Cards 4th of July Fireworks and Roster Moves

Players remain on the move in the St. Louis Cardinals system over the Fourth of July weekend.

While many Americans are celebrating the birth of the country, travel secretaries within the St. Louis Cardinals minor league system are hard at work preparing plans for several minor league players who are on the move. It all started with the Friday swap of Tommy Pham for Tim Cooney at the major league level.

Mitch Harris and Greg Garcia swap spots

Mitch Harris has been returned to the St. Louis Cardinals active roster on Saturday, taking the spot of utility infielder Greg Garcia. Harris returns to the big club after being optioned to Triple-A Memphis on June 19th. Since being optioned, Harris has made five appearances for Memphis, pitching a total of 5 1/3 innings with a 5.06 ERA and an opponents batting average of .318. For the big club this season, Harris has a 3.63 ERA over 17 1/3 innings.

Greg Garcia returns to Memphis after a three-week stint with St. Louis. In that time, he made 13 plate appearances and had five hits and a walk. Most fans will remember Garcia’s first professional home run on June 26th against the Chicago Cubs. With Memphis, Garcia is hitting .313 over 250 plate appearances.

End of the Road for Castillo

Dave Eminian, Peoria Chiefs beat writer for the Peoria Journal Star, reports that the Cardinals released outfielder Ronald Castillo on Saturday. The 23-year old native of the Dominican Republic has been in the Cardinals system since 2010 and has had some success, but has battled injuries in his career with 94 games being his max for a season. In 2013, Castillo spent time between Short Season State College and High-A Palm Beach and finished the season with a .826 OPS.

In 2015, Castillo again battled injuries and split time between Low-A Peoria and High-A Palm Beach. Over 161 at-bats, Castillo hit a combined .160. At 23, time had run out for Castillo in the system.

Cooney shipped to Peoria, for now

In an interesting move, Eminian is reporting that Tim Cooney will join the Peoria Chiefs for a couple of days. This is not a straight demotion and Cooney will almost certainly not throw a pitch for the Midwest League. Since he pitched on Thursday, Cooney will be unavailable to pitch until Tuesday. I am assuming the organization placed Cooney on the Peoria roster because the Memphis roster was full and they could just stash him there. Don’t look too deep into this move. This type of move happens more often around roster expansion time in early September.

Blake McKnight headed south for the summer

Blake McKnight has been promoted to High-A Palm Beach, again according to Eminian. McKnight had a near perfect month of June for the Peoria Chiefs and will be a front runner for The Cardinal Nation Reliever of the Month award that will come out in the next day or two. McKnight made made seven appearances that stretched over 16 1/3 innings and did not allow a run while allowing just 12 hits.

The 24-year old Evangel University (Springfield, Mo) product was in his second year at Peoria and was 5-10 with a 5.19 ERA there last year. On the 2015 season for Peoria, the 6’1” righty was 3-2 with a 1.71 ERA over 47 1/3 innings. At 24, it is time for McKnight to move up.

Alexander and Perez return from DL

Kevin Alexander and Dewin Perez are returning to the Peoria Chiefs active roster Saturday after stints on the disabled list.

The 24-year old Alexander made four rehab appearances with the GCL Cardinals over the past couple of weeks after last pitching for Peoria on May 20th. Alexander has made seven appearances for the Chiefs and has a 3.46 ERA over 13 innings.

Perez, the 20-year old Colombia native, made two rehab starts for the GCL Cards and is ready to rejoin the Cardinals’ Midwest League affiliate. Prior to his DL stint, Perez made four starts and went 0-2 with a 10.61 ERA over 9 1/3 innings with his longest outing at three innings. Perez will be the starter on Saturday for the Chiefs against Quad Cities.

Update: Martini to Memphis

Nick Martini, who has been in the St. Louis Cardinals system since 2011, has been promoted to the organization’s highest minor league affiliate for the first time in his career. The 25-year old was hitting .288 at Double-A Springfield over 66 games and 259 plate appearances.

2015 is Martini’s first full season at the Double-A level after splitting 2014 at High-A Palm Beach and Springfield. The 2011 seventh round pick out of Kansas State has been a solid performer for the Cardinals, with his best season coming last year. Over 454 at-bats, Martini slashed .260/.337/.385. As you can tell by the low slugging number, he is not a big power guy but can get on base. Defensively, Martini can play all three outfield spots.

With the addition of Martini, the Memphis outfield consists of Stephen Piscotty, Rafael Ortega, newly promoted Jeremy Hazelbaker, and utilityman Ty Kelly.

Update: Washington returns to Springfield

With the losses of Martini and Hazelbaker, the Springfield Cardinals were down two outfielders. Yesterday, we told you of unofficial reports that Derek Gibson was headed to Springfield and those reports became official on Saturday. The other roster opening goes to 1B/OF David Washington, who will be returning to Springfield after getting sent down to Palm Beach in early June.

Washington started the 2015 season at the Double-A level and had some success. Over 43 games and 164 plate appearances, Washington hit .253, which was his highest batting average since his 2013 time with the State College Spikes. The 24-year old Washington hit five home runs with Springfield earlier this season, his only homers of the season. 2009 15th round pick’s biggest weakness has been his strikeouts and that showed during his first Springfield stint. Over those 43 games, Washington struck out 52 times while walking just 10 times.

The Springfield outfield now consists of Washington, Gibson, Charlie Tilson, Anthony Garcia, and Mike O’Neill.

Update: Escudero heads back to Florida

21-year old pitcher Jonathan Escudero was transferred to the Gulf Coast Cardinals from the Johnson City Cardinals, both Rookie Level affiliates. The GCL Cards will be Escudero’s fourth club of the 2015 season. After spending April, May, and part of June at the organization’s complex in Florida, the 21-year old Colombian made one appearance with the High-A Palm Beach Cardinals. He then was transferred to the State College Spikes where he also made one appearance, then on June 25th, Escudero was sent to Johnson City where he made two appearances. Through the three stops so far this season, Escudero has pitched in just eight innings.

Be on the lookout for more roster moves on this 4th of July. There have been rumors of a couple other moves involving outfielders and if those happen we will bring them to you.

John Nagel can be reached via email at Follow John on Twitter @CardinalsFarm.

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