Springfield Cardinals Notebook: 2014 Week 5

The Double-A Springfield Cardinals won their final two of the homestand to pull back into a tie for first place.

This week's report covers games played from April 30th through May 6th.

Already into May and Week 5 of the minor league season, the Springfield Cardinals finished up the three games remaining with the Northwest Arkansas Naturals. They continued the home-stand, fighting for first-place rights in the Texas League North against the Tulsa Drillers, against whom they split. Springfield is now 16-16 overall, tied for first with the Arkansas Travelers and one game ahead of the Drillers at 15-17.

Wednesday, April 30th, Northwest Arkansas 6 at Springfield 4

This was the second of four between the two teams. Springfield lost the first game of the eight game home-stand on April 29th by a score of 9-7. In this contest, Springfield had Kurt Heyer toe the rubber in a hope to get the Cardinals on track at home, where they have just a 4-7 record.

Heyer (L,2-2) let four total runs come across in innings two and three plus one in the fifth, resulting in seven hits and two walks from the NW Arkansas Naturals offense. Two of the five runs Heyer gave up were unearned. Two of the three earned runs were via solo home runs by the Naturals four-hole hitter. Heyer finished his 5 2/3 innings with a single strikeout.

Logan Billbrough appeared in relief in the top of the sixth, stranding a runner while recording the last out in that inning. Billbrough then went on to pitch two scoreless with a walk and two strikeouts. Ronnie Shaban took over in the ninth and gave up an unearned run on two hits.

James Ramsey was pretty much all but the offense with a two-run round trooper that was his sixth of the campaign, and also productively grounded out scoring Rafael Ortega for his third RBI of the night. Travis Tartamella collected two hits with the most important one an RBI double.

Thursday, May 1st, Northwest Arkansas 3 at Springfield 7

The Cardinals made a complete turnaround from the first two games of the series with the lack of offense in the beginning of the series to an offense that found ways to score runs and then tack on.

Starter Kyle Hald sailed through the first five innings, holding the Naturals to one earned run on three hits and a walk while striking out six. The recently-promoted lefty quickly retired the first two in the sixth inning but must have run out of gas as he gave up a single, home run, and single again before being taken out.

Joey Donofrio is quietly making a name for himself as a reliable middle reliever in the Springfield bullpen as he then escaped the sixth without any damage. But he did make it interesting, giving up a single and walking two to load the bases. Hard-throwing southpaw Justin Wright then came in with two outs in the seventh and induced a flyout to end the threat. Wright lowered his ERA to 0.64 after two more scoreless innings as well as earning his first save of the season.

Luis Mateo got Springfield started in the second with a RBI single scoring David Popkins to even the score. Later in the second, Mike O'Neill doubled home two runners. Before this game, Patrick Wisdom just didn't have anything going his way with the bat but it was just a matter of time before he rediscovered his stroke. The former first round pick did that with a solo shot, his first Double-A blast, and a two-run single. It scored Curt Smith who reached on a single and Cody Stanley who also reached on a single. Stanley's single scored James Ramsey to break the tie and shift momentum to the good guys.

Side game note: Wisdom looked more comfortable at the plate versus the past games that I saw him. Though he did strike out on three straight looking pitches in his last at-bat. For a guy who was assigned so aggressively, it is not surprising that he started slowly out of the gate. It was better to see what they have in him early on than returning him to Single-A.

Friday, May 2nd, Northwest Arkansas 8 at Springfield 5

Northwest Arkansas left Springfield with a series win on the road against the scuffling host Birds. Seth Blair got through six innings of four-run ball (all earned) on four hits. His control is still at a sketchy level as he issued five walks to six strikeouts. Springfield (14-14) was clinging to a one-game lead over second place Tulsa Drillers (COL) in the Texas League North.

Danny Miranda was then handed the ball, but did not get the job done. Miranda allowed one of Blair's runners to score in addition to three of his own, thanks in part to well executed sac bunts, a wild pitch, intentional walk, and a three-run bases-clearing triple to put the dagger into the heart of this series. Dean Kiekhefer came on in the ninth to allow one earned on three hits.

Cody Stanley and Luis Mateo had half of their team's hits. Stanley hit an RBI single and triple while Mateo singled twice. Patrick Wisdom was punched out three times but also came through with an RBI triple. Wisdom scored on an error on a ball that was put in play by Travis Tartamella, then James Ramsey grounded into a force-out that scored Tartamella, then while Curt Smith was batting, Rafael Ortega scored from third on a wild pitch.

