In the Triple-A All-Star Game at Lehigh Valley, PA on Wednesday night, the home International League came back with two runs in the sixth inning to defeat the Pacific Coast League in the pitching-dominated contest by a 2-1 score. Each team managed just five hits as the staffs combined for 16 strikeouts.
The Cardinals organization had three representatives in the game – pitchers Brandon Dickson and Fernando Salas and hitting coach Mark Budaska, all representing the Memphis Redbirds.
The Pitcher of the Month in June as named by the Cardinals organization, Dickson ranks seventh in the PCL in ERA at 3.06 and is tied for fourth in the league with nine wins.
“I love that kid,” Budaska said. “He is an excellent competitor. He stays real calm. His mound presence is excellent and I think he is going to have a real good big league career.”
Dickson was called upon in fifth inning at Lehigh Valley and needed that presence. He yielded a leadoff single and wild pitched the pinch runner to second. The right-hander then bore down to retire the next three batters, including one on a strikeout, preserving the PCL’s 1-0 lead.
Salas, a 25-year-old right-hander who hails from Mexico, is 17-for-17 in save situations for the Redbirds and has impressed in three brief trials with St. Louis this season. On Monday, Salas was named the PCL Pitcher of the Week for the period of July 5-11.
“He has done well in commanding his slider better than last year and his changeup mixes off his fastball pretty good,” observed Budaska about Salas. “In his three-pitch mix, I think he has a couple of big league pitches and I think he has a chance to stick (in the majors).”
With the IL ahead by a 2-1 score in the bottom of the eighth, Salas came in firing strikes, fanning his first two batters without throwing a ball. He then yielded a single to his third hitter on a full-count offering before being removed from the game in favor of a left-hander. The runner was stranded as the PCL collected their final out.
The Cardinals actually had another 2010 All-Star who wasn’t present.
Tyler Greene was unable to fulfill his duties as the starting shortstop for the Pacific Coast League. The 27-year-old wasn’t complaining, however, as he is now receiving a trial as the starting shortstop on an even bigger stage – in the major leagues for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Greene’s 2009 double-play partner with Memphis, Jarrett Hoffpauir, moved in the other direction – off the All-Star roster and back on. Let go by the Cardinals during last off-season, the 27-year-old joined the Toronto Blue Jays system for 2010. Hoffpauir tore the cover off the ball for Las Vegas, hitting .328 with a .532 slugging percentage, and came in second in the International League All-Star voting.
When the Jays demoted disappointing third baseman Edwin Encarnacion on June 21, Hoffpauir was called upon not only to make his Toronto debut, but also become the everyday starter at the hot corner. It wouldn’t last long, as on July 2 with Hoffpauir batting .214, the two reversed places again. With Hoffpauir back in Triple-A, he re-qualified for the All-Star Game, in which he batted second for the IL and went 1-for-3 with a walk.
In addition to the players mentioned above, several other players with Cardinals and St. Louis area ties appeared in Wednesday night’s contest.
Pitcher Clayton Mortensen was St. Louis’ supplemental first-round pick, taken 36th overall in the 2007 draft. Less than a month after his MLB debut, the right-hander was part of the Matt Holliday trade with the Oakland A’s last July. His ten wins for Sacramento this season is tied for the PCL lead and his 80 strikeouts is ranked fourth. During the game, Mortensen pitched a scoreless third inning for the PCL.
Hoffpauir's Las Vegas teammate, third baseman Brett Wallace, was named to the PCL team as a reserve, but suffered a wrist injury over the weekend and was unable to play. Like Mortensen, Wallace went to Oakland in the Holliday trade and during the off-season was dealt again to Toronto. He was originally taken by the Cardinals with their first-round pick in the 2008 draft.
Leading off for the Pacific Coast League was Lindbergh graduate and former Mizzou player Brock Bond. The second baseman for Fresno (San Francisco) is an All-Star for the second consecutive season, having previously been recognized in the Double-A Eastern League in 2009. In two at-bats Wednesday, Bond went hitless.
Infielder Hector Luna was a Rule 5 pick by the Cardinals prior to the 2004 season and started both that year and the next on the big league roster. He was traded to Cleveland at the July deadline in 2006 for Ronnie Belliard and has bounced around the fringes of the majors ever since. Now playing for New Orleans (Florida), Luna pinch hit for Bond in the fifth and took over at third base as Hoffpauir moved to second base. Luna went 0-for-2 at the plate.
The reserve catcher for the Pacific Coast League was Albuquerque’s Lucas May, a graduate of Parkway West High in Ballwin. The Dodgers farmhand, promoted from Double-A earlier this season, has an even more impressive All-Star record than Bond. May has been named to his league’s showcase four consecutive years (2009 Southern League, 2008 Southern League, 2007 California League).
May pinch-hit in the eighth inning and struck out, one of nine collected by an International League staff that was a bit too much for the PCL hitters on this evening.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at email@example.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Brian pens a column each Wednesday at the St. Louis Globe-Democrat and selected TCN content appears at FOXSportsMidwest.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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