Springfield Cardinals Notebook: 2015 Week 16

The first-place Double-A Cardinals remain a game out of first place. Charlie Tilson sparks the offense.

This report covers the period from Thursday, July 23rd through, Wednesday, July 29th

In the middle of a 26-game stretch without an off-day, the Springfield Cardinals continued inner-division play in the 16th week of the 140-game regular season. Over the July 23rd through July 26th weekend, the Springbirds played a short homestand of four games against the NW Arkansas (KC), which resulted in a series split.

The crown jewel of the Cardinals organization Alex Reyes debuted on Saturday night, which will be covered below. In addition, Jordan Walden continued his rehab this week and pitched in two games for the Double-A Cardinals. To round out the week’s action, Springfield headed on the road and dropped two of three to the prospect rich Tulsa Drillers (LAD).

Through the seven games this week, Springfield’s play was an unsteady 3-4. However, they remain in the top half of the North Division, one game behind the first-place Arkansas Travelers (LAA).

Thursday, July 23rd, Springfield 3 vs. NW Arkansas 2

Springfield staged a ninth inning comeback by rallying for two runs to walk-off against NW Arkansas on Thursday night in the home-opener. Mike Mayers continued to build himself up with his longest outing in over two months, as the right-hander went 5 2/3 innings and allowed two earned runs on three hits.

The Cardinals bullpen played prominently. Kurt Heyer, Jordan Walden, Ryan Sherriff, and Chris Thomas combined to pitch the last 3 1/3 innings scoreless. Walden threw 10 pitches total with eight for strikes in his first rehab appearance.

An RBI single from Anthony Garcia was the walk-off after the game-tying run came via an error that allowed Aledmys Diaz to score. Earlier, Michael Ohlman got the offense on the board with an RBI single.

Friday, July 24th, Springfield 2 vs. NW Arkansas 7

The Cardinals took an early lead with a pair of runs between the first and third innings and held a one-run lead into the ninth inning. From there, however, the tide shifted towards the Naturals favor as they returned the favor of the Cardinals walk-off the night before for six runs on seven extra-base hits. NW Arkansas tied the series at one with two left to play on the homestand.

Andrew Morales sailed through five innings of scoreless work before a weather delay halted the game’s play and knocked the UC Irvine product out of action. Following Morales was Corey Baker who stranded the former’s bases-loaded jam without any damage done. Baker went on to pitch the seventh and allowed an earned run.

From a bullpen without their traded closer Kyle Barraclough, Ronnie Shaban retired the Naturals in order in the eighth but imploded the next frame. Shaban surrendered the lead and Chris Thomas was beaten for three earned runs on four hits as NW Arkansas ran away with the victory.

The offense scored two runs on eight hits. Anthony Garcia continued to mash, as the Puerto Rican outfielder collected three hits with an RBI. Charlie Tilson also provided a spark via his legs, the outfielder stole his Texas League tying 33rd base of the season before scoring on an RBI single by Jonathan Rodriguez. Tilson also banged out two singles to increase his hitting streak to 16 games, just two away from the team’s all-time top mark.

Saturday, July 25, Springfield 12 vs. NW Arkansas 4

It was a lopsided score in favor of Springfield, which took the series lead with the finale over NW Arkansas on Sunday night in a top prospect showdown of Cardinals top pitching prospect Alex Reyes against the Royals’ Sean Manaea.

Neither finished with a winning decision, but Reyes shined in his Double-A debut. The right-hander exceeded triple digits multiple times, including a stadium radar reading as high as 102 mph on the juiced gun. Now two starts off his shoulder issue, Reyes pitched four innings, giving up one earned run on two hits, walking one and striking out five with 64 pitches thrown, with a positive mark of 44 strikes.

Kyle Hald pitched three shutout innings following the high-octane arm of Reyes. Hald picked up the win.

Springfield routed NW Arkansas’s pitching staff in the middle innings for a combined 11 runs over just two innings. The long ball played a huge factor as Patrick Wisdom, Matt Williams, and David Washington each homered. Wisdom finished with three RBI off a two-run shot and RBI single, Williams knocked a three-run blast, and Washington had a solo homer. Bruce Caldwell also had a good night at the dish with three hits and three RBI, a positive given his recent tailspin.

