Springfield Cardinals Notebook: 2012 Week 3

Hawaiian second baseman Kolten Wong works to manufacture runs with a .431 OBP, four stolen bases and 14 runs scored as Springfield slides below .500 at 8-11 with a 2-5 record in week 3.

Last Thursday, the Springfield Cardinals returned to action at home for a four-game set against the first place Tulsa Drillers for their first match up of the 2012 season. There was plenty of excitement as the Springfield World Series celebration weekend began. Fans lined up outside the gates of Hammons Field for up to eight hours to receive the World Series replica ring gate giveaway. Nearly 7,000 fans showed up to take their chance at getting one of the 2,000 rings that were given out in less than 10 minutes after gates opened.

The rest of the weekend should have offered some level of inspiration for the young players as the 2011 World Series trophy hoisted by Springfield GM Matt Gifford made its first appearance in the eighth inning of Thursday night's game. The next three days, the trophy was on display at Hammons Field for fans to see and get their picture taken with. Even a few of the Springfield players made their way in the facility to get their picture with the prized jewel.

Thursday, April 19th, Springfield 6, Tulsa 0
Luckily for the fans of Springfield, the home stand got off to a great start as Springfield sent Missouri native Trevor Rosenthal to the mound against Tulsa's Dan Houston. Rosenthal stifled Tulsa's offense with his first really solid performance of the season. Rosenthal held the Drillers to no runs and only three hits while striking out six in six innings pitched. Reliever Eric Fornataro added two additional scoreless innings and struck out three batters and Justin Wright closed the game with a scoreless ninth.

Springfield's offense gave Rosenthal plenty of support, scoring six runs on 12 hits. Jose Garcia provided a spark in the leadoff spot going 3-for-5 with two doubles and an RBI. Greg Garcia got in on the action with his first home run of the season with one runner on in the fourth inning. Oscar Taveras, coming off an offensive surge on the recent road trip continued that momentum, going 3-for-4. Xavier Scruggs and Jake Shaffer each also added RBIs for the Cardinals.

Friday, April 20th, Springfield 3, Tulsa 1
Friday turned cold at Hammons Field with game time temperatures in the 40s and it cooled the offense for both the Cardinals and Drillers. Springfield sent Michael Blazek to the mound who has had difficulty staying consistent this season. Blazek offered a scoreless outing allowing just two hits in four innings pitched. Jesse Simpson, however, picked up the win after throwing a scoreless fifth and sixth inning. Keith Butler and Jorge Rondon added scoreless innings in relief.

On the other side of the tally, the Cardinals managed three runs on eight hits. Most of the offense was provided by Taveras. The 19 year-old, five-tool outfielder went 2-for-4 with a home run and two RBI. Jose Gacia and Jake Shaffer each added doubles and fan-friendly Adam Melker pounded a triple for the Cardinals' other extra base hits. Catcher Audry Perez added hit first RBI of the season.

Saturday, April 21st, Tulsa 3 at Springfield 2
On Saturday afternoon, the Cardinals sported 1927 St. Louis Cardinals throwback jerseys benefitting Champion Committed to Kids as hurler Tyler Lyons took the mound against the Drillers' Nick Schmidt. Lyons gave the Cardinals his strongest outing so far this season going six strong innings and allowing no runs on four hits and striking out six. Unfortunately, the brilliant performance from Lyons was spoiled in the seventh as Kevin Thomas gave up two runs to tie the game.

The Cardinals' offense was stifled by Drillers pitching other than slugger Xaxier Scruggs who went 2-for-2 with two solo home runs. Jake Shaffer was also 2-for-2. Unfortunately, the offense lacked significant productivity from the top of the lineup as Jose Garcia, Kolten Wong, and Taveras all want 0-for-4 on the day.

Sunday, April 22, Tulsa 6 at Springfield 5
Earth Day did not bring warm spring temperature and was instead another cold afternoon game in Springfield as the Cardinals closed their homestand with a chance to tie Tulsa for the division lead after being down three games to enter the series.

