Springfield Cardinals Notebook: 2014 Week 1

The Double-A Springfield Cardinals began their 10th season with a sluggish 1-5 homestand.

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With spring training camp wrapped up over two weeks ago, the Springfield Cardinals headed north from Florida. They opened their 2014 Texas League regular season schedule with a home-opener against the prospect-heavy San Antonio Missions, affiliated with the San Diego Padres. After a three-game set, the Corpus Christi Hooks arrived for three more. The Cardinals won just one of six.

This year's Springbirds include a number of returnees that include 2013 organizational Pitcher of the Year, right-hander Zach Petrick, who progressed three levels in the matter of one breakout season after a velocity jump. Also back are top outfield prospects James Ramsey and Mike O'Neill, just to name a few.

A few of the additions to the club who project to contribute in a big-way include highly-touted Cuban signee shortstop Aledmys Diaz, who received an eight-million dollar contract, and Patrick Wisdom, who should see every day time at the hot corner given that he is the Cardinals top prospect at the position. Others include right-handed pitcher Sam Gaviglio who is going to be counted as an innings-eater for the rotation and first baseman Jonathan Rodriguez, who will be filling in the shoes of two-year Springfield first baseman Xavier Scruggs.

The 2014 team includes prospects that have flown underneath the radar in a system that has an outrageous amount of depth and talent up and down. On paper, this is a talented enough squad to compete for the top of Texas League North and be a mainstay if consistency comes their way.

Thursday, April 3rd, San Antonio 7 at Springfield 4

Former Arizona pitching star Kurt Heyer received the nod to open the regular season against San Antonio. Heyer was the Cardinals 6th round draft pick in 2012 from the University of Arizona.

In his start, Heyer featured a completely different motion than he used during his college days. He gave up six earned runs (one home run) on eight hits along with seven strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings. However, the Springfield bullpen fared well on opening day via a combined four innings from relievers Anthony Ferrara, Logan Billbrough and Danny Miranda.

Springfield's offense was put to the test early after a long winter, presented with a three-run deficit. Mike O'Neill continued where he left off last season with a three-hit and two-walk performance. While Jonathan Rodriguez produced the runs with two hits that included a double and a home run for a total of three RBI, Matt Williams also helped out with an RBI single. Still, Springfield fell three runs short.

Friday, April 4th, San Antonio 0 at Springfield 1

Springfield redeemed themselves after the loss in the season opener. Undrafted gem Zach Petrick dealt five shutout innings of two-hit ball with only one walk and eight strikeouts - a very impressive start, especially given how early it in is in the season.

The Springfield bullpen was up to the task of keeping the game scoreless with four run-free frames. The relievers included Justin Wright, who stuck out two in his inning, Joe Donofrio, who fanned four in 1 1/3 innings and Dean Kiekhefer, who gave up two hits but got an out. Ronnie Shaban collected the four-out save, his first of what may be many to come in the 2014 season.

Offense on both sides was miniscule as Springfield had only six total hits and one run scored. Rafael Ortega collected the lone RBI.

Saturday, April 5th, San Antonio 6 at Springfield 3

In the rubber-game matchup between San Antonio and Springfield, the Cardinals were looking to get the series win in a cold Saturday night contest that I was able to attend. Seth Blair was the starter in charge of giving the Cardinals a chance for their first series win of the season. Blair really labored throughout this whole start struggling to find any sort of location to his fastball. It appears to have lost steam since I saw him last August. At that point, he could ramp it up into the mid-90s. Maybe he is still building arm strength or the velocity will comes with warmer temperatures.

Blair allowed two earned runs (all on a two-run homer) on five hits with three walks and five strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings. The relief to follow Blair was not much better as Logan Billbrough yielded three earned in a single inning and Danny Miranda added one earned on two hits without retiring a batter. Lefties Ryan Sherriff and Justin Wright did well with scoreless outings.

On a brutally cold night, the Cardinals had their opportunities but did not cash as they went 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position. The team had a total of six hits, including two from Patrick Wisdom, an RBI double from James Ramsey, and an RBI single from Curt Smith.

Sunday, April 6th, Corpus Christi 5, Springfield 3

Ground-ball specialist Sam Gaviglio made his Double-A debut against a good offense in Corpus Christi. Gaviglio looked sharp in the first inning of the game as he worked fast, with a sinker coming in at the knees with a slow but deceptively good off-speed pitch. After that, everything went the other direction as he started to walk batters and just couldn't pinpoint an exact location often enough.

In his Double-A debut, the Cardinals starting hurler gave up four earned on five hits with four walks and three strikeouts in only four innings of work. Anthony Ferrara did his job by keeping the Hooks at bay with three scoreless. Joe Donofrio took over and surrendered one earned on three hits in an inning.

The Cardinals were held scoreless until the 8th inning when Aledyms Diaz lined a two-run double down the third base line. It was his first professional hit as a member of the Springfield Cardinals. He really showed some fast hands to turn on that pitch and rip it down the line. Also, in the 8th inning, James Ramsey singled home Diaz. The Cards had the lead-off man aboard in the final inning but came short after a double-play killed the momentum.

