Unlike a year ago, the A-Advanced Cardinals' Opening Day roster listed a talent-laden squad. 2012 first-round outfielders James Ramsey and Stephen Piscotty began the season by donning Palm Beach threads, as did second baseman Colin Walsh and left-handed pitcher Tim Cooney. With a roster filled with impressive talent, the Cardinals got off to a hot start, winning seven of their first ten games.
However, their great opening was overshadowed by the Fort Myers Miracle, as their neighbors to the West opened the season 12-0. The hot start by the Miracle didn't stop Ramsey from being named the FSL Player of the Week for his performance in the first week and half of baseball. In his second season against FSL competition, the left-handed hitting Ramsey went 15-for-36 with four doubles, three triples, one homer and four RBI during the period of April 4-14, winning his first Player of the Week honors.
His stay with Palm Beach did not last though, as the outfielder was promoted to Double-A Springfield on May 5th after hitting .361 (22-for-61) with 17 runs, five doubles, two triples, one homer and seven RBI. With Ramsey off the roster, the Cardinals began to sputter in the month of May, going 8-19 during the period and dropping their overall record to 21-31 at the end of the month.
While the Cardinals were struggling to score runs, Jonathan Rodriguez and Piscotty had to pick up the slack offensively. Rodriguez had a stellar month of May, hitting .329 (27-for-82) with nine doubles, one home run, 10 home runs and nine stolen bases, while the former Stanford Cardinal Piscotty led the team in homers (2) and finished second in runs scored (9) and RBI (9) during the month.
Both players made the FSL All-Star team along with closer Ronnie Shaban, but it did not show up in the standings. The Cardinals finished the first half 29-39, 16 ½ games behind Fort Myers.
The second half of the season offered renewed optimism, though. Despite losing Piscotty to Double-A Springfield, the Cardinals roster was given an instant jolt when the club received 2010 first-rounder Tyrell Jenkins from Peoria and former Beach Birds stars Starlin Rodriguez and Ryan Sherriff back from Springfield. The talent on the roster did not immediately translate into victories, though, as the Cardinals started the second half 2-5.
With the Cardinals reeling early in the second half and Jenkins done for the season due to injury after just three starts, they needed a spark from an outside source.
Once considered a non-prospect, undrafted free agent Zach Petrick was brought in from Peoria's bullpen. Not concerned with outside perception, Petrick made the best of his opportunity, helping the Cardinals win 12 of their next 17 games. In his four second-half starts after being placed in the starting rotation, Petrick went 3-0 with a 0.39 ERA in 23.1 innings, leading the staff.
Only July 14, the right-hander was promoted again, this time to Springfield. Petrick left the Cardinals with a 1.5 game lead on the St. Lucie Mets and Charlotte Stone Crabs. The Cardinals were not able to sustain their great play, though, dropping eight of nine games from July 22 through July 30.
In need of another arm to take over as their ace, the Cardinals found him in Joey Cuda. The right-hander took the reigns and helped Palm Beach reel off a season-high eight straight wins. That brought them to within one game of .500 as the took over first place in the South Division from July 31 through August 8. In seven starts, Cuda went 4-0 with a 1.40 ERA in 38 2/3 innings on the mound.
However, the Cards' lead did not last as the Stone Crabs won 10 of their next 13 games to take a commanding lead in the standings. The Cardinals battled into the last week of the season for the second playoff berth, but came up short, dropping three of four to the Stone Crabs.
Palm Beach ended the season 64-71, fifth overall in the South Division, a half-game improvement over the club's 64-72 mark in 2012. While injuries played a big part in last year's poor result, this season the Cardinals were depleted by the constant promotions of their players.
Even so, the 2013 Cardinals finished sixth in the 12-team league in hitting (.254) and fourth in pitching (3.59 ERA). Rodriguez paced the offense, smacking 18 home runs, driving in 72 and stealing 21 bases. David Popkins batted .317, second in the league. Kurt Heyer led the staff with six wins. The Cards had the most saves in the FSL with 39, 18 of which Shaban converted.
Overall, the Cardinals dealt with a lot of player movement and made the most of what they had all summer, but it did not translate into a winning season.
Link to master article with all 2013 award winners, team recaps and article schedules for the remainder of this series. Of course, that will include our selections as the Palm Beach Cardinals Reliever, Starting Pitcher and Player of the Year.
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