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Minor league report: Cardinals first-round draftee Cooper Hjerpe K’s 7 in scoreless start

Issues with command that led to frequent walks and susceptibility to home runs that hurt Cooper Hjerpe through his first four MiLB starts were largely solved when the left-handed Cardinals pitching prospect took the mound on Wednesday.

Hjerpe completed a season-high 5 2/3 scoreless innings, allowed three hits, and struck out seven on 80 pitches (54 strikes) in his start for Class High-A Peoria. The start was the first time Hjerpe, 21, did not allow a home run and his one walk was the fewest he’s issued in an outing since he made his professional debut on April 7.

The 2022 first-round pick often found himself ahead early in counts against Wisconsin hitters and kept them hitless through the game’s first four innings. The first hit Hjerpe surrendered was a two-out double in the fifth inning after he had struck out the first two batters to begin the frame.

On the day, Hjerpe induced 17 swings-and-misses, per statcast, and struck out seven of the 14 batters he faced from the start of the second inning through the end of the fifth.

The outing lowered Hjerpe’s ERA to 4.98 over 21 1/3 innings and raised his strikeout total to 30, which was the fourth-most in the Midwest League and second-most for a Peoria pitcher behind righty Ian Bedell’s 31 in 16 innings by the end of Wednesday.

Along with Hjerpe’s start on Wednesday, these are some of the notable performances from around the Cardinals’ farm system:

Right-handed pitcher Michael McGreevy, Class AAA Memphis: In his second start in Class AAA just a little over a week after he made his debut at the level, McGreevy lasted 6 2/3 innings and gave up two runs on four hits against Jacksonville. McGreevy, who has tendencies to pitch to contact and induce a high groundball rate, induced just four swing-and-misses and got 14 groundouts to one flyout against the 26 batters he faced. Of the 21 balls put in play against the 2021 first-round pick, only six had exit velocities above 95 mph, per statcast.

The first run McGreevy gave up in his start came after he induced a groundball for a double play with runners on first and third base in the fourth inning. The other scored after rehabbing major leaguer Joey Wendle grounded to shortstop for a fielder’s choice with runners on first and third base in the sixth inning.

Right-handed pitcher Andre Pallante, Class AAA Memphis: Pallante allowed two runs on three hits over 1 2/3 innings of relief after McGreevy was removed from Memphis’s 6-5 win. After Pallante stranded two runners to end the seventh inning following his former San Clemente high school teammate’s departure, he worked around two singles for a scoreless eighth inning but was pulled after allowing a single and walk with one out in the ninth. Both runners Pallante was responsible for scored on a single and double allowed by Kyle Leahy.

Outfielder Joshua Baez, Class Low-A Palm Beach: Baez continued to swing his way out of an early season slump with a two-for-three performance that included a triple and one RBI. The two-hit game raised the 19-year-old’s average to .234 and OPS to .775 across 47 at-bats. Baez, who had gone three-for-26 (.115) in his first eight games to start 2023, is eight-for-21 (.381) in his last five games.

First baseman Luken Baker, Class AAA Memphis: The 26-year-old power-hitter clubbed his 11th home run of the season to tie him for the International League lead and put him one shy of the MiLB lead. The latest home run from Baker was a two-run blast that had a 108.8 mph exit velocity and traveled 384 feet, according to statcast. Baker added to his day with a double that had a 108.9 mph exit velocity as he improved his average to .323 and OPS to 1.189.

Right-handed pitcher Andre Granillo, Class AA Springfield: Across two innings of relief, Granillo allowed just two hits and no runs or walks, while striking out two batters in Springfield’s 7-5 loss to Arkansas. Granillo’s scoreless outing was his third-consecutive such performance after he was hit for six runs in just 1/3 of an inning on April 25. The 22-year-old’s recent stretch of effectiveness has chipped away at his season average, lowering it from 14.63 to 9.00.

Daniel Guerrero

@TheDanGuerrero on Twitter

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