Luke Weaver / Springfield Cardinals FANatic Photos

Weekly news from the St. Louis Cardinals’ Double-A Texas League affiliate in Springfield, Missouri for the period of July 28-August 3.

The Cardinals’ Double-A club went 6-1 on the week with the arms leading the way. As he moves up to Memphis, Luke Weaver talks pitching.

Week 17 looked as if it was played by the first half Springfield Cardinals, a group that secured the club’s first playoff berth since 2012. However, perhaps part of the recent resurgence could be attributed to gaining two big-league rehabbers - Matt Carpenter and Brandon Moss - but you could also credit the start of the momentum swing to taking two of three in Tulsa (LAD), as featured in last week's edition.

Since last Thursday, Springfield has featured consistently better pitching, with the opposition handcuffed to 13 runs through 63 innings, shaping up to 1.86 collective ERA. The Cardinals offense more than doubled the opposition output, posting 30 runs this past week.

The surging S-Cards have triumphed in eight of the past ten games including a 6-1 homestand against NW Arkansas (KC, three of four) and the Drillers (three-game sweep). With the resurgent week, Springfield is 19-21 in the second half, only 2.5 games behind the Naturals (21-18).

This report covers the period from Thursday, July 28th through Wednesday, August 3rd.

Thursday, July 28th, Springfield 10 vs. NW Arkansas 2

A seven-run eighth broke opened up a tight contest as the S-Cards thumped NW Arkansas in the series-opener at Hammons Field.

The seven tally outburst was fueled by home runs from Jonathan Rodriguez and Paul DeJong.  Rodriguez launched his second solo home run of the game to begin the frame and DeJong’s three-run blast capped the inning, scoring Jacob Wilson (walk) and Blake Drake (single).

Rodriguez led the 12-hit attack for Springfield, adding a single to his two home runs and touching home three times. Moss began his rehab by going hitless in three at-bats, manning first base for five frames.

Luke Weaver tied a career-high with eight innings pitched, fanning eight while holding the North Division’s co-leaders to two runs, one earned on just three hits. 

"Early on, I had to break (into my mechanics) a little bit," Weaver explained after rushing his mechanics in his previous start. "Get that rhythm going. I definitely felt the mechanics were there the whole time. It's just about catching that groove and momentum.

"Halfway through the game, it all came together for me, and all the pitches were working. I was falling off that and got them swinging to miss some barrels."

Weaver threw 61 of his 89 pitches for strikes.  Josh Lucas gave up a hit in the ninth.

Friday, July 29th, Springfield 5 vs. NW Arkansas 4

Jacob Wilson's grand slam helped Springfield edge NW Arkansas, 5-4 on Friday night. With the win, the Cardinals have taken the first two games of the four-game set.

Daniel Poncedeleon had an unusual start, but it was effective enough to earn his seventh win of the season. The right-hander pitched 6 2/3 innings, giving up four runs on nine hits, including a solo home run.  Kevin Herget and Josh Lucas combined for 2 1/3 innings of scoreless relief, with Lucas earning his 12th save.

The grand slam was Wilson's fifth in his Cardinals career.

Saturday, July 30th, Springfield 1 vs. NW Arkansas 0

Austin Gomber twirled seven one-hit innings to lead the S-Cards over the Naturals, 1-0 in a shutout win in front of the second straight sellout crowd at Hammons Field.

Fresh off his promotion on Friday, Gomber allowed just one hit, a single in the second inning and faced three over the minimum through the seven shutout frames. He struck out three on just 88 pitches.

"I was able to get ahead with my fastball," Gomber told MiLB.com. "I didn't have the curveball that I usually have to put guys away with. I felt like that was something I struggled with tonight, but I was able to get quick outs, and the defense played great behind me."

Relievers Corey Baker, Justin Wright, and Ronnie Shaban combined to keep the 1-0 lead intact. Baker retired two batters while Wright notched his third hold and Shaban picked up his ninth save.

Blake Drake handled the scoring, chopping a RBI single through the right side to score Luke Voit (single) in the second.

