Springfield Cardinals Notebook: 2014 Week 4

The first-place Double-A Springfield Cardinals are back home after a successful 5-3 road trip.

This week's report covers games played from April 23rd through April 29th.

The Springfield Cardinals finished the series with NW Arkansas Naturals on a good note, taking the final game of the set, and then headed to Little Rock and took three of four on the Travelers' turf. The Cards started a series at home with the Naturals the opponent once again, but dropped the first game due to a bullpen implosion.

After the 4-3 week, the Cardinals currently are 13-12 and still sit in first place, a game ahead of the Tulsa Drillers.

Wednesday, April 23rd, Springfield 5 at Northwest Arkansas 6

Continuing last week's series against the NW Arkansas Naturals, the Springfield Cardinals dropped the third game of four on Wednesday night. Sam Gaviglio started and went five innings. He gave up six runs (two of them earned) due to shoddy defense behind him on five hits, walking three and striking out four. When playing behind Gaviglio, you've always got to be prepared with his ground-ball approach.

Anthony Ferrara relieved after Gaviglio's early exit with 2 2/3 scoreless innings. The starter turned left-handed reliever gave up a single, walked one, and struck out a batter. Danny Miranda then retired the only batter he faced in the game.

What seems like has been a theme for this year's 2014 Cardinals (parent-club included) is their lack of situational hitting. The Double-A Cardinals were two-for-nine in their attempts with runners in scoring position and left eight stranded on base. They did transform five hits and five walks into five runs, however.

Jonathan Rodriguez and Aledmys Diaz split those five hits between them. Rodriguez fell short of the cycle, with a walk, run scored and RBI. Diaz added on a solo shot, his third home of the season, to a single in his five at bats.

Thursday, April 24th, Springfield 8 at Northwest Arkansas 2

On a cold/wet Thursday night game which I was able to attend, it seemed like the temperature dropped by the inning. Starter Jonathan Cornelius held the Naturals to two runs (one earned), and two walks in six innings. The soft-throwing lefty, who didn't even top out at 87 mph on the scouts' guns, also struck out five.

Joe Donofrio continued his torrid pitching with two scoreless frames, giving up a hit and striking out two. Lowering his ERA to 1.74 mark, he has only allowed just two earned runs in 10 1/3 frames covering nine appearances for the season. Logan Billbrough got the final three outs in a clean fashion.

The Birds' five-run eighth broke open the game to give them a split in the first series between the clubs. Mike O'Neill collected two RBI with a slap single. Aledmys Diaz had two hits in five at bats (both singles) and Jonathan Rodriguez broke loose with three hits, one for a double. David Popkins and Patrick Wisdom drove in one each with RBI singles and Luis Mateo did as well with a walk in three at-bats. Travis Tartamella doubled in two in the Springfield victory.

Friday, April 25th, Springfield 3 at Arkansas 2

Springfield headed down to Little Rock for another road series against the former Double-A affiliate of St. Louis, the Arkansas Travelers (LAA). In game one, Springfield edged its host in the series' opener and took back sole possession of first, a game in front of Tulsa (COL).

Kurt Heyer continued his streak of quality starts as the righty held the opposition to a run on four hits and three walks over six. It was an identical start to his last one against the exact same opponent, except at a different ballpark. Ronnie Shaban fanned the side in the seventh. Justin Wright made the contest interesting in the eighth but managed to keep it a one-run game. Dean Kiekhefer closed the door with a scoreless ninth.

The game started off with Mike O'Neill and James Ramsey bases-on-balls, then both trotted home on a Cody Stanley two-run RBI double to give the Cardinals the early lead. The next run came in the sixth when Rafael Ortega walked, and Luis Mateo doubled him in with his sixth RBI on the season.

Saturday, April 26th, Springfield 2 at Arkansas 0

Springfield took game-two on a combined shutout by the pitching staff. Kyle Hald gave the Cardinals 4 2/3 scoreless innings as he gave up two hits but was quite erratic with four walks and four strikeouts. The bullpen came up big with 4 1/3 scoreless combined.

Relievers that contributed to this effort were Ryan Sherriff - who gave up a hit, walk and strikeout - Danny Miranda, Ronnie Shaban - who appears to be finding a role after getting torched as the closer - and Dean Kiekhefer - who retired the last four batters of the game with a strikeout included.

James Ramsey and David Popkins had four of Springfield's eight hits. They both came around to score from Jonathan Rodriguez and Curt Smith RBI singles.

Sunday, April 27th, Springfield 6 at Arkansas 3

On Sunday evening, the Cardinals put up a five-spot in the first inning., That would be all they needed but they also tacked on one more in the fifth inning to take game three of the series at the Travelers.

Seth Blair walked six with two strikeouts in five of his scoreless frames. His strike-to-ball ratio was not good as he threw 89 total pitches with only 45 of those pitches going for strikes. Anthony Ferrara gave up some damage in his 1 1/3 innings, allowing two earned, but he kept the Travelers from tying the score. Logan Billbrough was smacked around, giving one earned on four hits in 2/3 of an inning. Justin Wright did his job and gave the Cardinals a lift with a 1 2/3 inning scoreless outing. Joey Donofrio took the mound with runners on second and third in the ninth but nailed down the save with a strikeout to end it.

