Springfield Cardinals Notebook: 2015 Week 20

The Double-A Cardinals are fading, having fallen four games out of first place with just 12 to go. Bruce Caldwell is leading the offense.

This report covers the period from Thursday, August 20th through Wednesday, August 26th.

As part of a rough 2-4 record last week, the Springfield Cardinals salvaged just one win during the six-game homestand against the Midland Rockhounds (OAK) and Frisco RoughRiders (TEX). The first two Midland games were covered last week with the Cardinals splitting before the RockHounds took the rubber match. Fresh off a road-trip against the RoughRiders, Springfield suffered bullpen woes in the final two losses of a three-game series that continued into the first two losses at NW Arkansas Naturals (KC). The final two of that four-game set will be covered in next week’s edition.

Losers of eight of their last ten games with just 12 games to go, Springfield has plummeted to four games behind the Arkansas Travelers (LAA), the North Division leader.

Thursday, August 20th, Springfield 1 vs. Midland 7

Before a sellout crowd thanks to Yadier Molina Platinum Gold and Platinum Glove giveaway, Midland took the series in front of the Springfield home-faithful. Alex Reyes pitched two clean innings before the RockHounds posted a three-spot in the third the second time through the order. Reyes recovered and finished with a scoreless fourth and fifth, with nine strikeouts overall, but his offense didn’t bail him out and he lost his second Double-A game.

Springfield countered with a lone run after Midland’s three-run third but were shut out over the last six frames. Bruce Caldwell was only Cardinal to collect a pair of hits, including an RBI double.

Friday, August 21st, Springfield 7 vs. Frisco 3

Springfield blew past Frisco in the series-opener on Friday night. The Cardinals snapped a two-game losing streak and kept in pace with Arkansas for the North Division lead.

Corey Baker pitched five effective innings in a spot-start, allowing three earned runs on five hits for his fifth Double-A win of the season. The bullpen continued the trend of success as Kurt Heyer pitched three shutout innings with three strikeouts and Ronnie Shaban fanned two to slam the door.

Most of the scoring came off three-run and two-run blasts by Aledmys Diaz and David Washington, respectively. Charlie Tilson added an RBI single with his league-leading 42nd stolen base, a career-high.

Saturday, August 22nd, Springfield 2 vs. Frisco 4

In front of their third straight sellout crowd, the Cardinals were defeated by the RoughRiders, who evened the series at one apiece on Saturday night. Springfield fell out of first place with Arkansas winning four straight games.

Jimmy Reed pitched six quality innings, as the lefty yielded three earned runs on five hits, one walk, and three strikeouts but lost his third Double-A decision due to a lack of run support.

RBIs by Charlie Tilson and Michael Ohlman made for the entire Springfield offense. Tilson plated Alberto Rosario on a double while Ohlman hit an RBI single.

Sunday, August 23rd, Springfield 4 vs. Frisco 7

Frisco pushed across six runs in the ninth to take the rubber game match over Springfield. Starter Andrew Morales posted a gutsy effort, tossing 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball with no walks and two strikeouts.

The bullpen followed with the last 3 1/3 innings combined from Joey Donofrio, Ryan Sherriff, Ronnie Shaban, Robby Rowland, and Silfredo Garcia. Rowland coughed up the five runs in the ninth for his first Double-A loss.

Springfield had 11 opportunities to score but stranded six runners. Bruce Caldwell had two hits and an RBI while Mike O'Neill and Patrick Wisdom both produced RBI groundouts.

Monday, August 24th, league-wide off day

On Monday, Springfield received their final regular season off-day of the 2015 season. They resumed play on Tuesday, August 25th against the NW Arkansas Naturals.

Tuesday, August 25th, Springfield 4 at NW Arkansas 7

A late-inning implosion from the Springfield bullpen swung a 4-3 lead into a 7-4 loss to NW Arkansas in the road-opener. The Cardinals fell three games back of North Division leader Arkansas.

Kyle Hald pitched six solid innings, as the lefty permitted three runs on five hits and three walks. Hald struck out seven in a no-decision. Thomas Lee and Ronnie Shaban were unable to preserve the lead, as the two yielded four runs to the Naturals in the chaotic eighth inning.

