The Gulf Coast League Cardinals finished the season's first full week losing their third consecutive close game, 7-6 in 10 innings to the Marlins on Saturday morning, to go 2-4 for the week and drop their record this far to 3-5. The Cardinals split their two-game, home-and-away series with the Mets and Nationals, but lost both games with the Marlins.
Saturday's game was a frustrating loss, Manager Steve Turco said, because the team fought back from an early 6-0 deficit to tie the game by the top of the sixth inning, only to lose in the 10th. The replacement of the Astros with the Mets this season in the GCL's East Division, after the Mets took last year off from the league in a money-saving move, is better because the Mets' field in Port St. Lucie is less than an hour's drive compared with the two-hour trip to the Astros' complex in Kissimmee, Turco said.
However, Turco said he liked the 2011 schedule better, when both the Astros and Mets were in the division, because the schedule required every team to rotate a day off every fifth day.
Other than a nine-game winning streak in the first half of last season that gave the Cards a big lead en route to winning their first GCL division title, they were essentially a .500 team. Now that he's seen all three division opponents, Turco said, "I think we fit in comparably with the other teams." "I thought our pitching was going to be our strong suit, and I still think it's going to be," he said, noting that position players in their first year of pro ball tend to take longer to adjust from high school or college because of the transition from metal to wood bats.
Three of the first eight games were started by rehabbers Jordan Swagerty and Logan Billbrough, but going forward, the starting rotation is Juan Perez, Isaac Silva, Hector Salazar, Dewin Perez and Fidencio Flores. Salazar started Saturday, so Dewin Perez is scheduled to start Monday for the Cards against the Mets.
Comings and Goings
CF C.J. McElroy is headed to Peoria after playing in three games on a rehab assignments in the GCL. McElroy, who had a strained ligament in the big toe of his right foot, commonly called turf toe, was 3 for 10 and stole one base in two attempts. … OF Dutch Deol, a 20-year-old Californian who hit .176 in 39 games for Johnson City last season and .089 in 21 games in the GCL in 2011, was released June 28 after getting three singles in 16 at-bats while striking out eight times over his first five games.
A Closer Look At
This week we look at three returning position players, with the primary question to manager Steve Turco being, "What does he have to improve to get promoted?"
Rafael Medina: At age 20 last year, the 6-foot-2, 170-pound Dominican hit .261 with one home run in 36 games last season, but the righty-hitting third baseman is close to dominating GCL pitching in the early going this season.
"He had a great spring training, but struggled in extended spring training, maybe trying to pull the ball too much," Turco said. "Now, he's utilizing more of the field and using a two-strike approach. He now understands what he needs to do and is executing it."
Signed as an 18-year-old, considered late for a Caribbean player, Medina cannot afford to spend much more time in Rookie ball, but if he keeps up this pace, it won't be long before he moves up the Cardinals ladder.
The 6-foot-1, 173-pound right-handed hitter went 2-for-14 with three walks in his first four GCL games this season, but was 7-for-15 in the last three games.
The stepson of GCL Cards hitting coach Jobel Jimenez, Acevedo is an above-average centerfielder with a strong, accurate arm who "gets better reads, better jumps and takes better routes" than the other outfielders," Turco said.
When in center field, Acevedo also adjusts the positioning of his wing outfielders, "so I don't have to worry about the outfield when he is out there," the manager said.
The 6-foot-1, 173-pound right-handed hitter "has been a pleasant surprise," Turco said. "His work ethic and intangibles are off the charts." The skipper said that when coaches adjust Acevedo's positioning for certain hitters, he remembers and doesn't have to be told twice about positioning for that same hitter.
Jacoby Almaraz: Another son of a Cardinals employee, national crosschecker Joe Almaraz, Almaraz has yet to get untracked this season.
The 6-foot-3, 185-pound lefty-hitting first baseman from San Antonio, Texas, is 0-for-14 with eight strikeouts. Perhaps Almaraz is dejected about coming back to the GCL after hitting .246 with two home runs in his first pro season last year. "He overanalyzes everything," Turco said. "He needs to clear his mind and just play the game."
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