Springfield Cardinals Notebook: 2015 Week 1

The Double-A Cardinals got out of the gates slowly, going 1-5 in their first week of 2015 play.

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This report covers period from Thursday, April 9th through Wednesday, April 15th.

The new minor league regular season is finally upon us after a long off-season and spring training that recently concluded. The Springfield Cardinals were preparing for their 11th season as a Double-A affiliate for the 11-time World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals.

Springfield opened the 140-game minor league season against the Corpus Christi Hooks (HOU), a club which features two former number one overall picks. After a three-game series with them, the San Antonio Missions (SD) came to town for three more. The Cardinals sluggishly posted a 1-5 W-L record in the first home-stand of the season.

This season’s club includes mostly returnees from last year, with 19 of the 25 players appearing at least one time for the Cardinals in 2014. Among the most notable pitchers are RHP Nick Petree, who got the call-on as Opening Night starter, RHP Mike Mayers, a reliable and quality start machine from a year ago and 2014 second-round pick Andrew Morales, who had luxurious college career at UC Irvine and is well on his way up the pipeline as a fast riser.

Position players back for more include INF/OF Breyvic Valera, who will be utilized everywhere around the diamond, is a .300 hitter from both sides of the plate, INF Jacob Wilson, a middle-of-the-order RBI bat who isn't a slouch defensively, INF Aledmys Diaz, another middle-of-the-order bat who will be a key part of this club’s success early-on, OF Charlie Tilson, a top 20 prospect who will anchor the lead off spot, and OF Anthony Garcia, who spent the last two seasons at Palm Beach, but had a powerful winter ball showing.

Though there are a high number of returnees, the club has an almost entirely new coaching staff, with the exception of the hitting coach Erik Pappas who begins his second season as a Springbird. New manager Dann Bilardello is a former big-league catcher in his sixth season as a manager in the Cardinals organization. Jason “Simo” Simontacchi is a former big-league pitcher for the Cardinals who was promoted from the Peoria Chiefs and will embark on his first season as pitching coach for Springfield. The “fourth coach,” a relatively new position with responsibility to assist as a coach before a game then becoming a scout during the game, is David Compton.

This 2015 Springfield Cardinals are a more veteran, experienced, and versatile club than in previous years, which should help to keep them in close games. They have a chance to compete atop the Texas League North Division if health and consistency align, even though this division and league has the potential to be a lot stronger and more competitive.

Thursday, April 9th, Springfield 4 vs. Corpus Christi 9

Springfield dropped the first game of three against Corpus Christi in the series and for the season. Nick Petree, a former Missouri State All-American, made a homecoming debut at Hammons Field, the same stadium where he pitched in college.

Petree got through a scoreless first inning without much effort, but his night would slowly go downhill from the first inning on as the former 10th rounder labored through the second and third innings, working out of jams that spiked his pitch count, which was on an early-season limit already.

The righty exited after 3 ? innings, allowing three earned runs on eight hits along with one free pass and three strikeouts. Normally known for his impeccable control, Petree had some issues throwing consistent strikes, particularly with his off-speed stuff which wasn't there for him at the times they were needed the most. Bilardello gave him the hook after 75 pitches, of which 46 were thrown for strikes.

Joe Donofrio followed Petree with 1 ? innings. Used as a late-innings reliever last year, he was used to bail Petree out of the fourth inning and he did by inducing a line-out. But then Donofrio gave up an RBI single and the Hooks didn’t look back from there with five more runs tagged on relievers Ryan Sherriff and Jonathan Cornelius. Sheriff yielded three earned in an inning, while Cornelius tossed three innings, allowing two earned runs.

The offense got to the Hooks pitching staff early on with two runs but were held to just two runs through the next eight frames. Leadoff man Charlie Tilson led the attack with three of Springfield’s 11 hits, one of which was an RBI double. David Washington debuted at the Double-A level with two hits, and Breyvic Valera picked up where he left off last year with two hits and two RBI. Patrick knocked in one with a hard liner off the center field wall for a double.

Game note: Springfield took a moment of silence in honor the late Oscar Taveras, who was killed in a automobile car accident in his home country last October. Springbirds are also wearing a sleeve patch on their uniforms labeled “OT”.

Friday, April 10th, Springfield 2 vs. Corpus Christi 8

After being routed the previous night, the Hooks came back swinging with five early runs off starter Mike Mayers. Mayers was lit up for five earned runs on six hits in only two innings pitched and was eventually charged with the loss.

