Springfield Cardinals Notebook: 2015 Week 11

The Double-A Cardinals finished a disappointing first half, but are playing much better in June. Texas League Player of the Week Patrick Wisdom is leading the way.

This report covers the period from Thursday, June 18th through Wednesday, June 24th

Following a 10-5 record through the first two weeks of June, the Springfield Cardinals came back down to earth a bit in Week 11 of the minor league season. They finished with a 3-4 record in the final week of the first half. Springfield’s loss on Monday night to the Tulsa Drillers left the Cardinals with a 30-40 record in the first half, last in the Texas League North Division and worst first-half mark in franchise history.

What remains, however, is a June during which the club shown a resurgence, having won four series and a split of a four-game set, before being swept by the third-place Drillers (in the first half) in a series that completed on Wednesday afternoon.

Springfield took three-of-four against the NW Arkansas Naturals (KC) after a loss in the series-opener, covered in last week’s edition. The standings reset this Tuesday, and so far the Cardinals have not taken advantage of a clean slate with two straight tough losses in back-to-back games against none other than the Drillers.

Thursday, June 18th, Springfield vs. NW Arkansas - postponed

Game two of four between Springfield and NW Arkansas was washed out due to Tropical Storm Bill. The game was rescheduled a part of doubleheader on Friday.

Friday, June 19th, Springfield 10 vs. NW Arkansas 9 (nine innings)

Game one went on as a regular nine-inning contest. It ended with a comeback after Springfield trailed by three runs twice, as a walk-off RBI single by Aledmys Diaz put the nail on the coffin for the matinee win.

Pitching in the high 80s, fill-in starter Kurt Heyer gave up a lot of hard contact but gutted his way through 4 2/3 innings. The right-hander yielded six earned runs, scattered eight hits, a walk, and three strikeouts in a no-decision.

Joey Donofrio too was lit up for three earned runs on three hits, through 2 1/3 innings of work. The fine work of Ronnie Shaban gave the offense a chance to strike late, which they did. The reliever worked two scoreless frames on his way to his first Double-A win.

Charlie Tilson received his weekly one day of rest during the seven-day work schedule. The entire offense clicked with 12 hits collectively. Bruce Caldwell led the charge with a perfect line of four hits at the plate. Caldwell contributed a home run and four RBI. Patrick Wisdom and Breyvic Valera combined for three RBI, with the former having a two-run single.

Friday, June 19th, Springfield 9 vs. NW Arkansas 4 (seven innings)

The nightcap featured a power showcase. With Springfield trailing by four runs in the fourth, they sent 13 batters to the plate and scored nine times, on prodigious three-run homers by Charlie Tilson, Jeremy Hazelbaker, and Patrick Wisdom. They were Tilson’s first, Hazelbaker’s third, and Wisdom’s sixth of the season. The pitching staff settled in and made quick work of a Naturals offense that may have still been shell shocked from Game one.

Coming off a Texas League Pitcher of the Week award, Arturo Reyes allowed four earned runs on eight hits, with a walk and two strikeouts, through five innings. He still managed to earn his staff-leading fifth win of the season.

Chris Thomas and Kyle Barraclough closed the door on the doubleheader sweep with scoreless eighth and ninth innings.

Saturday, June 20th, Springfield 11 vs. NW Arkansas 8

Michael Ohlman fueled the offensive charge by belting a pair of solo home runs as the offense struck for 11 runs on 11 hits en route to a sizeable victory over NW Arkansas in the series-finale. Springfield took the series three-to-one, and are 5-0-1 in their last six series, dating back to late-May.

It was a bullpen game with Corey Baker making the spot-start. Baker allowed two earned runs on six hits through three innings pitched. Kevin Herget followed by giving up six earned runs on seven hits in three innings pitched.

The game’s winning pitcher, Jordan Swagerty, pitched a scoreless inning. Iden Nazario and Chris Thomas combined to pitch the last of the eighth and ninth to hold down the Naturals offense.

Ohlman extended his hitting streak to 17 games, one short if the franchise record. Bruce Caldwell belted his fourth home run of the season, a three-run shot. Mike O’Neill and Jeremy Hazelbaker combined to drive in three, with O’Neill having two.

Sunday, June 21st, Springfield 2 vs. Tulsa 5 (10 innings)

Patrick Wisdom’s game-extending solo shot was not enough as Springfield dropped the 10-inning series’ opener to Tulsa, 5-3. Wisdom’s ninth-inning home run, his seventh, knotted the game at two all, sending the game into extras. But three runs against Iden Nazario the next frame buried the home team.

Jimmy Reed hurled seven strong innings, scattering eight hits and a walk with two runs given up. Ryan Sherriff bridged the gap from Reed to Nazario, yielding a hit while fanning two.

The S-Cards’ 12-hit attack was headed by Mike O’Neill and Nick Martini, who had three hits each. O’Neill doubled once in four at bats with a sac bunt and Martini singled three times in five at bats. Charlie Tilson went 2-for-4 with a walk and run scored.

