Luke Weaver (© Logan Bowles / USA TODAY Sports Images)

Weekly news from the St. Louis Cardinals’ Double-A Texas League affiliate in Springfield, Missouri.

The Cardinals’ Double-A team played well in their Texas road trip as Luke Weaver is racking up the awards.

This report covers the period from Thursday, June 30th to Wednesday, July 6th.

Coming off the Texas League all-star break, the Springfield Cardinals resumed play on June 30th and excelled over a six-game road trip through Texas, winning four of six in Corpus Christi (HOU) and San Antonio (SD). They concluded the week's action with a 7-5 loss to the Hooks at home, but things are trending upward, having won six of their last nine games in the second half.

The first half North Division Champs are off to a 6-6 start in the final half of the 140-game Texas League season and are in third place in the North, 2.5 games behind Tulsa (LAD).

Thursday, June 31st, Springfield 3 at Corpus Christi 1

The Springbirds were catapulted by a three-run second over the Hooks in the first of three at Corpus Christi. They have won three straight after dropping the previous three before the all-star break.

The S-Cards generated half of their eight hits in the second, with the key hit a two-run double by Michael Ohlman that scored Paul DeJong (walk) and Carson Kelly (single). Ohlman was pushed across on an RBI single by Juan Herrera.

J.C. Sulburan struck out seven through six innings while allowing a run on five hits and a walk. Pedro Echemendia, Justin Wright, and Kevin Herget each faced the minimum in their respective one inning of work.  Wright struck out the side, and Herget earned his sixth save.

Friday, July 1st, Springfield 11 at Corpus Christi 1

Michael Ohlman and Jonathan Rodriguez combined for eight RBI as Springfield thumped Corpus Christi, 11-1 to claim their second straight series victory of the second half on Friday night at Whataburger Field.

Ohlman provided the initial blow with a three-run RBI double in the first followed by a Rodriguez grand slam in the third inning. The former plated his fourth runner in the sixth with a double, scoring Paul DeJong. DeJong collected three hits in five at-bats, including an RBI single.

Andrew Morales pitched three scoreless innings until an early departure due to injury. Chris Perry had pitched a clean fourth and fifth inning before Heath Wyatt covered three innings and allowed the Hooks on the board in the eighth. Rowan Wick punched out two to slam the door in the ninth.

Saturday, July 2nd, Springfield 3 at Corpus Christi 6

Walks and a fielding error led to a four-run outburst against Springfield starter Luke Weaver, who pitched six innings, giving up four unearned runs on six hits to suffer his first loss of the season.  Ronnie Shaban followed with a scoreless seventh, but Josh Lucas gave up a two-run home run in the eighth to put the lid on the loss.

Nick Martini was 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI, and Michael Ohlman was also 2-for-4.  Harrison Bader plated a fifth-inning run with a double.  Luke Voit was hitless but drove in a run on a ground out.

As a result of the loss, the Cardinals fell to 4-4 in the second half and settled for a split of the first-half South Division champion Hooks.

Sunday, July 3rd, Springfield 1 at San Antonio 2 (11 innings)

San Antonio outlasted Springfield with a 2-1 victory in extra innings, claiming the series-opener.

Chris Perry walked the bases loaded in the 11th before allowing a single that scored the walk-off run. That spoiled an excellent effort from Daniel Poncedeleon, who held San Antonio to a run on four hits and two free passes over seven innings. Poncedeleon punched out seven.

Anthony Garcia led off the seventh with his second bomb of the season, knotting the game at one all and sending it into extras.  Garcia’s hit was one of only four by the visitors, who turned almost as many double plays (three) as they had hits.

Monday, July 4th, Springfield 6 at San Antonio 5

After Springfield's bullpen coughed up the game on Sunday night, the Cardinals turned the tables on San Antonio thanks to a game-winning RBI single by Carson Kelly in the ninth to help the former win 6-5 on Independence Day.

The Missions struck for all five of their runs off starter Trey Nielsen, who finished with five innings pitched. However, the Springfield bullpen combined to blank the home club over the final four frames. Kevin Herget, Justin Wright, Ronnie Shaban, and Josh Lucas accumulated a scoreless inning each.

Offensively, Jonathan Rodriguez paced the Cardinals with a 3-run RBI double followed by a Paul DeJong solo homer. DeJong collected two hits in four at-bats. Michael Ohlman produced a sac fly and singled in three at-bats.

Tuesday, July 5th, Springfield 5 at San Antonio 4

Springfield finished the six game road-trip with a 5-4 victory over San Antonio to claim the series and finale. A glue guy for the Cardinals organization, Jonathan Rodriguez registered his first professional save in his second career appearance on the mound.

Down 4-0 with three outs to go, the visitors strung together five singles and a double to score four times and send the game into extras.  Carson Kelly opened the ninth with a single and the 12th with a walk that proved decisive.  Kelly ended up on third in the latter frame on a wild pitch/single by Rodriguez and scored the winning run on Paul DeJong’s sac fly.