Monday, April 7th, Corpus Christi 8 at Springfield 5

In game two of the three-game series, the Cardinals looked to southpaw Jonathan Cornelius to tie the set and force a rubber-game matchup. That did not happen as Cornelius was shaken in his first start, allowing five earned on five hits with a walk with four strikeouts in five innings, earning his first loss of the season.

Logan Billbrough gave up a solo homer in one inning. Danny Miranda was touched for two earned on three hits in two innings of work. Justin Wright kept his 0.00 ERA on the season as he struck out two of the four batters he faced on the night.

The Cardinals offense had one of the better nights hitting the ball but executing with runners in scoring position was lacking. They went 2-for-10 with RISP and left nine runners stranded. James Ramsey launched his first homer of the season, a solo shot. Jonathan Rodriguez continued his hot start with a three-hit performance that pushed his average up to .412. Patrick Wisdom had a double and single. Making a nice transition into the Cardinals system, Rafael Ortega had three hits, including a home run.

Tuesday, April 8th, Corpus Christi 7 at Springfield 6 (11 innings)

Trying to avoid being swept and a four-game losing streak, the Cardinals sent Kurt Heyer to make his second regular season start. Heyer had been roughed up in his opening debut, allowing six earned in only 4 2/3 inning against the San Antonio Missions.

Heyer's second outing was a much different story as he responded very well. In seven effective innings against the right-hander, the Hooks managed only one earned run on four hits. He walked just one and struck out four. Heyer did the best he could, but the Cardinals bullpen imploded. Closer Ronnie Shaban yielded five earned on four hits while recording only one out. Ryan Sherriff pitched into extras but gave up the game-winning homer in the 11th that also gave the Hooks the sweep.

The Cardinals offense broke out with twelve hits and scored a season-high six runs but they did have more opportunities, again leaving ten runners stranded. Returnees Mike O'Neill and James Ramsey had solid days at the plate with both being key catalysts to the offense as they went a combined 5-for-10 with two doubles and two walks. Aledmys Diaz made his first start at shortstop, going 4-for-5 with a home run short of the cycle and three RBI. Jonathan Rodriguez also joined the party with a two-run homer, his second of the 2014 season.

Who is Hot

James Ramsey - Ramsey is off to great start as he has collected a hit in his first 10-of-21 at bats (.476/.542/.762) with one round tripper and three RBI in the first week.

Aledmys Diaz - Diaz is now 6-for-12 with five RBI since playing regularly at the beginning of the second series.

Jonathan Rodriguez - So far he has done what he did last year with Palm Beach - put up massive numbers. The first baseman is off to a fast start, going 8-for-20 with two homers and six RBI in the first two series.

Zach Petrick - The minor league Pitcher of the Year last season proved why in his debut, a five-inning shutout with eight strikeouts.

Who is Not

Greg Miclat – The infielder is off to a 3-for-17 start, but still has a long way to go in the minor league season.

Ronnie Shaban – The late-inning reliever imploded in his last outing, as he gave up five earned in only 1/3 of an inning.

Team Transactions

No transactions yet.

Texas League North Division Standings

Club W L PCT GB Home Away L10 Stk
Arkansas Travelers (LAA) 4 2 0.667 - 0-0 4-2 4-2 L1
NW Arkansas Naturals (KC) 2 4 0.250 2 0-0 2-4 2-4 L3
Tulsa Drillers (COL) 2 4 0.250 2 2-4 0-0 2-4 L2
Springfield Cardinals (STL) 1 5 0.167 3 1-5 0-0 1-5 L4

The Cardinal Nation Top 40 Prospect Watch (ranking precedes the player name)

#8 James Ramsey - Due to crowded outfield at Triple-A Memphis and at the parent-club, Ramsey finds himself back at Springfield to start the season. There, he is leading the team in batting average through the first week at .476.

#15 Patrick Wisdom - Is Wisdom ready for Double-A? That has been the question surrounding the third baseman and his assignment to Springfield early in the season. He had a strong spring training and they need to see what they have in him. So far, Wisdom is batting .333.

#16 Zach Petrick - After a breakout 2013 and solid first start of the season, the right-hander is looking to build more.

#24 Mike O'Neill - O'Neill is back in Double-A due to the same reason as Ramsey. So far, both outfield prospects have handled it like pros and are going about their business the right way. O'Neill is batting .375 with a .483 OBP through six games.

#26 Sam Gaviglio - Just needs to prove he can get high minors hitters out. Was hit around in his first start but if he gets back to his strengths, Gaviglio will be an innings-eater in the middle of the rotation.

#37 Seth Blair - Control still an issue as it was indicated in his first start. Velocity is down from last season, but if he can somehow get it back, he will be a one to keep an eye on.

#TBD Aledmys Diaz – The Cuban was given $8 million so obviously there is a lot of optimism and hype around him. After a week of being eased in, Diaz should be playing in the field every day for now on.

What is Next

Following the 1-5 home stand, Springfield will be going on a six-game road-trip starting in San Antonio on Thursday. They will get a rematch against the Missions and the Corpus Christi Hooks on their respective turfs.

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