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.
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.
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
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
“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 also welcomes in new trainer Eric
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
Beach team by
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.
Closer Kenny Maiques anchors one
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
*Pitchers Elvis Hernandez, Kris
Honel and Tyler Norrick will start the season on the DL.
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
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
Beach, a definite decline from his
production with the Quad Cities.
Beach is high on the tall lefty and
even when he is not hitting, he provides an exceptional glove at first.
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
Beach, where he enjoyed some
success. He hit .252 with five home
runs and 31 RBI in 91 games with Palm
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.
As aforementioned, the third base
position will probably be a revolving door this season in
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
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
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
Daryl Jones rounded out
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.
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