Gulf Coast League Cardinals Notebook: Week 6

More scouting reports plus all the news from the back fields of Jupiter, Florida about the St. Louis Cardinals' Gulf Coast League club. Juan Caballero, Norge Paredes and Johnny Polanco are among this week's featured players.

Comings and goings

RHP Michael Wacha was promoted, but walked to his new assignment with the Palm Beach Cardinals.

RHP Roberto Canache was reassigned to Johnson City.

RHP Hansel de los Santos underwent successful surgery on the upper cheekbone that was fractured when he was injured in a fluke accident. There is no timetable yet for when he can return to the mound, but de los Santos said he is feeling better.

Heyer
RHP Kurt Heyer, the Cardinals' sixth-round pick in the June draft, joined the team, but there was no word on when he might appear in a game. A natural lefty who pitches right-handed, Heyer threw 153 innings this spring while leading the University of Arizona to the College World Series championship. Among his performances was a Super Regional win for the Wildcats over St. Johns in which he allowed 17 hits in 9-1/3 innings.

Weekly Recap

Swept by the Astros in a Tuesday doubleheader in Kissimmee after Monday's scheduled game in Jupiter was postponed by rain, the Cardinals paid it forward to the Nationals before splitting a pair of one-run games with the Marlins.

The Cardinals (24-12) hold a 5-1/2-game lead over the second-place Astros in the GCL East Division. Befitting a 3-3 week, the Cardinals and their opponents each scored 22 runs, though the opponents had the slightest of edge in hits, 44-43. The Cardinals, however, made nine errors to five by their opponents.Though only two unearned runs resulted from all those errors, both played important roles.

The only similarity between the two Marlins games was one run decided each.

On Friday, after rehabbing RHP Seth Blair tossed two hitless innings, the Marlins jumped on another rehabber, RHP Boone Whiting, for four consecutive hits, culminating with a two-run home run. Whiting walked the next batter, but then gathered himself to strike out the next three. The Cardinals got one run back in the fourth on Rowan Wick's RBI ground out after singles by Adam Ehrlich and Ronnierd Garcia.

Though at game time the wind was uncharacteristically blowing in, by the fifth inning the wind had shifted and intensified some, so it was blowing out.

The Marlins added four more runs in the fifth, most of them off Javier Machuca, who like Whiting had family members watching from the small grandstands.

In the bottom of the fifth, though, the Cardinals sent 12 batters to the plate and scored eight runs to take a 9-8 lead. Brett Wiley started the inning with a walk and then scored on Luis Perez's home run. Jem Argenal doubled down the right-field line, then David Popkins also walked. After the Marlins changed pitchers, Ehrlich singled to right to load the bases. Garcia drove in a run with a ground out before a walk to Wick reloaded the bases. Corderious Dodd was hit by a 3-2 pitch to force in the fourth run of the inning. Yoenny Gonzalez singled, moving everyone up a base. After another pitching change, Wiley hit a grounder that scored Wick. Then Perez's second hit of the inning, a single to left, drove home the tying and go-ahead runs.

Cardinals manager Steve Turco tightened the outfield defense to help protect the one-run lead, but it was infield defense that cost Cole Brand a blown save despite not allowing a hit. After the Marlins' leadoff hitter flied out to center, the next batter reached base when Argenal dropped a popup on his glove side behind first base. Wiley, normally a sure-handed shortstop, then dropped a pop on the outfield grass about 15 feet behind the infield skin. The next batter hit a liner right back at Brand, who caught it and looked toward second before seeing he had a better chance to double the runner off first. But Brand's throw was wide and went out of play because the fence on the first-base side of the field does not extend past the visitors' bench. Both runners were awarded two bases on the overthrow, tying the game at 9-all going to the bottom of the eighth.

Argenal redeemed himself for his error with a leadoff double into the right-field corner. After Jhohan Acevedo, one of the Cardinals' hottest hitters of late, fanned, Turco sent up Amaury Capellan to pinch-hit against the Marlins' lefty reliever for lefty-swinging Ehrlich, who had hits in his previous three at-bats. The move worked because Capellan's "excuse-me" swing on a high changeup looped into short centerfield, allowing Argenal to score the go-ahead run.

Chris Thomas closed out the game with a 1-2-3 ninth for his third save.

The Cardinals' late-inning relievers have been nothing short of outstanding this season. Anderson Gerdel has not allowed an earned run in 10 appearances, and Brand, Thomas, Josh Renfro and Norge Paredes all have ERAs under 0.75. The five relievers, who have all of the team's league-leading 15 saves, have pitched a total of 70 innings thus far, allowing four earned runs (0.51 ERA), 43 hits and 5 walks (0.69 WHIP) while striking out 63.

On Saturday on the Marlins field, where the wind typically blows in, there were no home runs or big innings. In fact, each team managed only five hits, and the lone run scored on a sacrifice fly after a throwing error on a pickoff attempt sent the leadoff batter, who had singled, all the way to third.

A Closer Look at …

By the end of the GCL season, we will have at least one report on every player who appears on the GCL Cardinals roster. This week, we look at three players who are new to the GCL Cardinals this season. These assessments are based on interviews with Cardinals pitching coach Tim Leveque.

Juan Caballero: The 6-foot-4, 175-pound right-hander from Puerto Rico was signed this year out of Universidad de Turabo as a non-drafted free agent, though Puerto Rican players are eligible for the draft. Caballero won't turn 20 until Aug. 20, so there is "still room to fill out with his body," Leveque said. Caballero's 88-89 mph fastball "has life to it when it's in the zone and down." His slider is "inconsistent, but average on his good days," Leveque said. Caballero isn't quite the strike-thrower like others among his bullpen mates, but it's mostly a matter of inconsistency. Six of his seven walks have come in two of his 10 appearances, and only two of the 12 hits he has allowed have come in his last five outings.

Norge Paredes: A 21-year-old Dominican, Paredes was signed last year so his professional experience is still limited. The 6-foot-3, 171-pound right-hander throws from a high three-quarters angle. His fastball tops out at 91, but "his best attribute is a short, natural cut on his fastball that generates a lot of swings and misses, or missed barrels," Leveque said. Paredes' curveball is average at best at this point, "but he's not afraid to throw it." As a reliever, Paredes can get by without a changeup, which he is still developing. He's been effective, allowing only 8 hits and 5 walks while fanning 17 in 15-2/3 innings

Johnny Polanco: The 20-year-old Nicaraguan began the season in the bullpen, but has now made three consecutive starts to get him more innings, Leveque said. Polanco's statistics (2.00 ERA, 16 hits and 5 walks to 21 strikeouts in 18 IP) belie his 0-2 record. Apparently, he is still adapting to starting, because his numbers as a reliever were much better (0.73 ERA, 8 hits and 1 walks to 17 strikeouts in 12-1/3 IP). The 6-foot-3, 191-pound right-hander has a live arm with a fastball that touches 94, but needs to improve command of his fastball and develop more consistent spin on his curveball, Leveque said. Still, Polanco has been "a pleasant surprise," Leveque said, because he has showed "better stuff here than he did in extended (spring training)." He also is working to improve his "cambio" (changeup) as he becomes more familiar with the pitch and when to use it.



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