The Johnson City Cardinals Report: Week Eight

This week's report on the short-season Appalachian League's Johnson City Cardinals from our on-site beat reporter, Shawn Kerrick. Outfielder Adron Chambers is our position player of the week after batting .474.

The Johnson City Cardinals finished the week (Sunday through Saturday) with a record of 3-4 to take their overall record to 19-23.  The team had seven games scheduled this week, including a doubleheader on Thursday night against the Burlington Royals.  Saturday and Sunday were scheduled off days.  Saturday was actually a full rest day with no workouts since the team is slightly beaten-up and tired of late. 


The Cardinals are currently in third place in the five-team Western Division of the Appalachian League – eleven games behind the Elizabethton Twins and four and half games behind the Kingsport Mets.  As of Sunday morning, the offense had maintained its third place position in the nine-team league in batting average (.265) despite hitting only .241 last week.  The Cardinal hitters continue to have the second fewest strikeouts in the league and continue to be in seventh in runs-batted-in.  The batters were anywhere from third place to sixth in all other offensive categories. 


The pitching staff continues to improve.  As of Sunday morning, the pitching staff's earned run average (3.75) and walks-plus-hits per inning pitched (1.39) were fourth best in the league while their nineteen wins were only seventh best.  The Cardinals lead the league with six shutouts, after recording one this week.  The pitching continues to suffer through the league's most unearned runs (fifty-eight) with fourteen more being added last week.  The pitching staff has recorded the second most walks in the league with 164.


I was able to attend four of the seven games in person.  I attended both games against the Danville Braves and the doubleheader against Burlington.  Those observations provide the basis for this report. 


The roster has again undergone some changes and has been increased from twenty-eight "active" players back to twenty-nine.  Listed below is a summary of those transactions.


Roster Additions

#29 – RP Matt Spade promoted from the Gulf Coast League Cardinals.  Spade is a 2007 undrafted free agent out of Plano, TX who will join Ryan Hodinka as the lefthanders out of the bullpen.


#27 – SS Pete Kozma promoted from the Gulf Coast League Cardinals.  The Cardinals 2007 first round pick, eighteenth overall, received a $1,395,000 signing bonus.  Kozma was hitting .154 in four games prior to the promotion. 


#18 – IF Hector Alvarez promoted from the Gulf Coast League Cardinals.  The twenty-year-old 2007 free agent from the Dominican Republic was hitting .054 in his last ten games.  Alvarez played mostly second base with a few games at shortstop and third base.  All of his three errors were of the fielding variety while playing second base.  


Roster Deletions

#29 – RP Wladimir Mendoza reassigned to the Gulf Coast League Cardinals.  Mendoza was one of two lefties in the bullpen and he was struggling mightily with his control, walking seventeen in ten and one third innings pitched.  Mendoza had only allowed four hits and had recorded twelve strikeouts.  His "stuff", when it was near the plate, was very good. 


#3 – SS Domnit Bolivar promoted to Batavia in the New York-Penn League.  The youngest player on the Johnson City roster was moved to second base for a few games after Kozma was added so this is likely a move to get him some additional playing time at shortstop.  The promotion of Bolivar makes C Roberto Espinoza the youngest player on the roster.  Bolivar struggled a bit in the field, with seventeen errors in thirty-eight games, but was one of the best hitters at Johnson City with runners-in-scoring-position.  Bolivar was 5-for-18 (.278) in getting runs-batted-in while batting with two outs and with runners-in-scoring-position.  Bolivar will need to improve his patience at the plate as he progresses through the minors since he walked only four times in his 135 plate appearances.  Congratulations to Domnit!


OF Wil Pujols was released. 


Disabled/Inactive/Suspended List

RP Steve Hill – undergoing elbow strengthening and stretching exercises

SS Melvin Puello – elbow ligament replacement surgery

C Garrett Bussiere – post-concussion syndrome

RP Kris Bakey

SP Matt North – in Jupiter, FL rehabbing – pitched one inning for GCL Cards on Sunday


All twenty-nine of the "active" players on the roster saw action this week, although several regulars saw reduced playing time due to injuries.  Casey Mulligan sat out four games due to a sore ankle.  Beau Riportella sat out five games due to a sore wrist.  Late in the week, center fielder Adron Chambers injured his left knee while chasing a line drive up the steep berm in right centerfield. 