J.C. Sulbaran tossed a solid effort, giving up three runs on five hits and three bases-on-balls over 6 1/3.  He fanned six.  Rowan Wick recorded the final two outs in the seventh, permitting a hit and allowing Sulbaran’s final runner, who was on third when Wick entered the game, to score.

Heath Wyatt was touched for a run on two hits in the eighth, but Josh Lucas quieted the Missions’ scoring over the next three frames.  Lucas struck out three and gave up two hits.

Wednesday, July 6th, Springfield 5 vs. Corpus Christi 7

Corpus Christi jumped ahead with six runs over the first three frames and that would be more than enough to edge Springfield, 7-5 to take the series-opener of three at Hammons Field.

In his Texas League debut, John Walter coughed up six runs on nine hits through five innings. The losing pitcher struck out four and issued two walks. Chris Perry gave up an additional run in 2 1/3 innings before Ronnie Shaban pitched a scoreless 1 2/3 innings.

On offense, the Cardinals went down quietly in the first two trips through the lineup before striking for five runs in the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings combined. Luis Cruz went three-for-four with two doubles and an RBI. Allen Staton doubled home a run while Luke Voit and Anthony Garcia had RBI.

Who's Hot

http://www.scout.com/player/142180-michael-ohlman?s=321

Michael Ohlman - After a slow start with Springfield, Ohlman's bat has come alive with a .350 average (14-for-50) with 11 RBI over his past ten games. Since June 21st, the catcher's batting average with the S-Cards has jumped from .277 to .301, a season-high mark. He's batting .421 (8-for-19) with 6 RBI and a .981 OPS through 5 games in July so far.

http://www.scout.com/player/200624-paul-dejong?s=321

Paul DeJong - DeJong has had uneven results throughout this season, but his bat has come around with a .341 average over 11 games since the break. During that stretch, the third baseman has a homer and 7 RBI.

http://www.scout.com/player/180084-daniel-poncedeleon?s=321

Daniel Poncedeleon - Poncedeleon picked up right where he left off in the first half, dealing seven innings of one-run ball against San Antonio on Sunday. The righty has allowed less than one earned run six times over his past seven starts.

http://www.scout.com/player/170024-ronnie-shaban?s=321

Ronnie Shaban - In addition to 1 2/3 scoreless innings on Wednesday night, TCN's 2015 Springfield Reliever of the Year might have regained his previous form, with a 3-1 record and 1.65 ERA over his past ten outings (16 1/3 innings).

Who's Not

Juan Herrera - The horrific stretch at the plate continues for Herrera, as the shortstop is hitting .100 (4-for-40) over his past ten games.

Luke Voit - Following a consistent first half and Home Run Derby title, Voit has fallen into the cold. The first baseman is batting just .135 (5-for-37) over his past ten games, with his season-average falling to .267.

Heath Wyatt - Wyatt remains in the "Who's Not" feature as the reliever has allowed 12 earned runs over his last 15 innings pitched for a 7.20 ERA during that stretch.

Chris Perry - In six appearances since June 15th, Perry has surrendered eight earned runs on 13 hits. His ERA has escalated from 2.67 to 3.31.

Weaver receives monthly accolades

Not only was Luke Weaver named St. Louis Cardinals June Pitcher of the Month, but the Texas League also recognized the Springfield Cardinals righty as the league's Pitcher of the Month for June.

http://www.scout.com/player/179139-luke-weaver?s=321

Weaver became the third Springbird to receive the organization's monthly honors this season, joining Harrison Bader and Andrew Morales, Player and Pitcher of the Month for April. The DeLand, Florida native became the first Cardinal to win a Texas League Player of the Month award in 2016.

Springbirds batting order

Harrison Bader led off in five of seven games this past week before his promotion on Wednesday. Blake Drake looks to be his successor. Jonathan Rodriguez hit second for much of the week while spelled at three on occasion. Manager Dann Bilardello mixed and matched among Luke Voit, Nick Martini, Bruce Caldwell, and Rodriguez in the three-hole throughout the past week.

Voit was the primary clean-up hitter with Anthony Garcia filling his place when not. Paul DeJong was the fifth hitter with one of Carson Kelly, Michael Ohlman, or newcomer Allen Staton to follow at six.

To round out the order, Ohlman, Staton Mason Katz, or Luis Cruz had seven hole duties this past week. Ohlman, Staton, Cruz, and Acevedo had at-bats out of the eighth hole, and Juan Herrera was consistently at nine.

Team Transactions

Two disabled list moves ignited a big week of player movement this past week plus there was a huge promotion of a top hitting prospect.

