The Johnson City Cardinals Report: 07/19/09

20-year-old first baseman Matt Adams was 8-for-19 (.421) with five walks and just three strikeouts this week to help Johnson City (3-3 week, 14-11 overall) hold onto second place in the Western Division of the Appalachian League.

The Johnson City Cardinals pitching staff struggled this week, giving up 41 runs and 21 walks in six games, however the offense was still able to lead the team to a .500 record by producing 42 runs and nine home runs.  The Cardinals are five games behind the Elizabethton Twins (19-6) and two games ahead of the Greeneville Astros (12-13). 


Johnson City has hit 29 home runs in 25 games (second in league).  The offense is also second in total bases, slugging (SLG), and on-base plus slugging (OPS).  The pitchers continue to lead the league in shutouts (three) and holds (10).  The team earned run average (ERA) has fallen to 4.63 (seventh in league).   


I was able to attend four of the six games this week in person and those observations provide the basis for this report.  I attended the middle game of the series against the Elizabethton Twins and all three of the games at home against the Greeneville Astros. 


Roster and Injury Updates


There were no changes in the roster this week although there were several hitters who missed playing time due to injuries. 


Infielder Romulo Ruiz returned from a hamstring injury that kept him out of action for 12 games.  Ruiz (.138, 3 HR) was 1-for-4 with a run scored in his return to the lineup as a designated hitter on Friday night.


Outfielder Michael Swinson (.320, 4 SB) has a wrist injury that has forced him to miss the last 9 games.  When he returns to the lineup, Swinson will be hoping to add to a 5 game hit streak where he was 9-for-18 (.500). 


Second baseman Luis Mateo (.319, 3 HR, 5 SB) suffered a hamstring injury on a single in the sixth inning at Elizabethton on Sunday night.  Mateo has missed 5 games so far.  When he returns, he will be looking to extend a 4 game hit streak where he was 7-for-16 (.438). 


Outfielder Rainel Rosario (.286, 7 doubles) has missed the last 7 games.  I should be able to get an update on his playing status on Tuesday night when the first place Danville Braves visit Johnson City for "Bark in the Park".   


The Week in Review


Johnson City lost the last two games of the three game series against the first-place Elizabethton Twins to start the week.  It was the first time Johnson City was swept in a 3-game series this year.  The Cardinals went home and followed that with three consecutive wins against the Greeneville Astros to record their first series sweep of the year.  They finished the week by losing a slug-fest Saturday night in Bluefield, WV against the Orioles.  


Sunday night's game was the first game I noticed that Brent Strom, a Cardinals minor league pitching instructor, was in town.  Elizabethton jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the second inning as starter Randy Santos (1-2, 5.12 ERA) struggled with a 24-pitch inning in which he hit a batter and allowed a three run home run.  The inning could have been worse if not for RF Edgar Lara's fifth outfield assist of the year.  Lara bare-handed a one hop double off the wall and hit the relay man (2B Luis Mateo) with a strike.  The Cardinals eventually tied the game in the fifth inning before second tandem starter John Durham (0-1, 9.88 ERA) allowed six earned runs over two and one third innings. 1B Matt Adams had an impressive 12-pitch walk with eight foul balls to lead off the seventh inning of a 6-4 game.  Durham recorded his first professional loss in a 9-4 decision.  


The night before the MLB All-Star game was an 8-6 loss to close out the Elizabethton sweep.  3B Hector Alvarez (.270) and C Travis Tartamella (.185) each recorded their first home runs of the season.  Tartamella's first professional home run was a grand slam.  That brought the number of hitters on the club with at least one home run to 11.  That leaves only 5 hitters who have failed to hit a home run through the first third of the season.  Andy Moss (0-0, 1.06 ERA) had another quality start before giving way to a struggling Reynier Gonzalez (1-3, 7.20 ERA).   


The opening game of the series against Greeneville was an easy 9-2 win for the Cardinals.  Matt Adams hit his team-leading fifth home run on a 1-1 pitch in the bottom of the fourth inning that put Johnson City ahead for good at 2-1.  The line drive home run barely cleared the right-centerfield fence.  Five Cardinals recorded two or more hits.  Starter Jesse Simpson (1-0, 1.20 ERA) threw 69 pitches over four innings while allowing only four singles and no earned runs.  Second tandem starter Pablo Ortiz (2-0, 6.75 ERA) got the win despite requiring 51 pitches to complete two innings.   


