Springfield Cardinals Notebook: 2015 Week 13

The Double-A Cardinals posted a winning record in the second week of the second half. Bruce Caldwell is leading the offense.

This report covers the period from Thursday, July 2nd through Wednesday, July 8th.

Compared to last week’s four-game schedule, the Springfield Cardinals had a full week’s worth of games for this Week 13 edition, going 4-3. On Thursday, they opened up a six-game homestand against the San Antonio Missions (SD) and Corpus Christi Hooks (HOU), the Southsiders of the Texas League.

In the opening series of the homestand, Springfield was able to salvage the series finale against the Double-A Padres. The Cards struggled to ignite offense until game three when they broke out for eight runs on July 4th. That offensive momentum had a lasting effect against the Hooks, owner of the best record among Texas League teams in the first half. The Cardinals sent Corpus Christi home with their first swept series of the season.

To finish off the week, Springfield participated in a rematch against San Antonio and was shut out in the opening series on the road, with two games left to play. The remainder of the road-series will be covered in the next week’s edition.

Nearly two weeks into second half play, Springfield has rebounded well at 7-6 overall. The Cardinals trail the Tulsa Drillers (LAD) by a game and half for possession of first place in the North Division.

Thursday, July 2nd, Springfield 1 vs. San Antonio 4

Springfield opened up the start of a six-game homestand on Thursday evening. The Cardinals mustered just a run on five hits as they were shut down by the San Antonio Missions’ pitching staff.

Andrew Morales pitched six solid innings, despite allowed four runs between the first and second innings. The losing pitcher was getting touched for hits with his command spotty but settled down by flashing a sharp downer curveball. The right-hander finished with a walk and four strikeouts. Corey Baker and Ryan Sherriff combined to pitch the rest of the game, with three scoreless innings, Sherriff accounting for two.

The lone Cardinals run of the night came off the bat of Nick Martini, who ripped an RBI single that scored Charlie Tilson, after the latter had doubled.

Friday, July 3rd, Springfield 2 vs. San Antonio 4

Arturo Reyes dealt six shutout innings by technicality. The blemish was four errors which unraveled on Reyes, as the Missions scored four runs that outpaced the Cardinals offense. With the win, San Antonio claimed the series, with one left to play.

The Cardinals bullpen held the Missions offense at bay through the closing innings with Iden Nazario, Ronnie Shaban, and Kurt Heyer tossing scoreless innings apiece. Nazario walked one and struck out one, Shaban was perfect, and Heyer punched out two.

A lack of situational hitting failed to close the two-run deficit against the back-end of the Missions’ bullpen. Charlie Tilson sparked the offense early on with an RBI single. Tilson also added to his career-high in stolen bases with his 25th bag of the season, a Texas League-leading mark. The starter Reyes helped his own cause with an RBI single.

Saturday, July 4th, Springfield 8 vs. San Antonio 3

Springfield blew past San Antonio on Independence Day before a sellout crowd on hand of almost 7,800 fans at Hammons Field treated with fireworks during the game and postgame.

Thomas Lee lit the fuse on July 4th with seven solid innings, as the right-hander allowed three earned runs on six hits with a walk and three strikeouts. It was his second consecutive quality start since returning from Triple-A Memphis. Lee also garnered his staff-leading seventh win of the year.

Chris Thomas and Kyle Barraclough each pitched a perfect frames to slam the door and protect the five-run lead.

A three-run first inning ignited the offense - an RBI single by Anthony Garcia and a two-run shot by Bruce Caldwell, the latter finishing with two outs along with a triple. Charlie Tilson had yet another big night with three hits, two RBI, his 26th stolen bag, boosting his average to .300 for the season. Mike O’Neill also scratched out a pair of doubles and an RBI, while Michael Ohlman homered for the eighth time, a solo shot.

Sunday, July 5th, Springfield 7 vs. Corpus Christi 5

On a night when the promotion was a St. Louis Cardinals 1982 World Championship Replica Ring Giveaway for the first 2,500 fans, the S-Cards battled back to win. The Cards were looking up from a five-run deficit created in the first inning by the Corpus Christi Hooks. In the ninth, Patrick Wisdom sent everyone home happy on a two-run blast to deep center field to win the series opener.