Sunday, July 31st, Springfield 2 vs. NW Arkansas 5

Matt Carpenter and Brandon Moss provided offense, but not enough for Springfield to finish off a four-game sweep over NW Arkansas, which salvaged the finale with a 5-2 victory.

Trey Nielsen suffered fits with his control as he allowed five earned runs on five hits through five innings. Nielsen took his eighth loss. Pedro Echemendia pitched two scoreless before Chandler Hawkins faced the minimum over two innings.

Carpenter started his rehab with a single and walk in two-bats. The third baseman scored on a Luke Voit RBI single and Moss knocked in the other run via sac fly.

Monday, August 1st, Springfield 5 vs. Tulsa 4

J.C. Sulbaran started and was effective, going 5 1/3 innings, giving up two runs on four walks. Justin Wright stranded a runner in the sixth, but one of his own scored when Corey Baker relieved in the seventh inning. Wright also allowed an unearned run in the seventh.

Chris Perry pitched a scoreless eighth, striking out one and Kevin Herget tossed a scoreless ninth, coming away with the win after Jacob Wilson smacked a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth.

Wilson also homered in the seventh before the game was tied when Luke Voit hit his 16th home run of the year later in the inning. Another standout was Jonathan Rodriguez, who went 2-for-3 with a double and a hit-by-pitch.

Tuesday, August 2nd, Springfield 6 vs. Tulsa 2

Nick Martini’s grand slam broke a late tie, resulting in a 6-2 win over the Drillers.  Springfield has won the first two games of the home series with one on tap.

Martini, who came to the plate in the seventh with sacks jammed, one out and the score tied at two all, launched third Springfield home run in 2016.  Blake Drake (walk), Jhohan Acevedo (single) and Casey Turgeon (IBB) were aboard.  Martini went 2-for-4 with two runs scored and four RBI, just behind Luke Voit. 

Voit led the team in hits, if not total production, going 3-for-4 with a double and one driven in.  Matt Carpenter continued his rehab assignment with a home run, his sole hit in three at-bats before being pinch-hit for in the seventh.

Luke Weaver tossed another quality effort, permitting two runs on six hits and a free pass over seven. He struck out nine and even doubled at the plate.  Chandler Hawkins and Ronnie Shaban each allowed a hit in their inning of work.

Wednesday, August 3rd, Springfield 2 vs. Tulsa 0

The S-Cards were paced by shutout pitching from Daniel Poncedeleon and middle reliever Josh Lucas, guiding them to a 2-0 win and the sweep over Tulsa.

Poncedeleon twirled 6 2/3 one-hit frames, walked three and struck out one in his eighth win of the season. Josh Lucas went 2 1/3 scoreless frames to pick up his 13th save.

Jacob Wilson had another all-or-nothing game, slugging his fourth Double-A home run along with three strikeouts. Jonathan Rodriguez smacked a RBI single while Matt Carpenter was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in his final rehab game.

 

Who's Hot

Matt Carpenter – Carpenter hadn't appeared in any game action since July 6th due to an oblique injury, but evidently the Cardinals All-Star infielder didn't have rust to shake off. The left-handed hitter was 4-for-12 (.333 average) with a home run and double through four rehab games with Springfield.

http://www.scout.com/player/157706-nick-martini?s=321

Nick Martini - After treading water with the bat to open his Springfield return, Martini has finally hit his stride. The former Kansas State standout has .342 average (13-for-38) over his past ten games with three homers and 10 RBI.

Luke Weaver – It was nothing out of the norm, as Weaver spun two stellar outings over the week. The righty surrendered three earned runs through combined 15 innings of work against NW Arkansas and Tulsa. He struck out 17 during that span.

http://www.scout.com/player/185111-austin-gomber?s=321

Austin Gomber - In just his second Double-A start, Gomber, who was promoted to Springfield on Friday, tossed seven one-hit innings against NW Arkansas in his return to the Texas League.