Bruce Caldwell and Nick Martini produced half of the team’s hits, with two apiece. Breyvic Valera recorded a two-run double.

Wednesday, August 26th, Springfield 3 at NW Arkansas 5

On consecutive nights, Springfield’s bullpen surrendered a late-inning lead. This time around, it was Kurt Heyer. He pitched a scoreless sixth before allowing the tying and go-ahead run to score, thus helping NW Arkansas take the first two of the four-game set.

Nine hits were scratched out by the Cardinals offense, but 12 runners left were aboard and only three runs home to show for it. Bruce Caldwell crushed a two-run home run for a large chunk of the offense, his eighth of the season for Springfield.

Who’s Hot

Bruce Caldwell - Caldwell ripped a two-run blast on Wednesday night, his ninth home run of the season and eighth Double-A home run. Since August 5th, the infielder has hit safely in 15 of his last 19 games, going 23-for-65, a solid but not spectacular .295 clip with three home runs and 14 RBI. Scouts like Caldwell for his quick stroke, leg-kick, and sneaky juice in his bat.

Ryan Sherriff – Sherriff has stood out in a relatively ineffective bullpen of late. The southpaw hasn’t allowed a run since August 14th, tossing five scoreless outings (4 2/3 innings).

Who’s Not

Michael Ohlman - Ohlman hit above .300 in his past two months of play, June (.338/.444/.615) and July (.313/.387/.506), respectively. There’s been a notable downturn in his performance at the plate in August, the catcher is down to .186/.273/.220. A runner-up in the Texas League Home-Run Derby, Ohlman’s last home runs came July 27th, a month ago to this day, for a current 71 at-bats homerless drought.

Nick Martini - Martini collected two hits on Tuesday, but despite those positive results the outfielder is 5 for his last 32 (.156) in his past ten games. In the month of August, Martini’s average is just .185 in 54 at-bats in 17 games. The former Kansas State standout has routinely hit in the bottom half of the order as of result.

Robby Rowland - Rowland was promoted from Palm Beach last week and brings a live arm to the Springfield bullpen. However, the right-handed reliever has been shaken up for six earned runs in his first four Double-A outings, 4 2/3 innings.

Springbirds batting order

Springfield manager Dann Bilardello said the following about his batting order in this recent interview:

“When you look at our lineup, Charlie (Tilson) leads off. He is leading the league in stolen bases and he will be there on top. The fourth guy, Jonathan Rodriguez, has been there pretty much all year, been a consistent guy in the fourth hole for us and that is what we like. Other than that, it is a little bit of who is hot at times, Anthony Garcia - before he went up - was hitting third a lot, so that was kind of a main lineup with Tilson one, Garcia third, Rodriguez clean-up. Ohlman has been hitting fifth a lot because he swings the bat well. After that you move around the lineup, maybe depending on who is throwing, lefty or righty.”

This week, Bilardello stayed true to his approach by hitting Charlie Tilson at lead-off for all seven games, with Aledmys Diaz in the two-spot before his promotion. Then Mike O’Neill was slotted there, and a combination of Bruce Caldwell and Jonathan Rodriguez at the three-spot. Whenever Rodriguez batted third, David Washington cleaned up.

Michael Ohlman was at fifth all but one time this week, with Washington or Caldwell at six. The final three spots were a mix all week long - either Nick Martini or Patrick Wisdom hit seventh or eighth, and Breyvic Valera was ninth upon his return to Springfield.

Team Transactions

8/18 INF Matt Williams was placed on the 7-Day DL

Shelved last Tuesday, Williams remained on the disabled list through this week.

8/23 RHP Chris Thomas was assigned to Springfield from Triple-A Memphis

Thomas backfilled Springfield after Aledmys Diaz’s promotion to Triple-A Memphis on Sunday. The 27-year old Thomas has had several moves between Memphis and Springfield, this being his third with the S-Cards, the same club he represented as a Texas League All-Star.

The right-handed relief pitcher has yet to appear in his third go-around. Thomas pitched in six games for Memphis, allowing just two runs, one earned, in seven innings on nine hits.

8/23 INF Breyvic Valera was assigned to Springfield from High-A Palm Beach

Sent down to Palm Beach in search of a better results and renewed confidence, the super-utility guy returned after 14 games after hitting .353/.468/.451 in 51 Florida State League at-bats.

