Springfield Cardinals Notebook: 2015 Week 19

After a tough Texas road trip, the .500 Double-A Cardinals are holding onto first place by a thread. Shortstop Aledmys Diaz continues his impressive offensive comeback.

This report covers the period from Thursday, August 13th through Wednesday, August 19th.

Following their second off-day in a 34-day period, the Springfield Cardinals showed a bit of fatigue on the six-game road trip, victimized by a sweep at the hands of the Midland Rockhounds (OAK), after a long commute from the Ozarks to Texas. Springfield then lost two of three against the Frisco RoughRiders (TEX), but in relatively close fashion to complete the road-trip. With 10 strikeouts through six scoreless frames, Alex Reyes helped Springfield avoid a winless stretch of six games, picking up his first Double-A win.

Returning to Hammons Field, Springfield played two games against Midland with a split result. The series finale and final series against Frisco will be covered in next week’s edition, with a little over three weeks left to play.

The North Division currently has Springfield as the leader as of Thursday, August 20th. The S-Cards’ (26-26) lead is just one game over the Arkansas Travelers (LAA, 25-27) and Tulsa Drillers (LAD, 25-27), tied for second place. The NW Arkansas Naturals (KC) are cellar dwellers, trailing Springfield by six and half games. However, the winner of the second half will play NW Arkansas in the first round of the Texas League playoffs.

Thursday, August 13th, Springfield 0 at Midland 3

With help from situational pitching, Midland executed the three-game sweep over Springfield on Thursday night. Springfield was a combined 0-for-20 with runners in scoring position the past two games as Bruce Caldwell was the only Cardinal hitter to obtain an extra-base hit, a double. Michael Ohlman singled and walked in three at-bats in his first game back from a brief stint on the disabled list.

Andrew Morales pitched impressively through six scoreless frames. Morales gave up just five hits, walked two, and struck out two in a no-decision. Chris Perry couldn’t find the strike zone, issuing four free passes and allowing three earned runs for his third Double-A loss.

Friday, August 14th, Springfield 7 at Frisco 2

Despite a terrific offensive showing by Springfield in the opening win against Frisco, top prospect Alex Reyes stole the show by striking out 10 while giving up just one hit over six shutout innings against the RockHounds on Friday night. It was Reyes’ longest Springfield outing, exceeding his 4 1/3 innings against NW Arkansas in his second Double-A start.

Robby Rowland, promoted from High-A Palm Beach on Friday, retired all six batters he faced in a row, accounting for the seventh and eighth innings. Ryan Sherriff initially was given the task to slam the door, but hiccupped for two earned runs and Ronnie Shaban finished it out.

Charlie Tilson and Jonathan Rodriguez both had four hit games, all singles. They were eight of the 14 overall hits for the Cardinals hitters. Tilson scored once and Rodriguez had an RBI. Aledmys Diaz contributed a two-RBI double while Nick Martini had the knockout blow with a three-run blast in the ninth.

Saturday, August 15th, Springfield 3 at Frisco 5

Springfield got a solid hitting performance from Aledmys Diaz, who had a perfect 3-for-3 night with a walk, but Frisco scampered away with the game-two win. The series was evened up at one with the rubber-game on Sunday.

In a spot-start, Corey Baker pitched the first 3 1/3 innings and allowed four earned runs. Thomas Lee struck out three batters over the next 2 2/3 scoreless frames.

Anthony Garcia plated a run via a double, Michael Ohlman hit an RBI single, and Patrick Wisdom recorded a sacrifice fly, but that was all the runs the Cardinals would manage as they were held scoreless over the final four innings.

Sunday, August 16th, Springfield 5 at Frisco 6 (10 innings)

Resilience would be an appropriate adjective to describe Frisco in the ninth and tenth innings, as the RoughRiders battled back from deficits in both innings and walked off to claim the rubber game matchup against Springfield on Sunday night.

Jimmy Reed allowed two earned runs in the first, but the lefty went on to retire 15 straight batters until the end of the sixth. Approaching the 100-pitch mark, Reed was lifted with two outs in the eighth. Kurt Heyer gave up a single but ended the inning unscathed thanks to a strikeout.

Springfield had an adventurous ninth and tenth innings. Ronnie Shaban blew the save by allowing two runs and the game-tying run to score on four hits. In just his second Double-A outing, Robby Rowland was charged with the loss after giving up the game-tying run and the eventual walk-off run that came around on a double served up by Chris Perry.

The Cardinals led from the fourth to the ninth but missed on several opportunities to break the game open. Aledmys Diaz led the offense with his 9th Double-A home run, a three-run blast. Diaz also singled, walked, and scored twice. David Washington had a pair of hits and an RBI.

Monday, August 17th, league-wide day off

Sunday was a getaway day for Springfield with Monday used to travel back home from the Lone Star State after a disappointing road-trip.

