Springfield Cardinals Notebook: 2015 Week 8

The Double-A Cards had a 4-2 week, including their first back-to-back series wins of the season. Thomas Lee has been strong on the mound.

This report covers the period from Thursday, May 28th through Wednesday, June 3rd

The Springfield Cardinals (STL) finished the eighth week of the minor league regular season by going 4-2. Springfield dropped the remaining road game with the Frisco RoughRiders (TEX) for a split of a three-game set, then returned to Hammons Field and slid past the Midland Rockhounds (OAK) by taking two-of-three. Springfield welcomed Frisco for a rematch, and so far have outrun the Riders’ by taking the first two of three. Thursday night’s series-finale will be covered in next week’s edition.

The Springbirds have held a firm grip on last place in the Texas League North Division practically all season to date. However, having won four of their last five games, Springfield trails third-place holder the Tulsa Drillers (LAD), losers of four straight games, by just 3 ½ games. Both teams will match up for home and road series one more time before the first half concludes. There’s a chance Springfield could finish the first half in third place after such a dismal start to the 2015 season, as things are trending upward as of late and they have the momentum against the Drillers.

Thursday, May 28th, Springfield 1 at Frisco 2

Springfield squandered solid efforts by starter Arturo Reyes and Iden Nazario in relief. Frisco hung on late for a one-run win in the series-finale and the series victory.

Reyes pitched well enough to qualify for his second quality start as a Texas League pitcher. The righty yielded two earned runs on six hits, with a walk and three in a losing decision. Side-winding reliever Nazario employed a looping slider that fooled the Riders offense for two scoreless innings.

The offense recorded seven hits, but left eight stranded and were successful just 2-of-10 times with runners in scoring position, accounting for just a single run. Charlie Tilson knocked it in with an RBI single. Breyvic Valera and Alberto Rosario contributed two hits apiece.

Friday, May 29th, Springfield 8 at Midland 6

Down three runs going into the sixth inning, the Springbirds rallied for three to tie the score. They capped off the rally in the seventh with another run to take their first lead of the night. The Cards went on to earn their second win of the road-trip and first of the three game-set against the Midland Rockhounds.

Andrew Morales was shaken up for five earned runs, three of which came via a three-run blast. Morales existed after only 2 ? innings.

Springfield dug into their bullpen for five relievers who covered the next 6 ? innings without allowing a run. Chris Thomas pitched 2 ? innings, Jordan Swagerty 1 ? innings, Ronnie Shaban 1 ? innings, and Kyle Barraclough, the “unofficial” closer, slammed the door shut with his third save.

Springfield’s bats awoke at the right time on Friday night with situational hitting. Jonathan Rodriguez, Patrick Wisdom, Breyvic Valera, and Charlie TIlson knocked in runs on singles. Michael Ohlman drove in two with a double.

Saturday, May 30th, Springfield 4 at Midland 7

Midland routed Springfield with a five-spot in the first inning and tacked on an extra two runs in fourth to put away the Cardinals. It evened the series at one apiece.

Nick Petree was roughed up for all seven Rockhounds runs on 11 hits. Petree stuck with it though, and battled through six hard innings with a walk and three strikeouts. Joey Donofrio relieved Petree with the final two innings of scoreless baseball.

An offense that mounted a comeback the night before, came three runs short on Saturday night of overcoming their second deficit in as many nights. Charlie Tilson recorded two RBI, via a single and a sac fly, while Michael Ohlman and Bruce Caldwell had RBI doubles.

Sunday, May 31st, Springfield 7 at Midland 2

Springfield went away as winners for the three-game series at Midland. On Sunday, they surged past the Rockhounds with a strong all-around game by both the offense and the pitching staff, a rare occurrence for this club on the 2015 campaign.

It was a bullpen start for Springfield after losing Kyle Hald to the disabled list. Corey Baker was tremendous in the spot-start, pitching 3 ? shutout innings, as the right-hander walked three and struck out two.

