Springfield Cardinals Notebook: 2015 Week 15

The first-place Double-A Cardinals went 4-3 last week as Arturo Reyes continues to lead the pitching staff.

This report covers the period from Thursday, July 16th through, Wednesday, July 22nd.

The Springfield Cardinals played seven games in the 15th week of the regular season, with all seven against divisional opponents. The final three of the four games against the NW Arkansas Naturals (KC) are covered in this edition while the four-game road series versus the Arkansas Travelers (LAA) close out the week’s action.

Springfield blew past NW Arkansas for the first two wins of the series, but the Naturals wreaked havoc at Hammons Field in the final two contests, forcing a split of the four-game series. On the road at Dickey-Stephens Park, home of the Travelers, the Cardinals lost a one-run nail-biter in the opener but bounced back to claim the remaining three games thanks to quality pitching and a timely offense. They especially came through during game three to score in five of their ten opportunities with runners in scoring position on Tuesday night.

The second half standings in the North Division have the Springbirds as the leader at 14-12. Chasing the Cardinals are the Tulsa Drillers (LAD), who have fallen back a full game behind due to two straight losses and three straight wins by the Cardinals. Arkansas remains within two games after losing three straight at home while NW Arkansas trails by 4 ½ games, the same distance as last week.

Thursday, July 16th, Springfield 8 vs. NW Arkansas 1

Springfield pulled away with seven runs between the fourth and fifth innings to sink NW Arkansas on Thursday night. The win gave the Cardinals sole possession of first place.

Kyle Hald pitched perhaps his best outing of the season. He was hit early on but recovered fast and pitched brilliantly over eight innings of one-run ball against the Naturals offense. The lefty gave up nine hits, walked two, struck out six and kept the ball in the yard, which was essential as the wind was howling.

Patrick Wisdom and Michael Ohlman launched their 10th home runs of the season. Wisdom was a solo shot and Ohlman’s was a three-run blast, as both had multi-hit games as well. Jonathan Rodriguez added a two-run RBI single and Charlie Tilson extended his hitting streak to eight games with an RBI single.

Friday, July 17th, Springfield 2 vs. NW Arkansas 4

In a rehab start, Marco Gonzales worked three shutout innings against NW Arkansas on Saturday night. Gonzales gave up three hits, didn’t issue a walk, and struck out three after throwing 52 total pitches with 33 of them for strikes.

On the feel for his pitches, Gonzales told the Springfield News-Leader “I left some curveballs up, but for the most part they felt good throwing them,” Gonzales said. “I’m not so concerned with the placement, but the spin was good. Fastball, changeup, and cutter were all effective tonight so I was really happy.”

Gonzales’ positive outing was spoiled by the Springfield bullpen which gave up four runs, three earned, over the final six frames. Corey Baker accounted for two earned runs while Iden Nazario gave up an earned run. Ryan Sherriff was only the Cardinal reliever to throw a scoreless outing.

Offensively, the Cardinals just came up short in the ninth. Patrick Wisdom continued to tear the cover of the ball, singling and tripling to increase his average to a season-high .284 mark. Bruce Caldwell and Michael Ohlman each had RBI singles.

Saturday, July 18th, Springfield 5 vs. NW Arkansas 9

The Naturals tagged Cardinals starter Mike Mayers for seven runs, four earned, through the first three innings Saturday night. In returning to Springfield for the first time in a little over two months, the right-hander served up three homers in 2 2/3 innings, walked three and struck out while throwing 63 pitches, 39 for strikes. As of result of the win, NW Arkansas forced a split of the four-game set.

Kurt Heyer appeared in long relief, covering the next 2 1/3 innings and yielding an earned run. Ronnie Shaban pitched two easy frames with three strikeouts while Kyle Barraclough and Josh Lucas each pitched an inning. Barraclough gave up a run on two hits.

Charlie Tilson provided uncommon power, with his fourth homer of the season a part of a three-hit night. In his first game back from Memphis, Matt Williams launched a shot as well while David Washington knocked a solo homer and Breyvic Valera added a two-run blast. Between the two clubs, they launched seven long balls.