Scott Gorgen took the mound for the Cardinals and was solid through five innings as he held Tulsa to no runs on four hits. Unfortunately, Gorgen was left in for a few too many pitches as he loaded the bases and with one out in the sixth inning, then gave up a grand slam home run to Tulsa's Angelys Nina, who also doubled in the game. Kevin Thomas pitched the remainder of the sixth and yielded another run to tie the game at five. With the game tied, Jesse Simpson pitched one scoreless inning in relief before lefty Sam Freeman took over and allowed the go-ahead run in the ninth.

Springfield managed five runs on 12 hits but had the opportunity to score more as the team went only 2-for-14 with runners in scoring position. Wong and Taveras led the charge with Wong going 3-for-5 with two doubles and Taveras adding a two-RBI double. Newly called up outfielder Kyle Conley went 2-for-4 with a double in his first appearance in a Springfield uniform. The shortstop position provided some pop as Greg Garcia went 2-for-3 before being replaced by Jose Garcia who went 1-for-2 with an RBI.

Monday, April 23, NW Arkansas 5, Springfield 0
On Monday, the Cardinals left for a long eight-game road trip starting with a visit to the Northwest Arkansas Naturals. The series started with promise as ace John Gast was on the mound facing Jake Odorizzi of the Naturals. Gast gave the Cards a strong outing yet again, yielding two runs on eight hits and striking out five in six innings pitched. Justin Wright threw a scoreless inning in relief for the Cardinals and Keith Butler was roughed up for really the first time this season, giving up three runs on four hits in two innings of relief.

Unfortunately for the Cardinals, Odorizzi bested Gast's performance and the Cardinals were shut out with only four hits. Two came from Taveras and Perez who each doubled. However, Springfield could not put a run across, going 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position.

Tuesday, April 24, NW Arkansas 7, Springfield 6 (13 innings)
Tuesday ended up as Springfield's first marathon game of the season. Trevor Rosenthal, who has been increasingly better in his outings, started for the Cardinals. Rosenthal gave a short but solid outing as he went 5 1/3 innings allowing one earned run and striking out six. Unfortunately, Springfield's defense was less than stellar behind Rosenthal who also allowed an unearned run stemming from one of five errors by the Springfield defense.

The bullpen was forced to eat eight innings of work as the Cards relinquished a 4-0 lead to tie the game at six before Sam Freeman gave up the winning run in the walk-off loss on the same night the parent St. Louis Cardinals suffered their second consecutive walk-off loss to the Chicago Cubs.

Springfield jumped out to an early lead, scoring three runs in the first. Two innings later, Wong clubbed his second home run, giving him his ninth RBI on the season. Wong also added two stolen bases for a team-leading four on the season. Hot-hitting Jake Shaffer also went 4-for-5 and added his sixth RBI of the season. Kyle Conley collected his first RBI and power hitter Xavier Scruggs contributed an RBI double.

Wednesday, April 25, NW Arkansas 10, Springfield 6
Less than 12 hours after their 13-inning marathon, Springfield and Northwest Arkansas were back at it with an 11:05 a.m. start at Arvest Ballpark. Blazek took the hill again for the Cardinals and must have suffered from the late contest went the night before as he was not sharp. He allowed two runs in the first inning and seven more in the fourth. Justin Wright allowed an additional run in relief as the Cards attempted to chase down the Nats and Keith Butler threw two scoreless innings to close out the game.

Springfield's offense tried its best to come back but was unable to mount the momentum to make it all the way. Still the Cards gave a valiant effort, managing six runs on ten hits. Taveras gave the Cardinals the lead again in the third with a two-run home run, his fourth of the season. The game was Conley's coming out party as he went 2-for-3 with two solo home runs. Shaffer also continued his hot hitting, going 3-for-5 with a double and two RBI.