As a reminder, here are the current tandem starter pairings when doubleheaders are not involved:


Nick Additon and Jose Arredondo

Mark Diapoules and Andres Rosales

Tyler Leach and Omar Javier

Senger Peralta and Jose Mateo


The Week in Review

Game Thirty-Six:  Sunday's game was in Bluefield, WV against Manager Joe Almaraz' former team, the Bluefield Orioles.  Johnson City played like a well-rested club by getting their league leading sixth shutout of the season.  The Cardinals scored in the second, fourth, and ninth innings and allowed only four hits to win by a score of 4-0. 


First tandem starter Tyler Leach got his second win of the year despite struggling with his control early on.  Leach escaped a bases loaded jam in the first inning and went five innings, allowing just three hits and two walks.  Second tandem starter Omar Javier pitched just a little bit better than Leach and received his second pitcher-of-the-game award, his first since Game Fifteen. Javier allowed no hits and one walk while collecting seven groundball outs and no fly ball outs over three innings-pitched.


Only four Cardinals recorded hits as Mike Folli and Joey Hage ended their hitting streaks at six and eight games respectively.  Shortstop Domnit Bolivar was 1-for-3 with two runs-batted-in.  Center fielder Adron Chambers extended his hitting streak, with at least one at-bat, to ten games by going 2-for-4.  Chambers recorded his first outfield assist at third base with nobody out in the second inning just after an Oriole stolen base.  Right fielder Jon Edwards was 1-for-3 with a line out, a double, a walk, and two runs scored. 


Third baseman Nick Vera extended his three-hits-per-game hitting streak to three games and won his second consecutive player-of-the-game award.  Vera was 3-for-4 with two runs scored and has really caught fire of late after struggling mightily at the plate in early July.  After the game, Vera was hitting .522 in his last ten games and was 9-for-11 with six runs scored and three position-player-of-the-game awards in his last three games played. 


Game Thirty-Seven:  Monday's game against Bluefield was the last road game for ten days and the Cardinals celebrated with a two-game sweep of the Orioles.  The Cardinals climbed back to within one win of the .500 mark for the season by holding on to win by a score of 4-3.  The Cardinals jumped ahead by a score of 4-0 in the fifth but allowed three runs in the fifth. 


First tandem starter Senger Peralta pitched great for four and two thirds innings, allowing just one groundball single and one walk with five strikeouts.  A two-out walk followed by two groundball singles ended Peralta's chances of recording his second win.  Reliever LaCurtis Mayes then allowed both of Peralta's runs to score, along with one of his own, to make the game close going into the sixth inning.  Second tandem starter Jose Mateo won his sixth pitcher-of-the-game award, his first since game twenty-three, by going four innings while allowing no runs, one hit, a walk, and three strikeouts. 


Four Cardinals had offensive games of note.  Catcher Casey Mulligan was 2-for-4 with two two-out runs-batted-in.  Shortstop Domnit Bolivar was 1-for-2 with a double, a walk, and a sacrifice fly.  Center fielder Adron Chambers extended his hitting streak, with at least one at-bat, to eleven games by going 2-for-3 with a double, two runs scored, a walk, and two stolen bases.  Third baseman Nick Vera extended his three-hits-per-game hitting streak to four games and won his third consecutive player-of-the-game award.  Vera was 4-for-5 with a double, a two-out run-batted-in, and a stolen base.  Vera raised his season batting average to .326 and was 13-for-his-last-16 (.812) after the game. 


Game Thirty-Eight:  Tuesday's game in Johnson City was the beginning of a two game series against the Eastern Division leading Danville Braves.  The starting pitcher match-up consisted of the current Appy League pitcher-of-the-week, Cole Rohrbough, against a former winner of that award, Nick Additon. 


