The Springfield Cardinals opened the second half of the 2016 Texas League schedule with two losses at the back-end of Week 11. In what was supposed to be a four-game homestand against Arkansas before the All-Star break, the first half North Division Champions suffered a postponement on Thursday and was shut out in the opener Friday night.
The Cardinals offense picked up steam on Saturday, routing the Travelers, 12-7 to even the series. They claimed the finale behind another strong pitching effort from Luke Weaver on Sunday evening at Hammons Field.
After the records were reset, Springfield is off to a 2-3 start in the second half, currently 1.5 games behind NW Arkansas (KC) and Tulsa (LAD), which each seized four of six games to pace the North Division through the first week.
This report covers the period from Thursday, June 23rd through Wednesday, June 29th.
Thursday, June 23rd, Springfield vs. Arkansas - postponed
The series-opener against Arkansas was called off due to inclement weather following an hour and a half delay at Hammons Field. It will be made up as part of a seven-inning doubleheader on Monday, July 18th at 5:10 PM CT.
Friday, June 24th, Springfield 0 vs. Arkansas 4
Following the postponement on Thursday night, Springfield opened up the brief homestand with a 4-0 loss to Arkansas and remain winless through first three games of the second half.
J.C. Sulbaran struck out seven and scattered three hits over five scoreless to start the game before the Travelers touched him for a two-run shot in the sixth. Heath Wyatt pitched the remaining three innings, surrendering a second two-run home run in the seventh. Sulbaran took the loss.
The Cardinals offense managed just two hits. Paul DeJong singled, and Anthony Garcia recorded the team's only extra-base hit of the night, a double.
Saturday, June 25th Springfield 12 vs. Arkansas 7
Springfield outslugged Arkansas in a game that prominently featured long balls on both sides, by a 12-7 score.
Mason Katz went a perfect 3-for-3 with two solo shots and four runs scored. Bruce Caldwell drove in two with two doubles and a single. Paul DeJong recorded two hits and three RBI while Brayan Pena singled twice in five at-bats.
In his return from the disabled list, starter Andrew Morales went 4 2/3 innings, giving up four runs, two earned, on four hits, including a solo home run in the second inning. Morales struck out six and walked one.
Reliever Chris Perry surrendered two earned runs in 2/3 innings, including another solo shot. Pedro Echemendia followed with 1 2/3 innings, allowing one unearned run. Justin Wright and Rowan Wick combined for two scoreless innings. Echemendia was the winning pitcher.
Sunday, June 26th, Springfield 4 vs. Arkansas 2
Another strong performance by Luke Weaver keyed the S-Cards in a 4-2 victory over Arkansas in the rubber game matchup.
Despite laboring through the third and fourth innings, Weaver managed to go five innings and allowed only an unearned tally. The righty struck eight and didn't issue a single walk to improve his perfect record to 4-0. Ronnie Shaban worked around two hits over two scoreless innings in relief.
Rowan Wick issued free passes to his first two batters then uncorked a wild pitch and sac fly that brought one across. Justin Wright retired the final four batters before walking one. He induced a 4-3 groundout for his first save.
Nick Martini collected two hits in as many at-bats with two walks, an RBI, and a stolen base. Jonathan Rodriguez singled and tripled in four at-bats while knocking in one – the only other player for Springfield (2-3) with more than one of the team’s eight hits.
Monday, June 27th, all-star break
Monday marked the beginning of the all-star break in the Texas League, but players selected to the All-Star game participated in an opening gala on Monday night followed by a golf event on Tuesday morning.
Tuesday, June 28th, North 5 vs. South 8
The home crowd was treated to a Home Run Derby win by Luke Voit, but the North fell in the 2016 Texas League All-Star Game to the South team, 8-5 in front of the largest crowd at Hammons Field this season.
Daniel Poncedeleon yielded four earned runs on five hits over two innings. Late all-star addition Josh Lucas fanned his only batter faced.
Bruce Caldwell had the lone North big fly, a three-run shot. Springfield starters included Harrison Bader, who had a game-leading four hits, Carson Kelly, who went 1-for-2 and Voit, who singled and doubled in five at-bats. Reserve Paul DeJong fanned twice in three at-bats.
For full details on the festivities check out my report from Tuesday night's mid-season classic.
