Gulf Coast League Cardinals Notebook: Week 2

All the news from the back fields of Jupiter, Florida about the Cardinals' Gulf Coast League club plus rehab updates on several injured minor leaguers.

Comings and goings
Michael Wacha, a first-round selection by the Cardinals in last month's First-Year Player Draft, threw a side session Friday and will throw a simulated game on Monday under the watchful eye of minor-league pitching coordinator Brent Strom. GCL Cardinals manager Steve Turco said how Wacha does in the simulated game will help the Cardinals brass decide when the right-hander from Texas A&M will make his professional debut.

OF Charlie Tilson, who played briefly for the GCL Cardinals and Johnson City last season after St. Louis drafted him in the second round out of New Trier High School in north suburban Chicago, said Saturday he expects to return to the field for Instructional League in September. The outfielder had dislocated his right, non-throwing shoulder and tore the labrum making a diving catch near the end of spring training. Tilson had surgery to repair the labrum in mid-May.

INF Danny Stienstra, another prospect rehabbing an injury at the Jupiter complex, said he is back in the batting cage after undergoing surgery in late April to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb, possibly suffered while overworking himself in batting practice. Stienstra, the Cardinals' 12th-round pick last year out of San Jose State, said he will see a doctor in two weeks, hoping to receive clearance to resume all baseball activities.

Weekly Recap
The Cardinals won three of their five games this week, including a tense 2-0 victory Saturday over the Marlins, who had won five in a row and would have overtaken the division-leading Cardinals with another win.

Starting pitcher Silfredo Garcia, a right-handed side-armer, stopped the Marlins on Saturday. Garcia struck out 10 without a walk in holding the Marlins to one hit in six innings. He threw 97 pitches, 68 of them strikes. The lone hit off the 20-year-old Venezuelan, a double leading off the sixth inning, was the only ball the Marlins hit out of the infield. In 17-1/3 innings over three starts, Garcia has allowed only eight hits and has struck out 24 without a walk.

The Cardinals' two runs came on a home run by first baseman Jem Argenal. It was the first home run this season by a player on the regular roster. The only other home run was hit by Michael Swinson, who was on a rehab assignment from the Class A-Advanced Palm Beach Cardinals. Swinson hit his dinger on June 23, two days before he was suspended for 50 games for testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance.

Despite collecting only six hits, the Cardinals swept a doubleheader from the Nationals on Thursday by identical 2-1 scores. In the second game of that sweep, Fidencio Flores allowed two hits and no walks while fanning seven to become the first Cardinals starting pitcher to earn a win this season. Flores is a 20-year-old right-hander from Nicaragua.

GCL Cardinals manager Steve Turco said, "The pitching has been outstanding, definitely solid." Hitting has been slower to come around. "As we start to swing the bats, we're going to have a lot more success, especially in close ballgames," he said. "We don't win by more than a run or two when we do win."

Flores and Garcia are among 13 players on the GCL Cardinals roster who played last season in the Dominican Summer League and are getting their first taste of baseball on American soil.

A Closer Look at …
By the end of the season, we will have at least one report on every player who appears in a GCL Cardinals game. This week, we report on three of the players who were with the club last season as well. Most of these analyses are based on interviews with GCL Cardinals manager Steve Turco.

Perez
Luis Perez: The 5-foot-10, 165-pound right-handed swinging Dominican, who turns 21 later this month, has been switched to second base from catcher, though he's also played left field. "He's still a little raw at second," Turco said. "He still hasn't made all the strides we expect him to make."

Among the team's best hitters last season with a .296 average, Perez is off to a slow start at the plate, though a team-leading four of his six hits went for extra bases. "He has good bat speed," Turco said. "The ball jumps off his bat." Though he will take a walk, Perez is an aggressive hitter. Turco said he wants Perez to be more "selectively aggressive." A decent runner, Perez has two steals in two attempts so far.

Kenny Peoples-Walls: The Cardinals' fourth-round pick last year out of Los Angeles, Peoples-Walls will still be 18 when this season ends. The 6-foot-1, 180-pound shortstop was the team's most improved player by the end of last season, in every phase of his game. Turco said he perhaps was "the most improved player I've had in the four years I've been here."

Though Peoples-Walls is hitting .138 through the first two weeks, he's made only one error. "Definitely, he's done a sound job at shortstop," Turco said, adding that he thinks Peoples-Walls is capable of hitting in the upper .200s to .300.

Argenal
Jem Argenal: The lefty-swinging first baseman from Nicaragua leads the team in hits and total bases in the early going this season after being a mainstay of the GCL team's offense last year. "That's what I'm expecting from him, but we're off to a slow start," Turco said, adding that Argenal is probably his "most trusted hitter."

The 5-foot-11, 180-pound Argenal also is only 20 years of age. Turco said Argenal's defense at first base is improving as he becomes more acclimated to the position and gets accustomed to this new mitt, instead of using his outfielder's glove there as he did last season.



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