Additon won the battle, with the help of a three run home run in the first inning from Nick Vera, and gave a 3-1 lead in the sixth to second tandem starter Jose Arredondo.  Left fielder Adron Chambers, after the Braves got a leadoff single and a walk, made an outstanding sliding catch with one out that preserved the 3-1 lead.  However, four pitches later, Chambers followed that up with a two-base error on a line drive that eventually led to three unearned runs.  The Braves grabbed the lead in the sixth and never looked back as they won the game by a score of 8-4.  It was the Cardinals twelfth game this year with three errors or more.  


Lefty Nick Additon was the pitcher-of-the-game, throwing sixty-nine pitches and fifty-one strikes over five innings.  Additon threw first pitch strikes to fourteen of the eighteen batters he faced, allowing only three hits and one run while recording six strikeouts with no walks.  Additon has improved his control tremendously since the start of the year and has become one of the better strikeout pitchers for the Cardinals.


Chambers extended his hitting streak to twelve games, the second best streak for the Cardinals this year.  Nick Vera's home run, the first Cardinal home run in nine games, was enough to give Vera the position player of the game award for a fourth game in a row.  Vera extended his hit streak to five games.  


Game Thirty-Nine:  This was Pete Kozma's debut for Johnson City.  Wednesday night's game against Danville was played on an infield that was covered with a tarp until just a few minutes before game time.  Since the dirt area in front of the plate was not softened with a water hose before the start, ground balls were taking huge hops over the infielder's heads on several occasions.  One of those leadoff hits off of Mark Diapoules in the first inning ended up scoring and the Cardinals could never get a lead against the Braves as they went on to lose the game by a score of 4-2. 


Although they only ended up leading to one unearned run, the four Cardinal errors for the second game in a row were difficult to watch.  Two of the four errors were by third baseman Wilmer Alvarado, who ended up playing his last game at third base for the week.  Alvarado had committed eight errors in fourteen games while playing third base. 


Second tandem starter Andres Rosales was the pitcher of the game, going three innings while allowing no runs and two hits with no walks and four strikeouts.  Rosales threw forty pitches, twenty-six of those for strikes, while winning his first award since being promoted last week from the GCL Cardinals.   


Two batters recorded two-hit games for the Cardinals and one of those was Pete Kozma, going 2-for-4 with a run scored.  Kozma's first pitch single in the third inning was a two hop grounder through the hole between third base and shortstop.  Even with a watered down infield, it was at least an infield single.  Kozma's second single was a hard line drive off the pitcher's glove on a 2-2 pitch in the eighth inning.  The ball bounced back toward the plate off the pitcher's glove but the play at first was not close. 


Despite the hoopla over Kozma's debut, center fielder Adron Chambers won my vote for position player of the game by going 2-for-3 with a run and a walk.  Chambers extended his hit streak to thirteen games and pushed his season batting average over the .300 mark for the first time.  It was Chambers' third award of the year and his first since game twenty-nine, the fifth game of his hit streak. 


Games Forty and Forty-One:  A Thursday night doubleheader against the Burlington Royals in Johnson City was necessitated by a rain out during week three.  The Cardinals ended up splitting the doubleheader, losing the first game by a score of 5-0 and winning the second game by a score of 5-4. 


Game One:  I will get the Kozma details out of the way first.  Kozma was 0-for-2 with a walk and a fielding error in the first game.  Kozma's 3-1 pitch, opposite field drive to right field in the first inning was just short of the warning track but was pretty high and was fielded easily.  His 1-0 pitch in the sixth was a proverbial "can-of-corn" fly to right field.  His walk in the fourth was of the four-pitch variety with only the fourth pitch being close enough to swing at. 


His fielding error was a low three-hopper right at him.  He played the third hop on a short hop and lifted his glove a bit early and too fast and then watched the ball go between his legs into left field.  That play was for the leadoff hitter in a sixth inning that ended up producing three unearned runs for the Royals.  I will add, however, that Kozma made a play in the field in the fourth inning that particularly impressed me, especially for a nineteen year-old.  Runners were on first and third with one out.  A liner was hit a few steps toward the second base bag. 


What would most shortstops in the Appy League do?  Catch the line drive and look for a double play opportunity with a throw behind the runner.  But not Pete Kozma – he noticed that neither runner was moving off their base so he intentionally bobbled the catch to his feet and attempted to pick up the ball, step on second, and throw to first for an easy double play. 


