The Johnson City Cardinals finished the week (Sunday through Saturday) with a record of two wins and three losses. They are currently in third place in the five-team Western Division of the Appalachian League - two games behind the Elizabethton Twins and one game behind the Kingsport Mets. The offense is currently fourth in the nine-team league in batting average (.278) but last in strikeouts (44) and stolen bases (one). The pitching ranks seventh in earned-run-average (6.23), eighth in walks-plus-hits per inning pitched (1.74 WHIP), and first in home runs allowed (two).
I was able to attend the first four of the five games in person and those observations provide the basis for this report. Twenty-eight of the twenty-nine active players on the roster played during the first five games. Starting pitcher Matt North – tendinitis – is listed as "day-to-day" by Pitching Coach Sid Monge. Sid told me that they will be very careful with North and his return to the starting rotation is unknown at this time.
The Week in Review
The opening game on Tuesday was rained out, forcing
a doubleheader on Wednesday.
Game One: Third baseman Nick Vera was the offensive star - going 4-for-4 with two runs, two doubles, and two runs-batted-in. Right handed reliever Chuckie Fick was the pitcher of the game – posting a 0.67 WHIP, coaxing a groundball to fly ball out ratio of four-to-one, and getting the win. Fick was not afraid to throw his off-speed pitches in any count and allowed only one hard-hit single in his three innings pitched. Starter Tyler Leach struggled with his control in his 34-pitch outing - throwing first-pitch strikes only 22 percent of the time (two of nine).
First baseman Charlie Pelt was the offensive star – going 2-for-4 with a
double and two runs-batted-in. Pelt
just missed adding a three-run home run with a warning track shot to right field
in the first inning. Starter Brian Broderick was the pitcher of the game – posting 60 percent first-pitch strikes
and a 0.5 WHIP over four innings with only 48 pitches and by coaxing a
groundball to fly ball out ratio of 7:2.
Relief pitchers Steve Hill and Wladimir Mendoza could not hold a 3-2 lead
going into the bottom of the fifth and both struggled with their control. The two relievers combined for a 27.0
earned-run-average over the last two innings - giving up seven runs and seven
The first home series was also a split against the
Bristol White Sox.
Game Three: Shortstop Dognnt Bolivar was the offensive star – going 2-for-4 with a double (on an 0-1 count, down the left field line, short hopping the wall), a first-pitch solo-home run (about 380feet to the opposite field – barely clearing the right field wall), two runs, and two runs-batted-in. Bolivar is definitely entertaining to watch in the field. He has an athletic flair to his game that will really excite the fans. Starter Jose Mateo (win, no runs allowed) was the pitcher of the game - posting a 1.0 WHIP over team highs so far this year of five innings and 71 pitches. Mateo coaxed a ground ball to fly ball out ratio of 8:1. Manager Joe Almaraz indicated after the game that Mateo pitched with a "great tempo" despite getting "squeezed" a bit in the early innings by a tight strike zone.
Game Four: It was difficult to find a silver lining in an 8-0 shut out that featured only six singles, no walks, and twelve strikeouts for the offense, three errors for the defense, and an extremely poor outing by starting pitcher Senger Peralta. First baseman Charlie Pelt was the offensive star – based solely on the virtue of going 2-for-4 with two solidly-hit singles. Reliever Dylan Gonzalez received my vote for pitcher of the game in a close competition with second tandem starter Mark Diapoules. Both pitchers had similar stats, but Diapoules had two wild pitches, a hit-batter, a fielding error, and over twenty pitches per inning pitched. Gonzalez had a better strikeout per inning-pitched ratio and a better strike percentage.