Lee Stoppelman had trouble controlling the great movement off his pitches that would tail out of the zone, resulting in two walks and two earned runs. Kurt Heyer picked up Stoppelman with two scoreless innings, while Iden Nazario and Chris Thomas covered the last 2 ? innings without allowing any damage.

The offense did their part early and swiftly through the first four frames, with all seven coming in that timeframe. Each of the spots one-through-nine in the order contributed at least a base hit. Jeremy Hazelbaker tripled home a run and rocketed his second homer as a Springbird, while Nick Martini contributed two hits with an RBI. The trio of Jonathan Rodriguez, David Washington, and Bruce Caldwell each drove in a run.

Tuesday, June 2nd, Springfield 5 vs. Frisco 1

Following a Monday off-day due to travel, Springfield opened up the first of six games on the homestand on Tuesday night against the Frisco Roughriders (TEX). Thomas Lee gave the Springfield bullpen a night off, with a complete-game one-run performance against the aggressively-swinging Riders’ offense.

Lee scattered just four hits, one walk, and stranded two Frisco runners on, telling of how in control he was from start to finish. The righty threw an efficient 90 pitches with 64 strikes, along with four strikeouts.

Every hitter but Jeremy Hazelbaker got into the act with the minimum of one base-hit. Patrick Wisdom and Bruce Caldwell combined for four of the ten safeties and with an RBI each. Aledmys Diaz and Michael Ohlman drove in the other two runs on the night.

Wednesday, June 3rd, Springfield 7 vs. Frisco 2

For the second night in a row, Springfield pitching cooled off the Frisco offense with a middle-of-the-order that features three top positional prospects within the Rangers system and throughout baseball. The offense boomed once again with seven runs off 12 hits on Wednesday night, to give the Cardinals their first back-to-back series wins of the season.

Arturo Reyes (W, 2-2) breezed through the first three innings without much effort, but edsurrender one of his two earned runs in the second inning. The fourth and fifth innings did not come so easily for the laboring Reyes, but did finish off the fifth well by striking out Nomar Mazara with one of his filthiest sliders of the night.

The bullpen covered the final four scoreless frames with Jordan Swagerty, Ronnie Shaban, Joe Donofrio, and Kyle Barraclough contributing.

Similarly as Tuesday night’s affair, the offense had all but one hitter record at least a base-hit with only Aledmys Diaz going hitless in five at-bats. Bruce Caldwell and Patrick Wisdom both homered, Caldwell a two-run shot that was his first in Double-A, and Wisdom a solo shot. Jeremy Hazelbaker added two RBI while Nick Martini and Breyvic Valera contributed one driven in each.

Who is Hot

Thomas Lee - Lee has pitched quality efforts in his past three outings, dating back to May 21st. The right-hander has dropped his season ERA by almost two full runs in those three starts, over 22 innings. During that time, Lee has allowed just four earned runs on 18 hits, with one walk and ten strikeouts.

Bruce Caldwell - The newbie to this Springfield club, Caldwell has made an early impact with his bat. The multi-positional player has hits in his first four Texas League games, by going 6-for-16 (.375 average), including his first home run on Wednesday night with five RBI since his promotion from Palm Beach.

Charlie Tilson – Tilson is on a torrid stretch of late, with a current eight-game hitting streak, including four multi-hit games during that span. The Chicago, Illinois native’s average has climb from .259 to .286 since May 25th.

Who is Not

Aledmys Diaz - Diaz’s average has tanked the last week or so. The Cuban is 1-for-his-last-18 in four games, both against the Rockhounds and Roughriders.

Jonathan Rodriguez - Rodriguez is batting a low .206 in his last ten games, 7-for-34 stretch at the plate. Though he has recorded a hit in his last three games.

Lee Stoppelman - The lefty is blessed with wicked movement in an arsenal that features a high-80s fastball which can play up when the curveball and changeup are thrown for strikes. Since his return from disabled list, Stoppelman has been troubled with controlling his pitches with five walks in three outings, 2 ? innings, allowing three earned runs, on a telling one base-hit.