Sunday, July 19th, Springfield 2 at Arkansas 3

Springfield came up just a run short in the series-opener, as Arkansas escaped with the victory. The Travelers knocked out Andrew Morales after just two outs into the first inning, as the right-hander allowed three runs on four hits to take his sixth loss of the season.

Manager Dann Bilardello relied on his bullpen to chew up innings on Sunday night. Chris Perry covered the next three without allowing any damage while Ryan Sherriff and Josh Lucas both threw two shutout frames.

The offense didn’t have much of a pulse against the Travelers pitching with five collective hits and only three chances that were squandered with runners in scoring position. Patrick Wisdom launched his 11th home run, a two-run blast.

Monday, July 20th, Springfield 8 at Arkansas 2

A five-run eighth inning helped the Cardinals blow past the Travelers to even up the four-game series at one each.

Per usual, Arturo Reyes was excellent with eight innings of two-run ball on Monday night. Reyes scattered six hits, two walks, five strikeouts, and 11 groundouts for his sixth win. Ronnie Shaban yielded two hits but worked a scoreless bottom of the ninth.

The offense waited until the eighth to show up, as David Washington led the charge with a three-run triple. Charlie Tilson also added two RBI on two singles while Jonathan Rodriguez collected a single, double, and an RBI.

Tuesday, July 21st, Springfield 6 at Arkansas 5

Springfield stole away a barn-burner of a game on Tuesday night, by rallying for two runs in the top of the ninth. Cardinals starter Jimmy Reed allowed four runs, three earned, on five hits, two walks, and three strikeouts over five innings in a no-decision.

Chris Thomas followed with a scoreless inning. While Kurt Heyer was victim of yielding the game-tying home run, he also picked up the win. Kyle Barraclough notched his eighth save, one that didn’t come easy in the ninth. Barraclough worked the bases-loaded but after pitching coach Jason Simontacchi came to the mound, the right-hander swiftly made the adjustment to retiring the final two Travelers.

A 5-for-10 performance with runners in scoring position powered the Cardinals offense to a productive night at the plate. Anthony Garcia recorded a four-hit game with two RBI, one of those RBI coming on a double to tie the game in the ninth. Michael Ohlman produced two runs on a single while Jonathan Rodriguez recorded two hits and an RBI.

Wednesday, July 22nd, Springfield 2 at Arkansas 1

Marco Gonzales made his second rehab start at Springfield on Wednesday night. The big-league lefty cruised early on but then faltered the second time through the Travelers order. Gonzales finished with 71 total pitches, 51 thrown for strikes through 3 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing three hits, no walks and four strikeouts.

Corey Baker covered the next 2 1/3 scoreless frames while Kyle Hald issued two walks but made up for it with two strikeouts in a scoreless seventh inning. Chris Perry had an easy eighth inning and manager Dann Bilardello stuck with him for the ninth, but Perry coughed up the Travelers’ lone run of the game before Ronnie Shaban retired the final two batters to convert his second save.

Anthony Garcia’s two-run opposite field blast was all Springfield needed offensively to secure a road series win against the divisional rival.

Who’s Hot Arturo Reyes - Reyes has slowly but surely built his case as not only a legitimate prospect in the Cardinals system but one who will receive plenty of conversation to be ranked highly this winter. The former 40th rounder pitched his longest outing on Monday, an eight-inning affair with just two earned runs allowed against Arkansas. The outing gave Reyes the most innings pitched on the staff, notable since he arrived in May.

Anthony Garcia - Although Garcia appeared in just two games this week for Springfield, the outfielder hasn’t skipped a beat since his outstanding performance at the Pan-Am Games representing his home country of Puerto Rico. Garcia continues to mash his way into prospect discussions, going 5-for-9 in his two games since returning from the Games with a homer and four RBI. The two-run long ball boosted the Cardinals to a win on Wednesday night.

Charlie Tilson - His second straight appearance on the “Who’s Hot” feature is well-deserved, as Tilson extended his 14-game hitting streak on Wednesday night with a one-sacker. His average has crept up to .304, the highest so far this season.