Four Springfield relievers combined to pitch the next seven innings, allowing three earned runs on five hits. Corey Baker went three innings, Kurt Heyer tossed 1 ? innings, while Justin Wright pitched 1 ? scoreless. Then Heath Wyatt made his first appearance at Springfield since 2013 with a scoreless ninth inning.

Springfield faced another difficult task matching up against former number one overall pick Mark Appel, who held the home-nine to just one run on two hits across five solid innings pitched. Aledmys Diaz hit a solo home run, his first of the season and for the team as a whole, and the other run came on a RBI groundout to score Charlie Tilson, who had tripled.

Saturday, April 11th, Springfield 2 vs. Corpus Christi 9

The Hooks finished off the series sweep on Saturday night. Thomas Lee made his Texas League debut and got scorched through four innings of work.

Lee yielded nine earned runs on nine hits, and had pairs of walks and strikeouts. Most of the damage was done in the six-run second inning. He was kept in the game for another two innings to save a bullpen that had pitched 13 innings in two of the first three games. Lee put up zeros in the next two frames before being replaced by reliever Chris Thomas.

Thomas went on to pitch 3 ? scoreless innings, allowing just a hit along with a strikeout. Lefty Ryan Sherriff pitched the rest of the way with 1 ? scoreless and the starter-turned reliever walked one and struck out two.

The only source of offense was a Jacob Wilson two-run homer. Collectively, the team managed seven hits and never mustered more than one hit in any inning which automatically killed any chance at a potential rally as they stranded ten runners.


Sunday, April 12, Springfield 4 vs. San Antonio 2

Springfield finally found what could be a spark as Michael Olhman unloaded with a grand slam to put them over the top for their first win of the season, against the San Antonio Missions (SD).

Kyle Hald was effective through six innings of two-run ball. Hald also gave up five hits along with a walk and five strikeouts, an effort that was worthy of a winning decision.

Heath Wyatt, was the winning pitcher, however, as he held the score intact with a run-free seventh despite walking two batters. That set things up for closer Joe Donofrio, who slammed the door, picking up his first save of the season with an old-school two-inning appearance.

Monday, April 13th, Springfield 2 vs. San Antonio 5

The Springbirds bullpen failed to hold down a 2-1 lead heading into the sixth, resulting in a 5-2 loss that evened the San Antonio series at one game each.

Andrew Morales, a former UC Irvine product, made his Texas League debut on Monday night. The 22-year old pitched five solid innings of one-run ball, scattering seven hits, one walk, and three strikeouts in his 75-pitch debut. Morales was sitting in the low 90s on his fastball with a swing and miss curveball that got some of the Missions’ hitters to chase in the dirt.

Morales was denied a victory after the Missions’ struck for three runs against lefty Jonathan Cornelius in the sixth inning. Cornelius retired only one batter, and was replaced by Kurt Heyer. The latter inherited a bases-loaded jam and served up a two-run double to his first batter, with all runs charged to Cornelius. Heyer’s only hit allowed in 1 ? scoreless was a costly one.

Ronnie Shaban, promoted from Palm Beach on Monday, made his season-debut with Springfield on Monday night pitching a scoreless outing while only needing seven pitches to retire three batters. Justin Wright permitted the final Missions insurance run in the ninth.

After taking a 2-1 lead in the third inning, Springfield’s offense was kept silent the rest of the way managing just three hits and striking out nine times over the final six innings. Alex Mejia and Jacob Wilson doubled, with the latter having the lone RBI.

Tuesday, April 14th, Springfield 0 vs. San Antonio 3

After splitting the first two games the three-game set, San Antonio took the rubber-game to secure a series-win over Springfield in the first of four series these squads will have against each other.

Nick Petree was dealing through the first four frames before San Antonio figured him out and blasted a solo home run in the fifth. They scored two more in the sixth to seal the victory. Petree allowed three earned runs on five hits with two walks and three strikeouts.

Over four innings combined, middle relievers Corey Baker and Chris Thomas held the Missions scoreless, but the Missions’ pitching staff was too much for the Cardinals offense which had six opportunities to score but couldn’t capitalize when it counted.

Seven hits were accumulated, two of which were singles by Breyvic Valera, and David Washington had Springfield’s lone extra-base hit of the contest.

Wednesday, April 15th, scheduled off-day

Springfield will resume up play on Thursday, April 16th against the Corpus Christi Hooks for a second go-round, but on their turf.


Who is Hot

Alex Mejia - Known widely for his defensive work, Mejia is off to a hot start, going 4-for-his-first-10 (.400), including one double in a span of four games.

Kyle Hald - Pitched six effective innings on Sunday afternoon, allowing two earned runs on five hits with a walk and five strikeouts in a no-decision. With a single turn through the rotation, Hald is the only starter to have a quality start under his belt.

