Springfield Cardinals Notebook: 2015 Week 18

A 4-2 week put the Double-A Cardinals back in first place. Anthony Garcia continues to rake.

This report covers the period from Thursday, August 6th through Wednesday, August 12th

Thanks to two walk-off victories and four comebacks in a row, the Springfield Cardinals cleaned the house by sweeping the division-leading Arkansas Travelers (LAA) and reclaiming sole possession of first place in the Texas League North Division. On the road, Springfield lost momentum and dropped the first two games but still manage to hold a slim one game lead over Arkansas in the standings, as the Travelers lost their last seven games.

In third place, the Tulsa Drillers (LAD) have shown signs of breaking out by winning six of their last ten games. The Drillers trail just two games behind the Cardinals with the NW Arkansas Naturals (KC) having dug themselves into a seven and half-game deficit in the cellar.

Thursday, August 6th, Springfield 10 vs. Arkansas 8

In a game that featured many lead changes, a three-run bomb by hot-hitting Anthony Garcia helped Springfield take the final lead change in the bottom half of the sixth. The Cardinals pitching staff held the division-leading Arkansas scoreless over the final three frames for the victory in the series-opener.

Jimmy Reed coughed up three runs early but proceeded to throw four consecutive scoreless frames before the Travelers knocked him out for good with three more runs in the top of the sixth. The Travelers scratched two more runs off reliever Ryan Sherriff in that sixth inning, but Sherriff wound up as the winning pitcher.

Corey Baker worked 1 2/3 scoreless innings, including an impressive performance of striking out the side in the eighth before giving way to Ronnie Shaban who converted his fifth Double-A save with a scoreless ninth.

Springfield played old-fashion running style baseball early as Charlie Tilson and Breyvic Valera executed a double-steal to perfection with Tilson reaching second and Valera sliding into home safely for an early lead. Tilson also nabbed his second base in as many innings to pad his Texas League-leading 38th stolen base. Another jolt came off the bat of Aledmys Diaz who smacked his eighth home run, a two-run shot.

Friday, August 7th, Springfield 2 vs. Arkansas 1

Springfield walked off on a pinch-hit RBI single by Mike O’Neill to zap the division-leading Arkansas Travelers’ lead down to just one game. The Cardinals have the two game series advantage with two left to play.

Kyle Hald held the Travelers to four hits over four shutout innings before Thomas Lee gave up the go-ahead runs in his 2 2/3 innings of long relief. Chris Perry, however, shut the door from then on with 2 1/3 scoreless with four strikeouts, good for his first Double-A win.

Not much was cooking offensively for both sides though the Cardinals struck late on RBI by Nick Martini and O’Neill.

Saturday, August 8th, Springfield 6 vs. Arkansas 4

Homers by Bruce Caldwell and Jonathan Rodriguez provided the big blows. Caldwell jacked a three-run blast while Rodriguez hit his 10th home run, a solo shot, accounting for four of the six runs in Saturday night’s series-clinching win. It put Springfield in a first-place tie with Arkansas. Caldwell and Mike O’Neill also produced sacrifice flies and Caldwell tied his season-high with four RBI.

Coming off a couple of stinkers, Andrew Morales pitched a lot better, going 5 2/3 innings. The right-hander did allow four earned runs on eight hits, but three of the four runs came in the first inning. Morales gave up just one earned run through the next 4 ? innings while utilizing a fastball that primarily was 91-93 but hit 94-95 with a slider that got some swing and misses and a changeup that was the most hittable, according to an observer.

The Cardinals received excellent bullpen work from Kurt Heyer and Ronnie Shaban, who pitched the final 3 1/3 innings without any damage done. Heyer covered 2 ? scoreless while Shaban pitched a clean ninth to earn his sixth save.

Sunday, August 9th, Springfield 8 vs. Arkansas 7 (10 innings)

Springfield completed the four-game sweep of Arkansas on Sunday night after the walk-off win to surge into sole possession of first place in the Northern Division. Precocious prospect Alex Reyes had a short leash, lifted after just 1 2/3 innings as the power right-hander surrendered four earned runs on three hits, finishing with a no-decision.

The manager trusted five relievers to cover the next 8 1/3 innings, including the 10th. Joey Donofrio pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings, Ryan Sherriff struck out two over two scoreless innings, Silfredo Garcia pitched a clean inning in his Double-A debut, Corey Baker gave up three earned runs through 2 1/3 innings before Ronnie Shaban bailed him out while retiring the final two batters.

David Washington had a huge night by launching a two-run blast onto the Cardinals training facility as well as the walk-off sac fly. Anthony Garcia and Jonathan Rodriguez each had a pair of RBI on doubles.

Monday, August 10th, league-wide scheduled day-off

Dating back to July 5th, Springfield finished a 26-game consecutive stretch play with a 15-11 overall record against inter-division opponents of the North. The Cardinals resumed play on Tuesday to start a Texas road trip.