Who’s Not

Derek Gibson – It is unfair to judge Gibson based on his first 12 games at Double-A, but the outfielder was 6-for-34 at the plate, a miniscule .176 average. The assignment back to Palm Beach will help him perform without having to stress about performing with expectations.

Alberto Rosario - Though he has not been a stalwart with his offense, batting .147 over his last ten games, the backup catcher has done an excellent job in handling a young and improving pitching staff when he gets his occasional start. His presence is also very valuable for communicating more effectively with the Latin pitchers.

Bruce Caldwell - Caldwell’s performance has taken a huge turn backward of late. In his last ten games, the middle infielder is batting just .086 (3-for-35) with 11 strikeouts. During the 10-game stretch from July 11th to July 21st, his average has plummeted from .286 to .250.

Springbirds batting order

Manager Dann Bilardello shuffled his lineup from game-to-game this week by often leaning on the hot-hand in the middle of the order to maximize production while dropping slumping Bruce Caldwell, the three-hole hitter last week. Charlie Tilson started all seven games as the lead-off man. Patrick Wisdom saw time at the two-hole, but Matt Williams and Mike O’Neill were slotted there later in the week.

Caldwell started two games at the three-spot before Patrick Wisdom took the reins for the next three games before giving the duty to outfielder Anthony Garcia, who returned to provide a massive spark. Jonathan Rodriguez continued his clean-up duty while Michael Ohlman batted all seven games at the five-spot. Caldwell fell down to the sixth spot, but Wisdom finished out the week there. To round out the order this week, Aledmys Diaz and Caldwell shared time at the seventh spot while Breyvic Valera was at eight and nine with Williams and Washington both seeing time there as well.

Team Transactions

7/16 RHP Jordan Swagerty released by St. Louis
Swagerty was cut on Thursday by the organization. His pursuit of major-league aspirations with the Cardinals started in 2010 after signing for $625,000 as a second-round pick out of Arizona State. The now 26-year old was hampered by injuries from the start of his professional career which was just unfortunate, because all the potential was there.

The second round pick shot up the Cardinals farm system pipeline as an exciting young power arm with knee-buckling breaking stuff and was even touted as the Cardinals closer of the future in the spring training of 2012. That was before Swagerty endured numerous elbow and shoulder surgical procedures over the next four years that stalled his development as a pitching prospect and led to his 12.37 ERA in 16 innings in his final season. The stuff wasn’t there, the feel for his secondary pitches didn’t consistently show, and his location took a turn for the worse.

I would hope another organization or even independent league team will take a flier on Swagerty because there’s still something there to work with - perhaps a very, very risky project, but the work ethic and perseverance after so many injuries, the recovering time, and the rehab was a great story to follow.

7/17 LHP Marco Gonzales transferred to Springfield from High-A Palm Beach
I first confirmed that Gonzales would make his initial rehab start last Friday against NW Arkansas through Cardinals farm director Gary LaRocque. Gonzales debuted by pitching three scoreless innings, allowing just three hits to two strikeouts.

Gonzales made his second rehab start with Springfield on Wednesday night. The lefty showed improved command from his previous start, worked in the low 90s while hitting 93 along with a cutter that broke bats of right-handed hitters, a changeup that’s always his go-to pitch, and his breaking ball that carved up hitters but hung at times as well.

7/18 RHP Mike Mayers activated from the DL
Mayers was activated off the seven-day disabled list on Saturday after dealing with a forearm strain, with which he had missed just over two months due to the injury’s surprising severity.

Since June 10th, Mayers made three rehab appearances in the Gulf Coast League before his first outing at Double-A on Saturday. The right-hander yielded four runs on five hits over just 2 2/3 innings against the NW Arkansas Naturals.

7/18 INF Matt Williams transferred to Springfield from AAA-Memphis
Williams had been with Memphis all season. In his Triple-A debut, the versatile infielder posted a .227.351/.281 line in 128 at-bats over 55 Pacific Coast League games. Since his arrival, Williams has seen regular time at shortstop, playing over Aledmys Diaz, the multi-million dollar signing out of Cuba.

