WOODBRIDGE When St. Louis Cardinals farm director Bruce Manno was at Pfitzner Stadium in May, he didn’t like what he saw. But he was watching those other Potomac Cannons, not the second-half version.
“Any time you finish under .500, you’re disappointed,” Manno said Thursday from Potomac manager Joe Cunningham’s office. “I know I was, the manager was and the players were. This half, though, we have something meaningful to play for every day here. That makes a big difference.”
Potomac finished the first half of the Class A Carolina League season with a 24-46 record. The Cannons, though, have Northern Division playoff aspirations with a 20-18 start to the second half.
The second-half club improved to two games over .500 with a 3-2 win over Winston-Salem in front of an announced crowd of 2,673 at Pfitzner Stadium. Mark Burnett doubled and tripled in a game won by reliever Jeremy Cook (4-7) and saved by John Novinsky. Burnett drove home two runs and Johnny Hernandez the other for Potomac. Hernandez also made a diving catch in left field to end the game.
Wilmington won the first half, so all Potomac has to do is finish ahead of Lynchburg and Frederick to reach the postseason. Entering Thursday night, the Cannons trailed Lynchburg by two games and led Frederick by three.
Since the Carolina League all-star break in mid-June, Manno and the Cardinals’ organization have made several adjustments to Potomac’s roster. Eleven current Cannons weren’t on the active roster seven weeks ago. Of those 11, four were promoted from low Class A Peoria, three were picked up as free agents, two came off the disabled list and two were acquired in trades.
Right-handed starter Dan Haren, one of the four call-ups from the Chiefs, has helped stabilize Potomac’s staff by going 3-3 with a 3.10 ERA in eight starts. He has been a workhorse at Potomac and Peoria, where he went 7-3 with a 1.95 ERA. “We’re really being cautious with him,” Manno said. “We’re looking a little bit at his pitches and innings. Physically, he has a chance to be an innings-type guy [as a major leaguer]. He’s had a real good season.”
Meanwhile, Wednesday’s major league non-waiver trade deadline passed without any Cannons being dealt. Aside from dealing for Philadelphia third baseman Scott Rolen, St. Louis stayed pat for its stretch run.
“We’ve had so much dialogue with various clubs the last few weeks,” Manno said. “We made the Rolen deal. Right now, we felt we were better off staying where we were and seeing what developed.”
NOTES: The first 1,000 fans at tonight’s game, the second of a four-game set between the Cannons and Winston-Salem, will receive a Barry Bonds bobblehead doll. The major leagues’ single-season home-run record holder made his minor league debut with the Prince William Pirates in 1985, hitting 13 home runs in 254 at-bats. … Burnett, a second baseman, returned to the Cannons’ lineup Thursday night after being demoted from Double-A New Haven. He stole seven bases and hit .233 with a homer and 15 RBI in 146 at-bats in an earlier stint this year with Potomac. To make room for Burnett, reliever Damon Ponce De Leon was released. Ponce De Leon was 2-3 with a 6.42 ERA in 40 2/3 innings.