Tandem starting ends early in Quad Cities

The fact that the tandem rotation is being dropped by the
Quad Cities River Bandits of the Midwest League two weeks earlier than last season apparently has nothing to do with the club’s recent struggles. According to a team official,

The Cardinals have traditionally done away with the piggyback system around mid-season, and I think the personnel on this pitching staff lent itself to doing so a bit earlier this year.”

He is correct in timing in that in 2008, the move away from the piggyback starting system in its third season of usage occurred at the break in mid-June. Palm Beach also recently ended their use of the tandem arrangement approximately three weeks sooner than in 2008.

The five Quad Cities starters going forward are Gary Daley, Brett Zawacki (pictured), Kevin Thomas, Hector Cardenas and Arquimedes Nieto. Adam Veres and Scott McGregor head to the pen. Andres Rosales had already been assigned there, but was kept in the starting mix due to a roster that has been in considerable flux.

Other starters unavailable include Josh Wilson, who apparently abruptly retired again, suspended Deryk Hooker and injured starters Jared Bradford and Jonny Bravo, both on the seven-day disabled list.

All the rotation turnover has to be a contributor to the River Bandits’ uneven season to date. Despite a 2009 home record that includes six home series victories against just two losses, the club is scuffling along with a 22-24 record overall.

They are currently carrying a season-long five-game losing streak with a 2-8 mark over their last ten games. The Bandits have struggled on the road all season long, with no series wins, four losses and two splits away from Modern Woodmen Park in 2009.

Some of the Quad Cities hitters have been ice cold, including shortstop Niko Vasquez, having gone just nine for his last 76 (.118), and key RBI man Osvaldo Morales. Since driving in 33 runs in his first 33 games, the big first baseman has just one RBI in his last ten contests and is batting 3-for-25 (.120) over his last eight.

Another factor behind the club’s struggles is their porous defense. The River Bandits have committed 19 errors in their last 11 games, leading to 19 unearned runs. They are tied with Clinton for last in the 14-team Midwest League in fielding percentage (.957).

The Bandits are 13th in errors with 73 and also 13th in total double plays turned (30). They are 13-19 this season when committing at least one error in a game, compared to a 9-5 record in their 14 error-free contests. Vasquez alone has ten miscues in his last 20 games.

After three games at Lansing this weekend, Quad Cities will wrap up their ten-game road stretch with a four-game commuter series against the Burlington Bees that runs Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday of next week.

The new-old five-man rotation starts Sunday with Daley taking the hill in Lansing. The other four will cover the Burlington series in this order: Zawacki, Thomas, Cardenas and Nieto. I plan to be there Friday to check out Nieto’s outing.

As always, for current rosters and the most up-to-date transactions at all levels of the Cardinals minor league system, don’t forget to check out the Roster Matrix.