Wednesday, June 29th, all-star break
On the final off-day of the All-Star break, Springfield loaded up the buses and commenced a 16-hour road trip to Corpus Christi, Texas (HOU) to resume second half play on Thursday night.
Bruce Caldwell - Caldwell has found his footing over his last ten games, including three games through the span of this report. The left-handed stick hit safely in nine of ten with a .415 (17-for-41) and 4 RBI. The second baseman came off the bench for the North team in Texas League All-Star Game and supplied their only long ball - a three-run bomb that landed well beyond the right-center field wall.
Mason Katz - Katz has enjoyed his brief cup of coffee in the Texas League to date. The second baseman is hitting .361 (13-for-36) with three homers and 7 RBI through 12 games with Springfield. Five of his 13 hits have gone for extra-bases.
Luke Weaver - Five starts into his late-starting 2016 campaign, Weaver continues to put away Texas League batters. The right-hander has maintained a 1.15 ERA with a gaudy 37-to-3 strikeout to walk ratio in his first 31 1/3 innings pitched.
Juan Herrera - Herrera has faced a rather punchless start to his Texas League career. The shortstop is hitting .121 (7-for-58) with just 2 RBI since joining Springfield.
Nick Martini - Martini is showing signs of waking up at the plate, but the outfielder is hitting .111 (3-for-27) over his first nine games in his first stint in the Texas League this season. The left-handed hitter batted .274 with two homers and 19 RBI through 59 games with Memphis before his demotion.
Chris Perry – In 10 appearances since June 15th, Perry has surrendered six earned runs over just four innings of relief.
Springbirds batting order
Harrison Bader returned to his regular lead-off spot for two out of the three contests this week. Nick Martini spelled him in the interim. Brayan Pena finished up his second rehab stint with Springfield, batting out of the two-spot. Bruce Caldwell hit third once while Jonathan Rodriguez was third twice.
At clean-up, Luke Voit slotted there twice before Anthony Garcia filled in for Voit on Sunday. Garcia, Caldwell, and Paul DeJong intertwined duties at five. Martini hit down at sixth for two of the three games with Garcia having six-hole duties on Saturday.
To round out the order, DeJong was penciled in at seven twice with Michael Ohlman hitting seventh once. Carson Kelly started the week at eight, but Ohlman and Mason Katz followed the next two days, respectively. Juan Herrera and Katz shared time at nine.
The transaction front steadied following Rowan Wick's arrival last week. A pitcher returned to the shelf, and a key starter was activated. Meanwhile, relievers were swapped back-and-forth throughout the week.
6/23: RHP Chris Thomas placed on 7-day DL
6/24: RHP Andrew Morales activated from 7-day DL
Thomas landed on the DL for his second stint in as many months, and this will be more significant. According to reports, the righty underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery on Tuesday morning after throwing in three games since his prior DL stint.
Springfield welcomed back starter Morales, who missed ten days with right shoulder tightness. In an abbreviated start, the right-hander returned to action and gave up two earned runs on four hits in 4 2/3 innings.
6/24: RHP Kevin Herget assigned to Triple-A Memphis from Springfield
6/24: RHP Kurt Heyer assigned to Springfield from Triple-A Memphis
Heyer returned to Springfield from Memphis on Friday after the swingman started during a recent doubleheader. For Memphis on Wednesday, Heyer allowed four runs in four innings.
With Memphis needing a fresh arm, Herget was summoned to provide relief innings for the Redbirds. The righty made his Triple-A debut with 1 1/3 scoreless innings against Colorado Springs on the night of his promotion.
6/25: RHP Corey Baker assigned to Triple-A Memphis from Springfield
6/25: RHP Josh Lucas assigned to Springfield from Triple-A Memphis
The shuttle from Springfield to Memphis continued into Saturday with the promotion of Baker. The former 49th rounder spun 6 2/3 shutout innings of four-hit ball in his Triple-A debut, perhaps awarding himself another start or two in the Pacific Coast League.
Lucas returned to Springfield following a brief introduction to Triple-A Memphis. The righty allowed seven earned runs in 1 2/3 innings over two appearances. Upon his return, the 25-year old was a late addition to the Texas League All-Star Game and struck out the only batter he faced.
6/27: RHP Kevin Herget assigned to Springfield from Triple-A Memphis
6/27: RHP Kurt Heyer assigned to Triple-A Memphis from Springfield
With Memphis in need of a fresh arm for the weekend, Kevin Herget had been summoned to Triple-A on Friday but was returned on Monday.