7/1: INF Mason Katz placed on 7-day DL

7/2: INF Allen Staton assigned to Springfield from High-A Palm Beach

Katz was placed on the disabled list last Friday for an unknown reason. He did miss a large chunk of the first half due to a reoccurring groin problem, however. Allen Staton received the call for the injured Katz. Staton has gone 4-for-12 with two RBI through his first four games at Double-A.

7/3: RHP Andrew Morales placed on 7-day DL

7/4: RHP John Walter assigned to Springfield from High-A Palm Beach

Morales' injury opened the door for Walter's promotion from Palm Beach. The former was sidelined with "shoulder tightness" in a previous DL stint last month. The latter, signed out of independent ball in June, had a rocky TL debut.

7/4: OF Nick Martini assigned to Triple-A Memphis from Springfield

7/4: OF Blake Drake assigned to Springfield from High-A Palm Beach

A back injury that DL'd Jeremy Hazelbaker at Memphis led to these moves. Martini returns to the Redbirds in hopes of sticking on the roster. Drake gets another shot at impressing Springfield with his defensive ability.

7/4: RHP Pedro Echemendia assigned to Triple-A Memphis from Springfield

Echemendia was promoted on July 4th and debuted a night later with a scoreless inning of work against Nashville (OAK) for Memphis. The right-hander took the spot in the Redbirds’ pen vacated by Sam Tuivailala earlier in the week.

7/6: OF Harrison Bader assigned to Triple-A Memphis from Springfield

7/6: OF Jhohan Acevedo assigned to Springfield from High-A Palm Beach

Any talent evaluator in the industry who has seen Bader knew it was coming at some point, but the timing was not ideal, given his recent scuffles at the dish. Acevedo, an above-average outfield defender who struggles at the dish, replaced Bader at Springfield.

At the moment, Springfield is down a roster spot with another move to be announced to replace Echemendia.

The Cardinal Nation Top 40 Prospect Watch

#4 Luke Weaver - As mentioned, Weaver received a pair of monthly honors for Springfield in a seamless transition to Double-A. The slender built righty owns 4-1 record with 0.96 ERA and 42 strikeouts in 37 1/3 innings pitched this season. His nascent cutter has been essential to keeping Texas League hitters off his fastball and change combination so far. The 22-year old has only walked four percent of the batters faced.

Weaver will duel it out against Francis Martes of Corpus Christi on Thursday.

#6 Harrison Bader - After one-half season with Springfield, it appears Bader's tenure has come to a close at Double-A. He started in left field for Memphis in his Pacific Coast League debut on Wednesday night and went 1-for-5 with a double.

#12 Carson Kelly - While one catcher is on a current hot streak, another Cardinals backstop has found more sustained results over the past three months. Since May 1st, the defensive-oriented Kelly is hitting .307 with a robust .820 OPS through 153 at-bats.

Moreover, Kelly has thrown out 33 percent of potential base stealers and has logged a .994 fielding percentage over 515 1/3 innings caught this season.

#15 Paul DeJong - With Bader gone, will DeJong be able to carry the offensive load and be the signature hitter on the roster? Even with Bader as a teammate, the third baseman quietly tied for the team-lead in homers (13, ranks fifth in Texas League) and paces the squad with 50 RBI (third in the league). It is a matter of piecing things together and finding consistency for the 22-year old.

#22 Daniel Poncedeleon - Over 45 starts (49 games) in his minor league career, Poncedeleon has allowed more than three earned runs only four times. He has allowed less than three earned runs in 34 of those 45 starts. In his latest outing, the righty challenged hitters and located everything well with his deception playing off his pitches.

Poncedeleon is slated to make his next start on Friday night against Corpus Christi.

#24 Trey Nielsen - Nielsen made his first start in over two weeks on Monday. He allowed three earned runs on six hits with two walks and four strikeouts in a no-decision against San Antonio.

#28 Rowan Wick - Wick has appeared in five games, but has only thrown 3 1/3 innings. The right-hander gave up a run on a hit with three walks and five strikeouts since his promotion to Springfield.

#32 Anthony Garcia - Garcia is hitting .280 (23-for-82) with two homers and 14 RBI with Springfield. The outfielder is showing more refined plate selection with a 13-to-10 strikeout to walk ratio in 26 games against Texas League pitchers.

#33 Michael Ohlman - Ohlman boosted his average after a standout past ten games of hitting. He is sporting a .301 average with a homer and 16 RBI with Springfield. The catcher is also cutting down on his strikeouts with 19 in 24 games following 38 punchouts at Memphis over 30 games played.

What's Next

Following a successful 4-2 road-trip, the Cardinals will continue their current six-game homestand after the loss on Wednesday night. They have two games left against Corpus Christi before welcoming San Antonio into town for three.  

Springfield will be off next Tuesday, July 12th, then starting up a four-game road series against intra-division rival NW Arkansas (KC) before returning home against Arkansas (LAA) for five games, including a doubleheader on Monday, July 18th.

 

Follow Derek Shore on Twitter @D_Shore23.

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