Tuesday, August 11th, Springfield 6 at Midland 10

Springfield’s late-inning relief imploded on Tuesday night against the Midland offense, as relievers Chris Perry and Silfredo Garcia coughed up a combined seven runs over 3 1/3 innings. The Cardinals remained in first place with Arkansas dropping their opener against Corpus Christi as well.

Jimmy Reed started and guided the pitching for the first 2 2/3 innings, but the lefty had trouble minimizing hits, while yielding three earned runs before his exit. Thomas Lee threw two scoreless innings in relief of Reed.

The offense got their work in early with four of the six runs pushed across before being held to just two runs over the final seven frames. That wasn’t enough to overcome the four-run lead of the Rockhounds. Jonathan Rodriguez, Bruce Caldwell, Aledmys Diaz, Patrick Wisdom and Nick Martini each had one RBI.

Wednesday, August 12th, Springfield 4 at Midland 5 (14 innings)

Springfield surged for a one-run lead in the 14th inning only to see it disappear by a Midland two-run walk-off home run. The Rockhounds took the three-game series as of result, with the series finale to be played on Thursday night.

Kyle Hald held the Rockhounds scoreless over six frames before leaving in the seventh after allowing his only earned run on the night. Hald got a no-decision but walked zero and struck out four. Four relievers were used to pitch the rest of the way; Ryan Sherriff, Kurt Heyer, Ronnie Shaban, and Joey Donofrio, who combined for 8 1/3 innings in relief. Donofrio yielded the walk-off home run and took his fourth loss of the season.

Offensively, the Cardinals failed to capitalize on their 15 opportunities with runners in scoring position as well as leaving 15 runners stranded. Patrick Wisdom forced extras with a game-tying two-run blast in the ninth, his 14th home run of the season. Anthony Garcia also produced a key RBI hit, a double in the 14th inning that didn’t hold as the game-winner.

Who’s Hot

Anthony Garcia - In Wednesday night’s extra-inning loss, Garcia added three more hits to boost his average to a season-high .287. Although, the outfielder missed half of July because of the Pan-Am Games, Garcia has exceeded his July RBI output with 15 RBI already this August to go along with a robust batting average. If this torrid hitting continues, he could be worthy of a second consecutive Cardinals Minor League Player of the Month award and would cap off his comeback onto the prospect scene.

Aledmys Diaz - Diaz has quietly put together a nice month offensively with an average soaring around .330 with three home runs and seven RBI. The shortstop broke out two more hits on Wednesday night, with his .251 average his highest output for the season.

Who’s Not

Patrick Wisdom - Wisdom has fallen into a cold streak after a tremendous past couple of months, developmentally. In his past ten games, the third baseman is hitting well below the Mendoza line which has dropped his average down to .256 on the 2015 campaign.

Joey Donofrio – This is both Wisdom and Donofrio’s second straight appearance on the “Who’s Not” feature. After Donofrio yielded the two-run walk-off home run on Wednesday against Midland, the right-hander has allowed nine earned runs since returning to Springfield through 9 1/3 innings over five outings.

BA’s Best Tools

Baseball America released their annual “Best Tools” edition this week. At every level, each coach and manager are asked to pick a certain player in numerous toolbox categories. Jonathan Rodriguez was the only Springfield Cardinal named in the Texas League, the best defensive first baseman.

Alex Reyes has spent less than month with the Double-A Cardinals. However, the powerful right-hander swept the Tools Triple-Crown among Florida State League pitchers, with the best fastball, the best breaking pitch, and the best pitching prospect in the league as well. Reyes struck out 96 batters in 63 2/3 innings over 13 starts against Florida State League competition this season.

Springbirds batting order

Manager Dann Bilardello stayed true to his lead-off man Charlie Tilson who slotted at one for five of the six games with Mike O’Neill giving him a breather in Tilson’s lone day off. O’Neill, Matt Williams, and Nick Martini saw most of the time at the two-spot while Anthony Garcia was primarily the three-hitter. Bruce Caldwell got a shot at the three-hole on Wednesday night with Garcia moving down to clean-up because of an off-day to the regular clean-up hitter Jonathan Rodriguez.

Otherwise, Caldwell batted fifth with Michael Ohlman still shelved, then to follow at six was either David Washington or Aledmys Diaz at times when Washington was on the bench. Patrick Wisdom was dropped down to seventh and eighth in the order due to a recent cold spell. Martini also batted seventh a couple times with Alberto Rosario rounding out the order and taking over as the everyday catcher for Ohlman for the time being.

Team transactions

8/6 C Michael Ohlman placed on the 7-day disabled list

Ohlman was shelved on Thursday afternoon after leaving Wednesday night’s game due to fouling a ball off his knee. No structural damage was found in the MRI results, just severe bruising and swelling of his knee. In my trip to the ballpark Sunday evening, Ohlman was warming up pitchers during their side sessions and is expected to come off the DL when eligible.

8/6 C Luis Cruz assigned to Springfield from Peoria Chiefs

In an unusual move, Cruz bypassed High-A Palm Beach and headed straight to Springfield to make his Double-A debut as the replacement for the injured Ohlman. The only other catcher on the roster is Alberto Rosario, who is receiving the bulk of the playing time in Ohlman’s absence.