Springbirds batting order

Manager Dann Bilardello for the most part had a set lineup in place this week. Charlie Tilson continues leading off as the catalyst atop the order, a scuffling Aledmys Diaz was the two-hole hitter all but one game this week, with the third-hole hitter Jeremy Hazelbaker, who has the potential to drive the ball out of the ballpark off a mistake. Jonathan Rodriguez remains at clean-up, with Nick Martini and Anthony Garcia splitting time between the fifth and sixth spots in the order.

To round up the batting order this week, Michael Ohlman has received the majority of the opportunities behind the plate over Alberto Rosario. Bilardello has often plugged Ohlman into the seventh slot when the latter got the start. Patrick Wisdom, Breyvic Valera, and Bruce Caldwell finished out the order as they batted eighth and ninth for this week.

Team Transactions

5/27 LHP Kyle Hald placed on the 7-Day DL
5/29 INF Alex Mejia transferred to AAA-Memphis from Springfield
5/29 INF Bruce Caldwell transferred to Springfield from High-A Palm Beach
5/29 RHP Kurt Heyer transferred to Springfield from AAA-Memphis
5/31 RHP Nick Petree placed on the 7-Day DL
6/2 LHP Jimmy Reed transferred to Springfield from High-A Palm Beach

Texas League North Division Standings

Club W L PCT GB Home Away L10 Streak
NW Arkansas Naturals (KC) 31 19 0.620 - 21-8 11-10 3-7 L2
Arkansas Travelers (LAA) 29 22 0.569 2.5 14-14 15-8 7-3 L1
Tulsa Drillers (LAD) 20 29 0.408 10.5 9-11 11-18 2-8 L4
Springfield Cardinals (STL) 19 33 0.365 13 9-15 10-18 5-5 W3

The Cardinal Nation Top 40 Prospect Watch

#10 Charlie Tilson - Tilson hasn’t shown any power this season. But the blazing outfielder has shown improvements in other areas such as plate discipline (.340 OBP, up nearly 70 points from last year) and base-stealing (18 stolen bases in 48 games, vs. 12 stolen bases in 120 games last year) that compensate for a lack of power. He has also progressed in his ability to play a shallow center field and is willing to trust his speed in making plays that are hit to the track.

#12 Aledmys Diaz - As noted above, Diaz’s performance this past week has tanked his average all the way down to a miniscule .224 on the season. On the flip side, he is getting stronger defensively with more reps at shortstop and has shown confidence to make the charging play consistently on slow rollers, a play that the shortstop struggled with making last year.

#15 Breyvic Valera - Valera isn’t hitting at the same frantic pace as last week. Though the Venezuelan is still collecting his fair share of hits – it is just not the amount the Cardinals have come to expect out of a career .300 minor league hitter.

#20 Nick Petree - Petree was shelved on Sunday, May 31st with what is being called lower back soreness. Reportedly, the DL move was precautionary with the coaching staff anticipating Petree to miss at least a start or two.

#25 Mike Mayers - Mayers remains on the 7-Day DL with a right arm strain, retroactive to May 12th. He continues to rehab in Florida. No further reports are available.

#27 Patrick Wisdom - Glimpses of breaking out at the plate have come for Wisdom. The third baseman is 7-for-16 with a homer and four RBI in his last four games. The home run was cracked on Wednesday night to straightaway centerfield. The solo shot was a very positive step for Wisdom who had just one home run prior to then.

#35 Andrew Morales - Morales had yet another stinker in his latest start. The UC Irvine product exited early - after just 2 ? innings - and allowed five earned runs on five hits, with four walks for his third loss at Double-A. It is just another adjustment period and after Morales literally skipped Palm Beach, the righty has been forced to learn on the fly and there will be struggles along the way.

What is Next

With 18 games left in the season’s first half, Springfield has made significant progress in their overall play. They are just 3 ½ games behind the Tulsa Drillers for third place in the North Division, with two four-game series left to play against their division rival coming up.

The Cardinals will finish up a six-game home-stand with one remaining against Frisco on Thursday night, then host Midland for three this weekend. After an off-day on Monday, Springfield will head back out on the road to start up the last road-trip of the first half against division rivals Arkansas and Tulsa for four each.

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