The Johnson City Cardinals Report: 08/02/09

19-year-old catcher Robert Stock hit .428 this week with a walk-off home run to help Johnson City (2-1 week, 18-16 overall) maintain second place in the Western Division of the Appalachian League.

The entire Appy League was water-logged this week.  Johnson City had seven games scheduled at the start of the week however, after almost daily rain showers and thunderstorms during the week, the Cardinals could only complete half of their schedule (three and half games).  The Cardinals are seven games behind the Elizabethton Twins (26-10) and three games ahead of the Greeneville Astros (16-20). 


After Sunday night's game against Bluefield and an off-day on Monday, the Cardinals will complete 6 games in three days against the league leading Twins in Johnson City.  While they cannot catch Elizabethton after the series, they could put a big dent in their lead with a good series.  Johnson City is now half way through the 68-game season however, due to the rain this week, the Cardinals have completed a league low 34 games so far. 


A review of the team league leaders shows that Johnson City has hit 37 home runs (2nd in league).  The offense is second in slugging (.442), third in average (.278), and third in on-base plus slugging (.785).  The Cardinals are 9th out of ten in triples (9) and are 4th through 8th in all other offensive categories.  The pitchers are now 2nd in the league in shutouts (4).  The Cardinal pitchers lead the league in holds (13) and fewest walks allowed (94).  The team ERA (4.68) and walks plus hits per inning pitched or WHIP (1.39) both rank 7th.   


I was able to attend two of the three and half games this week in person and those observations provide the basis for this report.  I attended the first game of the series at the Elizabethton Twins (Monday) and vs. the Bluefield Orioles (Friday). 


Roster and Injury Updates


The active roster is now down to 31 players (35 maximum) with two members of the roster rehabbing injuries in Jupiter, FL.  The roster has 16 pitchers (10 tandem starters and 6 relievers) and 15 position players (3 catchers, 4 outfielders, and 8 infielders).  I am considering Rich Racobaldo an infielder.  He appears to be much more comfortable at 3B and is listed that way on the roster (despite playing 12-of-32 games in LF).


Pablo Ortiz (2-0, 6.75 ERA), a starting tandem pitcher, missed his scheduled start on Monday July 20 due to weakness in his shoulder and elbow.  Ortiz is rehabbing in Jupiter, FL.  There is no specific time frame scheduled for his return to Johnson City.   


Outfielder Rainel Rosario (.286, 7 doubles, 15 games) is rehabbing his right leg in Jupiter, FL.  Rosario's last game was July 10.  Rainel has missed 16 games.     


Outfielder CJ Beatty (.176) has resumed throwing.  Beatty's last game in the outfield was June 26. 


Infielder Romulo Ruiz (.136, 3 HR) continues to see most of his action as a designated hitter.  Ruiz will slowly be integrated back into a day-to-day fielding position according to the coaches. 


Outfielder Michael Swinson (.333, 6 SB) is back and appears to be fully healthy after a wrist injury forced him to miss 14 games.   


Second baseman Luis Mateo (.319, 3 HR, 5 SB, 18 games) suffered a hamstring injury on July 12 that was re-injured during warm-ups on July 23.  Mateo has missed 14 games so far.  Luis was on a four-game hit streak (7-for-16, .438) when he was injured.


First baseman Matt Adams (.383) missed one game this week due to chest pains during warm-ups prior to the game.  A precautionary hospital visit must have addressed all the medical concerns since Adams was back in the starting lineup the next night (1-for-5). 


The Week in Review


Rainouts (Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday) were the story this week.     


Sunday:  The last two games of the series scheduled for Sunday against the Princeton Rays were postponed due to wet grounds after rainstorms on Saturday night and Sunday morning.  Since the Cardinals will not return to Princeton, WV this year, Saturday's suspended nine-inning game will resume Thursday August 27 at 6 p.m. in Johnson City, with the score tied 2-2 in the top of the fifth inning. A doubleheader seven-inning game will follow.  On Friday August 28, the teams will meet for two seven-inning games starting at 11:30 a.m. in Johnson City.


Monday: Johnson City beat Elizabethton 5-2 and outhit the Twins 13-4.  Dominating pitching performances by Justin Smith (1-1, 3.70 ERA) and Jesse Simpson (2-0, 1.50 ERA) led the Cardinals to their first victory over their Division rivals.  The game was a very nice all-around team victory with contributions from every position player.  All nine starters had at least one hit, one run, or one RBI.  Although almost half of the outs were recorded by pitchers (twelve strikeouts), it was the first game in the last seven games in which no errors were committed by the Cardinals. 