Kyle Hald got off to a rough start with all five of his earned runs coming in the first inning against the Hooks. Hald bounced back and settled in quickly from then on with six consecutive scoreless frames. The lefty finished with just one walk to seven punch outs while mixing in a tight breaking pitch that got the opposition to whiff at pitches out of the zone.

Ryan Sherriff worked around a walk and hit with two strikeouts before giving way to Ronnie Shaban, who pitched the final 1 1/3 scoreless innings.

New-arrival Derek Gibson started the scoring off with a two-run double, his first Double-A hit. David Washington followed with a solo home run and Jonathan Rodriguez’ RBI single plated Bruce Caldwell, who had a terrific all-around night. Caldwell singled, walked twice and awed fans with his defense by starting an unreal double-play.

Monday, July 6th, Springfield 5 vs. Corpus Christi 4

This barn-burner was ultimately decided by a “battle of the bullpens” with extra innings forced on Tuesday night. Springfield wound winning the battle and walked off for the consecutive night against Corpus Christi, as well as securing the series win.

Corey Baker pitched five solid innings for the Cardinals, allowing just an earned run on two hits, with a walk, and three strikeouts. Baker left as the winning pitcher, but that was gone after Jordan Swagerty coughed up two earned runs in the sixth inning. Swagerty was bitten badly by the control bug, as his progress takes another backward turn.

Kurt Heyer bailed out Swagerty with a twin killing to end the sixth. Iden Nazario pitched well through two innings but gave up the game-tying solo home run. Chris Thomas shut out the Hooks over the next three innings into extras to earn his second win.

As part of a 14-hit attack, every Springfield hitter got into the hit column, with the exception of Michael Ohlman, who was hitless in five at-bats. Bruce Caldwell and Jonathan Rodriguez combined to drive in three. Caldwell smacked a two-run double while Rodriguez had an RBI double. David Washington put the finishing touches on this game, with the walk-off RBI double to clinch the series win.

Tuesday, July 7th, Springfield 1 vs. Corpus Christi 0

Pitching dominated the series-finale with Springfield prevailing with a combined nine-inning shutout effort from starter Andrew Morales and relievers Ronnie Shaban and Kyle Barraclough. Corpus Christi was swept for the first time this year.

Morales worked 5 2/3 scoreless innings, allowed just seven hits, didn’t issue a walk, and struck out two. The right-hander was sitting 92-96 mph on the gun, but left the game after getting drilled on the hand by a comebacker, though it didn’t appear to be serious.

Shaban thrived over the next 2 2/3 innings. The middle reliever was perfect and added three strikeouts to set things up for closer Kyle Barraclough, who slammed the door with an easy ninth inning to pick up his sixth save of the season.

Jonathan Rodriguez knocked in the only run of the game, an RBI single among his three hits and the nine collective overall by the Springbirds offense. Patrick Wisdom and Aledmys Diaz recorded two-hit games, with a pair of doubles each.

Wednesday, July 8th, Springfield 0 at San Antonio 2

Springfield opened the road trip only to be shut out by the San Antonio Missions, following a shut out of the Texas League’s best team in Corpus Christi the night before. The loss snapped a four-game winning streak for the S-Cards and put them a game above .500 at 7-6.

Arturo Reyes was the tough-luck loser for the second straight outing. The right-hander allowed just an earned run on eight hits through seven effective innings of work. Reyes issued a free pass and struck out five Missions batters, taking his fourth loss despite a brilliant effort. Ryan Sherriff served up a solo homer for San Antonio insurance.

The offense just couldn’t get going on Wednesday night, as they managed just four hits. They had minimal opportunities with runners in scoring position with three runners left stranded, due to a remarkable job by the Missions pitching staff. All four hits were of the one-bag variety from Charlie Tilson, Bruce Caldwell, Jonathan Rodriguez and Alberto Rosario.

Who’s Hot

Bruce Caldwell - A hitless Tuesday night snapped Caldwell’s ten-game hitting streak. During that streak, the infielder batted .410 (18-for-39) with six runs scored and six driven in. On Wednesday night, Caldwell started on a new streak with a single in four at-bats. Like many hitting prospects coming up from the Florida State League, Caldwell has seen his slugging percentage jump almost 180 points, along with five of his six home runs since joining the Texas League. If the power becomes a mainstay for Caldwell, it only improves his value as a future utility middle infielder who can play exceptional defense.