Daniel Poncedeleon - After one middling earlier in the week, Poncedeleon shined in his Wednesday start against Tulsa, throwing 6 2/3 one-hit innings.

http://www.scout.com/player/179989-kevin-herget?s=321

Kevin Herget - Herget has found his footing after a slow start for Springfield. The righty owns a 0.93 ERA over his past ten games, stretching 9 2/3 innings. Herget has not given up an earned run since July 15th, a 6 2/3 scoreless inning streak.

http://www.scout.com/player/200707-chandler-hawkins?s=321

Chandler Hawkins – The recent arrival from Palm Beach has acclimated well to Double-A right off the bat. The lefty has coughed up just one earned run over his 8 1/3 innings of work for the Double-A Cardinals.

 

Who's Not

Paul DeJong - DeJong remained in the cold zone over this past week of games. He's hitting .128 over his past ten games but mashed his team-leading 19th home run on Thursday.

Allen Staton - Along with DeJong, Staton returns to the cold list for the second straight week. The versatile infielder's performance has tapered off significantly since his initial hot streak. The 23-year old is 1 for his last 29 (.034) with nothing going his way over his past ten games.

Blake Drake - Drake has a .148 batting clip since July 23rd with his overall average falling from .224 to .202 during that stretch.

Trey Nielsen - In his eighth loss of the season, Nielsen was bombed for five earned runs in five innings. He walked three and struck out four.

 

Springbirds batting order

Nick Martini was the primary lead-off man before a guy named Matt Carpenter started his rehab. Jacob Wilson provided punch out of the two-hole. Another player named Brandon Moss batted third in the early part of the week. Martini and Paul DeJong had at-bats in the three-spot to close the week.

Luke Voit continued his traditional clean-up duties. DeJong and Cruz followed behind at fifth in the order. A mix of Cruz, Jonathan Rodriguez, and Allen Staton hit out of the sixth hole.

To round out the order, Staton, Rodriguez, Casey Turgeon, and Blake Drake got penciled at the seventh spot. Cruz, Drake, Jesse Jenner, and Juan received time at eight. When the pitcher wasn't in play, Jenner, Herrera, and Jhohan Acevedo concluded the order at nine.

 

Awards

Weaver and Gomber were named The Cardinal Nation’s co-Starting Pitchers of the Month for July. Details here.

 

Team Transactions

It could have been one of the quieter weeks in recent memory with more big-league rehabbers than minor league transactions, but that was not the case with player movement picking up steam on Wednesday. Springfield also lost a big-time pitching prospect in a promotion to Memphis.

7/28: RHP Rowan Wick placed on 7-day DL

7/28: LHP Austin Gomber to Springfield from High-A Palm Beach

Wick, who had not appeared since July 21st and was not in uniform over recent road trip, was placed on 7-day DL last week. More details on him below.

Gomber, The Cardinal Nation’s co-Pitcher of the Month for July, had already made one start for Springfield earlier in the month and shined. The big lefty had nothing left to accomplish in the FSL with his promotion warranted.

8/3: RHP Luke Weaver to Triple-A Memphis from Springfield

8/3: RHP Deck McGuire to Springfield from Triple-A Memphis

Weaver received a much-deserved promotion to Memphis after leading all of the Minor Leagues in strikeouts since making his first start on June 5th. The righty also had an affiliated-best 88-to-10 strikeout to walk ratio through 77 innings.

In the corresponding move, McGuire was sent down to Springfield after spending all this season with Triple-A Memphis. A once promising pitching prospect in the Blue Jays system, the righty has seen less than ideal results with the Redbirds, especially over his past ten starts, posting a 7.13 ERA.

8/3: RHP Austin Gomber placed on 7-day DL

8/3: RHP Trey Nielsen placed on 7-day DL

At the same time, both Gomber and Nielsen hit the shelf. McGuire will be taking Gomber's turn in the rotation, scheduled Thursday night.

 

Injury Updates

Trey Nielsen - No official word on his status. At this time of the year, one might assume they are monitoring workloads and perhaps they are backing off of Nielsen, who is second on the staff with 113 2/3 innings in just his second full season of full-time pitching.

Austin Gomber - The big lefty suffered a minor finger injury and expects to be throwing again in a week.