Smith started the fifth inning with 69 pitches under his belt and looked like he was going to get his second victory after recording the first two outs on 6 pitches.  However, Smith encountered his second bout of wildness on the night (four walks total) by walking the next two batters on 11 pitches.  The coaches did everything they could to get Smith the win however, he was pulled after 4.2 IP and 86 pitches (47 strikes, 9-for-20 first-pitch strikes).  Smith allowed only one run on two hits while recording six strikeouts.  


Simpson, who was scheduled to pitch on Saturday, got the second tandem position with Smith by virtue of not warming up in the suspended game against Princeton.  On two extra days of rest, Simpson pitched very well and recorded his second victory of the year.  Simpson struck out six (all in-a-row after a first batter solo home run) on 54 pitches (36 strikes, 10-for-14 first-pitch strikes) over 4 innings.  


CF Michael Swinson (.333) collected his team leading fifth stolen base, SS Yunier Castillo (.240) hit his first home run (in 33rd game with Johnson City), and C Robert Stock (.329) had three hits to lead the offense.  3B Rich Racobaldo (diving stab on a sharp one-hopper) and 2B Ted Obregon (cross-body throw to first on a weak grounder) had the two best fielding plays of the night. 


Tuesday:  The second game of the four-game series at the Elizabethton Twins was rained out.  Two seven-inning games were scheduled for Wednesday night.     


Wednesday:  Michael Thompson (0-1, 5.40 ERA) got the start in the first game of the doubleheader with heavy rain showers threatening the area and a wet field delaying the first pitch.  Thompson saw his ERA balloon from 5.40 to 7.78 after he gave up six hits, three walks, and six earned runs over 1.1 innings to put the Cardinals behind 6-0.  Johnson City got on the board in the third with the key hit being a two-RBI double from Rich Racobaldo (.415).  The Twins made the score 8-3 in the third against reliever Jason Novak (0-1, 4.09 ERA) just before the rain came and suspended the game until Thursday. 


Thursday:  Both the suspended game, with the Twins leading 8-3 in the bottom of the third inning, and the regularly scheduled game were postponed due to rain.  This was the last game between Johnson City and Elizabethton scheduled for play in Elizabethton.  However, since there were still four games scheduled between the Cardinals and Twins in Johnson City (August 4-6 and August 26) and since there was a suspended game and two rainouts to make-up, the August 4-6 series will be turned into doubleheaders and a total of six games between the first and second place teams will be completed over three days. 


Friday:  The Cardinals (17-15, 4.57 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, .277 team AVG) came home to welcome the third place (Eastern Division) Bluefield Orioles (18-18, 4.01 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, .232 team AVG).  Bluefield brought a team with better pitching but worse hitting than the Cardinals.  The two teams appeared to be evenly matched so the question would be which would win out; pitching vs. hitting, Eastern vs. Western Division?


With only one of the last six days of baseball being completed as scheduled, players and fans were both ready for action.  Despite rain in the Johnson City area earlier in the day, the skies cleared and the field dried out enough for the first game of the Orioles series to be played.


CF Michael Swinson (.333) started the game out with a defensive bang by catching a sinking liner off the bat of the first hitter.  Swinson ran in and made a nice shoe-top, backhand, rolling snag for the first out of the game.  Starter Anthony Ferrara (1-1, 3.96 ERA) proceeded to retire six of the first seven hitters he faced (on 32 pitches) however, he ran into trouble in the third inning.  Ferrara gave up a walk, a single, a double, and a triple over 32 third-inning pitches to stake the Orioles to a 3-0 lead.  Ferrara would rebound nicely in the fourth inning by striking out two and finishing his evening with 77 pitches (47 strikes, 11-for-18 first-pitch strikes). 


The 3-0 Oriole lead would last until the bottom of the fourth when 3B Rich Racobaldo (.415) led off the inning with a single.  DH Romulo Ruiz (.136) and SS Yunier Castillo (.240) then hit back-to-back RBI doubles to the left field wall on consecutive pitches to bring the Cardinals within one run (3-2).  The score would remain 3-2 until the Cardinals cashed in a two-out rally in the bottom of the seventh. 


CF Michael Swinson (.333) singled on a 2-0 pitch and then scored on a 410 foot stand-up triple to dead centerfield by C Robert Stock (.329).  A Rich Racobaldo walk (14 BB leads team) and a passed ball (catcher was crossed up by the pitcher) put runners on second and third for RF Edgar Lara (.269).  Lara lined his tenth double of the year (0-1 pitch) to the left centerfield gap to give the Cardinals a 5-3 lead after seven innings.


