Springfield Cardinals Notebook: 2015 Week 3

The Double-A Cardinals were back to their first-week struggles with one win during the seven days.

This report covers the period from Thursday, April 23rd through Wednesday, April 29th.

The Springfield Cardinals slid backward a week after going 3-3. Playing division rivals Arkansas Travelers (LAA) and NW Arkansas (KC) for three games each, the Cardinals could only salvage a lone win against six losses in Week 3.

Their overall record stands as 5-14, as they have lost six straight games, seven of their last ten, and trail by a wide margin of eight games this early in the season to the first-place Arkansas Travelers.

Thursday, April 23rd, Springfield 5 vs. Arkansas 0

Springfield returned home with an offense that came on strongly late on the road-trip and they carried it over to the home-opener with five runs across on nine hits. That is a positive from an offense that had no identity in the first homestand of the season.

Thomas Lee pitched seven excellent innings of shutout baseball against the Travelers’ offense and earned his first Texas League win as of result. Lee, an undrafted free agent signee, gave up just six hits but worked around that with six strikeouts and nine groundouts. The righty didn’t have his best stuff in his first two starts but this time, he had a sharp three-pitch mix going - a fastball that was used on the corners, with a slider, and changeup that kept the Travelers off balance and guessing.

The bullpen followed suit with Corey Baker and Chris Thomas pitching a scoreless eighth and ninth together. Baker walked a batter and struck out one while Thomas walked one but induced a groundout and a double-play that slammed the door.

Charlie Tilson got things started with a two-run RBI single, his lone hit in four at-bats on the night. Jonathan Rodriguez slammed a two-run homer that was his second of season, and Aledmys Diaz capped off the scoring with an RBI single. Diaz also walked and swiped his first bag in his first game back from the Temporarily Inactive List.

Friday, April 24th, Springfield 5 vs. Arkansas 12

A seven-run outburst in the eighth inning stretched the lead out enough to give Arkansas game two and even up the four-game series against Springfield.

Defensive miscues behind losing pitcher Kyle Hald leaving after only three innings. Hald allowed five runs, only one earned, on five hits, two walks and one strikeout on the night.

Formerly a starter and All-Time wins leader with 17 wins to his credit, Jonathan Cornelius is a luxury to have as a reliever, as you can count on him for multiple innings at a time. He did just that on Friday night with 3 ? scoreless innings to keep the Cardinals within striking distance. That window was closed in the eighth inning as relievers Heath Wyatt and Iden Nazario allowed all the seven runs in the rally by the Travelers offense.

A Cardinals offense that worked from behind all night long with a margin that kept growing larger and larger refused to go down quietly, but eventually did. Jacob Wilson and Patrick Wisdom each had home runs. Wilson hit a three-run shot for his third of the season, while Wisdom delivered a two-run shot to deep center for the five runs of the night for Springfield.

Saturday, April 25th, Springfield 1 vs. Arkansas 3

Springfield collected nine hits but failed to get the runners over and struggled with timely hitting in the seven chances they had runners in scoring position. Arkansas capitalized on six free passes to help them take game three.

Not known to be erratic, Andrew Morales spent most of this getting into and out of trouble in five scoreless innings of work, allowing two hits but four walks and three strikeouts.

Corey Baker yielded three earned runs on two hits, along with two walks in two innings as the right-hander became the losing pitcher. Justin Wright pitched the final two innings scoreless, as the lefty struck out four of the seven batters he faced.

Offensively the S-Cards had plenty of chances but often came up empty with one successful attempt out of three with runners in scoring position. Jacob Wilson produced the lone run of the night with a solo shot, his fourth of the season.

Sunday, April 26th, Springfield 6 vs. Arkansas 8

In a heated back-and-forth contest which had five lead changes, Arkansas was able to hold on. A four-run sixth inning gave them a sizeable advantage and eventually the series win over Springfield.

After one of his strongest starts of the season, Nick Petree followed it up with a rather iffy outing, allowing six runs (four of them earned) on nine hits, two walks and six strikeouts. It is expected for Petree to hit around as much as he does because of his ability to stay in the zone, but when he is on, he can be deceptively overpowering.

Chris Thomas allowed two unearned runs on three hits in 1 1/3 inning. Joe Donofrio continued to be solid with two scoreless frames as the righty garnered a walk and two strikeouts.

Springfield had no trouble getting men on with 12 hits, two of which were for extra-bases. Six runs came across to score but it was a few too short. Seven of the Springfield hitters accumulated at least one hit against the Travelers’ pitching staff. Jacob Wilson and Jonathan Rodriguez had a combined six of the 12 hits. Wilson knocked in one on a RBI double, with Rodriguez plating three with an RBI single and two-run double.