Reyes on his debut - “I felt pretty good,” he said. “I felt like I was being efficient in the first three innings. I got a little carried away with my fastball in the fourth inning and started missing my spots. Overall, I felt like it was a good outing.”

Ohlman on Reyes’s Double-A debut - “He definitely had a good demeanor out there, for it being his debut tonight,” Ohlman said. “Once he can learn to command all of those pitches, it’s going to be something special to watch.” Ohlman continued, “He’s got a golden arm, a plus-plus breaking ball, and I was impressed. It was fun to catch.”

Sunday, July 26th, Springfield 2 vs. NW Arkansas 6

NW Arkansas jumped on Springfield starter Arturo Reyes for four runs, all in the second inning. The right-hander settled down quite nicely afterward, however, subsequently pitching 3 1/3 to finish off the Sunday night outing. Reyes tied his season-high with eight strikeouts.

Jordan Walden appeared in his second rehab stint with Springfield. Walden worked around a lead-off double for a scoreless inning. He threw 17 pitches, 10 for strikes.

The offense backed up a 12-run performance from Saturday by scoring just two runs, missed on seven run scoring opportunities, and stranded 11 baserunners. Patrick Wisdom and Matt Williams both hit solo shots, homering on consecutive nights.

Monday, July 27th, Springfield 2 at Tulsa 6

The S-Cards fell by an identical score from Sunday night in the road-trip opener against Tulsa on Monday night. Jimmy Reed was especially effective early on against the Drillers lineup. In the second time through the order, Tulsa hung a four-spot on Reed and things went south from there, exiting after 5 1/3 innings and taking his second Double-A loss.

Ronnie Shaban allowed Reed’s fifth run but proceeded to retire the sixth inning side without further damage. Ryan Sherriff pitched the last two innings, allowing an earned run on three hits.

Michael Ohlman was the Cardinals entire offensive output. In his three-hit night, Ohlman hit a solo homer and had an RBI double.

Tuesday, July 28th, Springfield 6 at Tulsa 5

A tightly contested game throughout nine innings of play, Springfield squeaked out a huge win on the road Tuesday night to propel their way back into a first-place tie with the Arkansas Travelers, which lost to NW Arkansas.

Mike Mayers pitched very briefly. The right-hander was pulled after just two outs into the game. Mayers allowed the first six of the seven batters to reach, as the Drillers tagged him for three earned runs on four hits and two walks. Chris Perry pitched out of Mayers’ mess unscathed.

Perry finished with 2 1/3 scoreless innings with two strikeouts in his longest outing at Double-A. Kyle Hald, Corey Baker and Ronnie Shaban absorbed the final six innings. Hald was scoreless through three innings, Baker gave up two runs in an inning, but Shaban held the Drillers scoreless in the eighth and ninth for his third save.

The offense clicked for six runs and eight hits collectively against the Drillers pitching staff. David Washington clubbed his 10th homer, a solo shot, and Jonathan Rodriguez and Bruce Caldwell had RBI hits each early on. Breyvic Valera also smacked two hits, one for an RBI. Anthony Garcia’s pinch-hit RBI single lifted the Cardinals to the win.

Wednesday, July 29th, Springfield 7 at Tulsa 9

Tulsa pulled off the stunner in the series-finale against Springfield on Wednesday night. Down as much as seven runs, the Drillers rallied off four and five-run innings to prevail over the Cardinals to secure the finale and series win.

Andrew Morales pitched six shutout innings before running into the Drillers lineup a third time around, as they pushed four runs across on four hits to 10 hits on Morales’s overall line. Morales left as the winning pitcher, but his predecessor Kurt Heyer allowed two earned runs to give the former a no-decision. Chris Thomas was lit up for two home runs that accumulated into three runs, and Thomas wound up as the losing pitcher.

Offensively, Springfield did their work early with seven runs through the first five frames before being shut out the rest of the night. Bruce Caldwell launched his sixth homer, a three-run shot, while Charlie Tilson legged out an RBI triple, his fifth of the season. Mike O’Neill and Patrick Wisdom also had a pair of hits and RBIs each.

Who’s Hot

Charlie Tilson - Tilson has played one more game in July compared to June, with the outfielder’s batting average 15 points higher at .324 for July compared to his .309 mark in June. He is batting .301 on the season. The improved batting average can be credited to his 18 game hitting streak throughout the month of July, which tied the Cardinals record. It has been done five times, once this season by his teammate Michael Ohlman.