Saturday, May 3rd, Tulsa 8 at Springfield 3

This was a tight contest until the eighth when Tulsa broke it out with five runs and added one in the ninth to give them the victory and first place in the Texas League North Division.

Sam Gaviglio delivered his finest start of the new season with six innings, allowing only two earned runs on six hits. The ground-ball specialist walked one, struck out five, and induced ten groundouts. Ryan Sheriff then came in a situational matchup facing two batters with a hit and strikeout. Ronnie Shaban was hammered for four earned runs on four hits in one inning. Logan Billbrough and Anthony Ferrara pitched the rest of the way, combining to give up two solo home runs.

Rafael Ortega singled twice with a run scored in his four at bats while Curt Smith doubled twice one for an RBI, scoring Cody Stanley who was batting in the two-hole. TCN's April Player of the Month James Ramsey knocked in one with an RBI single and David Popkins then plated James Ramey for a one-bagger.

Sunday, May 4th, Tulsa 7 at Springfield 3

Springfield once again was out-hit, out-slugged, and out-pitched by the Tulsa Drillers, now the leaders of the Texas League North Division.

This game featured a pair of major-league rehabbers working their way back to the show. Jaime Garcia made the start, allowing two earned on three hits in only two innings in his first rehab outing. Garcia threw 28 pitches before leaving due to being hit by a pitch in the bottom half of the second. He was taken to a local hospital for X-rays, which came back negative on his left elbow, but still may miss next scheduled start.

Jonathan Cornelius piggy-backed Garcia in the third with 3 1/3 innings pitched. The 25-year old gave up two earned runs on six hits, while walking one and striking out one. Justin Wright continues to dominate Texas League hitters with 1 2/3 scoreless innings, fanning two. Wright leads the staff with a 0.57 ERA. The other rehabber, Jason Motte, electrified the opposition by fanning the side in his first appearance since coming back from Tommy John surgery. Logan Billbrough, the pitcher in the ninth, gave up a three-run home run.

With the bases loaded in the second, Springfield got on the board when Garcia's hit by pitch scored David Popkins. Mike O'Neill's infield single scored Matt Williams for the second run. Travis Tartamella then produced the final run with an RBI ground-out.

Monday, May 5th, Tulsa 6 at Springfield 7

Seems pretty weird to have morning baseball with first pitch being thrown at 11:10 AM on a Monday and Tuesday but you couldn't complain with an 80 degree start time temperature.

Kurt Heyer got the Monday morning assignment for the Springbirds facing off against former Springfield Cardinal Richard Castillo. They two nearly had exact same lines except Heyer couldn't finish off the fifth with the lead. That inning, he gave up three earned runs that totaled five earned runs on the day, and permitted ten hits and a walk.

In his final Springfield outing, Danny Miranda, who was demoted to Palm Beach, on Tuesday gave up a solo home run in 1 1/3 innings. The workhorse of the bullpen so far, Joey Donofrio, got the win following a scoreless outing of 1 2/3 innings. In the ninth, looking to bounce back from some rough outings was Dean Kiekhefer, closing it out with a hitless inning for his sixth save.

Three-hit performances by James Ramsey and Patrick Wisdom loomed large for the Cardinals as they drove in six together. Coming into this game, Ramsey wasn't stinging the ball as well in his last ten games, then in his first two at-bats, he hit two-run home runs. He later then started the game-winning rally with a leadoff single in the seventh. Wisdom also participated in the long ball act with a solo blast, his second on the season, and drove in one with a double. The Springbirds took the late lead from a Matt Williams sac fly, helping them snap a three-game losing streak and move a into a first-place tie with Tulsa.

Tuesday, May 6th, Tulsa 1 at Springfield 2

Springfield managed to defeat the Drillers in the second of two morning baseball games with another tight knit victory. This game was much shorter, only lasting two hours, seven minutes in a pitchers' duel that featured Rockies top prospect Eddie Butler being out-pitched by left-hander Kyle Hald. Hald muzzled a red-hot Drillers lineup, firing seven shutout innings of three-hit ball, only walking one and fanning seven.

Then came Jason Motte. The former closer threw a six-pitch scoreless eighth inning, retiring two batters via the ground-out and one more on a flyout. Dean Kiekhefer allowed a run in the ninth but struck out the last batter of the inning to give the Cardinals the series split and Kiekhefer the save.

