Gulf Coast League Cards Notebook: 2015 Week 2

The Gulf Coast League Cardinals pitching is struggling in the early going, but 19-year-old Sandy Alcantara is heating up.

The Gulf Coast League Cardinals (3-8) won only one game out of five this past week. They were swept in three games by the Mets and then split two with the first-place Marlins before the series finale was postponed due to rain. Only two weeks into the season, the Cardinals have fallen into the East Division cellar, 4-1/2 games behind the Marlins.

The offense has been sporadic, but fairly decent overall, scoring more than five runs a game during the week to improve their scoring average to 3.9 runs through 11 games. The Cardinals’ offense ranks third of 16 GCL clubs in hits, though 13th in walks, so they are 11th in on-base percentage. They rank seventh in slugging percentage, but are tied with the Mets for last in stolen bases with seven.

The pitching, however, has mostly been poor and the defense hasn’t been much help, either. In the week’s first four games, the staff allowed nearly 10 runs and almost 17 hits per game. For the week, the Cardinals were outhit 77 to 51 and outscored 42 to 27. They also were charged with 14 errors, mostly on throws, compared to eight for their opponents.

Through the first two weeks, the Cardinals rank last in the GCL with a 5.31 ERA, and also are tied with the Rays for the most unearned runs allowed with 18. They have given up the most hits – 135, compared with 76 or 77 for the other three teams in the East Division – and given up more walks than any of their division opponents.

The game they won this week was a 13-12 barnburner in which 18 of the 25 runs were scored on relief pitchers.

Gerwuins Velazco, in his fourth appearance on the mound since switching from catcher to pitcher, wild pitched the go-ahead run home in the top of the 10th, but Marlins’ reliever Yonqueli Perez was even wilder in the bottom half, giving Velazco his first career win.

Andrew Brodbeck was hit by a pitch to start the comeback rally, and advanced to second on a balk. After Carlos Talavera and Nick Plummer both struck out, Perez walked Allen Cordoba. Carlos Torres reached safely on a fielder’s choice to load the bases before Orlando Olivera waked for force in the tying run. Then Allen Staton drew a walk-off walk.

There was an indication from Friday’s 3-0 loss in 14 innings, however, that the pitching staff might be turning things around.

Making his third start, 19-year-old Dominican right-hander Sandy Alcantara displayed why he earned the opening day start (during which he was shelled for nine runs). Hurling seven shutout innings on Friday, Alcantara allowed only three hits – all ground ball singles, two of which didn’t leave the infield -- and no walks. He threw only 69 pitches in those seven innings, 49 for strikes. Of those 69 pitchers, 58 were fastballs, with 17 at least 97 mph, including one at 102. Alcantara got 14 outs on ground balls, struck out five and retired two on fly balls.

Max Foody has returned with a vengeance after missing two seasons due to injuries. Foody, who in eight appearances in 2012 gave up 26 hits and 16 walks in 16-1/3 innings, has allowed just seven hits in 7-2/3 innings in his first four appearances this season, and has yet to walk anyone while whiffing 11.

On Friday, Foody replaced Jordan DeLorenzo with two on and two out in the eighth inning. He threw a wild pitch, but then retired Josh Naylor, the Marlins’ first-round draft pick who had signed the day before, on a grounder. Foody then threw three more scoreless innings, allowing two singles, though a strong throw from right fielder Jonathan Rivera that nailed the potential winning run at the plate with two outs in the 10th saved Foody from taking the loss.

Staton’s two-out, two-run single in the top of the 14th finally broke a scoreless tie, but the Marlins capitalized on two Cardinals errors to score three runs in the bottom half against outfielder Carlos Torres, who was making his second mound appearance.

Coming and going

Pitchers Kevin Alexander and Dewin Perez completed their rehab assignments and returned to Class A Peoria.

They were replaced by two pitchers reassigned from Johnson City: Jonathan Escudero and Jordan DeLorenzo.

Infielder Bryce Denton, the Cardinals’ second-round pick last month, and left-handed pitcher Ian Oxnevad, their eight-rounder, also joined the GCL team.

Springfield right-hander Mike Mayers, out of Double-A action since May 12, is joining the GCL club on a rehab assignment starting on Monday, July 6.

Update: Palm Beach's Steve Sabatino is also starting his rehab in the GCL on Monday, per The Cardinal Nation's John Nagel.

Playing short-handed

The fact that Cardinals manager Steve Turco has had to use outfielder Torres on the mound twice in only 11 games reveals that the staff is short-handed, in part because of the organizations self-imposed restrictions on the use of their young pitchers. Sandwich pick Jake Woodford, for example, made only one appearance so far, for two innings, and the 18-year-old will pitch only once a week.

The departures of Alexander and Perez left Turco with 13 pitchers, not counting Oxnevad, another high school draftee who also will be brought along slowly. That might seem like enough until you consider that most of them can pitch only one a week and are on tight pitch limits.

Top performances

Cordoba was 8-for-19 during the week to increase his batting average to .364.

Olivera was 8-for-22 to raise his average to .318.

Denton totaled three hits and a walk in his first 11 professional plate appearances over three games.

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