Anthony Garcia - Garcia returned from the Pan-Am Games and continued his robust hitting against arguably better competition than what the Pan-Am had in store. The 23-year old is hitting .343 (12-for-35) over his last ten games, with a home run and nine RBI. Always known as a free-swinger in the lower levels, his plate discipline improvements are evident as Garcia is walking at a career-high rate. His strikeouts have dipped significantly the past two years, which is impressive given the successful Double-A jump.

Jimmy Reed - Reed didn’t fare particularly well against Tulsa on Monday night. Although since arriving in Springfield the southpaw has been fairly consistent in his 18 starts. Monday was the first time Reed had allowed more than three earned runs in a single Texas League outing in 2015.

Who’s Not

Bruce Caldwell - Caldwell’s performance at the plate has tailed off due to a 6-for-36 (.143) mark over his last ten games.That stretch has dropped his average from .273 to .251 as of Thursday, July 30th. The third baseman has shown the potential to break out of the slump with a three-run homer on Wednesday night and a three-hit performance last Saturday, though.

Mike Mayers - In five of his 12 starts, Mayers has been unable to pitch past four innings with his shortest coming on Tuesday after just retiring two outs in the first inning before being given the hook.

Kurt Heyer - Heyer had a season of adjustments having to cope with a move to the bullpen after starting. He has appeared as a spot-starter, a long reliever, a mop-up reliever, and has even notched three saves in three closing situations for Springfield. In his past two outings, Heyer allowed five earned runs in 1 2/3 innings, which jumped his ERA to 5.18 on the season.

Springbirds batting order

Charlie Tilson led off all but in one game this week, as part of a scheduled off-day with Mike O’Neill subbing for him. O’Neill primarily hit second with Patrick Wisdom, who batted all around the top of the order, and Matt Williams starting in that slot once. Anthony Garcia has claimed the three-spot since his return from the Pan-Am Games. Manager Dann Bilardello told the Springfield News-Leader that “with Garcia in the three-hole, his presence adds a little bit of pop there. He’s been delivering, getting some key hits for us.”

Jonathan Rodriguez batted cleanup for six of the seven games while Garcia spelled Rodriguez for rest purposes. Michael Ohlman was in his usual fifth spot, though Bruce Caldwell batted fifth on occasion. The latter was sixth when Ohlman was hitting fifth. The final three slots were taken up by Aledmys Diaz, David Washington, and Williams, respectively.

Team Transactions

Compared to a frantic 13 transactions last week, this week was much slower, as just four transactions were made with two of them MLB rehabbing players.

7/23 Marco Gonzales assigned to Triple-A Memphis from Double-A Springfield

Over two starts, Gonzales pitched 5 2/3 scoreless innings at Double-A before making the leap back to Triple-A while working his way back from a shoulder impingement.

7/23 RHP Jordan Walden sent on a rehab assignment to Double-A Springfield from St. Louis

Walden began his rehab assignment from a shoulder issue that has kept him out of MLB action since late April. The right-hander with one of the funkiest deliveries in baseball appeared in two games for Springfield and pitched two scoreless innings against NW Arkansas.

On Thursday, July 29th, Walden was assigned to Triple-A Memphis to take a further step in his rehab process. At Springfield, he was given an extra day between outings than as anticipated due to soreness but there has been no lingering effects.

7/27 Thomas Lee was assigned to Double-A Springfield from Triple-A Memphis

With Tim Cooney’s option to Triple-A Memphis, Lee was re-assigned to Double-A Springfield after Memphis needed to shed a player. The right-hander took the roster spot of former Springbird closer Kyle Barraclough, who was the main piece traded for Steve Cishek, with Barraclough headed to Miami.

Lee was strong in his four starts with Memphis. In 27 innings, he allowed just three runs for a 1.00 ERA with 12 strikeouts and three walks. His next scheduled start is unknown.

7/28 Joey Donofrio was assigned to Double-A Springfield from Triple-A Memphis

Donofrio was returned to Double-A Springfield after Sam Tuivailala was optioned back to Triple-A Memphis because of Jaime Garcia’s activation on the big-league roster.

The 26-year old spent a month at the Triple-A Memphis. He pitched 12 1/3 innings and allowed six earned runs for a modest 4.38 ERA while striking out and walking five. Donofrio, armed with a high 80s fastball and fall off the table slider, has been a member of the Springbirds dating back to 2014 in several stints.