7/18 LHP Iden Nazario released by St. Louis
Right after Swagerty’s release from the organization, the Cardinals parted ways with long-time lefty reliever Nazario on Saturday. Nazario first reached Double-A three seasons ago, in 2012.

The 26-year old was older than the average age at the level and there was no clear opportunity for another lefty reliever in the levels ahead. Still, Nazario was on pace for one of his better seasons as a Cardinal reliever, as he logged a 2.87 ERA in 37 2/3 innings over 28 games.

7/19 INF Robelys Reyes transferred to High-A Palm Beach from Springfield
Reyes was transferred back to High-A Palm Beach to make room for Williams on the Double-A Springfield roster. The middle infielder from the Dominican struggled at the plate in his first four games as a Texas League player, going hitless in 11 at-bats, with no walks and three strikeouts since his July 7th debut.

7/20 OF Mike O’Neill activated from the DL
On Monday, O’Neill was activated after recurring hamstring problems. The 27-year old had been out since July 6th after playing just three games since coming off the DL the previous time. Though the DL stints were temporary, the outfielder has strictly been the designated hitter in his first two games back.

7/20 RHP Chris Thomas transferred to Springfield from AAA-Memphis
As of result of infielder Jacob Wilson’s activation at Memphis, Thomas was the odd man out and was returned to Springfield. Coming off a successful debut at Triple-A with six innings of one-run ball over two appearances, the righty reliever pitched a scoreless frame in Tuesday night’s win over Arkansas in his first outing since his demotion.

7/21 OF Anthony Garcia activated from the Temporarily Inactive List
Garcia was activated on Tuesday afternoon off the temporarily inactive list after participating in the Pan-Am Games for his home country Puerto Rico. The outfielder was the best hitter in the Pan-Am Games, leading way in home runs (5), RBI’s (17), and slugging (.967) in eight games played. His batting average was .393, the sixth highest mark for the Games.

7/21 OF Derek Gibson transferred to High-A Palm Beach from Springfield
The activation of Garcia by Springfield led to Gibson’s return to High-A Palm Beach where he had slashed .376.420/.441 in 26 games. The 24-year old Missouri native struggled in his initial assignment to Double-A with a line of .176/.243/.206 since his promo on July 4th.

In over 34 at-bats over 12 games, the outfielder had two RBI and three runs scored, so a return to better-suited competition in Florida State League will perhaps jolt his confidence after a tough assignment to the Double-A Texas League, which was a bit advanced for Gibson’s present skill-set.

7/21 RHP Josh Lucas transferred to High-A Palm Beach from Springfield
To clear and accommodate a roster spot for Garcia, in addition to Gibson, reliever Lucas was also shuttled back to Palm Beach. Lucas made a stronger impression with 5 2/3 scoreless innings since arriving on July 11th. The 24-year old allowed no runs on one hit, with two walks, and five strikeouts.

Lucas flashed two pitches in middle relief, a not-so blistering fastball in the high 80s range with his outpitch being a slider used to retire lefties and righties.

7/22 RHP Alex Reyes transferred to Springfield from High-A Palm Beach
Cardinals top prospect Alex Reyes was promoted to Double-A before Wednesday night’s game. At High Palm Beach, Reyes pitched 63 2/3 innings while logging a 2.26 ERA with 96 strikeouts to 31 walks. Most recently, the right-hander allowed two earned runs over three innings pitched in his first start back with Palm Beach after missing nearly a month due to a sore right shoulder that according to reports should cause no lingering effects going forward.

Reyes, 20, is ranked highly by national prospects sites Baseball Prospectus and Baseball America on their midseason prospects list released earlier this month. The 16th overall prospect by BP, 10th overall by BA, Reyes was ranked as TCN’s #2 Cardinals prospect this winter as well. He is MLB.com’s Cardinals top prospect without MLB service time which factors Stephen Piscotty and Marco Gonzales out of the equation. More on Reyes below.