Monday, June 22nd, Springfield 3 vs. Tulsa 4

Springfield ended first half’s play on Monday night with a close one-run loss to division rival Tulsa. With their win, the Drillers won the showdown with the Cards for sole possession of third-place. The Drillers seventh inning magic put them over the top to beat the Cardinals 4-3, and take the first two of a four-game series.

Sitting in the high 80s, Kyle Hald topped out at 90 mph on occasion, but still pitched a quality outing. The lefty kept his team close enough to win but the offense spoiled multiple opportunities with runners in scoring position. Hald allowed three earned runs on seven hits through six innings.

Joey Donofrio followed Hald, giving up what would be the game-winning RBI single in the seventh. Chris Thomas worked around two hits in the ninth with a scoreless inning.

The offense stranded 11 runners on base, in a night in which they got three-hit games from Texas League all-stars Charlie Tilson and Jeremy Hazelbaker, a former Tulsa Driller. Mike O’Neill and Hazelbaker each had RBI doubles, with Alberto Rosario driving in the other run with a ground-out.

Tuesday, June 23rd, Springfield 2 vs. Tulsa 10

The Cardinals started second half play on Tuesday night with a blowout loss to division rival Tulsa. The game was close until the 8th inning, when the Drillers struck for seven runs to take a commanding lead, then eventually the series win.

A 13 day layoff for Andrew Morales worked to his favor, as Morales bounced back from four straight rough outings. The right-hander pitched 5 ? innings, allowing two earned runs, on eight hits, with no walks - which was essential to avoid an inflated pitch count - and struck out five Drillers.

Behind Morales was a relief corps that struggled mightily with Kevin Herget giving up three of the seven runs the Drillers pushed across in the 8th. Kyle Barraclough was lit up for the other four earned that inning. Barraclough had allowed just one earned run prior to this outing through 15 innings as a Springbird.

Springfield’s only source of offense came in the 6th inning, as a wild pitch scored Herget and an RBI single by Jeremy Hazelbaker closed the Cardinals scoring.

Wednesday, June 24th, Springfield 5 vs. Tulsa 6

In the finale of a four-game set, Springfield led through the first six frames before Tulsa rallied for a five-spot in the seventh. That was more than enough to hold down a late comeback by the Cardinals as the Drillers’ swept them out of town.

Starter Arturo Reyes has received praise for his effortless mechanics and polished nature on the mound. On this night, Reyes sat 90-93 mph and touched 94-95 on the team gun, which is more accurate than the stadium gun, with the latter notorious for being a few mph juiced.

Reyes went 5 ? innings, allowing an unearned run. The right-hander also gave up four hits, but walked none, struck out one, and for the most part kept the ball in the yard on a day when a squared up offering had a little extra carry.

Ryan Sherriff came in for a same-side match-up and carved up the lefty-batter with a sweeping slider that broke across the plate. Chris Thomas took over the seventh inning duties, but coughed up five earned runs on four hits while only managing to retire two batters.

After getting walloped the prior night, the offense showed signs of life with a late comeback with a three-run shot by Anthony Garcia. However, the overall performance of 3-for-19 with runners in scoring position and 11 runners left aboard proved costly. Jonathan Rodriguez roped two RBI doubles in four at-bats.

Who’s Hot

Patrick Wisdom - Wisdom won the Texas League Player of the Week for June 15 - June 21. It was the third straight week a Cardinal won at least one of the league’s awards. The third baseman hit .321, and led all minor leaguers with three home runs and 13 RBI. In his last two games though, Wisdom went hitless in seven at-bats but it is good to see the accolades.

Jimmy Reed - In two of Reed’s first four Texas League starts, the lefty has pitched seven innings, allowing no more than two earned runs. In the other two starts, Reed’s control drove up his pitch count such that he left before completing five innings. Even then, he allowed no more than two earned runs. Control/quality of pitches leads to efficiency which leads to consistently deeper outings.

Who’s Not

Aledmys Diaz - Diaz continues to search for any sort of consistent success at the dish. The Cuban went 3-for-18 (.166 average) at the plate this week. His season average dipped 12 points from the previous week, down to .230.

Chris Thomas - Thomas was scorched on Wednesday afternoon by the Drillers offense, which put up a five-spot. They were the first runs he allowed since May 25.

Springbirds batting order

Manager Dann Bilardello left his regular lead-off man Charlie Tilson out of the lineup on Wednesday afternoon after a late-night game and early afternoon affair to follow. The trio of Nick Martini. Mike O’Neill, and Jeremy Hazelbaker saw time in the two-hole this week. Michael Ohlman, Texas League Player of the Week for his hot-hitting a week ago, batted third this week, but Anthony Garcia was slotted there on Wednesday. Jonathan Rodriguez continued with his clean-up duties.