Tuesday, August 18th, Springfield 4 vs. Midland 3

A Bruce Caldwell free pass with the bases-loaded meant a walk-off win on Tuesday night, as Springfield took the opener with the dramatic victory over Midland, the South Division leader. The Cardinals have won each of their last five home games, three of which ended in walk-offs.

Andrew Morales pitched five innings of three-run ball before handing it off to the bullpen who covered the last four frames without permitting any damage. Silfredo Garcia pitched two scoreless innings, Ryan Sherriff was erratic but worked out of trouble with a scoreless frame while Kurt Heyer earned his sixth win.

The first seven in Springfield’s order recorded at least a base-hit, as only Nick Martini and Mike O’Neill were hitless. Despite his recent struggles, Patrick Wisdom had two hits and two RBI with Michael Ohlman adding two hits and two runs scored. Caldwell was the x-factor, with an RBI single and the walk-off walk.

Wednesday, August 19th, Springfield 1 vs. Midland 10

Midland plowed over Springfield to even up the three-game set at one apiece. The RockHounds tagged Kyle Hald and Joey Donofrio for nine of their ten runs in the first 4 2/3 innings. Hald started and pitched the first two innings before Donofrio relieved.

Springfield mustered a lone run on eight hits and were blanked with runners in scoring position, going a dismal 0-for-8. A bright spot was Aledmys Diaz and Jonathan Rodriguez were the only Cardinals to record multi-hit games. Diaz plated Mike O’Neill via a double for the only Springfield score.

Who’s Hot

Alex Reyes - The right-hander overpowered the Frisco lineup with ten strikeouts and one hit over six scoreless frames on Friday night, striking out 10 while retiring 17 of 19 hitters faced. This performance granted Reyes the Texas League Pitcher of the Week award.

Aledmys Diaz - Alongside Springfield teammate Reyes, Diaz was named the Texas League Player of the Week, the second time this season a pair of Springbirds have swept the weekly awards. The shortstop led the offense by hitting .435 (10-for-23) with one home run, two doubles, and six RBI in five games.

Who’s Not

Patrick Wisdom - His second straight week here, as Wisdom’s average has steadily declined. Over the last ten games, he is below the Mendoza line with a .171 average, even worse a .151 average in the month of August. That is eight points lower than his gruesome April mark of .159 in the same amount of games played, 15.

Joey Donofrio - Donofrio and Wisdom appear in back-to-back weeks among “Who’s Not”. In Donofrio’s two outings this week, the right-hander gave up four earned runs over 3 2/3 innings. In his past ten games, he has allowed 18 earned runs on 21 hits for an 8.24 ERA. In 2014, Donofrio led Springfield relievers with a miniscule 0.87 ERA as the team’s primary closer.

Springbirds batting order

Outmatched by stronger offenses for much of the week in Texas, Springfield manager Dann Bilardello had to maximize every ounce of production from his lineup to match the Southsiders, Midland, and Frisco.

Charlie Tilson led off in all six of the games played. Early in the week Bruce Caldwell and Mike O’Neill hit at the two-spot, but as the week went on Aledmys Diaz, the league’s hottest hitter, batted second. Anthony Garcia was the three-hole hitter until his promotion before Tuesday’s game, then Bruce Caldwell finished the week at the three-spot, a spot in which Garcia thrived.

Bilardello pencils Jonathan Rodriguez in at clean-up for his steadiness. Michael Ohlman was activated last week and started all six games at the five-spot. Behind Ohlman was David Washington, Patrick Wisdom, Nick Martini, and Mike O’Neill at nine to round the order.

Team Transactions

8/13 C Michael Ohlman activated off the 7-day disabled list

For mostly precautionary reasons, the Springfield catcher was given a week layoff due to a severely bruised knee after fouling a hard pitch off it.

Ohlman, the starting catcher for the North Division in the Texas League All-Star Game, was activated last Thursday.

8/13 C Luis Cruz assigned to Low-A Peoria from Springfield

Catcher Cruz was sent back to Peoria in the corresponding move after filling in for Ohlman for the last week. Cruz went hitless in just two Double-A at-bats. With Peoria in 2015, his line is .225/.284/.288.

8/14 RHP Arturo Reyes assigned to Triple-A Memphis from Springfield

Reyes was promoted to Memphis last Friday, reuniting with his former Gonzaga teammate and fellow Redbird hurler Marco Gonzales. In 17 starts for Springfield, Reyes went 7-7 with a 2.64 ERA.

The Texas League Player of the Month for June had a rocky Triple-A debut in which he garnered a no-decision, Reyes was beaten up for six earned runs on eight hits through just 4 1/3 innings against the Albuquerque Isotopes (COL). The former 40th round pick has a chance to redeem himself on Thursday night for Memphis.

8/14 RHP Robby Rowland was assigned to Springfield from High-A Palm Beach

Due to Reyes’s promotion, Springfield was in need of an arm and got added back-end of the bullpen depth in Rowland. Formerly the Peoria Chiefs closer and a Midwest League All-Star, Rowland converted nine saves in 10 chances and struck out 45 batters in 41 ? innings pitched for the Chiefs.