All the offense that Springfield needed came from a Rafael Ortega solo shot in the first inning and a Cody Stanley solo home run in the fourth. They produced the only runs in a well-pitched ballgame on both ends.

Who Is Hot

Cody Stanley - The compactly built catcher has really found his stroke in the last ten games going 15-for-38, a .395 batting average. Three of the hits were doubles, one triple, one home run, and in those last ten games he also has eight RBI.

Kyle Hald – The soft-throwing southpaw will not blow anyone away with his fastball but he did toss seven shutout innings against a red-hot offense in the Tulsa Drillers on Tuesday afternoon.

Who Is Not

Mike O'Neill – O'Neill has tapered off quite a bit since the first few weeks of the season, hitting .184 in the last ten games. I have to believe that will be turned around rather quickly.

Logan Billbrough – Since May 3rd the former William & Mary pitcher has allowed four earned runs in only 1 1/3 innings.

Team Transactions

5/5 – INF Luis Mateo assigned from Springfield Cardinals to Memphis Redbirds
5/5 – INF Jacob Wilson assigned from Palm Beach Cardinals to Springfield Cardinals
5/5 – LHP Danny Miranda assigned from Springfield Cardinals to Palm Beach Cardinals
5/5 – LHP Lee Stoppelman assigned from Memphis Redbirds to Springfield Cardinals
5/4 – C Jonathan Keener activated from 7-day disabled list
5/4 – LHP Jaime Garcia sent to Springfield Cardinals for rehab assignment
5/4 – RHP Jason Motte sent to Springfield Cardinals for rehab assignment
5/4 – 1B Jonathan Rodriguez placed on the 7-day disabled list

Texas League North Division Standings

Club W L PCT GB Home Away L 10 Streak
Arkansas Travelers (LAA) 16 16 .500 - 4-10 12-6 8-2 W4
Springfield Cardinals (STL) 16 16 .500 - 7-11 9-5 4-6 W2
Tulsa Drillers (COL) 15 17 .469 1.0 5-11 10-6 5-5 L2
NW Arkansas Naturals (KC) 11 21 .344 5.0 2-14 9-7 3-7 L4

The Cardinals Top Prospect Watch

#8 James Ramsey – The 2012 first-round draft pick who got well over a one-million dollar bonus leads the Cardinals offense in many categories that include home runs with eight, RBI with 22, total bases with 65, and hits at 36 on the 2014 season. Every part of Ramsey's game has apparently gotten crispier as he has been more consistent with his swing. He is playing with a ton of confidence just waiting for a promotion to the next level.

#9 Patrick Wisdom – Wisdom has shown signs of adjustments as the ball is starting to jump off his bat with two home runs in the last week and he is also looking more relaxed at the plate. Batting average has climbed up to .265.

#18 Lee Stoppelman – Just sent back down to Springfield on Monday. Seeing familiar land for a while could help Stoppelman re-establish his confidence and get that effectiveness back on track after being beat up by Triple-A hitters in April.

#24 Mike O'Neill – Didn't hit at all last week with his average in the .250 range now. Isn't getting any younger and with the abundance of outfielders ahead, his shot of becoming a major-league player with the Cardinals appears slim.

#26 Sam Gaviglio – Gaviglio had a much sharper outing on May 3rd when he went six innings allowing two earned and inducing ten groundouts. Kept the ball down, letting the sinker do it is job, while mixing in the slider. When he has those going for him, he is a ground-ball innings-eating machine.

#28 Jacob Wilson – Started 2014 with Palm Beach slashing .298/.358/.397/.754 with 20 RBI in a 30 game period. Promoted and made his Springfield debut on Tuesday with an 0-fer. Will be interesting to see how his bat translates to Double-A and if he can handle the second base position with game speed obviously accelerating now that he is a level ahead.

#37 Seth Blair – In his six starts, Blair has a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 20 strikeouts-to-25 walks. Not a ratio you'd expect, but Blair has gotten through six innings in four of his six starts this year.

#TBD Aledmys Diaz – Still out with a right shoulder strain. Have not heard any details as to when he will return to the field.

What's Next

Springfield went 3-4 in Week 5 of the minor league season and are in a first place tie in the North with the Arkansas Travelers, the hottest team in the Texas League currently. Springfield starts another long road trip with an off-day on Wednesday as they have four at Northwest Arkansas beginning on Thursday and four more on Tulsa's turf starting next Monday.

Follow Derek Shore on Twitter @thebighurt_23.

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