The Johnson City Cardinals finished
the week (Tuesday, June 17 through Saturday, June 21) with a record of four
wins and one loss. They are
currently tied for first place in the five-team Western Division of the
Appalachian League with the Elizabethton Twins.
In the ten-team Appy League, the
offense currently ranks last in strikeouts (61) and eighth in batting average
(.240) while ranking second in both walks (22) and stolen bases (six). The team ranks between fourth and
seventh in all other offensive categories except wins (four). The pitching ranks between fourth and
seventh in all categories except saves (three – tied for first) and wins (four –
tied for first).
I attended four of the first five
games in person and those observations provide the basis for this report. Game Two was the only game I was unable
to attend so I am 4-0 so far.
Thirty-one of the thirty-four players
on the roster played during the first five games. Catcher Rickey Noland and 1B Curt Smith
have yet to play and OF Brian Buck is still rehabbing in Florida.
The Week in Review
Winning the close ones was the theme
of the Week One. Good fundamental
baseball and good pitching from nine of the ten tandem starters helped the team
win the close contests this week.
Game One: Win 6-3 (12 innings). The Cardinals
Minor League Notebook 06/18.
Game Two: Loss 5-8. The Cardinals
Minor League Notebook 06/19.
Game Three: Win 4-3 (10 innings). The Cardinals
Minor League Notebook 06/20.
Game Four: Win 5-4. The Cardinals
Minor League Notebook 06/21.
Game Five: Win 7-6. The Cardinals
Minor League Notebook 06/22.
SS/3B-Guillermo Toribio leads the Appy
League in stolen bases with five.
The next closest thief has three.
Toribio swiped his first two off a rehabbing pitcher in the third inning
of Game One. Toribio stole both
second and third base off a pitcher who wasn’t really paying any attention to
him. He got outstanding jumps on
both steals. The steal of third was
on a caught foul tip-strike three that slowed the throw from the catcher.
Toribio’s steal of second base in the
twelfth inning of Game One came with a runner on third. The catcher intentionally faked his
throw to second in fear that the go-ahead run might score on the throw to
Toribio swiped two more bases in Game
Three. His fourth of the year came
on a nearly-wild 1-2 pitch with two outs in the second inning that garnered no
throw attempt from the catcher. His
fifth stolen base came in the seventh inning on a 1-0 pitch with two outs. The throw was in plenty of time but a
short hop throw from the catcher skipped over the shortstop’s glove and into
I was able to time two batters who ran
full speed to first base on infield batted balls. Left-handed batter-OF Paul Cruz was
timed at 4.43 seconds on a close double play in the tenth inning of Game One
while switch-hitter Guillermo Toribio, while batting right handed in his first
at-bat of Game Five, was timed at 4.42 seconds on an infield single off the
plate. That gives a slight
advantage to Toribio.
There were four this week with the
biggest one being C-Ivan Castro’s two-run bomb in the top of the ninth with the
Cardinals trailing Bristol 2-1.
Game One: Jarred Bogany - ~370’ opposite field
solo home run on an 0-1 pitch in the top of the sixth to give the Cardinals a
Game Three: Ivan Castro - ~350’ clutch line drive
pulled over the left field wall.
Game Three: Edgar Lara - ~325’ opposite field shot
that barely cleared the wall.
Game Four: Jairo Martinez - ~360’ pulled over the
left field wall in Johnson
Mostly because I track them and
because the box score doesn’t, I thought I would include them for the tandem
starters for the games I attended.
Deryk Hooker – 70 pitches, 46 strikes,
13 of 17 first-pitch strikes.
Brett Zawacki – 54 pitches, 34
strikes, 11 of 16 first-pitch strikes.
Matt North – 64 pitches, 42 strikes,
11 of 19 first-pitch strikes.
Jon Bravo – 46 pitches, 30 strikes, 11
of 15 first-pitch strikes.
Reynier Gonzalez – 68 pitches, 43
strikes, 8 of 19 first-pitch strikes.
Kevin Thomas – 45 pitches, 32 strikes,
10 of 13 first-pitch strikes.
Randy Santos – 74 pitches, 47 strikes,
12 of 16 first-pitch strikes.
Adam Veres – 35 pitches, 22 strikes, 3
of 8 first-pitch strikes.
· Edgar Lara’s outfield assist in Game
One was impressive. Lara unleashed
a perfect throw to third base after making a routine catch in right field to
complete a double play. The play
occurred in a tie game in the bottom of the eighth inning. Lara cleared the bench with that inning
ending play of the day.
Brett Lilley made two web gems in the same inning in Game Three while playing second
base. The first one was a bouncing
up-the-middle grounder that required an off balance, across-the-body
leaping-throw from center field.
Very nice! Then three
batters later, Lilley may have made an even better play. A sharply hit, low roller up the middle
required a diving backhand stop and a shovel from his belly to Niko Vasquez for
a nice force out to end the inning.
Lilley has also shown that he has no problem turning double plays while
absorbing a lot of contact at second base.
