Gonzales Promo Leads Batch of Pitching Moves

The St. Louis Cardinals are executing a series of moves to replenish the Double-A and Triple-A staffs. Among those on the move is top prospect Marco Gonzales.

The Palm Beach Cardinals had every right to celebrate late Wednesday evening. The team had broken out of a week-long offensive funk by crushing the visiting Dunedin Blue Jays by a 9-2 score. The scoring outburst was the team's highest since April 26 and the run total was three tallies higher than their aggregate total over the last five contests.

Yet, two players who did not even participate in the victory were receiving most of the congratulations. Pitchers Marco Gonzales and Corey Baker have been promoted to Double-A Springfield.

Due to a rash of injuries and call-ups to St. Louis, Memphis is down two pitchers and Springfield one. That is the genesis of these moves, with obviously more specifics to come on Thursday.

Garcia

The A-Advanced Palm Beach club will be receiving pitchers Chris Thomas and Silfredo Garcia from Class-A Peoria to replace Gonzales and Baker. Peoria's reinforcements have not yet been released, but we will see which hurlers are not at extended spring training camp on Thursday morning, as that is the likely source of the replacements.

Ironically, I conducted what is clearly Gonzales' final Palm Beach interview about 30 minutes before Wednesday night's contest. That will be posted separately soon for The Cardinal Nation subscribers.

Topping his impressive Florida State League debut late last season, the left-hander has lowered his ERA and walk rate while increasing his strikeout rate in 2014. In his six starts this season, the 22-year-old has a 1.40 ERA and a 32-to-8 strikeout to walk ratio. The 2013 first-rounder is clearly ready for Double-A.

After being informed of his promotion, the Colorado native said, "I have been told Springfield is a great place to play with a lot of fan support. I can't wait to get started." While Gonzales was scheduled to pitch for Palm Beach on Saturday, his Texas League debut is to be determined. Prior to the season, he was ranked the number six prospect in the Cardinals system.

Baker

Baker, 24, is not a top prospect like Gonzales, but has been one of the most effective relievers for a Palm Beach club that has lacked consistent bullpen performances this season. The right-hander allows the fewest baserunners on the club, with a very strong WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) of under 1.00.

The New York native has a 1.88 ERA to go with 21 strikeouts versus just six walks in 28 2/3 innings pitched. Baker did earn an eight-game promotion to Springfield last summer after earning a Midwest League all-star berth and then pitching well in Palm Beach. But after logging an 8.41 ERA in his Texas League intro, Baker was returned to Palm Beach. Perhaps this time, he is ready.

Thomas

Thomas, 26, has been one of Peoria's most reliable relievers this season. Old for his level, the right-hander had a pair of misfortunes that ended his 2013 prematurely, after just four games. This year, Thomas has a 1-0 record, a 1.08 ERA and five saves for the Midwest League Chiefs. The Liberty, Mo. native struck out 24 and issued just five free passes in 16 2/3 innings. He will be making his A-Advanced debut.

Garcia, 22, will likely step into the Palm Beach rotation, replacing Gonzales. The Venezuelan native was back in the Midwest League for a second year. His game is inducing ground balls, though his 2:1 ratio in 2014 is down from his 2.5:1 mark last season. Garcia's Peoria ERA was 4.25 in six starts this season. The right-hander struck out 21 but walked 11 in 29 2/3 MWL frames.

As noted above, there will be a series of additional related moves coming on Thursday. You heard about this first wave initially right here at The Cardinal Nation, offered as a free example of what our subscribers receive year round.

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Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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