Stephen Cardullo came out of nowhere this spring to claim a roster spot within the Colorado Rockies organization. He seems rather intent on keeping that spot.
The left fielder went 2-for-3 with a home run and two RBI as the host Albuquerque Isotopes rolled to a 7-3 victory over the Reno Aces on Friday night. The win gave Albuquerque (10-6) its fifth straight win and a series sweep of Reno (5-10).
“We have a great group of guys, a lot of talent in this clubhouse,” Cardullo said. “Our manager keeps it light, we work hard and it’s great to be doing what we’re doing, playing how we’re playing.”
Cardullo, 28, played just two seasons of affiliated ball with the Arizona Diamondbacks organization in 2010 and 2011. He appeared in 81 games with the rookie-level Missoula Osprey.
He spent 2012 in the independent Frontier League before joining Rockland of the independent CanAm League in 2013. The Rockies signed him to a minor-league contract during the offseason and gave him a chance to prove himself.
“It’s been a long road,” Cardullo said. “I’ve had great support for my family and I’ve fortunately been playing in a great organization the last three years with the Rockland Boulders.
“It’s been perseverance and hoping that if I put the work in and then hopefully (I’ll) get the opportunity. I’m fortunate the Rockies gave me the opportunity and I’m grateful.”
That attitude, work ethic and general sense of perseverance is something Cardullo has brought to the Isotopes. Hill couldn’t be happier to have someone like that around the rest of his players.
“One thing I know about him is he’s always believed he could hit,” Hill said. “And so the way that he’s worked hard and worked his way up is reflected if you just come watch him one day, he does not take minutes off.
“He does not take minutes off. I’ve never been around a guy that’s so intense like that.”
Cardullo walked and later scored as part of the Isotopes’ five-run first inning. Albuquerque scored five or more runs in one inning in each of its wins over Reno.
In the fifth, Cardullo cranked out his first Triple-A home run, a solo shot that landed between the Aces’ bullpen and the scoreboard in left-center. He would add an RBI single in the seventh.
“You can’t take anything for granted in this game,” Cardullo said of his approach. “You look at some of the best players in the game and they’re some of the hardest workers.”
The Isotopes also got another quality start out of right-hander Eddie Butler (2-0). He allowed three runs, two earned, on nine hits and one walk while striking out four.
Combining solid starting pitcher with that propensity for big offensive innings early in games has created a winning recipe for Albuquerque. The Isotopes have now won nine of their last 11 games.
“I think that they are focused on maximizing on their opportunity,” Hill said. “I said out of spring training the strength of our team is energy and they’ve got a lot of energy.”
Now an eight-game road trip looms, beginning with Las Vegas on Saturday at 8:05 p.m. Right-hander Matt Flemer (1-0, 3.86 ERA) will start for Albuquerque against 51s right-hander Carlos Pimentel (0-2, 7.00).