I can hear you saying that the ump would call an automatic out with no chance for a double play, right?  Well, this is the Appy League, it is a judgment call, and that is not what the field umpire ruled.  Unfortunately for Kozma, he looked up to see where second base was as he was picking up the ball off the ground and that was just enough time for the batter to beat out a close play at first.  The Royals manager really questioned the ump after that play.  Kozma definitely has some very good baseball instincts. 


Back to the game, Johnson City could only muster a season-low two hits and was shut out for the third time this year, all at home, by a score of 5-0.  One of those two hits was the first Cardinal at-bat of the game in the first inning and was enough to give Adron Chambers another player of the game award.  Chambers extended his hit streak to fourteen games, just one game short of Beau Riportella's team record. 


Reliever Ray Silva won pitcher-of-the-game honors, his second of the year, by allowing no earned runs and just one hit over two and one third innings pitched, his longest outing of the year.  Silva threw thirty pitches and eighteen strikes.  Starter Omar Javier struggled with his control.  Javier walked three, hit a batter, and threw just thirty-five strikes with his sixty-nine pitches. 


Game Two:  First, the Kozma details...  Kozma was 0-for-2 with two walks and two runs scored.  A first pitch groundout into the shortstop-third base hole in the first inning was fielded by the Royals' shortstop who made a nice play.  I timed Kozma, running all out through first base, at 4.31 seconds.  This would put him, after one Kozma data point and several data points for the others, as slightly slower than Beau Riportella and Mike Folli (lefty) and of comparable speed to Adron Chambers (lefty) and Travis Mitchell. 


Kozma walked on a two-out 3-2 pitch in the third.  He later scored easily from first base, while running on the pitch, on a double down the left field line by Nick Vera.  Kozma walked on four pitches in the fifth inning and then was asked to sacrifice bunt in the bottom of the seventh with nobody out and Jon Edwards on first base.  Kozma's one hop bunt was a little bit too hard and was too close to the pitcher, who fielded it cleanly and gunned to the shortstop to force Edwards by a step.  Kozma hustled down to first to remove any chance for the double play and eventually scored the winning run. 


It was a long game for just seven innings and was a game of "firsts" on several fronts.  The lead changed hands three times with the Cardinals winning by a score of 5-4 after scoring one run in the bottom of the seventh.  After the poor performance in Game One, it was particularly nice to rebound with a walk off win in Game Two. 


Starter Tyler Leach could only last three and two thirds innings with his sixty-seven pitches and thirty-eight strikes.  Leach allowed only one earned run but after reliever LaCurtis Mayes, on his nineteenth birthday, allowed one of Leach's runs to score, the game was tied 3-3 going to the fifth inning.  Reliever Eduardo Sanchez won his fourth pitcher-of-the-game award this year by throwing only ten pitches, eight for strikes, and recording two consecutive swinging strikeouts.  It was Sanchez' first win for Johnson City and his first in the United States.  Sanchez entered the game with the potential winning run on second base. 


First baseman Matt Arburr hit his first professional home run in front of friends and family from Connecticut.  Arburr absolutely crushed the first pitch he saw in the bottom of the fifth inning.  It was an estimated 430 feet over the left field fair pole.  The blast tied the game at 4-4 and it was Arburr's first hit in four games.  Center fielder Adron Chambers ended his hitting streak at fourteen games when he used poor judgment in chasing a line drive up the berm and injuring his left knee in the second inning.  Chambers had to leave the game but was walking without an obvious limp later on during the game when he returned to the dugout from the right field clubhouse. 


Left fielder Travis Mitchell was an obvious star of the game by going 3-for-4 with a two-run home run and a game winning, walk-off, bases-loaded, two-out RBI single in the bottom of the seventh.  It was Mitchell's first professional home run.  Mitchell hit a 2-0 pitch approximately 375 feet into the netting over the left field wall in the second inning to give the Cardinals a 2-1 lead.  Mitchell has drastically improved his bunting ability as well, adding a perfectly placed bunt single to first base in the sixth.  


Game Forty-Two:  The rubber game in the three game series versus the Burlington Royals turned into a blowout early in the game as the Royals scored seven runs in the top of the seventh on their way to a 12-3 rout of the Cardinals.  Starter Jose Mateo had a rare terrible outing, allowing seven earned runs on six hits and two walks in just one and two thirds innings.   


