Johnson City Cardinals 2008 Preseason Report

On Tuesday night, the Johnson City Cardinals begin their 34th consecutive season as an affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals. Our Shawn Kerrick met the team on Monday and has the roster and much more news from the Appalachian League club.

The Johnson City Cardinals enter their 34th consecutive season as an affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals (52nd year overall as the Johnson City Cardinals) and will begin play in the Appalachian League (founded 1937) on the road against the Bristol White Sox on Tuesday night June 17 @ 7 PM.  Shawn Kerrick will be attending many of the games in person and will file reports and updates during the season.


Manager, Pitching Coach, and Hitting Coach


Returning as Johnson City Manager for the second year in a row will be Joe Almaraz.  Almaraz, 54, has managed in the minor leagues for the Cincinnati Reds (Billings, MT), the Baltimore Orioles (Bluefield, WV), and the St. Louis Cardinals (Johnson City, TN).  Almaraz won the Appalachian League title in 2001 with the Bluefield Orioles.  Almaraz resides in San Antonio, TX, serves as a Texas area scout for the Cardinals, and speaks fluent Spanish. 


The new pitching coach will be Tim Leveque, who replaces Sid Monge.  Leveque, 27, was a 1999 twenty-ninth round draft pick of the Detroit Tigers.  Leveque was a standout right-handed pitcher out of Crespi High School in Encino, CA before deciding to forego major league baseball and instead play college baseball for the Michigan Wolverines.  The Cardinals hired Leveque in March of 2006 as a pitching specialist to coordinate and study video of draft-eligible pitchers.  Leveque is also fluent in Spanish.


Mike Shildt will switch from the 2008 spring training coordinator in Jupiter, FL to hitting coach in Johnson City.  Last season, Shildt was a coach for the Batavia Muckdogs.  Mike served as a Cardinals area scout and in player development from 2004 to 2007.  Prior to joining the Cardinals, Shildt worked three years as an associate scout for the Major League Scouting Bureau.  Shildt, 39, has a total of five years of collegiate coaching between stops at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and University of North Carolina at Asheville. He also owned and operated On Deck Baseball Academy in Pineville, NC.


Schedule Changes and Features


The 2008 Appalachian League schedule will have a much different look from the unusual 2007 schedule forced by the loss of the Pulaski Blue Jays.  The Seattle Mariners have now added a team in Pulaski, VA that brings the Appy League total back to ten teams.  This allows the schedule to return exclusively to three-game series with three league-wide off-days.


·         68 scheduled games over 71 days

·         Starts June 17

·         Eleven games against the rival Kingsport Mets (seven at home and four on the road).

·         Nine games each against the Bristol White Sox, Greeneville Astros, and Elizabethton Twins

          6 road games @ Bristol and Greeneville

          6 home games vs. perennial Appy League powerhouse Elizabethton

·         Six games each, three home and three away, against the East Division (Bluefield Orioles, Burlington Royals, Danville Braves, Princeton Devil Rays, and Pulaski Mariners).

·         Three scheduled off days

          Jul 7 (Mon)

          Jul 29 (Tue)

          Aug 17 (Sun)

·         Ends August 26

·         Two division winners (Johnson City is in the West) begin a best-of-three series August 28


The Roster


I met the team Monday night and talked with each player and the coaches about the upcoming season.  The 2008 roster includes 14 of 38 players returning from the 2007 team.  However, four of the 14 are on the 60-day disabled list, are rehabbing in FL, and are unlikely to see any playing time.  Of the 34 active players, 13 were drafted on Friday June 6, 2008 and will begin their professional baseball careers in Johnson City. 


60-Day Disabled List (4):  RHP Jose Arredondo, LHP Senger Peralta, RHP Tyler Leach, and SS Hector Alvarez. 


Tandem Starting Pitchers (10): 

RHP Deryk Hooker (1A) and RHP Brett Zawacki (1B) – Tuesday @ Bristol

RHP Michael Blazek (2A) and RHP Carlos Gonzalez (2B) – Wednesday @ Bristol

RHP Matt North (3A) and LHP Jon Bravo (3B) – Thursday @ Bristol

RHP Reynier Gonzalez (4A) and RHP Kevin Thomas (4B) – Friday vs. Kingsport

RHP Randy Santos (5A) and RHP Adam Veres (5B) – Saturday vs. Kingsport

First starter limited to 75 pitches, second starter limited to 55 (40 if a 2008 draftee)


Relief Pitchers (7):  RHP Joel Pichardo, RHP Jose Mateo, LHP Samuel Freeman, RHP Jorge Rondon, RHP Santo Maertz, RHP LaCurtis Mayes, and RHP Matt Frevert.


Catchers (3):  Ivan Castro, Jack Cawley, and Rickey Noland (Delta State University2007 Media Guide with pictures).


Infielders (7):  3B Matt Rigoli, 1B Osvaldo Morales, 2B Brett Lilley, 2B/3B Alex Castellanos, SS Guillermo Toribio, SS Niko Vasquez (signed Monday June 16 - inactive until Friday per Joe Almaraz), and 1B Curt Smith. 


Outfielders (7):  Jarred Bogany (Lubbock Christian University), Travis Mitchell, Edgar Lara, Joey Hage (still in FL on minor injury rehab), Jairo Martinez (minor quad injury – will DH only for a few games), Brian Buck (still in FL on minor injury rehab), and Paul Cruz. 


Additional interesting statistics about the roster:


2008 Draft Picks:  13 of 34

2007 Draft Picks:  5 of 34

2006 Draft Picks:  3 of 34 – Matt North, Travis Mitchell, and LaCurtis Mayes

Undrafted free agents from the Dominican Republic:  8 of 34

Undrafted free agents from the United States:  2 of 34 – Jarred Bogany and Rickey Noland

Undrafted free agents from Venezuela:  2 of 34 – Reynier Gonzalez and Jorge Rondon

Undrafted free agents from Panama:  1 of 34 – Carlos Gonzalez

Tallest:  Matt North – 6'5"

Shortest:  Jon Bravo – 5'7"

Oldest:  Brett Lilley – 22 yr, 10 mo (born July 30, 1985)

Youngest:  Deryk Hooker – 18 yr, 11 mo (born June 21, 1989)

Heaviest:  Adam Veres – 230 lbs.

Lightest:  Carlos Gonzalez – 145 lbs.

Longest in the Cardinal organization:  C Ivan Castro – signed Apr 22, 2005

Highest level played in the Cardinal organization:  1B/DH Osvaldo Morales – Quad Cities River Bandits (Midwest League), May/June 2008.

Highest 2008 draft pick:  Niko Vasquez – 3rd round, 91st overall

Highest 2007 draft pick:  Deryk Hooker – 7th round, 232nd overall

Highest 2006 draft pick:  Matt North – 9th round, 286th overall



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