The middle game of the series ended with an exciting 8-7 walk-off win.  C Travis Tartamella had a tough game (0-for-3, throwing error, and passed ball on a swinging strikeout that allowed Greeneville to tie the game at 6-6 in the 7th inning). It got even tougher when Manager Mike Shildt decided to pinch hit Audry Perez (.222) for Tartamella in the bottom of the ninth as he came to the plate with one out and one on in a 7-6 game.  Although Tartamella was denied the chance to make amends, there was a happy outcome for the team.  Perez fouled off four pitches and ran the count to 3-2 before connecting on the eighth pitch of the at bat.  His high drive to left-centerfield just cleared the fence and just missed the tall "Dr. Enuf" sign that is part of the wall.  Perez was the pinch hit home run hero for the second time this year.  Perez, our 2008 Dominican Summer League Position Player of the Year, had a game winning two-run home run against Greeneville last week. 


Starting pitcher Justin Smith (1-1, 3.24 ERA) had a quality start by throwing 71 pitches over four and one third innings while allowing two runs on just one hit and two walks while recording 7 strikeouts.  Reliever Travis Lawler (0-0, 0.93 ERA) had a bases loaded walk to the first batter he faced to pick up a blown save but then settled down to retire six of the next seven batters he faced while recording three strikeouts.  The only batter he didn't retire was Tartamella's passed ball on a strikeout. 


The last game of the series was a 7-5 win for the Cardinals.  The big blow was a bases-loaded, three-run double by LF Rich Racobaldo (.407).  The clutch hit came with two outs in the bottom of the 4th inning in a 4-4 game.  Racobaldo lined the first pitch over the left fielder's head after the Cardinals had loaded the bases with nobody out.  Yunier Castillo and Ted Obregon both struck out swinging before "Rock" hit his game-winning 350 foot bullet off the wall. 


Second tandem starter Anthony Ferrara (1-1, 3.18 ERA) bounced back from a tough start in his last outing by throwing 52 pitches over four innings while allowing no runs and just one single.  Ferrara picked off the only batter to get a hit off of him.  Ferrara threw first pitch strikes to 10 of the 14 batters he faced and struck out three while walking one and hitting one. 


The last game of the week featured the first professional start for the Orioles first round pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft.  Matthew Hobgood, the fifth overall pick out of a Norco, CA high school, got off to a short and shaky start for the Bluefield Orioles.  The big (6-foot-4, 245 pound) right-handed pitcher allowed one run on two hits over a pitch-count-reduced one inning debut.   Yunier Castillo and Edgar Lara each singled off Hobgood.  Hobgood had a fielding error, a wild pitch, and allowed a stolen base to Castillo. 


The Cardinals went on to lose the back and forth battle by a score of 10-8.  Johnson City committed four errors that led to four unearned runs.  Cardinals pitchers struggled all night to shutdown the Orioles offense as they allowed ten hits and six walks over eight innings.  LF Rich Racobaldo (.407) was 3-for-4 with a double, a home run, and 4 RBI while C Robert Stock (.309) was 2-for-4 with a walk, triple, and a solo home run. 


Tandem Starting Pitchers


As a reminder, listed below are the pairings for Johnson City.  The primary starters are now up to a 75 pitch limit while the secondary starters are up to about 55 pitches.  The primary starter of the game rotates every five days.    

RHP Reynier Gonzalez and RHP Andy Moss

RHP Pablo Ortiz and RHP Jesse Simpson

RHP Chris Notti and RHP Justin Smith

LHP Anthony Ferrara and RHP Michael Thompson

RHP Randy Santos and LHP John Durham


Who's Hot (Hitters)


Rich "Rock" Racobaldo continues to wield a hot bat as he added left field to his fielding resume this week.  Racobaldo had a very impressive outfield assist from deep left center field to home in the middle game of the Greeneville series this week.  The throw hit the catcher on the fly just before he was plowed over by the base runner.  The Cardinals led the game 4-3 at the time so the clutch throw preserved the lead.  Johnson City went on to win the game by one run. 


Rock now leads the team in batting average (.407 AVG), slugging (.640), on-base percentage (.449 OBP), and OPS (1.089).  Racobaldo has a current four-game hit streak of two hits or more and was 11-for-25 (.440) with three doubles and three home runs this week.  He has added the power to his game while increasing his average and adding a new fielding position.  A very impressive accomplishment to say the least.  The 24-year-old 3B/LF is in the top ten in the Appalachian League in several ten different offensive categories:  AVG (3rd); OBP, OPS, hits, and total bases (4th); runs, doubles, RBI, and SLG (6th); home runs (10th).  Cardinal fans here in Johnson City would hate to see him leave, however his days in Tennessee would seem to be short in number. 


