The Johnson City Cardinals Preseason Report

On Tuesday night, the Johnson City Cardinals begin their 35th consecutive season as an affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals. Our Shawn Kerrick met the team on Sunday and has the roster and much more news from the Appalachian League club.

The Johnson City Cardinals enter their 35th consecutive season as an affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals (53rd year overall as the Johnson City Cardinals) and will begin play in the Appalachian League (founded 1937) on the road against the Kingsport Mets on Tuesday night June 23 at 7 PM. Shawn Kerrick will be attending many of the games in person and will file reports and updates during the season.

New Manager, Pitching Coach, and Hitting Coach

Serving as Johnson City Manager for the first time will be Mike Shildt. Shildt replaces Joe Almaraz. Almaraz will now return his focus to being an area scout for the Cardinals. This will be Shildt's first minor league managing position. Mike was very excited about the opportunity. Shildt will coach third base throughout the season "unless he gets tossed" as he told me.

Shildt was the hitting and fielding coordinator for Johnson City in 2008 and served in 2007 as a coach for the Batavia Muckdogs, the Cardinals New York-Penn League team in Batavia, NY. 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, 40, has a total of five years of collegiate coaching between stops at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and the University of North Carolina at Asheville. He also owned and operated On Deck Baseball Academy in Pineville, NC.

The new pitching coach will be Doug White, who replaces Tim Leveque, the new pitching coach for Batavia. White comes to Johnson City after coaching the pitchers in Batavia last year. White is the founder of the "Passion for Pitching" program, which provides the tools necessary to assist pitchers in becoming effective and efficient in their movement patterns through drills and exercises. White has also coached for the Montreal Expos organization and for the Mid-Missouri Mavericks of the Frontier (Independent) League.

The new batting coach is Johnny Rodriguez, who joins the Cardinals from the Florida Marlins organization. Rodriguez, 52, was the hitting coach for the Jamestown Jammers in the New York-Penn League in 2007 and 2008. Rodriguez managed the Jammers in 2002. The Appy League is one of the few leagues he has never been associated with. Rodriguez was very proud of his son when we talked. Sean Rodriguez was playing second base Sunday night on ESPN for the Los Angeles Angels and his dad was hoping for an early evening so he could see his son play.

The Schedule

The 2009 Appalachian League will have ten teams again this year with no changes to the team names or the affiliations. The schedule for each team has 21 three-game series and a "four plus one" series with one of their geographically closest rivals. All home games scheduled Monday through Friday will start at 7:00 PM EDT. Home games scheduled Saturday and Sunday will start at 6:00 PM EDT. Doubleheaders scheduled due to rainouts usually start one hour earlier. The schedule also includes three league-wide off-days.

• 68 scheduled games over 71 days
• Starts June 23
• Eleven games against perennial Appy League powerhouse Elizabethton Twins (four at home and seven on the road).
• Nine games each against the Bristol White Sox, Greeneville Astros, and Kingsport Mets
6 road games at Kingsport
6 home games vs. Bristol and Greeneville
• 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; July 14 (Tuesday), August 3 (Monday), August 19 (Wednesday) • Ends September 1
• Two division winners (Johnson City is in the West) begin a best-of-three series September 3

The Roster

I met the team Sunday afternoon and talked with most of the players and each of the coaches about the upcoming season. The 2009 roster includes 6 of 31 players returning from the 2008 team. Several players I expected to return are rehabbing injuries in FL. Of the 31 active players on the opening day roster, 16 were drafted in the June 2009 First-Year Player Draft and will begin their professional baseball careers in Johnson City.

Johnson City will again utilize a "piggyback" starting rotation of ten different pitchers. However, only five of the ten starters had been determined as of the writing of this article. The exhibition game played on Sunday evening was used to determine the five remaining piggyback starters on Monday.

Rehabbing in FL (3): RHP Jose Arredondo, RHP Matt North, and OF Joey Hage.

Tandem Starting Pitchers (10): RHP Reynier Gonzalez (1A) and "TBD" (1B) – Tuesday @ Kingsport
RHP Pablo Ortiz (2A) and "TBD" (2B) – Wednesday @ Kingsport
RHP Chris Notti (3A) and "TBD" (3B) – Thursday @ Kingsport
LHP Anthony Ferrara (4A) and "TBD" (4B) – Friday vs. Burlington
RHP Randy Santos (5A) and "TBD" (5B) – Saturday vs. Burlington

To be Determined (TBD) Pitchers (5 Starters and 3 Relievers): LHP John Durham, RHP Andy Moss, RHP Jason Novak, RHP Jose Rada, RHP Jesse Simpson, RHP Justin Smith, RHP Aaron Terry, and LHP Michael Thompson.

Relief Pitchers (3): LHP Kyle Heim, RHP Dave Kington, and RHP Travis Lawler.

Catchers (3): Travis Tartamella, Robert Stock, and Audrey Perez.

Infielders (7): Matt Adams (1B), Luis Mateo (2B), Yunier Castillo (SS), Rich Racobaldo (3B), Romulo Ruiz (DH), Ted Obregon (Util), Matt Rigoli (1B/DH).

Outfielders (5): CJ Beatty (corner OF), Edgar Lara (RF), Rainel Rosario (CF), Ross Smith (CF), and Michael Swinson (CF).

Roster Statistics

2009 Draft Picks: 16 of 31
2008 Draft Picks: 5 of 31
2008 Free Agents (from Latin America): 2 of 31
2007 Free Agents (from Latin America): 2 of 31
2006 Free Agents (from Latin America): 6 of 31
Tallest: Chris Notti – 6'5"
Shortest: Audrey Perez – 5'9"
Oldest: Rich Racobaldo – 23 years, 11 months (born July 10, 1985)
Youngest: Luis Mateo – 19 years, 1 month (born May 23, 1990)
Heaviest: Matt Adams – 240 lbs.
Lightest: Yunier Castillo – 160 lbs.
Longest in the Cardinal organization: RHP Jose Rada – signed August 9, 2005
Highest 2009 draft pick: Robert Stock – 2nd round, 67th overall
Highest 2008 draft pick: Anthony Ferrara – 7th round, 215th overall

Exhibition Game Highlights/Statistics

Johnson City 2, Tennessee Tornado 1. Ross Smith hit a walk-off single with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning. The Tornado were held to just two singles (one infield single off of starter Anthony Ferrara and one grounder through the infield off of second starter Chris Notti). The Cardinals struck out twelve times while walking just twice. The Cardinals could only muster six hits against the Southern Collegiate Baseball League (SCBL) defending champions. Luis Mateo, then only Cardinal with more than one hit, was 2-for-4 with a single, triple, and a run batted in.

Five of the eight pitchers competing for the second starter position saw action in the game. RHP Justin Smith pitched the sixth inning (11 pitches, 7 strikes, 1 strikeout). RHP Aaron Terry pitched the seventh inning (16 pitches, 9 strikes, 1 wild pitch). RHP Jesse Simpson looked the most impressive to me while completing the eighth inning (11 pitches, 8 strikes, 2 strikeouts). RHP Jason Novak (0.2 IP, 15 pitches, 10 strikes, 2 strikeouts) and RHP Jose Rada (0.1 IP, 4 pitches, 3 strikes) completed the ninth inning.

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