Monday, April 27th, Springfield 3 at NW Arkansas 5

Springfield’s struggling starting pitching continued on Monday night with Mike Mayers having a short night consisting of 3 1/3 innings. Mayers was lit up for five earned runs on seven hits. He wound up as the losing pitcher with his already third loss of the young season as NW Arkansas took the opener.

Heath Wyatt pitched out of fourth inning jam for Mayers, and followed by pitching the next two frames without allowing the opposition to score. Wyatt gave up a hit, walked one and struck out two. The side-winding Iden Nazario fanned three in two scoreless innings.

The offense had ample opportunity but squandered 9-of-11 chances with runners-in-scoring position and left ten total baserunners stranded. Charlie Tilson continued to be one of Springfield’s hottest hitters to start the season, as the outfielder collected two hits and came across to score twice - once on a run-down between second and first, and the other via a fielding error. Jacob Wilson produced the third run with an RBI double that scored Anthony Garcia.

Tuesday, April 28th, Springfield 5 at NW Arkansas 6

Springfield rallied in the top of the ninth to even up the score at five, suddenly to see their chances slip in the bottom half. The losing streak grew to five games in a row and overall, the Cardinals are eight games below .500 at 5-13 on the season.

Thomas Lee sailed through the first three innings without much trouble, before allowing a four-spot in the fourth and another one two innings later and departed after six innings. Lee walked two and struck out four Naturals, but was on the hook for the loss thanks to a ninth inning rally.

Justin Wright followed Lee with a scoreless seventh, striking out one. Corey Baker pitched a scoreless eighth before allowing the Naturals a walk, a single, then another single for the walk-off hit.

Ongoing hitting issues appeared once again Tuesday night with the offense going 3-for-11 with runners in scoring position and seven base runners left stranded. Patrick Wisdom was the only Springfield hitter to go hitless as the team busted out 11 hits collectively. Jonathan Rodriguez and Michael Olhman contributed five of those combined - Rodriguez had two plus a walk and Olhman added three and two RBI. Starlin Rodriguez tripled but his lone RBI came from via a base-on-balls.

Wednesday, April 29th, Springfield 0 at NW Arkansas 5

NW Arkansas claimed the first three games to take the series with one more left to play, which will be covered in next week’s notebook. Springfield suffered their sixth straight loss and seventh in their last ten games.

Matinee starter Kyle Hald pitched two perfect innings before the lefty excited because of an unknown issue. Jonathan Cornelius took over for the next four innings as the Naturals tagged him for five earned runs on nine hits - all they needed to hold down a scoreless Springbirds offense.

Chris Thomas pitched a scoreless eighth and ninth while fanning four, continuing his impressive first month of the season.

Only four hits were mustered by the Springfield offense that lagged behind in situational hitting in Week 3. In a disappointing performance, the team went 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position. Two of the four hits went for extra bases. Jonathan Rodriguez and Nick Martini both smacked doubles, but they went for naught.

Who is Hot

Charlie Tilson – Going hitless on Wednesday afternoon snapped his eight-game hitting streak. Tilson has been on an absolute tear from the leadoff spot, hitting .375 (12-for-32) during that eight-game stretch.

Jonathan Rodriguez - Often slotted as the clean-up hitter behind Jacob Wilson, Rodriguez has mashed his way back into this category with seven multi-hit games in his last ten games. The first baseman is 17-for-his-last 40 with two home runs and seven RBI.

Chris Thomas - One of the least-heralded relievers, but the numbers don’t lie. Thomas has been one of the most effective ones, putting together a 12-inning scoreless streak in the first month of the season. In fact, his role in the bullpen is expanding, as he has been manager Dann Bilardello’s most reliable arm thus far.

Who is Not

Anthony Garcia - Garcia has been playing as an everyday corner outfielder up to this point and his raw power gives him some upside to hope for. Contact issues with some swings and misses have caused his average to slip below the Mendoza line for the season.

Jonathan Cornelius - Primarily a starter until 2015, Cornelius is acclimating to a bullpen role. He was knocked around in his latest outing, allowing five earned runs on nine hits in four innings in a long relief appearance.

Mike Mayers - Coming off his best outing of the year, Mayers took a step backward in this week’s start as the right-hander yielded two earned runs to seven hits in 3 1/3 innings

Springbirds batting order

This week was the first week that the pitch clocks were in use at Hammons Field and through the three games at NW Arkansas with one left to play. The clock didn’t cause much of a problem to get acquainted with from the hitters perspective as they already seemed to be pretty well adjusted to a faster style of play put on by Texas League pitchers.

However, with an offense that has struggled mightily with timely hitting the last few weeks, the pitch clock could become a factor with those hitters who like to slow things down with their approaches. Time will if the pitch clock is seriously affecting their ability to hit with runners in scoring position.