Cruz, 22, has a line of .225/.284/.288/.572 in 191 at-bats over his first 57 Midwest League games.

8/7 RHP Chris Thomas assigned to Memphis from Springfield

Right-handed reliever Thomas was again promoted to Triple-A Memphis. In his second stint, Thomas appeared in two games with Memphis last month while posting a 1-0 record with 1.50 ERA, one earned run in six innings pitched.

Thomas took the vacant spot of pitcher Tyler Lyons, promoted to the parent club (St. Louis) last Friday.

8/7 INF Matt Williams assigned to Springfield from Memphis

The option of Greg Garcia from St. Louis prompted infielder Williams’ return to Springfield, though he just been moved up on July 30th.

In his second stint with Memphis, Williams hit .333 (6-for-18) while drawing five walks in a small sample size of just six games. He took the place of Thomas on Springfield’s 25-man roster, adding an experienced middle infield option for depth purposes.

8/8 RHP Silfredo Garcia assigned to Springfield from Palm Beach Cardinals

Garcia has excelled in his move from starting to relieving, as the right-handed sinkerballer logged a 2.54 ERA in 28 2/3 Florida State League innings. During that time, Garcia fanned 23 and walked six.

The 24-year old swapped spots with Valera on the 25-man roster with Garcia adding a fresh arm to a relatively overworked bullpen.

8/8 INF Breyvic Valera assigned to Palm Beach Cardinals from Springfield

Ranked as TCN’s 15th best prospect before the season, Valera was demoted on Friday to High-A Palm Beach. The super-utility player has struggled in his first full season at Double-A, batting .240/.299/.297/.596. He did pull off 19 stolen bases in 21 attempts. His average was well below his career norm of .302 in six seasons as a minor league hitter.

Texas League North Division Standings (Second Half)

Club                     W  L  PCT  GB  Home  Away  L10  Streak
Springfield Cardinals (STL)  24  22  .522  -  13-10  11-12  5-5  L2
Arkansas Travelers (LAA)  23  23  .500  1.0  13-12  10-11  3-7  L7
Tulsa Drillers (LAD)  22  24  .478  2.0  10-10  12-14  6-4  L1
NW Arkansas Naturals (KC)  16  29  .356  7.5  8-14  8-15  3-7  L2

The Cardinal Nation Top 40 Prospect Watch

#2 Alex Reyes - Reyes started on Sunday night against Arkansas, with his outing the shortest of his four starts since being promoted to Springfield. In his fourth start, Reyes worked a perfect first inning before allowing four earned runs on three hits in his second inning of work. Seems as if the Cardinals limited Reyes’ curveball usage to give more focus on developing his third pitch, the changeup. In this outing, Reyes threw fewer curveballs and more high 80s changeups than usual.

#10 Charlie Tilson – Tilson is slashing .288/.348/.370/.718 as of Thursday and still leads the Texas League in stolen bases with his career-high of 41. The outfielder also ranks among the league lead in runs scored (72), a valuable trait that only improves his profile as a lead-off man.

#12 Aledmys Diaz - Diaz has hit safely in 11 of his last 12 games, dating back to July 30th. During that stretch, the shortstop is 16-for-44 (.363) with three home runs and 8 RBI. Any progress shown with the bat as this point is a positive, as his defense has overlapped his offense in my view.

#15 Breyvic Valera - Valera was demoted to High-A Palm Beach this past week.

#25 Mike Mayers – The rest of his injury riddled 2015 season remains in question due to a continued elbow issue.

#27 Patrick Wisdom - Wisdom blasted his first home run in August on Wednesday night, one that played a large role in a fourteen inning affair. In July, hitting coordinator Derrick May mentioned Wisdom’s flaws were “being ready on time, staying on the ball and getting into a good hitting position consistently.” That seems to have transpired once again.

#35 Andrew Morales - Morales pitched successfully in two straight outings then promptly reversed backward last week. Against Arkansas, the UC Irvine product pitched beyond the fifth inning, a recent struggle for him but he failed to complete the sixth. A lot of his troubles have been with avoiding early rallies and having it turn into a big inning from there. As a high-round draft pick, those are adjustments that can be made with upper-level experience.

What’s Next

Springfield went 15-11 while finishing off a 26 consecutive game stretch before their day off this past Monday. To conclude the lengthy stretch of play, the Cardinals took advantage of their home field and swept their rival, division-leading Arkansas, in a four-game set to overtake sole possession of first place in the North.

In the current Texas road-trip that consists of six games, so far Springfield has dropped the first two against Midland and look to salvage the finale on Thursday night to be covered in next week’s edition of this Notebook. This weekend, Springfield takes on the Frisco RoughRiders (TEX) of the South to complete the road-trip before they return home to oppose Midland and Frisco for six more at Hammons Field.

Follow Derek Shore on Twitter @D_Shore23.

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