Game Five: The Cardinals lost the first game of the two-game series on Saturday night against the Bluefield Orioles by a score of 10-8 – blowing leads of 5-0 in the first and 8-5 in the seventh. Second baseman Mike Folli was the star of the game in a close competition with leadoff hitter and starting left fielder Beau Riportella. Folli was 3-for-5 with two runs scored, a home run, two runs-batted-in, and three double plays (two turned and one started). Reliever LaCurtis Mayes was pitcher of the game. Mayes faced the minimum in two innings pitched, allowing one single, and recording a swinging strikeout. Tandem starters Nick Additon and Jose Arredondo both posted double-digit earned run averages in their first appearances.
Players of the Week
Each week, the roster is categorized into four
categories: Starting pitchers,
relievers, starting position players, and reserves. I then select one player from each
category that warrants special notice as the
Starting pitchers eligible for selection: Tyler Leach, Brian Broderick, Jose Mateo, Omar Javier, Senger Peralta, Mark Diapoules, Nick Additon, and Jose Arredondo.
Jose Mateo is the starting pitcher of the week. Five innings pitched, no runs, 1.0 WHIP, and a win pretty much seals the deal for Mateo. Brian Broderick with a 0.50 WHIP and an average of 12 pitches per inning over four innings pitched was a close second.
Relief pitchers eligible for selection: Chuckie Fick, LaCurtis Mayes, Steven Hill, Wladimir Mendoza, Pete Parise, and Dylan Gonzalez.
LaCurtis Mayes is the reliever of the week. Although Mayes gave up two runs, he did so doing exactly what he should have been doing in the late innings of game two while holding a six run lead. He threw 78 percent first pitch strikes and 76 percent strikes. A slightly better WHIP than close runner-up Chuckie Fick also swayed me toward Mayes.
First baseman Charlie Pelt gets my vote for
Beau Riportella is the reserve player of the week. Riportella had breakout game Saturday night in his first start of the year by going three-for-four with a walk, two runs-scored, and two runs-batted-in. In only nine at-bats so far this year, Riportella leads the team in batting average and on-base percentage and is second on the team in slugging and on-base-plus-slugging percentage.
Bolivar's homerun in the third inning of game three really seemed to jump start the offense and the team. Five of the first eight hitters had struck out swinging prior to Bolivar's at-bat. The team gave Bolivar the silent treatment after the homerun – until he got in the dugout.
The "buzz" is that the team expects Pete Kozma to
show up later next week. Whether or
not he will seems to be anyone's guess.
When asked about his arrival, Manager Joe Almaraz told me that he really
hasn't been told anything. Almaraz
indicated that the addition of Kozma would give
Designated hitter Matt Arburr's twisted ankle has definitely healed. Arburr legged out a dead centerfield (430-foot with roll) triple – on a 2-0 count – hit over the centerfielder's head - in game three. While Arburr will not likely be a stolen base threat, he definitely has great speed for a player that is 6-foot 4-inches and 260 pounds.
The team is really struggling with getting two-out runs-batted-in with runners in scoring position. They have had twenty opportunities so far and have delivered only three times. Bolivar delivered in his only opportunity but outfielder Travis Mitchell is 1-for-5 and Riportella is 0-for-3.
The team has had a radar gun mounted in the press box behind home plate and a pitch-velocity readout on the scoreboard over the last few years but the radar gun was missing in the first two home games. Note to self – ask about this.
The team has averaged two errors per game so far but the errors have been spread out over eight different players (four fielding, four throwing, and two on pick-off attempts). Almaraz indicated that everyone is "trying hard" out there and mistakes will happen with hard efforts.
Right fielder Jon Edwards doesn't look anything
like the same player I saw hitting doubles and taking walks last year at this
time. Edwards is swinging at
pitches much more frequently than last year and is missing most of them
badly. He is showing visual signs
of frustration at the plate as the strikeouts mount. Edwards is currently second in the
league in strikeouts with nine (nineteen at-bats). This year will be a very important one
in his development. It looks to me
like he has regressed but it will be interesting to see how he adjusts his swing
and his approach at the plate over the next few months. Additional changes will be needed - that
much is certain. Perhaps his
three-run home run Saturday night in
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