Insight from Cardinals Instructs: 09/30/15

Wednesday news from the St. Louis Cardinals instructional league camp in Jupiter, Florida. Pitcher Rowan Wick had an impressive outing.

Unlike Tuesday, when 80 percent chance of rain led to dark skies but only several brief periods of sprinkles in Jupiter, Florida, Wednesday brought a return to fair skies and only 15 percent chance of precipitation, but with the seemingly ever present high humidity, along with upper-80’s temperatures. Still, having been caught on the backfields more than once in a downpour, I always carry my fold-up umbrella in one pocket. Fortunately, I didn’t need it this day.

With a scheduled camp day, the morning routine was set up to prepare for a 12:30 p.m. contest between the White and Red squads.

For basic details on camp structure, duration and roster, click here.
For the White and Red position player distribution, check Tuesday’s instructs report. (Pitchers are not assigned, but are used wherever needed.)

The routine

Though the coaches do mix up the daily schedule a bit and have different drills on different days, there is a basic pattern to instructs. Here is today’s example.

7:30 a.m. Staff reports
8:00 a.m. All players report (Many take vans from the hotel, others drive)
8:20 a.m. Staff meeting
9:00 a.m. Early work – offense in cages, defense on field – position-focused
9:30 a.m. Roll call, daily plan, yellow pad review
10:00 a.m. Team stretch
10:15 a.m. Position players, throwers and non-throwers break out for catch, long toss, fundamentals, batting practice, side sessions, etc.
11:30 a.m. Lunch
12:10 p.m. Stretch for game
12:30 p.m. Game (others get in extra work on two nearby fields)

The lineups

Wednesday 9/30      
White Lineup   Red Lineup
McElroy 7   Seferina  6
Ynfante 9   Cordoba 5
E Rodriguez 3   Sierra 8
Sosa 6   Grayson 7
Alvarez 4   Diekroeger 4
Drake 8   Thompson 9
Rivera 2   C Rodriguez 3
Montero 5   Pina DH
No DH today     Godoy 2

Some items of note. It appears the coaches are working with infielders on their defensive diversity, which can only be a good thing. It is done regularly with the outfielders as well.

Midwest League All-Star second baseman Darren Seferina is playing shortstop for the Red. As a professional, the 21-year-old appeared at short in just one game, while at State College in 2014.

Allen Cordoba, the Gulf Coast League MVP and batting champion as a shortstop, is stationed at third base. Cordoba did play a handful of games this summer at second (two) and third (five).

Danny Diekroeger, normally a third baseman, is in Seferina’s regular spot at second base. In two seasons, Diekroeger has just 11 career games at second, all in 2014 when he was with State College. His build, at a listed 6-foot-2, 205 pounds, reminds me of a thinner Matt Carpenter. If he can handle second, why can’t Diekroeger?

Casey Grayson, who has been a first baseman almost exclusively, is getting an outfield tryout in instructional league, starting for the Red in left field and batting cleanup Wednesday. He led the system with a .414 on-base percentage during the summer and hit .308 for State College.

The pitching plans

Only 11 total innings of pitching were scheduled, so the actual length of the intersquad game depended on the efficiency of the pitchers available to go.

Selected pitches and velocities for the pitchers are included.

Wednesday 9/30      
Pitching  Plans   Velos  
Red Innings Pitches FB Other
J Perez 4 60-65 90-91  
DeLaCruz 1 20 91-93 Sldr 82
Wick 1 20 93-94 T95 CB 76-78
D Gonzalez 3 45-50 88-92 T94 CB 76-77
Then 2 35 88-92 T94 Sldr 76-78
        C-up 85

The game

I think they went exactly the prescribed 5 1/2 innings with the Red winning 7-5. However, this is very nebulous. The order of the day was to work on situational hitting and defense, so most batters came up with one out and a runner on first. When runners advanced, they were generally allowed to stay on base. Pickoff moves were tested along with heaping quantities of stolen base attempts. Later, runners at third base were also added.

Infield coordinator Pop Warner served as home plate and base umpire, standing behind the mound and making the calls, both for balls, strikes and outs as well as situations.

The pitching was far better than the score indicates with not that many hard-hit balls. I will identify some of the highlights.

Outfielder Wadye Ynfante singled against Juan Perez and stole second with Jose Godoy catching. Godoy also threw out Collin Radack.

The White team catcher, Chris Rivera, worked with Derian Gonzalez on a nice strikeout-throw out of Edmundo Sosa trying to take second. Nick Thompson then singled, but Rivera erased him at second, also.

Godoy threw out Blake Drake at second, but his wild throw on the next runner trying to take second allowed Radack to score. With Radack placed back at third, Perez’ wild pitch allowed him to score again, something you don’t see in a real game.

In the next inning, Rivera gunned down Leobaldo Pina at second. Elier Rodriguez singled to right, but Thompson threw an absolute bullet to third base, nailing the runner Ynfante. That was my top play of the day.

Perez cruised in the last of his four innings, as Rivera threw out Magneuris Sierra and Casey Grayson.

Jery Then pitched the fourth and fifth for the White and showed a wide range of velocities with his fastball as well as a slider and changeup. The results were spotty, however. Though most balls were not hit hard, Then was touched for at least four scores. Thompson (his second hit) and Godoy led off with RBI singles (runners had been placed on third) and Then also yielded a soft double by Allen Cordoba that dropped partway down the right field line.

In his second inning of work, Then gave up a sharply-hit double into the right center gap off the bat of Magneuris Sierra. Sierra stole second on Rivera, but the catcher soon followed by erasing Radack trying to do the same.

Steven De La Cruz allowed a long Rivera single into the left field corner in his only inning of work. Rivera was halfway to second base before noticing a runner was already there. Perhaps that was good thing as Grayson’s throw looked to be right on the money.

Rivera’s hit may have been the hardest-struck ball of the day, though C.J. McElroy also laid into one that was barely caught in deep left. Earlier, McElroy made a nice running catch of a ball in foul territory in left.

Rowan Wick was the final pitcher of the day. His outing drew a lot of attention and for him only, the coaches decided to have a straight inning, meaning no situations. Showing the fastest fastball of the day, which touched 95, and a fairly tight curve, Wick delivered a very clean inning. In fact, they could have placed runners on base and it would not have mattered. The former catcher and right fielder impressively fanned all three batters he faced.

With that, the game was over.

Yet, the day’s work was not. Hitting drills continued on an adjoining field under the direction of coaches Derrick May and George Greer, before some hitters got in additional cage work. After the main contest, coaches Willie McGee and Oliver Marmol stayed behind with three players who worked on their leads off first base – Drake, Radack and Seferina.

What is Next

On Thursday, the Cards will visit the Marlins on their side of the Jupiter complex. I can hardly wait, as the pitchers scheduled to throw include Austin Gomber, Sandy Alcantara and Junior Fernandez. Arguably the Pitcher of the Year in the system and two guys who can hit 100 mph set the table for an interesting game.

Look for future daily articles and an extensive series of player and coach interviews coming to you from Cardinals instructional league camp in Jupiter in the upcoming days.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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