First reliever Joel Pichardo garnered the pitcher-of-the-game award by going three and one third innings while allowing no runs and just one hit.  Second tandem starter Senger Peralta allowed three walks and two runs while reliever Dylan Gonzalez allowed his first inherited runners of the year to score.


Eight of the nine Cardinals starters had at least one base hit but only two had multi-hit games.  Shortstop Pete Kozma was 1-for-4 with a double and a throwing error.  Second baseman Mike Folli was 2-for-3 with a walk, triple and solo home run.  Position player-of-the-game, right fielder Jon Edwards, was 3-for-4 with two doubles and two runs scored.  Edwards has been having several quality at-bats in each of his games of late and is hitting .323 in his last ten games and .417 in August. 


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 Johnson City player of the week.


Starting pitchers eligible for selection:  Tyler Leach, Jose Mateo, Omar Javier, Senger Peralta, Nick Additon, Jose Arredondo, Andres Rosales and Mark Diapoules. 


The tandem starters threw seventy percent of the fifty nine innings pitched this week and produced a collective 1.31 walks-plus-hits per inning pitched (WHIP) in the process.  Two starters recorded WHIPs of less than one, one with five innings pitched and one with three.  Andres Rosales has moved into the starting rotation and has quickly established a reputation for throwing lots of strikes.  Rosales has yet to walk a batter in two games since getting the call-up from the GCL Cardinals.  Rosales allowed only two hits this week in three innings pitched and was a close runner up to the repeat tandem pitcher-of-the-week, Nick Additon.  Additon had a 0.60 WHIP over five innings pitched while allowing one earned run on three hits with no walks and six strikeouts.   


Relief pitchers eligible for selection:  Eduardo Sanchez, Joel Pichardo, LaCurtis Mayes, Ray Silva, Ryan Hodinka, Matt Spade, and Dylan Gonzalez. 


As a group, the pen threw seventeen and two thirds innings while allowing only two earned runs this week.  Three of the seven relievers had a very good week.  Eduardo Sanchez had a win, a save, and posted a WHIP of 1.12 with one walk and five strikeouts in two and two thirds innings pitched.  Ray Silva posted 0.90 WHIP in two appearances.  But, for the third week in a row, a former GCL Cardinal has won relief pitcher of the week.  After two weeks in a row of Sanchez, the award this week goes to Joel Pichardo.  Pichardo allowed no runs, two hits, and no walks while recording a 0.46 WHIP in four and one third innings pitched.


Starting position players eligible for selection:  DH Joey Hage, SS Pete Kozma, 3B Nick Vera, 1B Matt Arburr, RF Jon Edwards, CF Travis Mitchell, 2B Domnit Bolivar, C Roberto Espinoza, and LF Adron Chambers.  Only three of the nine starters posted batting averages above the team's season average of .265. 


Edwards was 7-for-20 (.350) with the most doubles (three).  Vera was 11-for-25 (.440) with the most runs-batted-in (five).  This week's position player of the week was Adron Chambers.  Chambers was 9-for-19 (.474) with four runs scored and two stolen bases.  Chambers raised his batting average above the .300 mark for the first time this year and ended his fourteen game hitting streak this week after injuring his knee. 


Reserve players eligible for selection:  RF/LF Beau Riportella, DH Rob Sanzillo, C/1B Casey Mulligan, 2B/3B Mike Folli, and 3B Wilmer Alvarado.  Only one of the reserves this week posted a batting average above the team's week-eight average of .241.  Reserve player of the week Casey Mulligan, despite being out due to injury for four games, was 3-for-12 (.250) with a double and two runs-batted-in. 


League Leaders in Hitting

Riportella – eighth in batting average (.328) and tied for eighth in stolen bases (9).

Mulligan – tied for eighth in walks (22).


League Leaders in Pitching

Arredondo – tied for fifth in wins (4).

Peralta – tenth in strikeouts (39).

Sanchez – tied for eighth in saves (3).

Mayes – first in games (16).

Gonzalez – tied for second in games (13).



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