1B Matt Adams is simply a GOOD hitter.  Adams is centering the bat on the ball better than any other Johnson City hitter.  His best hits are from gap-to-gap and are almost always hard line drives.  The left-handed swinging Adams is leading the team in home runs (5) and is second on the team in virtually all other offensive stats.  His team leading ten-game hit streak was broken last night in Bluefield.  Adams is fifth in the league in HR (5).  Adams is sixth in the league in RBI (20), AVG (.387), SLG (.640), and OPS (1.075).  He is tenth in the league in total bases (48) and OBP (.435).   


SS Yunier Castillo has a six-game hit streak and was 9-for-29 (.310) with a triple this week.  The switch-hitting and slick-fielding 20-year-old made an impressive web gem this week.  Castillo fielded a ground ball on the first base side of second base and then spun 270 degrees to nip a base runner at first.  Castillo's fielding ability alone may get him to the majors in the eyes of some Cardinal coaches.  His plummeting batting average as runners appear in front of him will almost certainly have to improve for the major leagues to become a reality.  Castillo is hitting .350 with the bases empty, .171 with runners on base, and only .080 with runners in scoring position.  


3B Hector Alvarez was 7-for-26 (.304) with a triple and a home run this week.  The former middle infielder also showed the quick reflexes needed by a corner infielder this week.  Alvarez made an impressive diving stop and accurate throw on Thursday night.  The former switch hitter has been converted to a right-handed only hitter this year.  22-Year-old Alvarez has hit best against left-handed pitchers (.364), on the road (.368), and with runners in scoring position (.333). 


Who's Not Hot (Hitters)


1B Matt Rigoli is 1-for-11 (.091) in his last 5 games with one walk and seven strikeouts. 


Who's Hot (Pitchers)


Jesse Simpson (pictured - 15 IP) and Pablo Ortiz (13.1 IP) are the only pitchers (of 10 starters and 1 reliever) who have reached double digits in innings pitched (IP) while allowing no home runs.  Simpson is second amongst the ten starters in ERA (1.20) and is one of only two starters with an ERA and WHIP (1.07) near one.  Ortiz is second amongst the starters in SO/9 (11.5). 


Michael Thompson has allowed only one walk in 16 IP while recording 20 strikeouts.  Thompson is third amongst the 10 starters in strikeouts per nine innings pitched (SO/9) with 11.2.  Thompson is second in the league in holds (2). 


Justin Smith leads the team in walks plus hits per inning pitched (WHIP) at 0.72 and in SO/9 (14.0). 


Travis Lawler (9.2 IP) leads the team in earned run average (0.93 ERA) and is second among the relievers in SO/9 (12.1). 


Andy Moss is one of only two starters on the team with an ERA (1.06) and WHIP (1.00) that are close to one.  Moss is second in the league in holds (2). 


Closer David Kington is leading the league in saves (6) and is second in the league in games (10) and games finished (9).  Kington has not allowed a home run in 8 IP.  Kington is second among the relievers in WHIP (1.13). 


Reliever Aaron Terry (3-0, 4.32 ERA) is third in the league lead in victories.  Terry ranks first among the Cardinal relievers in SO/9 (13.0).   


Reliever Jose Rada (2-0, 2.63 ERA) allowed only one hit and one walk while striking out three in three scoreless innings pitched this week.   


Who's Not Hot (Pitchers)


Chris Notti (1-0, 8.40 ERA) allowed five hits and two earned runs in one inning pitched this week.  The opposition is hitting .357 against Notti this year. 


LHP John Durham (0-1, 9.88 ERA) allowed 10 hits and 11 earned runs in two tandem starts (4.2 IP) this week.  The opposition is hitting .344 against Durham this year. 


Reynier Gonzalez (1-3, 7.20 ERA) allowed four hits and five earned runs in one and one third innings pitched this week.  The opposition is hitting .311 against Gonzalez this year. 


Week Five Schedule


Game 26 (Sun):  Reynier Gonzalez followed by Andy Moss – @ Bluefield Orioles

Game 27 (Mon):  Pablo Ortiz followed by Jesse Simpson – @ Bluefield Orioles

Game 28 (Tue):  Chris Notti followed by Justin Smith – vs. Danville Braves

Game 29 (Wed):  Anthony Ferrara followed by Michael Thompson – vs. Danville Braves

Game 30 (Thu):  Randy Santos followed by John Durham – vs. Danville Braves

Game 31 (Fri):  Andy Moss followed by Reynier Gonzalez – @ Princeton Rays

Game 32 (Sat):  Jesse Simpson followed by Pablo Ortiz – @ Princeton Rays

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