Jonathan Rodriguez got the scoring started with a two RBI single that scored Mike O'Neill and Rafael Ortega. The first baseman is continuing to fill the shoes of Xavier Scruggs very well. Greg Miclat then walked with the bases loaded scoring James Ramsey. Travis Tartamella smacked in two RBI with two-outs in the first to give the Cardinals an early five-run lead. Luis Mateo then came up with an insurance run in the sixth, singling in Rodriguez for his seventh RBI of the season.

Monday, April 28th, Springfield 5 at Arkansas 7

The Cardinals were unable to execute the four-game sweep over the Travs, ending the road-trip with a 5-3 record and a season record of 13-11. Sam Gaviglio had a rough night, yielding seven runs on nine hits and three walks in just four innings of work. This outing was Gaviglio's worst of his five in a Springbirds uniform to date.

Ryan Sheriff continued his excellence since moving over to the bullpen with three shutout innings, allowing only two hits with one walk and two strikeouts, and dropping his ERA down to 2.70. Danny Miranda struck out one of three batters faced in his scoreless inning.

Springfield didn't have much trouble getting guys on base but yet again could not drive them in, going 3-for-11 with runners in scoring position on the day. Cody Stanley had a perfect day at the plate with four hits, one a RBI double. Greg Miclat reached base in all his plate appearances with two singles and two walks. Curt Smith blasted his second home run of the season, a two-run shot, one of two of his hits as the designated hitter.

Tuesday, April 29th, NW Arkansas 9 at Springfield 7

Tuesday marked the first game of Springfield's eight game home-stand that will have them facing the Naturals and Tulsa Drillers. Jonathan Cornelius delivered a solid start, going six innings, surrendering two earned on four hits. The lefty walked three and struck out eight. In what looked like a winning decision for Cornelius, turned into a no decision due to Dean Kiekhefer's struggles.

Following Cornelius, Joe Donofrio tossed two scoreless while fanning three. Then came the ninth in what was a disaster of an outing for Kiekhefer, who had yet to be scored upon this season. Kiekhefer was tagged for seven earned runs in only 2/3 of an inning. Anthony Ferrara came in and retired the final batter, but the damage was done.

Down by five runs heading into the bottom the ninth, Springfield made an effort to fight back, into scoring three runs but came up short. Curt Smith's one hit on the night was a three-run RBI double. David Popkins showed signs of breaking out with a two-hit game and four RBI from his first home run of the season. Matt Williams and James Ramsey had two singles each.

Who is Hot

Jonathan Rodriguez – You couldn't have asked for Rodriguez to fill in any better than what he has given so far in replacing Xavier Scruggs, now with Memphis. The power-hitting first baseman has only one home run in the past ten games but he is 16-for-36 in that span (.444). Rodriguez was recognized by the Texas League as their Player of the Week for the April 21-27 period.

Jonathan Cornelius – For a southpaw who doesn't have overwhelming stuff, Cornelius has really delivered. In his past two starts, he went at least six innings, allowing a total of just three earned runs.

Who is Not

Sam Gaviglio – The former Oregon State pitcher has had a rough go of it lately, getting hit pretty hard. Allowing seven runs in his last start and six in the prior outing, Gaviglio has yet to make to start with fewer than three walks.

Dean Kiekhefer – The recent closer had not been scored upon until Tuesday night. Then, he imploded, with seven earned runs coming home. That one bad outing raised his ERA all the way up to 6.10.

Team Transactions

4/29 – INF Aledmys Diaz placed on 7-Day DL with right shoulder strain
4/29 – INF Matt Williams assigned to Springfield Cardinals from Palm Beach Cardinals

Texas League North Division Standings

Club     W L PCT GB Home Away L10 Stk
Springfield Cardinals (STL) 13 12 .520 - 4-7 9-5 5-5 L2
Tulsa Drillers (COL) 12 13 .480 1.0 4-9 8-4 6-4 L1
Arkansas Travelers (LAA) 10 15 .400 3.0 4-10 6-5 4-6 W2
NW Arkansas Naturals (KC) 9 16 .360 4.0 2-10 7-6 5-5 W1

The Cardinals Top Prospect Watch

#8 James Ramsey – Ramsey's hitting has slowed in the past ten games, as he went 9-for-his-last-39 (.231). The left-handed hitting outfielder is hitting .315 on the season.

#9 Patrick Wisdom – Still without his first Texas League home run, the third baseman is looking to find his stroke at the plate. He has been pretty inconsistent so far, batting just .200 over his last 10 games.

#24 Mike O'Neill – This is his second season on the Springfield roster and he's not getting any younger. Time is ticking in the opportunity window but if O'Neill can continue his high-on-base ways, currently at .412 on the season, the Springbirds will be fond of that.

#26 Sam Gaviglio – Was roughed up last time out and the control problems are continual.

#37 Seth Blair – I have no clue how the right-hander gets through six innings with an inability to throw strikes consistently and walking multiple batters, but he has already done it four times in 2014. I would like to see him in a relief role before the end of the season.

#TBD Aledmys Diaz – The shortstop last played on Saturday. On Tuesday, the Cardinals placed him on the 7-day DL with a right shoulder strain.

What is Next

Following the successful 5-3 road trip, the Cardinals look to build momentum at home in the first week of May. They have three games remaining with the Naturals then fight for sole possession of first place with the Tulsa Drillers starting this Saturday May 3rd.

Follow Derek Shore on Twitter @thebighurt_23.

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