Springfield Cardinals Notebook: 2014 Week 15

Slowed by offensive injuries, the Double-A Cardinals are struggling at home and on the road. Outfielder Starlin Rodriguez is helping a slumping lineup.

This report covers period from Thursday, July 10th through Wednesday, July 16th.

The inconsistency from the first half of the season has carried over to the second half for the Springfield Cardinals. That is especially the case on the offensive side and even more so without a consistent lineup because of a rash of injuries to prospects that were going to be heavily counted upon. The injuries have created opportunity for younger players but the lost production has not been made up.

At home, Springfield dropped the three-game set against the Northwest Arkansas Naturals (KC), a team that finished last in the standings in the first half. A new half following a last-place finish can help a team play very different baseball, especially with a replenished roster of prospects up from the lower levels. After that series, Springfield headed down to Arkansas and were swept away in a four-game series.

This squad mustered a lone win in week 15 of the minor league season and trail Texas League North leader Arkansas Travelers (LAA) by five games. The Cards are 3-7 over the past ten games.

Thursday, July 10th, NW Arkansas 5 at Springfield 4

Naturals top third base prospect and 2013 first-rounder Hunter Dozier crushed a go-ahead, three-run homer off Justin Wright, who had been virtually untouchable all season. In doing so, NW Arkansas stole away game two from Springfield.

Kurt Heyer got back on track on Thursday night, following a rough patch of consecutive outings. The former Arizona hurler worked six solid innings allowing three hits and yielding a solo home run. Despite the high number of flyouts at seven, Heyer did spot a fastball that ranged between 90-95 mph on the gun while breaking off a curveball as he went deeper into the game.

Sam Tuivailala electrified a crowd of over 5,000, who were treated with a Kolten Wong bobble-head. Tuivailala overpowered two of the Naturals top hitters in a row during his scoreless seventh and eighth innings. The converted infielder fired a fastball that clocked as high as 102 mph on the stadium gun (this gun is known to be a few mph hot) with a hard sharp breaking ball around 79-84 that played to his advantage as a separation pitch to his high 90s fastball.

Lee Stoppelman’s wild ride of a season continued with a forgettable outing Thursday night. Stoppelman hit the first batter faced, then walked one an out later, and gave up an RBI single before he was taken out. Justin Wright then served up the three-run bomb that shifted momentum to the Naturals side.

Patrick Wisdom got the offense rolling early with his 11th bomb, which almost cleared the entire stadium. The solo shot was announced at 395 feet. Then the offense was then put to rest by the Naturals after Curt Smith’s two-run bomb. Rafael Ortega also scored in the fourth on a swinging strikeout.

Friday, July 11th, NW Arkansas 3 at Springfield 1

Missed opportunities came back to haunt the Cardinals in game three of the series. They were dealt a five-hit seven-inning shutout by Royals prospect Jason Adam and held to one more hit by the Naturals bullpen.

Kyle Hald also pitched well over his seven-inning start. Hald allowed a one-run blemish on five hits with four walks and two strikeouts but was a tough luck loser.

Ex-closer Ronnie Shaban allowed two more earned runs in only one inning pitched. New arrival Iden Nazario pitched a scoreless inning with a walk and strikeout.

Ortega produced the team’s only run with an RBI single. James Ramsey and Jonathan Rodriguez both had multi-hit games. Ramsey’s three hits included a double and Rodriguez singled and doubled.

Saturday, July 12th, NW Arkansas 0 at Springfield 8

A crowd of over 6,000 saw smoke-throwing big-league southpaw Kevin Siegrist start his rehab assignment and was also treated with an offensive explosion from a team struggling to put together any output.

Sam Gaviglio threw 90-91 mph and worked inside and away with his sinker and slider all night. He tossed a five-hit shutout through six innings. It was another good start due to acceptable command, with two walks five strikeouts. This start gave him his fourth win and lowered his ERA below five for the first time this season.