Chris Thomas - The reliever has appeared in only two games but Thomas has pitched 5 ? scoreless innings.

Who is Not

Anthony Garcia - In his first week of Double-A action, Garcia had a tough time of it with a 2-for-15 start (.133), but there is still time to turn things around.

Patrick Wisdom - The returning third baseman has one hit in his first 14 at-bats on the new season.

Mike Mayers - Had a bleeder in his first start of the season, allowing five earned runs in only two innings pitched. This became his only start at Double-A which wasn’t a quality start, which indicates how well he has pitched against Texas League hitters in the past.

Team Transactions

4/09 RHP Seth Blair placed on the DL
4/09 LHP Lee Stoppelman placed on the DL
4/09 RHP Jordan Swagerty placed on the DL
4/09 C Adam Ehrlich placed on the DL
4/09 OF Starlin Rodriguez placed on the DL
4/13 LHP Ryan Sherriff placed on the DL
4/13 RHP Ronnie Shaban transferred to Springfield from High-A Palm Beach

Texas League North Division Standings

Club W L PCT GB Home Away L 10 Streak
Arkansas Travelers (LAA) 6 0 1.000 - 0-0 6-0 6-0 W6
Tulsa Drillers (LAD) 3 3 .500 3.0 3-3 0-0 3-3 W1
NW Arkansas Naturals (KC) 2 4 .333 4.0 0-0 2-4 2-4 W1
Springfield Cardinals (STL) 1 5 .167 5.0 1-5 0-0 1-5 L2

The Cardinal Nation Top 40 Prospect Watch (rankings preceding the player name)

#10 Charlie Tilson - Will be looked upon to spark the top-of-the-order with his speed. Tilson isn't much of home run threat but can run into one every now and then. He is the classic slap/serve hitter which bodes well for his wheels. The Cardinals want him to learn to play a shallow center field and ratchet up his aggressiveness on the base paths, particularly in swiping bases this season. Tilson did okay in the first week, batting .286 in a 4-for-14 start at the plate.

#12 Aledmys Diaz - Diaz is repeating Double-A after an injury-plagued 2014, dealing with a nagging shoulder. After giving that shoulder an off-season worth of rest, Diaz proved he was healthy this spring and he’s showed through the first week that he can handle the rigors of playing an everyday shortstop, one of the most grinding positions on the field. At the plate, he went 3-for-21 in the first week, but that is not enough of a sample to tell you anything, as the Cuban hasn't had enough time to get in a rhythm.

#14 Jacob Wilson - Fully healthy from a knee operation just one summer ago, Wilson is back at Springfield after a strong Arizona Fall League and spring, where he stretched his versatility by playing multiple infield positions. Look for him to be the punch in the middle of the order early-on. Wilson hit 3-for-18 in the first week but he did manage to slug one out.

#15 Breyvic Valera - After the first-week of the season, Valera has already played RF and 2B multiple times. The multi-positional player is one of the most undervalued players in this organization with his ability to hit for average, play multiple positions, and will be Bilardello’s right-hand man when an injury occurs. So far, Valera has hit .273 (6-for-23) with 2 RBI.

#20 Nick Petree - The former Missouri State ace got his second Double-A start on Tuesday. He did not get out of the fourth inning as he gave up three runs (one earned) on eight hits. Petree pitched better on Tuesday with five solid innings of three-run ball but took the loss due to an offense that was shut-out. This was Petree’s first loss at Hammons Field including college, where he was 12-0 W-L for Missouri State in 18 appearances.

#25 Mike Mayers - Mayers was roughed up in his season-debut, allowing five-earned runs through two innings. With his past track record, he should be able to bounce back without much problem and become that innings-eating horse as one of the more experienced starters’ returning.

#27 Patrick Wisdom - Struggled mightily in his first week with a 1-for-14 start. Albeit, the one hit he did record was a hard liner off the wall in deep center that plated one. It will be interesting to see how the former supplemental first-round draft pick responds after a disappointing performance at the plate in 2014.

#35 Andrew Morales - Morales’ assignment to Double-A Springfield was a surprise to many because of the small amount of innings he pitched at Single-A Palm Beach to conclude his 2014 season. The UC Irvine product pitched well in his first outing of the year with five solid innings of one-run ball in a no-decision. In this outing, the right-hander had low 90s fastball going with a swing and miss curve-ball that got batters to chase outside of the zone.

What’s Next

Springfield will look to rebound after a slow 1-5 W-L mark in the first week of the season by taking on the same opponents next week, except on the road this time around.

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