With the St. Louis Cardinals away to face the Braves at Disney World, the minor league clubs remained behind in Jupiter. There, the Memphis Redbirds, Springfield Cardinals and Palm Beach Cardinals welcomed their Miami Marlins counterparts, while two Peoria clubs faced off in a shortened Cardinals-on-Cardinals sim game.
Manager Mike Matheny announced that Michael Wacha will open the season in the rotation, effectively ending the Trevor Rosenthal starting experiment after just one outing. The latter is among available pitchers following Mike Leake against the Astros at West Palm on Monday night.
Other available pitchers Monday are John Gant, Miguel Socolovich and Sam Tuivailala. All position players in camp are scheduled to make the short trip. St. Louis has an off day on Tuesday.
With Carlos Martinez set to return to camp on Monday, Yadier Molina is the last player still out in the World Baseball Classic.
At least in some measures, the initiatives to improve the defense appear to show on the stat sheet.
Two top prospects were throwing bullpens Sunday morning in front of a number of player development personnel and TrackMan gear, measuring spin rate and more. Dakota Hudson and Johan Oviedo threw to catcher Luis Cruz, with the former seemingly focused on his changeup.
In the above photo, Hudson gets tips from minors pitching coordinator Tim Leveque. International director Moises Rodriguez is translating for pitching mechanics coordinator Paul Davis. International assistant Luis Morales is watching the TrackMan results on a laptop while Oviedo throws in the background.
Oviedo throws above. (Sorry for the lower-quality phone photos.)
Two promising pitchers
Among those charting pitches during the Peoria game were Oviedo and Alvaro Seijas. I see the two, both ranked in the TCN top 20, as the next pitching wave after Jordan Hicks and Ronnie Williams.
Sanchez in center?
An eagle-eyed reader noted Brian Sanchez in the Saturday Peoria lineup in center field. With his reputation as a below-average defender (Sanchez, not the reader!), it seemed an odd choice.
I asked a player development staffer about it. He explained that the organization plans to keep trying outfielders in all three spots, playing shortstops at second and vice-versa, as well as others, to better assess them and potentially increase their versatility.
The same official said that in his opinion, “Sanchez looked fine out there.”
Farm director Gary LaRocque and general manager John Mozeliak spent the entire afternoon watching the games.
Minor league starting lineups and pitching plans
Following morning workouts, the four 1:00 p.m. games were held in Jupiter. Here are the lineups for all four contests. Also included are the sixth-inning replacements for the three full games. The Peoria 1-Peoria 2 went five or six innings.
I will admit that I did not catch as much of the offensive action as I would have liked, as I gave pitching the highest priority for my attention. Trying to follow the action for five teams over two games (with two of the clubs facing each other wearing the same uniforms) made for a very busy afternoon!
|Memphis||Pos||Mem 6th||Springfield||Pos||Sprf 6th|
|Palm Beach||Pos||PB 6th||Peoria 1||Pos||Peoria 2||Pos|
|Balbuena||6||J Rodriguez||2||Y Gonzalez||5|
Five members of The Cardinal Nation’s top 36 prospects pitched – Austin Gomber (9), Jordan Hicks (25), Ronnie Williams (28), Zac Gallen (31) and Daniel Poncedeleon (36).
As you will read below, Hicks stole the show.
|Memphis||Springfield||Palm Beach||Peoria 1||Peoria 2|
Velocities from selected Sunday’s pitchers follow. The numbers are accurate but the offerings themselves are identified on a best-effort basis on my part.
I was most surprised with John Brebbia. The Rule 5 addition from 2015 was throwing a free and easy 94-96 mph and took another 10-12 mph off that with his slider. I went from wondering if there would be room for him at Memphis to putting him on my provisional Redbirds roster.
Unfortunately, it may be at the expense of Kurt Heyer. More on that following.
|Daniel Poncedeleon||91-94||Cb 78-79|
|Sam Tewes||90-92||C up 84|
|Austin Gomber||88-92||Cb 76|
|C up 82|
|Levi MaVorhis||90-91||C up 85|
|Jordan Hicks||94-97||C up 90|
|Top 101||Cb 83-85|
|Jacob Schlesener||89-90||Cb 75|
|Jonathon Mulford||89||Cb 75|
|Paul Salazar||91-94||C up 87|
|Robbie Gordon||88-89||C up 80|
|Ronnie Williams||92-94||Cb 75-78|
|C up 88|
|Dailyn Martinez||91-93||C up 84|
|John Brebbia||94-96||Sl 83-85|
|Daniel Schlereth||85-87||Cb 76-77|
|Kevin Herget||89-91||Cb 77-80|
|Kurt Heyer - injured|
|Tyler Bray||87-90||Sl 78|
My miscellaneous musings
Memphis 3, New Orleans 1
Poncedeleon got into a jam in the second by hitting a batter and walking two more to jam the sacks. An RBI single to left gave New Orleans a run before the Redbirds rolled the inning. NO 1-0.
Poncedeleon pitched a clean and efficient third to close out his day.
Daniel Bard’s attempt at a new sidearm delivery has not fixed his 2016 wildness problems. The right-hander topped out at 95, but hit a batter and walked the bases loaded.
