Gulf Coast League Cards Notebook: 2013 Week 4

All the news from the back fields of Jupiter, Fla. about the St. Louis Cardinals' Gulf Coast League club includes detailed reports on Jake Stone, Chris Rivera and Leobaldo Pina.


The Gulf Coast League Cardinals (9-10) split two games with the Nationals, swept two from the Mets and then lost twice to the Marlins to go 3-3 for the week. One of the games with the Mets was the completion of a tie game suspended in the sixth inning, picked up again Wednesday night at Tradition Field in Port St. Lucie for four outs before rain forced another suspension, then was completed Thursday.

The highlight of the week was the scheduled game Thursday when the Cardinals, trailing 3-2, stunned the struggling Mets with ninth-inning lightning. Elier Rodriguez led off with a single. Pinch-runner Eliezer Alvarez stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error by the Mets catcher. Jake Stone then doubled to tie the game, and pinch-hitter Jose Godoy won it with a single that scored Stone.

For the week, the Cardinals were outscored by their opponents 34-19 and outhit 60-50. They also made 12 errors to their opponents' seven.

The low point of the week was a 12-3 loss to the Nationals on Tuesday in Viera when infielder Jacoby Almaraz, who had started the game at first base, was pressed into service as a pitcher for the last two innings. Manager Steve Turco said he used Almaraz because he had used the three pitchers he planned to use. The manager did not want to burn out the rest of his bullpen in a blow out with what was essentially going to be a doubleheader against the Mets the following night because of the suspended game.

Turco said he had discussed with Almaraz and another position player the possibility of using them to pitch if needed and they had agreed. Though Almaraz gave up a run on three hits, a walk and a hit batter, Turco praised him for throwing strikes and working quickly. He said he used Almaraz's mound appearance as a learning moment for the pitching staff, telling them they didn't have to strike out every batter.

Hot and Not

Including an 0-for-4 on Saturday, C Elier Rodriguez went 9-for-16 and four walks for the week. … OF DeAndre Asbury was 7-for-14. … LHP Ismael Brito earned a win over the Nationals with 3-2/3 innings of scoreless relief, striking out six while allowing three hits, and he added a scoreless inning on Saturday. … RHP Kyle Grana added three more scoreless innings, and now has pitched 9-2/3 innings as a pro without allowing a walk or an earned run. … RHP Dylan Hawkins made two relief appearances totaling 3-2/3 innings, allowing one hit, one walk, five strikeouts and no runs.

INF Jacoby Almaraz is now 1-for-34 with 20 strikeouts. … OF Carlos Torres is 2-for-17. … After a torrid start, 3B Rafael Medina has cooled off, going 3-for-16. …. SS Oscar Mercado was 1-for-14.

A Closer Look At

Jake Stone: The Cardinals' 27th-round pick last month out of Tennessee Wesleyan is hitting .283 in his first 46 at-bats as a pro with nine walks to 10 strikeouts. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound lefty swinger is hitting .303 against right-handed pitchers and almost half of the 22-year-old first baseman's 13 hits are doubles. For now, the line-drive hitter has gap power.

Turco said he was at first skeptical of Stone when he saw him pulling everything from a closed stance in batting practice, "but he is able to stay through the middle and use the opposite field fairly often." Turco said he is pleasantly surprised by the stoutly built Stone's work on defense. The Charlottesville, Va., native is not flashy, but "he has made some nice picks that have saved our infielders from errors."

Chris Rivera: The Cardinals' seventh-round pick last month is an 18-year-old middle infielder from Anaheim, Calif. At 5-foot-11, 150 pounds, Rivera might be more suited for second base than shortstop, the position he played at El Dorado High School, where he also pitched.

Turco said Rivera, who has soft hands and a plus arm, "has taken to second base very well." At the plate, Rivera has 10 hits in his first 39 pro at-bats, though he also has 13 whiffs and only one walk. While power is supposed to be Rivera's short suit, he has hit two of the team's four home runs so far this season. "He hasn't had as much playing time, but he has shown a high baseball IO," Turco said. "When they're out there together (Pina at short and Rivera at second), you feel pretty good about the team up the middle," Turco said.

Leobaldo Pina: The slender Venezuelan shortstop, who recently turned 19, is in his third year of pro ball, but is making his U.S. debut after two seasons in the Dominican Summer League. "He has done an outstanding job at shortstop, very solid defensively with good range," Turco said, noting that Pina has become less reluctant to leave his feet to catch or knock down a ball when the situation calls for it.

On offense, Pina is hitting .283 through the first 60 at-bats this season. "He is not going to take a walk; he is up there swinging and hacking," Turco added. "He is a slasher, but he gets the barrel on the ball frequently." Turco said, "I do think power is going to come for him" as he fills out more than 160 pounds on his 6-foot-2 frame. Pina has good instincts and a high baseball IQ. "He plays the game with some savvy and understands situations, which is refreshing to see in someone that young," Turco said.

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