Despite missing out on key prospects Kolten Wong, Oscar Taveras and Trevor Rosenthal to Double-A Springfield, the Beach Birds were ready to kickoff the 2012 season with an eight of nine-game homestand against the Jupiter Hammerheads (Marlins), Bradenton Marauders (Pirates) and St. Lucie Mets.
With highly-touted Carlos Martinez still in the fold, the Cardinals look primed for Southern Division contention, and they went 4-3 in the first week. With a win on Thursday night, the Beach Birds are now one game back of the first-place Mets.
Friday, April 7th: Jupiter 7 at Palm Beach 3
The Cardinals could not capitalize on a strong pitching performance by Seth Maness, who tossed seven innings of one-run ball, as they fell in extra innings to the Hammerheads, 7-3. The right-hander from Pinehurst, NC looked great, as he stifled the Jupiter bats for seven innings. His lone earned run came on a seventh inning homerun by Marcell Ozuna.
Offensively, the Cardinals threatened all night, but could not get a big hit as they left 10 runners on base. Starlin Rodriguez led the offensive charge, going 2-for-4 with a run and an RBI.
Saturday, April 8th: Jupiter 2-2, Palm Beach 4-0
The final two games of the three-game set between the Hammerheads and Cardinals offered a first for their shared home stadium, as it was the first day-night doubleheader in Roger Dean Stadium history.
Carlos Martinez, regarded as the organization No. 2 prospect by many pundits, took the ball for the Cardinals in the first game. After being spotted three runs in the first three frames, the right-hander struggled in the third and the fourth, as he was lifted for reliever Zack Russell. Russell, a former starter in Quad Cities, welcomed the role, as he went three spotless innings for the victory.
In the nightcap, the offense went to bed early, as they were shut out 2-0. Offensively, the Cardinals tallied four singles and two walks. Their lone threat came in the eighth when Starlin Rodriguez hit a bullet to left field with two men on, only to see the left fielder make a sliding inning-ending catch. Richard Castillo was the tough-luck loser, as he went 5 2/3 innings, allowing one run on one hit, while striking out five.
Monday, April 9th: Palm Beach 2, Bradenton 1
The Cardinals were faced with the tough task of facing the 2011 No. 1 overall draft pick Gerrit Cole on Monday night. With scouts pouring over the stands, Palm Beach left them with something to remember, as Nick Longmire blasted a walk-off home run against reliever Jhonathan Ramos to win the game. For Longmire, it was his first home run of the season, breaking a 0-for-10 spell.
Tuesday, April 10th: Bradenton 6 at Palm Beach 2
The Cardinals got to work early, as they scored two run in the first inning, however that was all they would tally, as Hunter Strickland stifled the Cardinals bats in five innings of work. Down by two runs in the eighth inning, the Cardinals had a chance to make it a game, but Jonathan Rodriguez lined out with the bases loaded. The Cardinals were once again led by Starlin Rodriguez, who had two of the seven Beach Bird hits.
Wednesday, April 11th: Palm Beach 10, Bradenton 4
If facing the No. 1 overall draft pick of 2011 draft was not enough, the Cardinals had to go up against MLB pitcher A.J. Burnett in the rubber match of the three-game set against Bradenton. However, the Cardinals were up for the task, as they pounded the right-hander for eight runs (five earned) on five hits on 1 2/3 innings.
Alan Ahmady did most of the damage, as he doubled twice in the second inning. His two doubles led the team. While the offense was flexing its muscle, Seth Maness was mowing down the Bradenton bats. The right-hander hurled seven shutout innings, allowing five and striking out four.
Thursday, April 12th: Palm Beach 3, St. Lucie Mets 1
The Cardinals faced off against the South Division Champions of 2011, and welcomed them with a 3-1 victory. After a leadoff home run by St. Lucie's Daniel Muno, the pitching staff went on to throw nine shutout innings.
Packy Elkins delivered the big blow in the sixth, as he doubled off reliever John Church to put the Beach Birds on top for good. Alan Ahmady continued his hot hitting, as he went 3-for-4, while Elkins added two more hits. For Richard Castillo, it was his first victory of the season. He has gone 11 2/3 innings in total, allowing just two earned runs on six hits.
In Safe Hands with Maness
Despite only making seven starts in 2011, Seth Maness has taken Palm Beach by storm. In two starts, the right-hander has given up a total of one run in 14 innings. His speedy delivery has stifled hitters for the tune of 11 hits, while collecting eight strikeouts.
Fleet Footed Beach Birds
The Cardinals have been a nuisance on the base paths, as they have stolen 6-of-7 bases. Starlin Rodriguez leads the way with two in two tries. Last season, the Cardinals tallied 93 bags in 138 games.
After a rough first outing in which Dean Kiekhefer gave up one run on three hits, the left-hander has been untouchable in his last two appearances. In his last five innings, Kiekhefer has given up one hit, while striking out four.
Hits in Bunches, Swing and Misses
The Palm Beach bats have started to come around of late, but they had been swinging and missing at the plate frequently. Through Thursday night, the Cardinals have a total of 53 strikeouts in 245 plate appearances. Outfielder Nick Longmire leads the way, having been punched out 10 times against no walks in 23 plate appearances.
4/9: C Luis De La Cruz moved to Triple-A Memphis
4/9: C Casey Rasmus added from Extended Spring Training
4/12: P Seth Blair placed on the disabled list, backdated to 4/10
4/12: P Logan Billbrough added from Quad Cities
On the Horizon
After the Beach Birds finish the series with St. Lucie on Saturday night, they will hit the road to face the Bradenton Marauders for a three-game set. Once through in Bradenton, the Cardinals will square-off against the Mets at Digital Domain Park in Port St. Lucie.
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