Gulf Coast League Cardinals Notebook: Week 3

Plans for Max Foody's professional debut, scouting reports on Silfredo Garcia, Fidencio Flores and Norge Paredes plus more news from the back fields of Jupiter, Florida about the Cardinals' Gulf Coast League club.

Comings and goings
RHP Anderson Gerdel was promoted to Class A Advanced Palm Beach. Gerdel made four relief appearances in the GCL and, strangely enough, got the decision in each, including three wins.

RHPs Joey Donofrio and Cesar Aguilar were promoted to Johnson City.

OF Anthony Bryant arrived from Johnson City.

LHP Max Foody, a 6-foot-3, 220-pound high school graduate of the IMG Baseball Academy in Bradenton, arrived after being enticed out of a commitment to the University of Florida. As a sophomore, Foody was a Perfect Game Underclass First Team All-American before suffering a torn labrum. The labrum has been surgically repaired and is fine now, Foody said. The Cardinals' 12th-round pick last month is scheduled to make his professional debut on Friday in a start against the Marlins.

RHP Chris Perry, a 6-foot-2, 215-pound junior out of Division III Methodist University who was the Cardinals' 17th-round pick last month, was signed and assigned to GCL. Like Wacha, Perry had a heavy workload of innings in his college season, so the Cardinals will probably bring him along slowly.

RHP Arturo Toribio was released.

Weekly Recap
The GCL Cardinals (14-4) won all of their seven games this past week, extending their winning streak to eight games and opening a six-game lead in the East Division over the Astros and Marlins, while the Nationals are eight games back. Though he has yet to appear in a game, Cardinals lefty pitcher Max Foody claimed some credit for the win streak, noting that his teammates haven't lost since he arrived in Jupiter on June 25 after driving about 270 miles from his home in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

Marlins manager Jorge Hernandez said before Saturday's game that he thought his team was about equal in strength to the Astros and Nationals this season, but that the Cardinals are much better. It isn't only the pitching where the Cardinals have an edge, Hernandez said. They are bigger and faster, too. After lagging behind the pitchers in the first two weeks, Cardinals hitters came alive, averaging 6.4 runs per game, while the pitchers, helped by solid defense, allowed only 2.7 runs.

In the Cardinals' seven games this week, they were actually outhit 63 to 62, but outscored opponents 45 to 19 and made only six errors to the opponents' 12. And though they were outhit, barely, Cardinals batters walked 59 times while their pitchers handed out only 37 free passes.

The two wins over the Marlins are not only a study in contrast, but illustrate how hot the Cardinals are.

The Cardinals eked out a 1-0 win on Friday behind another outstanding pitching performance by Silfredo Garcia, a 20-year-old Venezuelan who on the previous Saturday had shut down the Marlins for six innings on one hit with 10 strikeouts.

This time, though, the Marlins were more aggressive against the side-arming right-hander, swinging earlier in the count and making more of an effort to put the ball in play. Garcia didn't log any strikeouts until the fifth inning, then he fanned three in a row at the bottom of the order.

Instead, he induced 12 ground balls, while allowing only four singles. So of the 18 outs Garcia recorded, 13 were on ground balls, three on strikeouts, one a caught stealing, one a line out to third and another a line out to left. Both line outs came in the first inning.

Amazingly, Garcia has yet to walk any batters while striking out 27 in 23-1/3 innings over four starts.

Josh Renfro and Chris Thomas finished up, allowing three more singles. Only once in the game did a Marlins runner reach third base.

The 10-3 win Saturday was almost 180 degrees different, just like the wind that almost invariably blows in at the Marlins field and out at the Cardinals field.

Kender Villegas, another Venezuelan right-hander identical in size to Garcia but almost two years younger, started for the Cardinals. They gave him a 1-0 lead in the first on a single by Luis Perez that scored Anthony Bryant, who had singled and stolen second.

Four Marlins batters barreled up on Villegas pitches, scoring three runs on two long doubles and two home runs.

Then the Cardinals sent 14 batters to the plate in their half of the second to score nine and take control of the game. Key hits in the extended rally were three-run homers by Bryant and Ronnierd Garcia. After two innings, Bryant was a triple shy of a cycle, though he was 0-for-2 the rest of the way. Corderious Dodd, batting ninth and hitting only .120 before the game, had three singles and two RBI. Most importantly, two of the right-handed Dodd's hits were up the middle and the third was a liner to right, indicating he might not be trying to pull the ball on every swing.

A Closer Look at …
By the end of the GCL season, we will have at least one report on every player who appears in a GCL Cardinals game. These assessments are based on interviews with Cardinals minor-league pitching coordinator Brent Strom and GCL Cardinals pitching coach Tim Leveque.

Silfredo Garcia: A couple weeks shy of his 21st birthday, the 6-foot-2, 170-pound Venezuelan right-hander is becoming more confident and more aggressive with each outing. "He wants to dominate; it's his nature," said Strom, who first saw Garcia in 2010 in the Venezuelan Summer League.

His fastball sits on 90 and touches 92, but the late movement he gets from his low three-quarters arm angle along with a deceptive delivery that Strom described as "a lot of assholes and elbows," makes it especially tough on right-handed batters, but also effective on lefty hitters. He keeps the ball down in the zone, making it hard to hitters to hit the ball in the air.

Garcia needs to work more on his breaking pitch, which Strom calls a "slurve, because it's hard to define as a slider or curve." Leveque added Garcia's changeup is his second-best pitch, in part because "a breaking ball is difficult for his arm angle."

Fidencio Flores: Though he is currently in the starting rotation, the 20-year-old right-hander will settle for becoming the second-best pitcher from Nicaragua, Strom said, referring to "El Presidente" Dennis Martinez, the former major-league who is pitching coach for the Palm Beach Cardinals. Flores, who wants to become "Senor Vice Presidente," profiles more as a reliever than starter because of his size and delivery, Strom said. Flores is listed at 160 pounds and has to get on his tiptoes to reach the 6-feet the roster says he stands.

"He has some arm action issues we need to clear up," Strom said. "If we can't get those changed, it's better that he pitches in relief as a matter of his long-term health." In the meantime, though, Flores competes very well, working side to side with a fastball that touches 92 and a breaking pitch (more curveball than slider) "that he's not afraid to throw in any situation or count," Leveque said, adding that at this point, Flores' changeup needs the most improvement. In 13 innings over three starts, Flores has allowed nine hits and two walks while striking out 15.

Norge Paredes: The 21-year-old Dominican has been almost unhittable in his first six GCL outings, covering 10-2/3 innings. Only five hits and three walks allowed while fanning 15.

Paredes stands 6-foot-3 and pitches at least that tall, throwing his 89-92 mph fastball on a downward plane with a short, natural cut, Leveque said. Paredes made strides with his 72-74 mph curveball during extended spring training and is showing more confidence as a result. "He's pitching with more confidence and conviction," Leveque said. "Before, any problems were related to mind-set, not stuff, and it translates to his aggressiveness on the mound."

Though Paredes is tied for the team lead in saves with Johnny Polanco, no one has been designated the team's closer. Paredes "has had some two-inning stints as the bridge," Strom said. "We don't really want to limit guys to one-inning stints all the time. We're trying to get him multiple innings and get all these guys equal use."

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