Palm Beach Cardinals Report – 2008 Preview

Local correspondent Herb Uzzi sets the stage for the 2008 edition of the Palm Beach Cardinals of the class A Florida State League.

With the St. Louis Cardinals returning back to the Midwest for the summer, Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Florida now belongs to the Class A-Advanced Palm Beach Cardinals – at least partly. 

 

Palm Beach kick-started their 2008 Florida State League campaign on Thursday, April 3, when they began a two-game set at Roger Dean Stadium against their stadium-sharing rivals, the Jupiter Hammerheads. The home Cards took both games by scores of 5-4 and 6-3.

 

Coaches

 

Manager Gaylen Pitts returns for his second season with the club, looking to build on a solid 2007 campaign that saw the Cardinals finish second in the FSL's East Division at 71-69 (.507).

 

Pitts, who in 2006 won a New York-Penn League short-season championship with the Staten Island Yankees, welcomes a brand-new coaching staff headlined by former longtime major leaguers Dennis Martinez and Keith Mitchell. 

 

Martinez, star pitcher for the former Montreal Expos, among other teams, earned the level promotion after serving in the same capacity last year for the Gulf Coast League Cardinals.

 

"El Presidente", as he was affectionately called throughout his stellar 22-year career, is perhaps best known for his 1991 perfect game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

 

Mitchell, who played with four different major league teams over his seven-year major league tenure, leaves his post as the manager of the Swing of the Quad Cities after two years to take over the hitting coach responsibilities for Palm Beach. 

 

Palm Beach also welcomes in new trainer Eric Bauer. 

 

The 2008 Palm Beach Cardinals will feature a 25-man acting roster, including seven players that were with the team last year.  Here is a look at the Palm Beach team by position:

 

Starting Pitchers

 

Tyler Herron earned the Opening Day start against the Hammerheads on April 3rd.  Herron, the 21-year-old right-hander, pitched effectively for Quad Cities last season, starting 22 games and compiling a 10-7 record with a 3.74 ERA.  

 

Fellow first-round pick Mark McCormick, one of the most heralded prospects in the Cardinals' organization, will also be in Palm Beach's starting rotation.  McCormick will be entering his first full season after coming off of shoulder surgery that limited him to only 7 2/3 innings in 2007.

 

The Cardinals will be using a tandem starter system to their top arms fresh and allow more players to prepare and compete as starting pitchers.  Pairings include Herron with Brandon Dickson, McCormick with Brad Furnish, Jess Todd with Kyle Sadlowski and David Kopp with Kyle Mura.

 

Mura, who set up Maiques last season in Quad Cities, was outstanding in 2007 in relief, amassing a 7-0 record with a 1.66 ERA over 59 innings. 

 

Relief Pitchers

 

Closer Kenny Maiques anchors one of Palm Beach's strongest units.  Maiques set a Quad Cities franchise record last year with 31 saves.  He recorded a 1.53 ERA and opposing hitters batted only .189 against him in his 53 innings of work. 

 

Marco Gonzalez is another name to watch coming out of the bullpen.  Gonzalez posted a 2-0 record with a 1.44 ERA last season between Low-A Batavia and the Quad Cities.  Josh Dew is expected to play a prominent pen role and delivered in early action with a win and a save in the first two games.

 

*Pitchers Elvis Hernandez, Kris Honel and Tyler Norrick will start the season on the DL. 

 

Catchers

 

The Cardinals will be carrying four catchers to start the 2008 season.  Starting catcher Nick Derba is coming off a stellar campaign in which he threw out 53 percent of would-be-base-stealers between.  Derba, drafted in 2007, has already been promoted two levels in his short professional career.

 

Third baseman Tony Cruz will also be seeing some time behind the plate.  Prior to this season, organization officials told Cruz that his best chance to make the major leagues would be as a catcher.  Cruz has embraced the change and spent most of the spring getting reacquainted with the position.  Still, Cruz will be the starting third-baseman on Opening Day, batting clean-up.

 

Steven Hill, who also plays first, and Casey Mulligan round out the catchers on the 2008 roster.

 

First Base

 

Brandon Buckman will be the Cardinals starting first baseman, which is where he finished the 2007 season.  After being called up from the Midwest League, Buckman batted .268 with five home runs and 27 RBIs for Palm Beach, a definite decline from his production with the Quad Cities.  Still, Palm Beach is high on the tall lefty and even when he is not hitting, he provides an exceptional glove at first. 

 

Second Base

 

Last year's third-round pick Daniel Descalso will be Palm Beach's Opening Day starter.  A natural third baseman, Descalso will probably be shifted around the horn when Cruz catches.  Last season in Batavia (250 ABs), Descalso hit .268 with five triples and 12 stolen bases, knocking in 31 runs. 

 

Isa Garcia will be spelling Descalso at second, and most likely filling in when Descalso plays third.  Garcia ended his 2007 season with Palm Beach, where he enjoyed some success.  He hit .252 with five home runs and 31 RBI in 91 games with Palm Beach. 

 

Shortstop

 

20-year-old Donovan Solano will get the nod at shortstop for Palm Beach this season.  Solano played 82 games for the Quad Cities last year, before being called up to Palm Beach for the final 50.  In the FSL, the native Colombian hit only .209 with 11 RBI. 

 

Solano will be backed-up by Oliver Marmol, the Cardinals' sixth-round pick in the 2007 draft. 

 

Third Base

 

As aforementioned, the third base position will probably be a revolving door this season in Palm Beach.  Tony Cruz will get the Opening Day start, but Daniel Descalso is sure to see a good share of the time there.  Palm Beach carries only five infielders, so expect to see all of them, except for Buckman, play here at one point.

 

Outfielders

 

Tyler Henley was the starting right fielder and lead-off hitter on Opening Day.  Henley has climbed the minor league ladder since being drafted in the June 2007 draft.  He spent time with both the Batavia Muckdogs and the Swing of the Quad Cities last season, but the left-handed hitter will be entering his first full season of pro-ball.

 

Tommy Pham is Palm Beach's starter in center field and their number two hitter.  Pham, who just turned 20, will be looking to raise his .188 career average in 81 minor league games.

 

Daryl Jones rounded out Palm Beach's Opening Day outfield in left field, making his FSL debut.  Jones was named the organization's fastest baserunner by Baseball America last season.  Despite hitting just .217 in 127 games with Quad Cities, he still managed to steal 22 bases.

 

Nathan Southard is the Cardinals' fourth outfielder to begin the season.

 

*Jim Rapoport will start the season on the DL. 

 

 

Note: Don't miss these reports all season long from our on-site reporters in the Cardinals minor league affiliate towns – Memphis, Springfield, Palm Beach, Quad Cities and Johnson City. They're at the games reporting back weekly to our Scout.com subscribers on all the local team happenings. So, join now for the most comprehensive Cardinals minor league coverage anywhere!

 

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