Jonathan Rodriguez - Rodriguez has been a very streaky performer at the plate in the 2015 campaign. On the bright side of his streakiness, the first baseman crawled out of his shell in the final three games of the homestand. Rodriguez went 5-for-11 (.454) against the Hooks with a double and three RBI. Through one game on the current road-strip, Rodriguez contributed a single.

Arturo Reyes - A scout told me when Reyes has command of the strike zone, his stuff plays well above Texas League hitters. The right-hander certainly lived up to that narrative by tossing seven innings of one-run ball against the Missions on Wednesday night. Despite a losing result, Reyes lowered his ERA to a miniscule 1.90 with Springfield. In ten of his 11 starts, he has allowed no more than four earned runs.

Who’s Not

Breyvic Valera - For the most part, Valera’s 2015 season has been a rollercoaster of more valleys-than-peaks. Currently in a valley, the super-versatile player is hitting .160 (4-for-25) over his last ten games, a mark well below his career norms.

Kyle Hald – Importantly, Hald has accounted for a large sum of innings of late. However, the lefty has been smacked around over his last 10 starts for 43 earned runs on 68 hits in 52 2/3 innings pitched. That is a 7.35 ERA with five of his six losses while at Springfield.

Springbirds batting order

All-Star Charlie Tilson was the lead-off hitter for all seven games. The catalyst knows his skill-set to get on base and wreak havoc on the opposition. Nick Martini batted at the two-spot before being promoted to Triple-A Memphis on the 4th. Patrick Wisdom has since been inserted at the two-spot, which fits right into his aggressive approach. Anthony Garcia and Bruce Caldwell batted in the third spot this week, with Caldwell now having regular duties with Garcia off to play for his home country (Puerto Rico) in the Pan-Am Games.

Slowly but surely, Jonathan Rodriguez heated up to provide punch out of the cleanup spot in the Corpus Christi series. With Jeremy Hazelbaker's departure, the Cardinals are looking for a five-hitter to fill in the gap behind Rodriguez, while Michael Ohlman, David Washington, and new-arrival Derek Gibson all seeing time there this week. Gibson also has batted sixth as DH, when Breyvic Valera is not slotted at six in the order. The final three spots was a bunch of mix-and-matching with manager Dann Bilardello trying to find different combinations for potential contributors. Aledmys Diaz was often in this mix.

Team Transactions (additional notes)

7/2 OF Mike O’Neill activated from the DL
O’Neill has been hampered by a hamstring issue.

7/2 LHP Jimmy Reed transferred to AAA-Memphis from Springfield
Reed received the promotion over Arturo Reyes who had also been throwing well of recent. The craftsman lefty worked 4 1/3 innings with three earned runs on seven hits in a loss in his Triple-A debut. Likely we will see him back at Double-A Springfield before too long.

7/2 RHP Ronnie Shaban transferred to Springfield from High-A Palm Beach
Pitched briefly at Palm Beach before being moved back up. Shaban has excelled in a middle relief role of late. Has the arsenal to succeed at the upper levels but will be essential for him to throw consistent strikes going forward because hitters only get more disciplined.

7/3 OF Jeremy Hazelbaker transferred to AAA-Memphis from Springfield
Hazelbaker comes with quite the compelling story. Was cut a few weeks into the Tulsa Drillers season, and he has had his best season of his professional since. Hit .308 with three home runs and 20 RBI as a Texas League all-star for Springfield. Was promoted to Triple-A Memphis this week and has taken the Pacific Coast League by storm thanks to a .579 average with a home run and nine RBI in just his first five games.

7/4 OF Nick Martini transferred to AAA-Memphis from Springfield
Thanks to a slew of promotions at the upper levels in the past week. Martini has also benefited from a promotion to Triple-A Memphis. Just in three games, the outfielder is tearing things up with a .455 average (5-for-11) with six RBI.

7/4 OF David Washington transferred to Springfield from High-A Palm Beach
Struggled at Palm Beach, but has taken advantage of a recent promotion since with the contribution of a walk-off hit this week for Springfield.

7/4 OF Derek Gibson transferred to Springfield from High-A Palm Beach
Former undrafted free agent signee has moved rapidly due to facing younger competition while producing solid results.

7/5 OF Anthony Garcia placed on the Temporarily Inactive List
Playing in the Pan-Am Games for his home country Puerto Rico. The Games’ final rounds will conclude on the 18th and 19th of July, so an extensive absence for Garcia is expected.