7/29 Mike Mayers was placed on the 7-Day DL

Mayers was shelved for the second time this season likely due to a re-aggravated forearm strain. In his previous stint, the right-hander was held out of action for more than two months. This week, Mayers was pulled in the first inning, but there seemed to be no indication of an actual injury.

Texas League North Division Standings (Second Half)

Club W L Pct. GB Home Away L10 Stk
Arkansas Travelers (LAA)  18  15  .545  -  10-9  8-6  6-4  W1
Springfield Cardinals (STL)  17  16  .515  1.0  8-8  9-8  6-4  L1
Tulsa Drillers (LAD)  15  18  .455  3.0  7-9  8-9  3-7  W1
NW Arkansas Naturals (KC)  12  20  .375  5.5  5-8  7-12  5-5  L1

The Cardinal Nation Top 40 Prospect Watch

#2 Alex Reyes - Reyes made his anticipated Double-A debut last Saturday night against NW Arkansas. The high-octane arm was limited just two starts off his shoulder injury sustained in the middle of June. Reyes struck out five Naturals over four innings of one-run ball on just two hits. In his second start, he will be opposed by NW Arkansas once again, so that will be interesting.

Clocked as high as 102 mph several times on the hot Hammons Field stadium gun, Reyes mixed in a two-seamer at 92-93 mph which was rarely used, a breaking ball(s), one with considerable 12-6 break and the other that broke to the equivalency of a hard slider, and a high 80s changeup that comes out identical to his fastball but doesn’t show much movement. Reyes quickly drew comparisons to fellow Dominican signee Carlos Martinez with similar raw stuff, if not better.

#10 Charlie Tilson - Coming into this season, Tilson worked with Springfield hitting coach Erik Pappas who both are Chicago, Illinois natives, to improve the former's strike zone judgment. With a full month left to play, Tilson has stayed healthy and struck out just 50 times in nearly 100 games, a sign of more contact and more use of his speed. In 2014, the outfielder struck out 104 times in exactly 120 games.

#12 Aledmys Diaz - Obviously, Diaz will receive regular playing time given his contract circumstances but the Cuban is hitting .147 over his last ten games, a 5-for-34 stretch at the plate. Thanks to this aggressive approach, easily exploitable by Texas League pitchers, his on-base percentage has dropped below .300 on the season.

#15 Breyvic Valera - Valera hasn’t played regularly since Matt Williams’ arrival to Springfield. The super-utility player is batting .234/.285/.290 with two home runs and 22 RBI on the season.

#25 Mike Mayers - Mayers was pulled by manager Dann Bilardello after allowing the first six of seven Driller baserunners to reach on Tuesday night. The right-hander was placed on the 7-day DL on Wednesday afternoon, with a tentative re-aggravated forearm strain which could put the rest of his season in jeopardy.

#27 Patrick Wisdom - Wisdom recorded a hit in all but one game this week, over a seven-game span. The third baseman’s 13 homers lead the Springfield offense, though his performance has come in three true outcomes with a total of six strikeouts in just two games. It will be interesting to see how his overly-aggressive approach works at the Triple-A level where the pitching throws more quality strikes than not.

#35 Andrew Morales - This season has certainly served as a learning curve for Morales who has been beaten up in terms of hits and opponents’ batting average against. Not including Alex Reyes, Morales at 22 years of age is the youngest hurler on the staff and has allowed the third most hits in the Texas League (123) while holding the highest opponents average against at .327.

Performance wise, Morales would have been better off to start his season at High-A Palm Beach. Given his track record of collegiate success, the organization felt a need to challenge his development and the Texas League has proven to be a tough environment for him to handle. The positive is that he has continued to learn and has thrown relatively deep into games in the process.

What’s Next

As the dog days of summer continue next week, so does the final full month of the minor league regular season with Springfield fighting for a playoff spot against division rivals Arkansas and Tulsa.

15 games have also been scratched off the current 26-game stretch without an off-day. The Cardinals continue against NW Arkansas for the last of four games on the current seven-game road trip this weekend. They return to Hammons Field next week for the start of seven games against Tulsa and Arkansas, three and four, respectively.

Follow Derek Shore on Twitter @D_Shore23.

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