8/23 INF Aledmys Diaz was assigned to Triple-A Memphis from Springfield

A month after being removed from the Cardinals 40-man roster, Diaz got the call to replace Greg Garcia for up-the-middle help at Memphis. The 25-year-old was hitting .264 (99-for-375) with 10 home runs, 25 doubles, and 46 RBI in 102 games with Springfield, including a .373 average (25-for-67) in his last 18 August games. The latter was a more telling marker that played in this decision.

While getting his feet wet at Triple-A to prep for the 2015 season, Diaz collected two hits in his first two Triple-A games, making a good initial showing.

Texas League North Division Standings (Second Half)

Club  W  L  PCT  GB  Home  Away  L10  Strk
Arkansas Travelers (LAA)  31  27  .534  -  16-15  15-12  7-3  W7
Springfield Cardinals (STL)  27  31  .466  4.0  15-14  12-17  2-8  L4
Tulsa Drillers (LAD)  25  33  .431  6.0  11-15  14-18  1-9  L6
NW Arkansas Naturals (KC)  23  34  .404  7.5  12-16  11-18  5-5  W2

The Cardinal Nation Top 40 Prospect Watch

#2 Alex Reyes - In his sixth Double-A start, Reyes had another big strikeout game and worked five solid innings of two-run ball on Thursday night against Midland. Despite a rocky third inning, Reyes made quick work and retired his next six of seven batters faced, three of which went down on strikeouts. In comparison, the minor league leader in strikeouts has 149 in 125 1/3 innings, while Reyes has struck out 138 batters in just 91 innings, an absurd 15 strikeouts per nine innings.

An NL West scout gave me his following report on Reyes in his second look:

“He's got the raw stuff. It is a matter of him becoming more consistent and commanding the ball better. His CB feel was better last night than his first start when I saw him, but his FB and CH command were down some. Potential three well above average pitches but still a ways to go. His ability to harness stuff will determine how good he is in the end and whether he is a top of the rotation starter or end of the game reliever. Best arm and stuff I've seen in minors this year along with (Noah) Syndergaard. “

#10 Charlie Tilson - Tilson has been the most prominent base-stealer in the Texas League this season, with 43 to lead the league. However, at times he has been so aggressive and fearless that is led to him being cut down 17 times while attempting to take the extra base, a 71% success rate. The ML average is currently around 69% in stolen base success rate in 2015. Continued repetitions, reading pitcher/catcher tendencies, and improving his jumps will be put into main focus as he advances.

#12 Aledmys Diaz - The Player of the Week for August 10-16 in the Texas League was promoted on Sunday to Triple-A Memphis.

#25 Mike Mayers - Out with an elbow injury. Too bad that Mayers seems to be running out of time to regain his health prior to the Arizona Fall League after an injury-riddled season.

#27 Patrick Wisdom - Wisdom continues to scuffle as his second full season in Double-A winds down. The third baseman is hitting .133 (4-for-30) with 11 strikeouts over his last 10 games. On a good note, his OPS from last year to this year has improved 90 points, primarily based on his strong June.

#35 Andrew Morales - Morales battled through 5 2/3 innings on Sunday night against Frisco, not as a talented as lineup without Rangers big-name prospects Joey Gallo, Nomar Mazara and Nick Williams. A scout said Morales was at 90-94 mph with his fastball. Short and stocky, he catapults the ball, and has a lot of effort with not great stuff for an undersized pitcher. Additionally, the scout said Morales isn’t ready for the Double-A level, but his slider was a lot better than earlier in the season.

What’s Next

12 games are left for Springfield to overcome a four-game deficit against Arkansas. The latter has a magic number of nine, the combination of Arkansas wins and Springfield losses to clinch.

The Cardinals started slowly on the season’s final road trip with two early losses to NW Arkansas in a four-game set at Arvest Ballpark. Following, Springfield will take on Tulsa for three games before returning to Hammons Field for the concluding home-stand of the regular season. That homestand will settle the Texas League playoff picture, with Arkansas and Tulsa visiting for three apiece.

Follow Derek Shore on Twitter @D_Shore23.

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