Replacing Herget, Heyer received the call back up to Memphis after having headed the other direction on Friday. Heyer did not appear in any Texas League action over the weekend.
The Cardinal Nation Top 40 Prospect Watch
#4 Luke Weaver - Weaver had struggles controlling the zone and thus atypical inefficiency against Arkansas on Sunday. As much as the Travelers grinded out at-bats and worked into deep counts, they were thwarted by the Cardinals former first-round selection over five shutout frames. Weaver fanned eight and issued no walks in a well-deserved win over the intra-division opponent.
Also, look for Weaver to incorporate his curveball more often as he gains more starts under his belt.
#6 Harrison Bader - Bader went hitless over two games this week, but those concerns were quickly erased by a game-high four-hit performance in the Texas League All-Star Game on Tuesday night. The outfielder thrived in his first All-Star appearance as a professional.
"I think I learned a lot (over the first half),” said Bader. "It was a quick two and a half months. It goes by very quickly now that you think about it. I learned a lot on and off the field - the way you go about your business and channel your professionalism. It was a great learning experience, and there's a whole lot more to learn in this game, so I'm going to do that the best I can."
#12 Carson Kelly - The offensive improvements Kelly showed over the first half were driving the ball for authority and using the whole field, which contributed to the catcher being named to MLB's All-Star Futures Game on July 10th at Petco Park in San Diego, California. In addition, Kelly caught five innings behind the plate in Texas League All-Star Game but was hitless in two at-bats.
The Oregon native attributed his overall success to a better mental approach and slowing things down.
"Just slow down, you get amped up at times, you get anxious and want to hit the ball," said Kelly. "Just taking the time and knowing you have the time at the plate to make those adjustments."
Kelly considers himself a gap-to-gap, line drive hitter with some power but wants to put the ball in play more and increase his walks as well.
#15 Paul DeJong - DeJong showed signs of coming on before the All-Star break. Dating back to June 19th, the third baseman garnered three multi-hit games over a six-game stretch. He also appeared in his first professional All-Star game, but went without a hit in three at-bats on Tuesday.
"I got off to somewhat of a slow start," said DeJong when speaking of his first half. "I made necessary adjustments that helped me get back on track. I’ve got more work to do, but I'm moving in the right direction."
I asked him what more he can do in preparation to close the season strongly.
"I think focusing on the process," DeJong noted. "Rather if it's my routine before the game or taking care of my body. Things like that and just let the game take care of itself. Obviously, focus is a big thing, and I'll make the adjustments in-game if I need to."
#22 Daniel Poncedeleon - For the second straight season, Poncedeleon was named to a mid-season All-Star team. In the contest, the right-hander was touched for four runs on five hits over two innings of work but has a 1.91 ERA over five starts this month for Springfield.
The 6-foot-4 right-hander said his three "strong" pitches - sinker, cutter, and curve - have worked for him in his recent outings. He has also flashed a change as his fourth best offering.
"It's all about the promotion," Poncedeleon said of his second half goals. "I just want to keep moving up."
#24 Trey Nielsen - Nielsen didn't appear in any action over the past week. He owns a 6-6 record with 3.38 ERA in 14 starts, including the first complete game of his career. The righty was voted into for the Texas League All-Star Game but declined because of "personal things."
#28 Rowan Wick - Wick was summoned into action twice this past week and experienced mixed results. The converted outfielder dealt a five-pitch scoreless inning in his first followed by an erratic Sunday against Arkansas. In the latter, Wick threw 14 total pitches, ten balls that led to two walks and an earned run via a sac fly.
#32 Anthony Garcia - Garcia is hitting .284 with a homer and 12 RBI so far with Springfield. On the season, the Puerto Rican has a .224 average with four homers and 28 RBI through 59 games between Springfield and Memphis.
#33 Michael Ohlman - Ohlman is hitting .250 with a homer and eight RBI in his first stint with Springfield in 2016. The catcher has a .255 average with three dingers, and 20 driven in for the season between Springfield and Memphis.
With the All-Star break in the rearview mirror, Springfield resumes second half play with a six-game Texas road trip through Corpus Christi (HOU) and San Antonio (SD). They return home to host those same foes next Wednesday through Monday, July 11th.
Follow Derek Shore on Twitter @D_Shore23.
© 2016 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com and scout.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.