Hazelbaker, one of the more well-rounded Cardinal hitters, gives the skipper flexibility with the lineup card to bat him either high or low, as the outfielder often batted fifth this week. The sixth-spot included Patrick Wisdom, Aledmys Diaz, and Bruce Caldwell. Diaz appeared there when the DH was in play. When the pitcher batted ninth, Wisdom was slotted at seven, and Breyvic Valera at eight.

Team Transactions

6/21 C Alberto Rosario transferred to Springfield from AAA-Memphis
6/21 C Jose Gonzalez transferred to High-A Palm Beach from Springfield
6/21 LHP Ryan Sherriff activated from the DL
6/21 RHP Ronnie Shaban transferred to High-A Palm Beach from Springfield
6/22 RHP Nick Petree activated from the DL
6/22 RHP Nick Petree transferred to High-A Palm Beach from Springfield

Texas League North Division Standings – First Half final

Club W L PCT GB Home Away L10 Streak
NW Arkansas Naturals (KC) 40 30 .571 - 25-11 15-19 5-5 L1
Arkansas Travelers (LAA) 36 33 .522 3.5 16-18 20-15 5-5 W1
Tulsa Drillers (LAD) 30 39 .435 9.5 15-20 15-19 5-5 W2
Springfield Cardinals (STL) 30 40 .429 10.0 15-19 15-21 5-5 L2

The Cardinal Nation Top 40 Prospect Watch

#10 Charlie Tilson - As mentioned last week, Tilson with the help of former Cardinal base-stealing whiz Willie McGee, has seen a tremendous improvement in his stolen bases. 22 through the first half is already a career-high for Tilson. However, it should be noted the plus runner is learning the finer points as a base-stealer and was caught three times this week, in consecutive games.

#12 Aledmys Diaz – My view of Diaz so far this season is the same as from the limited looks last year, even with the amount of time he missed due to injuries. The shortstop has a quick bat and shows no trouble in putting the barrel on a good Texas League fastball. But, at this level most pitchers have command of a type of off-speed or breaking pitch which exploits Diaz’ biggest weakness, as he often collapses his front-side on slower stuff. That results in him lunging forward and losing every ounce of power potential. Obviously, the Cardinals invested a large sum of money in Diaz, so you’d expect them to resolve this flaw in his second season with the organization.

#15 Breyvic Valera - The super-versatile position player has steadily enhanced his average over the last ten games. Valera has notched a base-hit in seven of his last eight games, three of those coming in multi-hit fashion. He’s struck out just 13 times in 223 at-bats, so his bat-to-ball skills haven’t been the issue, it has been more of making consistently sharp contact. A good sign of improvement occurred on Wednesday when Valera barreled a ball into the outfield alley for his first triple of the season.

#20 Nick Petree - Petree was activated this week after dealing with a tight lower back, and was reassigned to High-A Palm Beach. This move is often done by the organization to enable pitchers to work things out after missing time.

#25 Mike Mayers - Rehabbing at the complex in Florida due to a right arm strain, Mayers will probably be reassigned like Petree once he is cleared to throw competitively again on a five-day regimen.

#27 Patrick Wisdom - A May trip to extended spring training did Wisdom wonders to clear his mind, fine-tune his hitting mechanics, and step away from the pressures of producing up to his prospect status. Minor adjustments were made to his grip on the bat, his stance is slightly more squared at the plate, and his bat stays within the zone longer to give him a larger room for error at the point of contact. A different approach is notable as well, with an ability to use the whole field rather than pulling everything.

#35 Andrew Morales - Morales started on Tuesday night following two weeks off. The UC Irvine product limited Tulsa to just two runs through 5 2/3 innings pitched, striking out five and keeping the Cardinals within reach. The takeaway was that Morales pitched his deepest start since mid-May, was able to throw strikes, and avoid an abundance of baserunners. This game plan will be vital to his success going forward.

Experienced leadership

Three former big-leaguers are Springfield coaches. Bilardello was an MLB catcher, pitching coach Jason Simontacchi was an MLB pitcher, and hitting coach Erik Pappas was an MLB catcher/right fielder. These three have the proper experience and know-how to keep an even keel in the clubhouse for the second half. With the next wave of talent still at High-A Palm Beach, the Cardinals could potentially pull off a run at the second half North Division title.

What’s Next

After a tough home-stand during which Springfield went 3-4 against NW Arkansas and Tulsa to take last-place in the first half race, Springfield sets out for a brief four-game road-series against the Arkansas Travelers (LAA) this weekend.

The league is then off for three days for the Texas League All-Star Game, which will be held at Corpus Christi on Tuesday, June 30. Eight Cardinals have been invited, with starters including Jeremy Hazelbaker, Charlie Tilson and Michael Ohlman. Others on the team include Nick Martini, Joey Donofrio, Kyle Barraclough, Arturo Reyes and Chris Thomas.

Following the All-Star Break, the Cards return to Hammons Field for three games each against the San Antonio Missions (SD) and Corpus Christi Hooks (HOU), starting next Thursday.

Follow Derek Shore on Twitter @D_Shore23.

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