Sanchez started a very nice double play in the bottom of the tenth inning of
Game Three. A bouncing groundball
up the middle took a last second bad hop that Vasquez deftly fielded and then
backhanded to Lilley to start a double play. Quick reflexes and soft hands were just
what were needed to execute that key game-deciding play in a close game.
Travis Mitchell executed a perfect suicide squeeze bunt with one out in the bottom of
the ninth with the bases loaded in a tie game on Saturday night to complete the
“Game of the Week”. Joey Hage led
off the inning with a clutch single and later scampered home when the best
bunter on last year’s team got the sign on a 0-1
of this year’s team appears to be a little bit better than last year’s team in
the early going. The team
appears to be executing the fundamentals better than last year.
Bristol didn’t have their display working and Johnson City got theirs
working for Game Five. Santos was 86 to 88 miles
per hour (touching 91 in the third inning) while Adam Veres was consistently
86-88 MPH. Santos’ also featured a
very nice 70 to 73 MPH curve ball that he used as a strikeout pitch on at least
two occasions. Santos also threw an
occasional change-up or slider in the low 80’s that was rarely thrown for a
strike. Veres mixed an occasional
curve ball and change-up with his fastball but rarely threw them for
Players of the Week
Each week, I will select one position
player and one pitcher as the Johnson
City players of the week. This week, the position player is Niko
Vasquez (right) and the pitcher is Randy Santos.
Both competitions were tough this
week. Nine of the ten piggyback
starters pitched very well this week but Randy Santos’ statistics for those who
pitched five innings were just a little bit better than the others. Featuring both a two-seam sinking
fastball and a curve ball, Santos shutout the Kingsport Mets over five
innings on Saturday night while allowing only three singles and one walk. The right-hander recorded six strikeouts
and had two of his singles decided by the scorekeeper.
Ivan Castro was leading the race for
the position player of the week going into Saturday night’s game but a 2-for-5
night with a double and a run scored launched Niko Vasquez into a narrow
lead. Vasquez now leads the team in
several offensive categories with those with at least three games and ten
at-bats and has played solid defense in the field while displaying the soft
hands that many scouts noted before the Cardinals selected him with the
91st overall selection in the 2008 draft.
Almaraz on Travis Mitchell’s suicide squeeze bunt: “We start our early work (in batting
practice), our hitting-part of our practice with bunting, and making sure that
we are executing correctly, and that would be the end product today, executed
with an A+.”
Mitchell on the suicide squeeze:
“You would think he (the pitcher) would be throwing something in the dirt
(on the 0-1 pitch) but he came at me with a fastball down the middle so I had to
get it done.”
coach Tim Leveque on the piggyback starting system: “What will happen in the piggyback is…
the new guys will be on the back end of the piggyback for two consecutive
outings, so Veres, for example, who threw today, he will be on the back end of
the piggyback again, build him up a little bit more, and then when he goes out,
his third appearance, he will start.
I think the piggyback is here to stay - here (Johnson City)… as far as I
Coach Tim Leveque on pitch counts:
“We are going to leave them like this for a little bit. They are going to be able to earn some
more pitches. In time, once they’ve
proven that they can build it up, we’ll let them go a little bit more. In the context of that (the piggyback),
we may give them more pitches.”
coach Tim Leveque on mound visits after early trouble during the first five
games: “With a lot of these guys,
it is their first outing in professional baseball, the main thing you do is you
just calm them down, you just make them slow the game down, you just let the
game kind-of come to them, that’s the biggest thing, if you get a kid who’s just
drafted, and he’s pitching in his first pro game, he is going to get a little
amped, or a lot of the kids down in extended spring training for a few months,
they look forward to this all year.
Really it’s just, making them understand that it’s just another
game. You got to pitch your
game. That is the reason that got
you here. Just relax and have
coach Tim Leveque on the health of the pitching staff: “All the pitchers are healthy so
far. There are no problems
coach Tim Leveque on the closers:
“We’re going to be feeling out some guys and situations are going to
dictate it. We got some guys that
can close for us but we also got that same guy who can throw two/three innings
if we have to go extra innings, or if our starter falters and we need him to
give us more than one inning in a game.
In time, they are going to create their own roles. We have a good, good idea of our
bullpen. We are getting to learn
some of the newer guys that we’ve drafted.
We’ve got a few guys that can close games for us.”
Week Two Schedule
Brett Zawacki followed by Deryk Hooker
– Sunday vs. Kingsport Mets
Carlos Gonzalez followed by Mike
Blazek – Monday @ Greeneville Astros
Matt North followed by LHP Jon Bravo –
Tuesday @ Greeneville Astros
Reynier Gonzalez followed by Kevin
Thomas – Wednesday @ Greeneville Astros
Randy Santos followed by Adam Veres –
Thursday @ Elizabethton Twins
Deryk Hooker followed by Brett Zawacki
– Friday @ Elizabethton Twins
Mike Blazek followed by Carlos
Gonzalez – Saturday @ Elizabethton Twins
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