7/23 RHP Jordan Walden transferred to Springfield from St. Louis
Reported first by the St. Louis Post Dispatch’s Derrick Goold, Walden will start his rehab assignment on Wednesday night with Double-A Springfield. The veteran power armed reliever has missed significant time dating back to late April with a shoulder issue.

As a reliever working his way back from missing several months, he will need extended time to rebuild arm strength as well as prove to pitch two or more innings and pitch on back-to-back days at least once as they did with fellow bullpen mate Kevin Siegrist in his rehab last year at Springfield.

Texas League North Division Standings (Second Half)

Club W L PCT GB Home Away L 10 Streak
Springfield Cardinals (STL) 14 12 .538 - 6-6 8-6 5-5 W3
Tulsa Drillers (LAD) 13 13 .500 1.0 5-4 8-9 5-5 L2
Arkansas Travelers (LAA) 12 14 .462 2.0 8-8 4-6 4-6 L3
NW Arkansas Naturals (KC) * 9 16 .360 4.5 5-8 4-8 5-5 W2
* first half winner                

The Cardinal Nation Top 40 Prospect Watch

#2 Alex Reyes - The organization will schedule Reyes to make his official Double-A debut with Springfield on Saturday night at home against NW Arkansas. The righty has been clocked as high as 101 mph this season, and has exhibited quite a velocity jump this year by regularly sitting 96-100 mph for whole starts.

Reyes also spins off one of the best curveballs in all of the minor leagues, one that has been graded as high as 70 on the scouting scale, and his third pitch is a decent changeup that still needs more consistency. He will need this offering to play off his heater and curveball multiple times through an order. This will be Reyes’s toughest assignment yet but look for him to thrive if he continues to refine his overall command because that stuff can overmatch an MLB hitter right now.

#10 Charlie Tilson - With guidance from former Cardinals great Willie McGee this spring and advice from Juan Pierre, whom ranks 18th on the stolen base all-time list, Tilson has stolen 31 bags out 44 successfully this season. That 70% success rate is acceptable given the amount of progress he’s shown in the matter of one full season. Tilson told the Chicago Tribune that he credits his success to being “fast and fearless, and better at studying pitchers and catchers too”. It will be interesting to see if a long season wears on Tilson after playing through a hot July, nonetheless he has exceeded expectations of many.

#12 Aledmys Diaz - Diaz cracked his first professional grand slam a week ago, but a week later the shortstop has reverted back to his middling type of performance at the plate and looks to have lost playing time to Matt Williams. The Cuban went 1-for-16 through four games this week.

#15 Breyvic Valera - Valera cranked his second homer of the season on Saturday night, the most home runs he’s ever hit in a single season with a little more than 2,000 at-bats as a minor leaguer.

#25 Mike Mayers - Mayers made his first start for Springfield in more than two months due to injury. The former third-round draft pick pitched just 2 2/3 innings and allowed four runs on five hits. Given he was out of action for two months, I would expect he’s still building up arm strength and the performance will come as the arm strength progresses.

#27 Patrick Wisdom - Wisdom has cooled off in his last ten games as the third baseman hit .244, a 10-for-41 stretch. Assuming the struggles continue, it will be interesting to see how Wisdom responds coming off the hottest stretch of his professional career.

#35 Andrew Morales - Morales followed an outing after getting touched for double-digit hits and five runs with his shortest outing of his career on Sunday. The right-hander pitched just 2/3 of an inning, but allowed four hits and walked a batter in that first inning. The date of his next start is uncertain.

What’s Next

Springfield is in the middle of a stretch in which they play 26 consecutive games without a day off. They are now a week into that stretch, as they won a game against NW Arkansas but dropped the remaining two and took three-of-four over Arkansas, for a cumulative 4-3 record over the week’s action.

The Cardinals finished off a quick road trip on Wednesday night, and they will return to Hammons Field to host NW Arkansas for the second weekend in a row, a four-game set. Then, the Cards will pack up the bus and head down to visit the Tulsa Drillers for three to start a seven-game road trip as the calendar flips to August.

Follow Derek Shore on Twitter @D_Shore23.

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