Second tandem starter Randy Santos (1-3, 4.67 ERA) cruised through his first three innings allowing no hits, no runs, and one walk while throwing just 35 pitches (20 strikes).  Santos would run into trouble with two outs in the eighth however.  Oriole LF Jose Kianes hit a game-tying two-run home run on a 3-1 pitch that RF Edgar Lara barely moved on.  A single by the next batter brought Santos' evening to an abrupt end (54 pitches, 31 strikes, 8-for-15 first pitch strikes). 


Closer David Kington (2-1, 5.23 ERA, 6 SV, 12 G), despite walking his first batter, got out of the jam by inducing a pop-up to the shortstop that sent the game to the ninth tied 5-5.  2B Ted Obregon (.286) led off the ninth with a hard liner to the second baseman.  Although everyone was excited at the crack of the bat, the defender never moved either leg as he snagged it easily for the first out.  CF Michael Swinson (.333) then pulled the first pitch past the first baseman into right field for a single. 


That brought C Robert Stock (.329, pictured) to the plate with a lot of potential base-stealing/hit-and-run options to Manager Mike Shildt.  After four throws to first base, one pitch out, three foul balls (one with Swinson running), and two balls (inside), Stock launched a 3-2 pitch onto the adjacent football field over the right field fence for a "no-doubter" home run (3rd HR).  The Oriole RF climbed the wet berm with the hope that he could get close enough to catch it but it was well over the right field fence for a walk off victory.  Stock knew it was a home run as soon as he hit it.  Stock theatrically pitched the bat a few feet toward the dugout after the swing and began to trot around the bases.  He prepared for the mob waiting for him at home by tossing off his helmet down the third base line.  He might admit that the helmet toss was a mistake as it appeared that the mob went for his head just after he emphatically placed both feet on home at the same time.


Saturday:  The second game of the series against Bluefield ended with a blown save and a loss by the bullpen in the top of the ninth.  Johnson City took a 4-2 lead into the top of the ninth after tandem starters Reynier Gonzalez (2-3, 5.26 ERA) and Andrew Moss (0-1, 2.10 ERA) each threw four solid innings of "groundball" outs.  Gonzalez recorded seven groundball outs (one fly out) while Moss added eight more (three fly outs).  Gonzalez allowed no runs and one walk on four hits while recording four strikeouts and gave a 3-0 lead to Moss in the fifth inning.  Moss allowed two runs (solo home run) and two walks on five hits. 


Normally reliable reliever Travis Lawler (0-1, 4.22 ERA) started the ninth with the Cardinals leading 4-2.  Lawler allowed four singles while recording one strikeout before being pulled from the 4-3 game with the bases loaded.  Reliever Aaron Terry (3-0, 4.26 ERA) then gave up a two-RBI single and a three-run home run to complete the scoring in the game as the Cardinals lost by a score of 8-4. 


Tandem Starting Pitchers


Listed below are the pairings for Johnson City.  The primary starters are now up to about an 85 pitch limit while the secondary starters are up to about 65 pitches.  The primary starter of the game rotates every five days, although, with the rain this week, they are currently getting more rest than five days.  The pairings were also jumbled this week due to the suspended games (one starter used) on July 25th and 28th.  Only seven starters saw action this week.  Chris Notti's and John Durham's scheduled starts were skipped this week. 


Next week will be a very busy one for Johnson City despite an off-day on Monday.  Three consecutive doubleheaders are scheduled for Tuesday through Thursday (41 innings) and three nine-inning games are scheduled for Sunday, Friday, and Saturday (27 innings).

RHP Reynier Gonzalez and RHP Andy Moss

RHP Jesse Simpson and RHP Cale Johnson (replaced Pablo Ortiz)

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)


CF Michael Swinson (.333) has extended his hit streak to 9 games (15-for-34, .441).  Swinson was 6-for-14 (.428) with five runs scored and two stolen bases in three and half games this week.  19-Year-old Swinson leads the team in stolen bases (6) and is now second on the team in walks (11) and OBP (.430) as the lead-off hitter.  The left-handed hitter posted an impressive .400/.523/.543 line in July.  Swinson has yet to commit an error in 17 games in the outfield and has three outfield assists.   


LF/3B Rich "Rock" Racobaldo continues to hit well as he actually raised his above .400 season batting average again this week (.410 to .415).  Rock has a 14 game hit streak (.472) and a 4 game, 2-hits-per-game hit streak (.500).  "Rock" was 7-for-14 (.500) this week with three runs and four RBIs in three and half games.  His current line is .415/.475/.593/1.068. 


Racobaldo is in the top five in the Appalachian League in eight different offensive categories:  AVG and OBP (1st); hits and OPS (3rd); SLG (5th); total bases and runs (6th); RBIs (7th). 


