It was a typical week for the Gulf Coast League Cardinals (19-25) of late. They split two-game series with the Mets and Marlins, but lost both games to the Nationals, who have now clinched the East Division title on the strength of winning 27 of their last 29 games, including 14 in a row.
Though the Cardinals were shut out in three of their six games this week, they were outscored only 21-17 and they outhit their opponents 46-44.
The highlight of the week was Anthony Ray going 4-for-6 with a walk in the doubleheader Thursday against the Mets. Ray raised his average from .138 to .174 with a 4-for-12 week, and also cut down on strikeouts. He had been fanning in 34 percent of his at-bats, but struck out three times in 12 at-bats this week. Cardinals manager Steve Turco said Ray has been his most improved player from the start of this season, though he still has a long way to go.
Comings and Goings
The team's two most reliable relief pitchers - LHP Ismael Brito, who had three wins in relief, and RHP Kyle Grana, who had four of the team's seven saves - were promoted to Johnson City. LHP Dylan Hawkins, who is from Melbourne, Fla., about 100 miles up the Florida coast from Jupiter, went home to recuperate from a flu-like illness. RHP Sam Gaviglio was sent over from Palm Beach on a rehab assignment and will start Monday. 2B Malik Collymore is leaving August 13 to play for Team Canada.
Hot and Not
SS Leobaldo Pina was 5-for-17, 1B Jake Stone was 4-for-10, C Luis Cruz was 3-for-10, C Jose Gomez was 3-for-5, OF Carlos Torres was 5-for-16 and 2B Malik Collymore was 3-for-11. … RHP Ian McKinney allowed only one hit and one walk in four scoreless innings of a start against the Nationals. RHP Steven Farinaro almost matched McKinney's performance in his start against the Mets, allowing no runs on four hits and no walks while fanning three. … C Elier Rodriguez was 0-for-13, OF DeAndre Asbury was 1-for-13.
A Closer Look At
This week's capsule scouting reports are on three pitchers the Cardinals signed as free agents from three different Latin American countries. They are based on interviews with GCL Cardinals manager Steve Turco.
With a 90-94 mph fastball, a "solid-average curve" and an improving changeup, Perez has been improving as the season goes along. A better changeup should make Perez more effective against right-handed batters, but his biggest issue is commanding his fastball, "which has a heavy sink when he's commanding it," Turco said. Perez has a tendency to miss "arm-side high," which would indicate an inconsistent release point, "but not many good swings are taken against this guy."
Despite taking losses in both appearances this week, Perez pitched well both times, allowing one earned run on seven hits and three walks in seven innings.
Juan Perez: Only a few weeks past his 18th birthday, the 6-foot-2, 195-pound right-hander from Venezuela had his best outing of the season Friday, allowing the Marlins only one hit and no walks in four scoreless innings. In his previous start, also against the Marlins, Perez gave up no hits in four innings but walked seven.
Turco marveled at Perez's improvement in the more recent start, in which he fanned six batters, but still needed only 45 pitches, 37 of them strikes, to complete four innings. "He had a problem throwing strikes that seemed more mental than mechanical, but he's back on track," Turco said.
Perez features a 92-97 mph fastball, an above-average curveball and a more than serviceable changeup, Turco said. "He pitched the way we hoped he would at the start of the season," Turco said. "He's one of the top prospects in this league."
In his nine GCL appearances, the right-handed Salazar has been much more effective against left-handed hitters, against whom he has a 1.33 WHIP compared with a 1.58 vs. right-handed hitters.
"He has a lot of confidence and a good plane to his fastball (90-92 mph)," Turco said. Salazar also possesses a good changeup and a slurvy breaking pitch that needs the most improvement. Salazar "needs to learn it's a game of failure and it's how you handle the failure that helps breed success," Turco said.
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