Siegrist showed the rust with two walks and a strikeout over 2/3 of an inning. He didn’t appear to have trouble generating velocity, as it was consistent in the mid-90s, where he was before injury. Mitch Harris replaced Siegrist and got out of the seventh without any damage and pitched a scoreless eighth inning. Ryan Sherriff fanned two in a clean ninth to give Springfield the series-finale win and a series-tie.

A three-run first would be the difference in deciding the outcome. Cody Stanley once again was a major ingredient to the offensive attack, ripping two hits with two RBI. Curt Smith produced a sacrifice fly and singled. The other runs came from a Patrick Wisdom RBI groundout, Starlin Rodriguez two-run shot, and Alex Mejia RBI single.

Sunday, July 13th, Springfield 4 at Arkansas 6

The Cardinals outhit division rival Arkansas Travelers 13 to eight on Sunday night in the series-opener, but continued to be unable to get them when they count most.

Four Springbirds notched multi-hit games but the team went 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position. That and some defensive miscues led to the 6-4 loss. Breyvic Valera conducted the offense with his three hits, with Mike O’Neill, Cody Stanley, and Starlin Rodriguez right behind with two hits apiece. O’Neill had one of Springfield’s extra-base hits that scored one, and he touched home twice.

Mike Mayers was bitten by the defensive bug twice, giving up four runs, one earned, on five hits and two walks in just 2 1/3 innings. Ronnie Shaban’s struggles continued as he allowed two earned in 2 1/3 innings as well. Shaban was the first of three relievers used; the other two, Iden Nazario and Chris Thomas, each went 1 2/3 scoreless with two strikeouts.

Monday, July 14th, Springfield at Arkansas - postponed

The second of four at Arkansas (LAA) was rained out and was rescheduled as part of a Tuesday, July 15th doubleheader.

Tuesday, July 15th, Springfield 2 at Arkansas 6 (Game one)
Tuesday, July 15th, Springfield 0 at Arkansas 3 (Game two)

Due to a rain that postponed Monday night’s scheduled contest, the Cardinals and Arkansas Travelers squared off in a doubleheader on Tuesday night. The Travelers hung on to claim both seven-inning tilts against the last-place Cardinals.

In game one, Jonathan Cornelius gave the Springfield bullpen a game off with a complete game performance. Six of the Travelers runs were in the second and third innings, all charged against Cornelius for his seventh loss of the season.

The Travelers pitching staff was too much for the Cardinals. The only offense was ignited off back-to-back RBI doubles by Curt Smith and Starlin Rodriguez, but it was clearly not enough to bridge the four-run shortfall. Ramsey was taken out in the fourth with a reported tight oblique.

The final game of the night’s double-header saw a combined four-hit seven inning bullpen shutout against the Springbirds.

Ryan Sherriff took the ball for Springfield in the night-cap. It was Sherriff’s first start of the season because he had been shifted to the bullpen and used exclusively as a reliever this year. He likely got the ball here because he is the only reliever with starting experience at the Double-A level. Sherriff lasted three innings while yielding three runs (two earned) on four hits and was the losing pitcher.

Despite the offense being held scoreless, the bullpen did well keeping them in the game. The final four innings were pitched by Kevin Siegrist, who gave up a hit and struck out one in his scoreless outing, the powerful arm of Sam Tuivailala, who appeared for the second time with another scoreless outing, and Mitch Harris held the Travelers to 1-2-3 frame.

The bats managed just four singles as Curt Smith extended his hitting streak to a modest six games.

Wednesday, July 16th, Springfield 3 at Arkansas 4

Springfield got the game-tying run but failed to put enough hits together for the late comeback and were swept in the four games by the home-team Travelers.

Kurt Heyer was off the hook for the loss after the Cards’ three-run fourth, but going into his final inning, the bottom of the sixth, he fell apart. Heyer walked the first batter, the next reached on a double, then the go-ahead run scored on a single to end his night. That earned run capped his seventh loss of the season.

Chris Thomas replaced Heyer, allowing the go-ahead single but retiring the next three faced. Thomas still holds a 0.00 ERA in his time with the Cardinals. Lee Stoppelman and Justin Wright kept the home-team in check with scoreless work but the offense just couldn’t reverse the season-long drought of scoring with runners in scoring position in the later innings when it matters the most.