1B Matt Adams (.383) started to cool off a little bit this week.  Adams was 3-for-11 (.273) in two and half games.  Adams is leading the team in home runs (6), RBIs (24), and slugging (.607) and is second on the team in virtually all other offensive stats.  He has a current line of .383/.425/.607/1.032. 


Adams is in the top ten in the Appalachian League in eight different offensive categories:  home runs and SLG (3rd); AVG and OPS (4th); OBP (5th); RBIs (7th); hits and total bases (10th).   


C Robert Stock (.329) was 6-for-14 (.428) this week with three runs, a double, a triple, a home run, and four RBIs.  Stock is hitting .368 with six multi-hit games and six extra-base hits in his last ten games.  He has posted a rather anemic .256/.319/.395 line in Johnson City and an impressive .424/.535/.788 line on the road.  Stock is hitting .385 with runners on base and .348 with runners in scoring position. 


RF Edgar Lara (.269, 10 doubles) has a very quiet 14-game hit streak and is 8th in the league in doubles.  Lara is 15-for-58 (.259) with just two doubles in his hit streak.


SS Yunier Castillo (.240) had a good week and has a 4-game hit streak (.333).  In three games this week, the slick fielding 20-year-old was 4-for-12 (.333) with two doubles and his first home run.  Castillo is the only hitter who has yet to take a walk this year (104 at-bats and 25 strikeouts).


Who's Not Hot (Hitters)


Matt Rigoli (.143), Hector Alvarez (.241), and Christian Beatty (.176) were each hitless in limited playing time.  Audry Perez (.214) did not play. 


Who's Hot (Pitchers)


Jesse Simpson (2-0, 1.50 ERA) is 1st among the ten starters in ERA (24 IP) and is the only starter with an ERA and WHIP (0.88) near one.  Simpson is leading all 17 pitchers in batting average allowed (.176).  Simpson lacks 3.1 IP from being ranked second in the league in both ERA and WHIP.   


Justin Smith (1-1, 3.70 ERA) is 2nd on the team in walks plus hits per inning pitched (WHIP) at 1.03 and is 1st in SO/9 (13.7).  Smith lacks 3 IP from being ranked among the league leaders in strikeouts. 


Reynier Gonzalez (2-3, 5.26 ERA) doesn't have good overall statistics however, as a starter he is very good.  As a starter, Gonzalez is 2-1 with a 2.66 ERA and a .216 batting average allowed.  As a reliever, Gonzalez is 0-2 with a 15.19 ERA and a .424 batting average allowed.  Gonzalez would likely be one pitcher to vote against the tandem starting pitcher system. 


Andy Moss (0-1, 2.10 ERA) is 3rd among the starters in batting average allowed (.213).  Moss is third among the starters in ERA and WHIP (1.10).  Moss is in the top ten of the Appalachian League in three categories:  ERA (3rd), WHIP (10th), and holds (6th). 


Closer David Kington (2-1, 5.23 ERA) is leading the league in saves (6), is 2nd in games finished (11), and is 4th in games (12).  Kington has not allowed a home run in 10.1 IP.  Kington is 1st among the relievers in WHIP (1.16).   


Reliever Jose Rada (2-0, 2.40 ERA) leads the relievers in ERA and is second among the relievers in WHIP (1.20).  Rada has allowed only two hits and one walk in his last 4.1 IP (four strikeouts).      


Who's Not Hot (Pitchers)


Michael Thompson (0-1, 5.40 ERA) has allowed a double digit ERA in 3 of his last 4 appearances.  Thompson is the losing pitcher of record in the 8-3 suspended game this week and has allowed a .370 batting average this year (without the suspended game data of six hits and six earned runs allowed in 1.1 IP). 


Week Seven Schedule


These are educated guesses on my part since I didn't have a chance to talk to pitching coach Doug White.


Game 40 (Sun):  Jesse Simpson followed by Cale Johnson vs. Bluefield Orioles

Monday:  Appy League scheduled off-day.

Game 35 (Tue):  Chris Notti – continuation of suspended game "@" Elizabethton Twins

Game 41 (Tue):  Justin Smith – vs. Elizabethton Twins

Game 36 (Wed):  Anthony Ferrara – rescheduled "@" to "vs." Elizabethton Twins

Game 42 (Wed):  Michael Thompson – vs. Elizabethton Twins

Game 37 (Thu):  Randy Santos – rescheduled "@" to "vs." Elizabethton Twins

Game 43 (Thu):  John Durham – vs. Elizabethton Twins

Game 44 (Fri):  Andy Moss followed by Reynier Gonzalez – @ Kingsport Mets

Game 45 (Sat):  Cale Johnson followed by Jesse Simpson – @ Kingsport Mets



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