Corey Baker inherited the bases-loaded situation and drew an inning-ending ground ball on his first pitch.
In Baker’s next frame, Blake Drake made my defensive gem of the day with a running, leaping catch against the left-field fence all the way in foul territory. With two runners on, the play could have been a run-saver.
Magneuris Sierra walked and moved to second when early spring standout Thomas Spitz had a hard-hit single over the second baseman’s head. Casey Grayson fanned, stranding both runners.
As Heyer warmed up to enter the game, it was clear that something was wrong. He looked to be guiding the ball out of his hand and his pitches were erratic to say the least. He was removed from the game and walked off with trainers before throwing an official pitch.
Sidearmer Tyler Bray, who was not scheduled to appear, was brought in on an emergency basis for Heyer. With two runners on, the infield defense came through. A sharp one-hopper was hit to shortstop Alex Mejia, who threw a one-hopper of his own. Grayson made a big-league quality pick to save at least one run, maybe two.
Luis Cruz dropped a broken-bat single into left, moving Mason Katz to third. Casey Turgeon’s RBI single to right ended the game. My run tally was 1-1, but the real final was 3-1 Redbirds as I missed two scores. Sorry.
Jacksonville 9, Springfield 2
In the Cards’ first, Austin Wilson grounded into a double play, but Edmundo Sosa scored from third on the play. Cards 1-0.
The visitors scored on a double and single against Austin Gomber to tie the game. It could have been worse except that Wilson made a nice diving catch in short right for the third out. Tie 1-1.
The Cards had two on via a double by Brian O’Keefe and an E4 on a ball hit by Andrew Brodbeck. Oscar Mercado fanned.
Dailyn Martinez was pulled with two on base, a single over second and a walk. Kevin Herget allowed both to score on a long triple that split the center and right fielders. Jacksonville 3-1.
Tommy Edman plated a run on a double. Jacksonville 3-2.
I missed six other runs by the visitors, but the outcome should have been a lot closer. In at least four innings, the Jacksonville manager rolled the inning. Twice the Cards had the bases loaded with one out and two other times they had second and third with one out, but were deprived of their shot at scoring.
Jupiter 6, Palm Beach 5
2016 third rounder Zac Gallen really hides the ball well.
Jordan Hicks did not start but he was the top attraction of the day. The top photo in the main photo above is what it looked like behind the screen when he took the mound. The bottom is the attention garnered after the right-hander continued to throw pitch after pitch at 100 or 101 mph. Typically, the Marlins’ gun was one mph hotter.
There were oohs and aahs when he dropped in an 83 mph curve for a strike three looking, with other pitchers watching saying it was not fair to the hitters. Hicks did the same with his change up.
I have seen Sandy Alcantara and Junior Fernandez duel one another multiple times and I have seen Alex Reyes throw triple digits, but in my decade-plus covering the Cardinals, I have never seen as many 100 mph pitches in one outing as Hicks threw in that inning. He did dial down the velo by about five mph in the later frames.
In Hicks’ second inning of work, a broken-bat flare to right brought in a Jupiter run. Jupiter 1-0.
After Caleb Lopes singled and Matt Davis also reached, Hunter Newman’s double to right plated Lopes to tie the game. Starlin Balbuena played two on a single. PB 3-1.
In the next inning, a Stephen Zavala RBI single to right extended the Beach Birds’ lead to 4-1.
Ronnie Williams took over on the mound and started off mixing his fastball, curve and changeup well. He also had the largest cheering section of any player on either side.
Jupiter scratched out a run against Williams in his second inning of work on an infield single off the shortstop, a steal, and a ball that took a bad hop between first baseman Newman and the line that went for two bases. PB 4-2.
In his third frame, Williams gave up a single to right before the next hitter launched a two-run home run to left to tie the game. Tie 4-4.
A Danny Hudzina sacrifice fly plated a Palm Beach run. PB 5-4.
Landon Beck pitched the final inning, the 10th.
At some undetermined point, Jupiter added two other runs as the winning margin in the game.
Peoria1 2, Peoria2 1
Luis Flores doubled off Sam Tewes but was stranded. It was the first time I have Tewes, who was recovering from Tommy John surgery in 2016. It is still very early, as he was steady but unspectacular.
I did not see either of the Peoria1 runs cross the plate.
In the final inning, Carlos Rodriguez had an RBI single against Robbie Gordon for Peoria2’s only score. The game was ended there as Gordon, the last pitcher for Peoria 1, must have reached his count.
On Monday at 1:00 p.m. on the Kissell Quad, the Cardinals’ A-squads will take on the Astros plus Peoria 2 will oppose the South Florida Winter League traveling team. Memphis and Springfield will travel to WPB to play the Nationals.
Much more from Jupiter ahead in the upcoming week. News will still be coming every day, but I will probably not be at minor league games on Monday and Tuesday, but will return to the back fields on Wednesday.
For more information
Remember to check The Cardinal Nation Blog each evening during spring training for the day's minor league stat highlights and notes and for the Roster Matrix. The matrix has every transaction listed along with all players in the system by level and position, including the Cardinals entire 40-man roster and non-roster spring training invitees and more.
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