With High-A Palm Beach, Rowland allowed five earned runs in 10 innings and converted five saves in six opportunities. The former Pirates farmhand debuted with two scoreless innings against Frisco but followed two nights later by yielding the game-winning run. From eye-witness reports, Rowland touched 98 with a slider that shows potential but needs sharpening to be effective at the higher levels.

8/18 OF Anthony Garcia was assigned to Triple-A Memphis from Springfield

To backfill for Tommy Pham at Memphis, Garcia received the promotion to Memphis his first Triple-A experience in his professional career. He spent the past two years with High-A Palm Beach being troubled by an over-aggressive approach and his power potential being restrained in the pitching-oriented Florida State League.

Garcia was a phenom in the Puerto Rican Winter League and Pan-Am Games, and backed that performance up by showing significant improvements in his first season above High-A ball with a .285/.400/.476/.876 line, 11 home runs, and 45 RBI in 87 Texas League games. Garcia won the Cardinals Minor League Player of the Month award in July.

Bilardello told the Springfield News-Leader what Garcia brought to the table for the Springfield lineup and the promotion itself, “If you look back at the beginning of the year, man it was rough on him,” Springfield’s manager said. “He’s really become one of our most consistent players, driving in runs, getting on base. It’s good to see that he’s going to get an opportunity in Triple-A, to see what he can do up there.”

8/18 INF Brett Wiley was assigned to Springfield from High-A Palm Beach

Middle infielder Wiley was promoted from High-A Palm Beach to replace outfielder Garcia on the Springfield roster. After jumping from State College last season to Palm Beach this year, the 23-year-old had a Florida State League line of .234/.303/.309/.612 in 93 games. Wiley also stole 18 bases in 25 attempts providing a match with Bilardello’s aggressive style of base-running.

8/18 IF Matt Williams placed on the 7-day disabled list

Williams was shelved on Tuesday due to an unspecified issue. He is eligible to be activated on August, 22nd, as the move was back-dated to August, 15th. Given no corresponding move was announced initially, I would assume Williams will be activated on the 22nd.

Texas League North Division Standings (Second Half)


The Cardinal Nation Top 40 Prospect Watch

#2 Alex Reyes - Reyes put together his best outing at Double-A last Friday, one that came as his deepest and most efficient, working multiple times through Frisco’s batting order. His lone walk didn’t come until his final inning of work, as reports indicated Reyes tired in that sixth inning and lost control of the zone, That is likely due to not having an outing of six innings or more since June 17th.

Reports said Reyes was 94-98 mph with a 98 in his final inning of work, employed his changeup to same-side hitters more often than his dynamic curveball, which is good to widen his arsenal of pitches. Reyes will make his sixth Double-A start on Thursday night against Midland looking to continue his progress.

#10 Charlie Tilson – Tilson remains one of Springfield most consistent and productive forces atop the order, hitting .292/.350/.370 as of Thursday. The overall development of his defense has been somewhat overlooked because the emergence of his stolen base ability and hitting. His defense has actually been one of his calling cards. Tilson plays with energy and uses his speed to his advantage to take proper routes to shag fly balls hit well over his positioning and as bloopers.

#12 Aledmys Diaz - Thanks in large part to a career-best August, Diaz turned what was a tedious second professional season into a solid season very quickly. The Cuban has a current eight-game hitting streak and has hit safely in 16 of his last 17 games dating to July 30th. In 15 games in August, Diaz is hitting .383 with 4 home runs, 13 RBI, and a 1.103 OPS. I’d like to see him in Triple-A before the end of the season, even though the opportunity may not present itself.

#25 Mike Mayers - Out with an elbow injury

#27 Patrick Wisdom - As mentioned above, Wisdom’s numbers have slipped in the month of August. His bat still has a lot of question marks, but the power has come around and his overall approach has shown some improvements. A scouting source told me Wisdom probably won’t be a regular in the majors, but possibly a Jack Hannahan type with pop.

#35 Andrew Morales - With Arturo Reyes promoted to Triple-A Memphis, Morales takes over as Springfield’s workhorse, leading the staff in innings pitched (109 2/3 innings), but the right-hander is still experiencing occasional growing pains along with showing a flash of his potential.

What’s Next

Springfield had a tough go of it this week with a 2-4 overall record, and 1-5 on the road against Midland and Frisco, including the first two games of that trip in last week’s notebook. 18 games are left to be played in the second half, 11 of which will be played at home. Tulsa and Arkansas are each one game behind Springfield, as the Travelers have one series and the Drillers have two series left, respectively, with the Cardinals before playoff time.

Next week’s action will feature the series-finale against Midland, a rubber-game match on Thursday. Over the weekend, Springfield will host Frisco once again for three and will open the last round of division action against NW Arkansas for four games next week at Arvest Ballpark.

Follow Derek Shore on Twitter @D_Shore23.

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