7/7 RHP Chris Perry transferred to Springfield from High-A Palm Beach
Led all organizational relievers last year with 98 strikeouts over 63 innings. Stuff isn’t playing as well this year due to better competition. Springfield looks to be a final stop for Perry this season. Has yet to debut at the Double-A level.

7/7 INF Robelys Reyes transferred to Springfield from High-A Palm Beach
Spent his first four professional seasons at DSL while trying to acquire a visa to play stateside baseball. Achieved that visa at the end of 2013. The Cardinals are pushing him aggressively to keep him against the age-appropriate competition. Debuted on Wednesday night, but failed to collect a hit in his first three at-bats.

7/7 OF Mike O’Neill placed on the DL
Though not confirmed, the hamstring problem could have lingered for O’Neill.

Texas League North Division Standings (Second Half)

Club W L PCT GB Home Away L 10 Streak
Tulsa Drillers (LAD) 8 4 .667 - 3-2 5-2 6-4 W3
Springfield Cardinals (STL) 7 6 .538 1.5 4-4 3-2 7-3 L1
Arkansas Travelers (LAA) 6 7 .462 2.5 4-3 2-4 3-7 W1
*NW Arkansas Naturals (KC) 4 8 .333 4.0 2-2 2-6 4-6 L3
* first half winner                

The Cardinal Nation Top 40 Prospect Watch

#10 Charlie Tilson - Tilson has utilized this season to grow as an overall player. Realizing that power will never be an asset for him, instead he has expanded his approach to spray balls to all fields. He still has plenty of foot speed to boot, and has learned to become a savvy base-stealer with a career-high 27 steals for the season. That mark also leads the entire Texas League. With Stephen Piscotty set to be introduced to first base with Memphis, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Tilson slide in at Memphis before too long, that is, if there is every day playing time available.

#12 Aledmys Diaz - Diaz’s underwhelming offensive season to this point led to the Cardinals decision to take the Cuban off the 40 man roster, and he must clear waivers if he wants to stay with this organization. There’s a possibility Diaz returns with the remaining $5 or so million that is owed on his contract.

#15 Breyvic Valera - Valera still very much possesses the ability to hit .300 or higher. Still, just 23 years old, this is the first time the Venezuelan has failed at the plate in his career, and it will be up to him to make the necessary adjustments against the first-time adversity. The organization has always been a strong advocate of Valera and will give him all the opportunities to break out of it.

#25 Mike Mayers - Mayers was rehabbing a forearm strain at Florida for over a month before the Cardinals sent him to the lowest domestic level at GCL on a rehab assignment. In an encouraging outing, the right-hander pitched two scoreless innings with a strikeout. Mayers should progress quickly from there, assuming a similar outing occurs next time.

#27 Patrick Wisdom - Wisdom hasn’t let up on the gas pedal just yet. Through his last ten games the hot hitting continues with a .342 average (13-for-38) with two home runs, four RBI, and seven runs scored. As of result of his tremendous June, Wisdom was recognized as the Texas League Player of the Month. Defensively, he is most known within the organization for one of the top infield arms. Wisdom experienced some mental lapses last year with the glove, though he’s improved his consistency with the routine play, making it looking effortless compared to last year, and even executes the highlight type play with the same amount of pizazz. Wisdom has looked like a totally different player since returning from extended spring training.

#35 Andrew Morales - Morales pitched twice this week, once against San Antonio, and the other time against Corpus Christi. Against San Antonio, Morales was the losing pitcher and got touched up a bit, but finished strongly with a quality start. Against Corpus Christi, the right-hander pitched 5 2/3 shutout innings but immediately left after taking a line shot off his left hand. He isn’t expected to miss a start, according to reports.

What’s Next

The Cardinals have fared well since records reset for the second half two weeks ago. Springfield opened up a six-game Texas road trip at San Antonio with a loss on Wednesday night but look to redeem themselves with two games left to play. To finish off the road trip, the club will rematch against Corpus Christi for three more this weekend.

Following the road-trip’s conclusion and a Tuesday day off, Springfield will come back to Hammons Field to play against division rival NW Arkansas Naturals (KC) for the start of a four-game homestand next Wednesday.

Follow Derek Shore on Twitter @D_Shore23.

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