short of impressive his first six Double-A games. The left-handed hitter looks very comfortable at the plate and is hitting a whopping .450. Furthermore, the former Hawaii star perhaps more known for his offense has shown a tremendous glove thus far.
League Standings (through Tuesday)
|Texas League North||W||L||PCT||GB||Home||Away||L10||Stk|
|Tulsa Drillers (COL)||4||2||.667||-||0-0||4-2||4-2||W1|
|Springfield Cardinals (STL)||3||3||.500||1.0||3-3||0-0||3-3||W1|
|Arkansas Travelers (LAA)||2||4||.333||2.0||2-4||0-0||2-4||L1|
|NW Arkansas Naturals (KC)||2||4||.333||2.0||0-0||2-4||2-4||L2|
The Cardinal Nation Top 40 Prospect Watch
#3 Oscar Taveras - You don't necessarily see a lot of 19-year-olds in a Double-A clubhouse. Taveras seems to be handling himself well. He is batting .273 with a home run, four doubles and four RBI through six games. His swing has natural power and I expect to see more extra bases as the left-handed hitter gets more comfortable.
#4 Kolten Wong – So far, the 2011 first-rounder has confirmed that he was ready to skip Palm Beach. He is hitting .450 with a home run, two triples, and six RBI. The power shown is surprising when you look at his size but Wong is a gifted athlete and has already flashed the leather at second base.
#12 Trevor Rosenthal – The 21-year-old's first outing should be noted with an asterisk as a 2 ½ rain delay that likely contributed to some lack of concentration on the part of all the players. However, it was still a solid outing for Rosenthal as he only allowed one run in four innings on a solo home run to big leaguer Brad Hawpe.
#21 John Gast – You couldn't have asked for more from Gast in his first outing, as noted above.
#23 Tommy Pham – The oft-injured outfielder is having a cold start to the season, hitting only .071 and striking out eight times in 15 at-bats.
#30 Raniel Rosario – The new arrival from Palm Beach is having a strong start to his Texas League introduction, hitting .364 with four RBI. Somewhat of an unsung hero, the outfielder has been a quiet leader of Springfield's inconsistent offense.
#38 Keith Butler – The right-hander has been strong in his first three relief appearances, allowing only two hits in 3 2/3 innings and striking out six batters.
The Cardinals take to the road for a three-game set in Frisco starting Thursday followed by a three-game series at Midland. It will be interesting to watch how the new players respond to the long Texas League bus rides and how the team performs on the road.
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