Who's Hot

Oscar Taveras - The teenager is continuing to find his stroke as he is now hitting .312 with a team-leading four home runs and 18 RBI. Taveras has easily been the most consistent piece of Springfield's offense over the last two weeks.

John Gast - It's rare for someone to stay hot three weeks in a row but when a pitcher is throwing so well, there is no reason to take him off this list. Gast could have easily been 4-0 with a little luck and help from his offense. After four starts, Gast now sports a 1.71 ERA with 25 strikeouts.

Jake Shaffer – The outfielder's bat heated up this week as he went a whopping 12-for-21 with two doubles and four RBI, raising his season average to .333.

Who's Not

Xavier Scruggs - While Scruggs does have three home runs and six RBI, the first baseman is still batting only .194 with 24 strikeouts.

Niko Vasquez - The starting third baseman has just four hits and 14 strikeouts in 35 at-bats.

Michael Blazek - The struggling starter owns a 11.02 ERA via 20 runs allowed on 23 hits in 16 1/3 innings pitched through four starts.


Outfielder Tommy Pham landed on the DL on Friday with a right shoulder injury and is expected to miss up to a month. If early projections are correct, Pham may not return to action until early June.


In the absence of Pham from the active roster, outfielder Kyle Conley was sent from Palm Beach to join the Double-A Cardinals over the weekend. Conley hit 5-for-18 with two home runs and three RBI in his first five games with Springfield.

Division Standings

Texas League North W L PCT GB Home Away L 10 Streak
Tulsa Drillers (COL) 13 6 .684 - 7-2 6-4 7-3 L1
Arkansas Travelers (LAA) 9 10 .474 4.0 6-4 3-6 6-4 W1
NW Arkansas Naturals (KC) 8 11 .421 5.0 6-3 2-8 5-5 W3
Springfield Cardinals (STL) 8 11 .421 5.0 5-5 3-6 4-6 L5

The Cardinal Nation Top 40 Prospect Watch

#3 Oscar Taveras - Taveras is really settling in at this level and his comfort shows as he is hitting .312 while sluggling .610 with four home runs and 18 RBI. His 18 RBI is double that of Wong, who is second on the team with nine.

#4 Kolten Wong - The Hawaiian continues to show why the Cardinals made him their first round pick in 2011. While hitting for the highest average and on-base percentage on the team at .339 and .431 respectively, Wong has nine extra base hits and four stolen bases to go along with 14 runs scored.

#12 Trevor Rosenthal – The Missouri native is beginning to find some consistency as he has lowered his ERA to 3.54 with 20 strikeouts in 20 1/3 innings pitched.

#21 John Gast – As stated earlier, Gast could easily be 4-0 with any help from his offense or bullpen. As it stands, the Florida State product now holds a 3-1 record with a 1.71 ERA, 25 strikeouts and .198 opponent batting average through his first four starts.

#23 Tommy Pham – Pham, who was struggling mightily through the first two weeks, landed on the DL over the weekend with a right shoulder injury and is expected to miss up to a month.

#30 Raniel Rosario – The outfielder who was off to a hot start has cooled off a bit as his average dipped to .250 over the last week.

#34 Sam Freeman - Although he ran into a few tough losses in late innings for the Cardinals this week, the lefty has still been the most consistent piece for the bullpen with a 1.50 ERA in 12 innings of work over nine appearances.

#38 Keith Butler – The young hurler was roughed up for the first time this season giving up three runs in one inning of work. Still, Butler holds a 3.60 ERA in 10 innings of work over eight games for the Double-A Birds.

What's Next

On Thursday, the Cardinals finish their four-game set with the Naturals at Arvest Ballpark as they attempt to avoid the series sweep. Springfield will then head for Tulsa for four games. We'll see if the Cards can battle their way back into the first-half division race after playing themselves out with a 2-5 record on the week. After the four-game set with Tulsa, Springfield will return to Springfield for an eight-game homestand as the two Arkansas teams from the Texas League head north to visit Springfield.

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