Rowan Wick - Wick is out with "general arm fatigue", though I was also told by an official that he is on the disabled list mainly to monitor his innings. So, take your pick.

Bruce Caldwell - Caldwell is dealing with an oblique injury. No timetable for return was set.

Mason Katz - The snakebites continue as Katz re-aggravated his hamstring, which caused him to land on the shelf for the third time this season - all due to leg injuries. I was told the middle infielder was placed on the DL while on the road because the team didn't have the same medical resources as at Hammons Field, but it is not expected to be a significant setback.

Andrew Morales - Morales has started a throwing program and has even progressed to bullpen sessions. In one of his more recent bullpens, the righty was throwing at 40-60 percent effort. He looks to be on the mend.

When asked how his shoulder responded, Morales gave a short answer, "It's alright."

Chris Thomas - Underwent elbow cleanup surgery in late June.

Jimmy Reed - Underwent Tommy John surgery in April.

C.J. McElroy - Suffered torn ACL in June.

 

The Cardinal Nation Top Prospect Watch

#4 Luke Weaver - Weaver had a wild week from being mentioned in possible trade talk to dazzling in his latest start in front of the Cardinals farm boss, culminating with a promotion to Triple-A Memphis. The former Florida State standout has impressed with his ability to consistently pitch into the seventh inning and maintain above-average velocity.

"The goal for all of us is to go nine," Weaver said. "Whenever we can command our stuff, catch that groove, and have the momentum on our side it makes it easier. If they are swinging, I just try to miss their bats and try to get quick outs. I think the goal is to get them to swing early and get to that two-strike count to put them away early.

"I think when you get into those hitters counts, it makes it tough and drags on."

Not only that, Weaver has upped the frequency of his curveball, a pitch he has relied on to get ahead of batters with the ability to induce swing and misses out of the strike zone as a chase pitch.

"That's a pitch I've really been developing since spring training," Weaver said. "Every time I throw it - I gain more confidence. I feel I can throw it in any count.  It's become a huge weapon for me knowing I can flip it over for a strike and try to go for a strikeout."

#13 Austin Gomber - Gomber stepped up to Double-A and delivered a one-hit shutout over seven innings against NW Arkansas on Saturday without his best stuff.

"I was able to get ahead with my fastball," Gomber told MiLB.com. "I didn't have the curveball that I usually have to put guys away with. I felt like that was something I struggled with tonight, but I was able to get quick outs, and the defense played great behind me."

It is a positive sign of his pitchability, but now there is a question as the lefty was placed on 7-day DL on Wednesday with an apparent issue.

#15 Paul DeJong - With a crowded middle infield, DeJong played shortstop for three straight games this past week. The Cardinals say he has taken well to third base, but it shouldn't be a surprise to see him being moved around at times - he was a super-utility standout at Illinois State – and the versatility can only help him as he nears the majors.

#22 Daniel Poncedeleon – The righty is another Cardinals pitcher who figured a way to get outs without his best stuff: Poncedeleon hurled 6 2/3 one-hit frames against Tulsa on Wednesday night.

"The pitch that was really working for me tonight was my changeup, which is pretty unusual for me," Poncedeleon told MiLB.com. "In the ranks of 1-4, it would be my fourth-ranked [pitch]. I just never grew up throwing it. I brought it into the arsenal the last three years, but I don't use it much."

The righty has found consistency with a fine-tuned mental approach this season. Check out my interview with him posted on Tuesday.

#24 Trey Nielsen - Without inconsistent control of the strike zone, Nielsen saw lackluster results in his lone outing over the past week. Then, the dependable sinkerballer was placed on the 7-day DL with an apparent issue on Wednesday.

#28 Rowan Wick - The reliever remains out with general arm fatigue.

 

What's Next

Following their 6-1 week, the Cardinals hit the road on Thursday with a brief four-game road trip to Arkansas (LAA). After an off-day Monday, Springfield hosts intra-division foes Frisco (TEX) and Midland (OAK) for three games apiece next week.

The third-place Cardinals then return to the buses with a six-game Texas road trip against the same two opponents the following week.

 

Follow Derek Shore on Twitter @D_Shore23.

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