Curt Smith is a bright spot in an otherwise young offensive unit, again knocking in two runners with a double. Starlin Rodriguez drove in the other runner with a single.

Who is Hot

Starlin Rodriguez - Rodriguez has kicked it up a notch since June passed, hitting .355/.417/.613 in the July going into Wednesday night. That compares to his .217/.277/.283 June line.

Chris Thomas - Though he allowed the go-ahead run charged to Kurt Heyer on Wednesday night, Thomas’ scoreless streak extended to nine games and 12 2/3 innings pitched, going all the way back to his promotion on June 19th.

Who is Not

Patrick Wisdom - Wisdom showed signs of breaking out last week, but is now gone back to slumping with an average of .166 in his past ten games at 6-for-36.

Ryan Sherriff - The lefty made the bullpen start on the double-header Tuesday yielding two earned runs in three innings and has given up nine earned runs in his last 13 2/3 innings.

Team Transactions

7/10 C Travis Tartamella transferred to AAA-Memphis from Springfield
7/10 C Gerwuins Velazco transferred to Springfield from High-A Palm Beach
7/11 OF Mike O’Neill designated for assignment by St. Louis
7/14 C Travis Tartamella transferred to Springfield from AAA-Memphis
7/14 C Gerwuins Velazco transferred to High-A Palm Beach from Springfield

Texas League North Division Standings - Second half

Club W L PCT GB Home Away L10 Streak
Arkansas Travelers (LAA) 14 12 .538 - 7-7 7-5 6-4 W6
NW Arkansas Naturals (KC) 12 14 .462 2.0 7-9 5-5 4-6 L3
Tulsa Drillers (COL) 12 14 .462 2.0 5-7 7-7 5-5 W3
Springfield Cardinals (STL) 9 17 .346 5.0 4-6 5-11 3-7 L4

Cardinals Top Prospect Watch

#8 James Ramsey - Pulled on Tuesday with a reported oblique injury. It was a precaution and he could have played on Wednesday but the club chose to take the safe route with the second-year Springfield Cardinal. July could very well be a big month for Ramsey as the trade deadline approaches and teams may ask about him.

#9 Patrick Wisdom - All I can say is the third baseman carries himself well and is built similarly to former Cardinal Scott Rolen. Wisdom hits in stretches and is sometimes has lapses on defense with botched grounders and wide throws. He is streaky but when he has the power stroke, Wisdom can crank them as far as anyone in the minor leagues.

#18 Lee Stoppelman - Stoppelman was lit up against NW Arkansas on the 10th, giving up the lead and blowing the save. He did bounce back with a scoreless outing on Wednesday night.

#26 Sam Gaviglio - Surprisingly, he has been one of the more reliable starters since early June when he made the adjustment to sharpening up his control. It has come to full effect with some great recent outings.

#29 Jacob Wilson - Wilson’s bat in the number two-hole was replaced by Breyvic Valera, but his thump has been severely missed.

#31 Breyvic Valera - Still getting acclimated to Double-A pitching and learning the nuances of each ballpark. The .300 clip he has sustained throughout his career will eventually show up - it’s a matter of when.

#36 Sam Tuivailala - Probably the best relief power arm I’ve seen since Jason Motte. I was really astounded by his performance on Wednesday and what really got to me was how easy he produced that high-90s heat. He does not have high-maintenance delivery with little effort expended and missed barrels with a loud snap at the end. If the control of his fastball continues to progress, while developing better command of his slider, and refinement of that change-up continues, he could set up or close for the Cardinals in the future.

#TBD Aledmys Diaz - The Cardinals were probably hoping Diaz would be up to Memphis by now. But he is on the DL instead and time has been missed. No further update on his possible return.

What’s Next

Coming off a 1-6 week of play, the Springfield Cardinals look for renewed confidence and energy by the home faithful as they open-up a seven-game home stand starting on Thursday and concluding with next week’s report date of Wednesday, July 23rd. They will face off against divisional rivals NW Arkansas and Tulsa Drillers (KC).

Follow Derek Shore on Twitter @thebighurt_23.

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