Peoria Chiefs Notebook: 2014 Week 1

Number two hitter Mason Katz is off to a hot start

The St. Louis Cardinals Single-A club started the 2014 Midwest League season 2-2. Despite uneven play, the Peoria Chiefs logged a pair of road wins at the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Milwaukee).

Note: Our team notebooks are offered free for week one, but throughout the season, they will be available exclusively for subscribers to The Cardinal Nation. For additional details on our locally-based team reporters from across the Cardinals system, click here.

The week that was

This report covers the period from Thursday, April 3 to Monday, April 7.

The Peoria Chiefs bring a new manager and a new attitude to their 2014 season, as the team looks to rebound from a disappointing second half of 2013.

The team opened its season under new skipper Joe Kruzel by splitting a four-game road series with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Milwaukee) over the weekend. The Rattlers were the 2012 Midwest League Champions, but the team struggled in 2013 and posted a 59-76 record.

The Chiefs won the first game of the series on Thursday and got an unexpected off day Friday when the game was postponed due to wet conditions. They lost Saturday night but won the first game of two seven-inning doubleheaders Sunday. Errors came back to haunt them in the nightcap loss.

Game Summaries

Thursday, April 3: Peoria Chiefs 8 at Wisconsin Timber Rattlers 4
The Chiefs' offense came out of the gate slowly in the team's opener, but when it finally clicked, it erupted for six runs in the seventh inning. The team was held to just one hit total in the first five innings but put runs on the board in each of the next three.

Mason Katz led the Chiefs' offense with a pair of hits, both doubles, in four at-bats that resulted in three RBI. He also walked once and scored a run.

Starter Jimmy Reed went five innings, giving up just one run on four hits while striking out four. He was relieved by Arturo Reyes, who got the win despite giving up two runs during his two innings pitched. Chris Perry pitched the final two innings out of the Chiefs' bullpen, which gave up three of Wisconsin's four runs and half of their eight hits.

Saturday, April 5: Wisconsin Timber Rattlers 8, Peoria Chiefs 4
The Chiefs struck first in the second game of the series, plating a run in the third inning on a single by Michael Schulze. He moved to second on a single by C.J. McElroy Jr., who was promptly picked off first. A sac fly and then a Carson Kelly triple gave the Chiefs the lead.

The lead did not last long, however, as outfielder Kenny Peoples-Walls made the team's first error of the season. He dropped a bases-loaded sac fly, allowing another run to score. An RBI single made it 3-1 Wisconsin.

Reliever Blake McKnight allowed four runs in his two innings of work however, and the team could not come back from that deficit. Infielder Juan Herrera picked up two hits and an RBI in the loss.

Sunday, April 6 (Game 1): Peoria Chiefs 3 at Wisconsin Timber Rattlers 2
The Chiefs got an effectively wild effort from 19 year old Alex Reyes in the first game of the doubleheader. He went five scoreless innings, walked seven, and struck out six.

The Chiefs took advantage of a first inning error when Mason Katz crushed a 2-1 pitch out of the stadium and gave the team a 2-0 lead. They added a third run in the fifth when three two-out hits led to and RBI single by Kenny Peoples-Walls.

Kevin Herget gave up two unearned runs in his two innings of work, earning his first career save. He walked two, struck out one and surrendered three hits.

Sunday, April 6 (Game 2): Wisconsin Timber Rattlers 3, Peoria Chiefs 1
Two more unearned runs led to the Chiefs' downfall in the nightcap of the doubleheader. After a Katz homer tied the game at 1, Cesar Valera's error put runners on the corners with one out in the sixth inning. A ground ball to Katz gave Wisconsin a 2-1 lead, but the throw home got away from the catcher and sent the runner to third. A single made the score 3-1.

Starter Chase Brookshire took the loss, giving up one earned run on four hits in 5 2/3 innings. He did not walk a batter and struck out five. Chris Thomas retired the last Wisconsin batter with a strikeout.

The Chiefs committed four errors in the doubleheader, leading to four unearned runs. With outfielder Jimmy Bosco starting in game two, all of the team's position players have played in 2014.

Opening Daze

The victory over Wisconsin moved the Chiefs to 15-17 all-time in openers. It also evened their record against Wisconsin in opening games to 3-3. The eight runs put up by the team in the win were the most by the team since they put up nine in a 9-5 win over Appleton in 2007.

Walk This Way

Prior to Reyes walking seven batters in game three of the series, the last time a Chiefs pitcher walked seven in a game was in May 2011, when Cubs farmhand Cam Greathouse walked seven in a 7-3 loss to the Kane County Cougars.

Who's Hot

Mason Katz. Just four games into the season, it's a bit early to judge how a player is doing. But one could not start off much better from a power standpoint than has Katz. The number two hitter is only batting .250 (4-for-16) to start, but all four hits have been for extra bases, and his two home runs have been the only ones hit by the Chiefs so far this year.

Alex Reyes. The top-10 Cardinals prospect had an excellent start for the team over the weekend, pitching 5 innings of shutout ball in a winning effort. Reyes struck out six, and while the seven walks were a bit of an issue, he found a way to get out of the jams. If the 19-year-old can cut down drastically on the free passes, he is in line to have a great season for the Chiefs.

Who's Not

Jake Stone. Stone has collected just two hits in his first twelve at-bats to start the 2014 season. While he has drawn more walks (3) than strikeouts (2), he has not yet found his groove at the plate. Of course, at just four games into the season, not a lot of hitters have. But for Stone, who hit .298 with the GCL Cardinals in 2013 and is making a big jump in competition, it is worth watching early on to make sure the struggles don't turn into a long-term issue.

Blake McKnight. The right-hander only appeared in one of the four games, but he wasn't all that effective in it. McKnight gave up four runs on four hits in two innings of work. He did not record a strikeout and walked a pair of batters. McKnight's minor league track record suggests his performance this weekend is not going to be a regular occurrence, but rather a first shaky outing at a new level.

Transactions

None.

Injuries

Catcher Gerwuins Velazco (knee) was placed on the 7-day disabled list, effective April 2.

Team stats – Season to date

It is really too early to draw conclusions from these stats.

Offense Season # MWL rank of 16
BA 0.234 9th
Runs 16 T-7th
OPS 0.648 10th
Doubles 5 9th
HR 2 T-3rd
Steals 4 9th
     
Pitching Season # MWL rank of 16
ERA 3.60 9th
Strikeouts 22 2nd fewest
Walks 17 T-2nd most
HR allowed 3 T-2nd most
Saves 1 T-2nd most 

Midwest League Western Division Standings

In an oddity, all eight clubs in the division have the exact same record.

Club W L PCT GB L 10 Stk
Beloit Snappers (OAK) 2 2 0.5 - 2-2 W1
Burlington Bees (LAA) 2 2 0.5 - 2-2 L2
Cedar Rapids Kernels (MIN) 2 2 0.5 - 2-2 W1
Clinton LumberKings (SEA) 2 2 0.5 - 2-2 L1
Kane County Cougars (CHC) 2 2 0.5 - 2-2 L1
Peoria Chiefs (STL) 2 2 0.5 - 2-2 L1
Quad Cities River Bandits (HOU) 2 2 0.5 - 2-2 W1
Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (MIL) 2 2 0.5 - 2-2 W1

What's Next

After an off day Monday, Peoria will open its 2014 home schedule with a six-game homestand starting Tuesday night against the Dayton Dragons (Reds). Right-hander Nick Petree (3-1, 1.62 ERA in 2013) will start for the Chiefs against left hander Junior Morillo (4-4, 3.06 ERA). The Bowling Green Hot Rods (Rays) come to town Friday through Sunday.



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