Bilardello has an advantage compared with other Texas League managers. He can construct a lineup that is different almost every night with the versatility of this team to give plenty of days off. That versatility could cause an issue, though, in that a lineup cannot settle in and find a groove.

This week’s set of lineups brought an interesting dynamic because of the lack of situational hitting. Charlie Tilson has been the everyday leadoff hitter from day one and so far has thrived in that role. The all-important two-hole hitter is still up for grabs as Breyvic Valera and Nick Martini have split that duty. The number three hitter has been second baseman Jacob Wilson, who has been streaky but production is a must out of this slot. In the cleanup spot is Jonathan Rodriguez, who has torn the cover off the ball, but it would help if the guys in front of him would get in scoring position more often.

The fifth-hitter in the lineup has either been David Washington, a huge power guy but isn’t going to hit for a high-average like Aledmys Diaz, who is stationing from the fifth spot or sixth when healthy. That leaves the seventh and eighth spot open for third baseman Patrick Wisdom and catcher Michael Ohlman, who have flip flopped back and forth. Ohlman hits in front of Wisdom most often when the DH isn’t in play. With the DH, Washington has filled that role when he’s not in the corners and Anthony Garcia will patrol left field or right field.

Transactions

4/23 INF Aledmys Diaz activated from the Temporary Inactive List
4/23 INF Cesar Valera transferred to Short-A State College from Springfield
4/23 INF Alex Mejia transferred to AAA-Memphis from Springfield
4/23 OF Starlin Rodriguez activated from the DL
4/24 RHP Ronnie Shaban placed on the DL
4/24 LHP Iden Nazario transferred to Springfield from High-A Palm Beach
4/25 RHP Kurt Heyer transferred to AAA-Memphis from Springfield
4/25 INF Alex Mejia transferred to Springfield from AAA-Memphis

Texas League North Division Standings

Club W L PCT GB Home Away L10 Streak
Arkansas Travelers (LAA) 13 6 .684 - 4-5 9-1 6-4 W1
Tulsa Drillers (LAD) 11 8 .579 2.0 6-4 5-4 6-4 L1
NW Arkansas Naturals (KC) 10 9 .526 3.0 7-2 3-7 6-4 W4
Springfield Cardinals (STL) 5 14 .263 8.0 2-8 3-6 3-7 L6

The Cardinal Top 40 Prospect Watch

#10 Charlie Tilson - Tilson extended his hitting streak to eight games before it was eventually snapped on Wednesday afternoon, a game in which the outfielder had an 0-fer. The leadoff hitter has even upped his aggressiveness on the base paths this season with eight stolen bases to only one caught stealing. If that trend remains, it obviously increases his value.

#12 Aledmys Diaz - Diaz returned to the diamond this week following a four-day absence to obtain permanent residency in the States. Since his return, Diaz has gone 4-for-18 in five games with an RBI and two walks. The Cuban has flashed some leather this week, making a diving stop directly in front of second base with a strong throw to first, and showed the ability to charge in on slow rollers and throw off-balance - a key if he is to stick at the position.

#14 Jacob Wilson - The former Memphis Tiger flashed some pop the last few weeks with three home runs in his last ten games. Wilson just needs to get back to squaring up the ball to starting hitting for a little better average than his .242 mark.

#15 Breyvic Valera - Valera numbers have been dipping the last few weeks with a 7-for-39 stretch (.179 average) his last ten games. All that can change with a strong Week 4.

#20 Nick Petree - Petree’s latest start, in which he allowed four earned runs on nine hits in 5 2/3 innings, was another iffy one. But he showed more stamina in getting deeper into the game so that’s a positive. The next step is commanding the zone consistently as he should with his type of stuff.

#25 Mike Mayers - Following an impressive seven inning shutout in his last start, Mayers was hammered and didn’t even get through four innings. So far this season, he has given up a lot of loud contact which has led to unpleasant results.

#27 Patrick Wisdom - Wisdom has hit his way to the bottom part of the batting order and with that has come continual struggles. Though his first home run of the season came this week.

#35 Andrew Morales - Morales struggled to control his stuff consistently against the Travelers with four walks in five scoreless innings but was still effective enough to prevent a losing decision. There’s a lot of intrigue here with the early-season numbers showing promise.

What is Next

Springfield finished this week with a disappointing 1-6 record and need improvement in timely hitting if they are to compete in games in the foreseeable future. They complete the four-game series at NW Arkansas on Thursday, April 30th, then head to Little Rock to play the Arkansas Travelers for three games, and come home for a four-game home set against the NW Arkansas Naturals again starting next Tuesday.



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