2010 Memphis Redbirds Team Review

The Memphis Redbirds made the playoffs in two consecutive seasons for the first time, but failed to repeat as Pacific Coast League champions.

The start

 

2010 held great promise for the St. Louis Cardinals' Triple-A affiliate, defending Pacific Coast League champions. The coaching staff, headed by manager Chris Maloney, returned as did a number of their 2009 contributors.

 

The opening day staff was anchored by 2009 ace Evan MacLane and prospect Adam Ottavino, joined by MLB veteran Rich Hill, 2009 Cardinals organizational Pitcher of the Year Lance Lynn and unheralded Brandon Dickson, the latter two promoted from Double-A Springfield.

 

Bullpen headliners included MLB veteran Josh Kinney and youngsters Pete Parise and Fernando Salas. Lefties were Tyler Norrick and well-traveled Rich Rundles.

 

The roster looked strong up the middle with a group of returnees that included catchers Bryan Anderson and Matt Pagnozzi, the second base-shortstop combination of Daniel Descalso and Tyler Greene along with centerfielder Shane Robinson.

 

Set to flank Robinson in the outfield were rising prospects Jon Jay and Tyler Henley, up from Springfield.

 

Three Redbirds were out of action in early April. Starter P.J. Walters was on the temporary inactive list while first baseman Mark Hamilton (thumb) and swingman Trey Hearne (shoulder) began the season on the disabled list.

 

The regular season

 

The Redbirds began slowly with 14 of their first 22 on the road. A 9-13 April resulted, including a season-worst five-game losing streak. At that point, the club hit what would be their low point all season, seven games out of first place.

 

Momentum changed quickly. On the heels of an 18-10 May that included a sharp 11-5 home tally, the Redbirds entered June with a winning record overall and found themselves just two games off the American North division lead.

 

Despite a middling 15-14 June, the club actually picked up a game in the standings and had two stints in first place totaling six days during the month. The 49-42 first half ended with a July 11 home victory over Nashville that pulled the Redbirds into second place, just a half-game out. Walters earned the win and Salas collected his 16th save.

 

Home cooking was again key in July as the Redbirds took 12 of 16 at AutoZone Park and followed that up with a 13-5 home record in August. The latter included a huge seven-game winning streak fueled by a rare five-game series sweep over Round Rock (Houston).

 

On September 2, Memphis wrapped up a 8-1 homestand and recaptured a share of first place for the first time in almost two months, since July 9. They headed into Des Moines deadlocked with the Iowa Cubs, but owning the tie-breaker advantage due to a better divisional record.

 

That became important as the Redbirds dropped the final two before storming back to win a 15-inning marathon in Game 3 and eking out a 7-6 victory in the final regular season contest to earn a berth in the conference championship.

 

A historical view

 

With their 82-62 record, Memphis finished with their best record since the 2000 PCL champions finished at 83-61.

 

The Redbirds entered the post-season for the second consecutive year – something that had not been accomplished since the Cardinals moved their Triple-A affiliation to Memphis in 1998. It last happened in 1994-95 when the Cardinals were still in Louisville. Current St. Louis bench coach Joe Pettini was then the skipper.

 

The post-season

 

Strong starting pitching performances were key in the American Conference Championship Series as the Redbirds swept Oklahoma City (Texas) in three games. Dickson and Walters took the first two at home while Lynn earned the Game 3 victory on the road, fanning a team-record 16 in seven innings. Kinney saved two games. Ruben Gotay, Jim Rapoport and Donovan Solano all batted .545 or better in the first round. Link to detailed report on Round 1.

 

Up next was Tacoma (Seattle) in the PCL finals. In what appeared to be a huge advantage, all five games were scheduled at AutoZone with the Rainiers' field unavailable. Sadly, only slightly more than 4,000 fans per game turned out for what became a Tacoma sweep.

 

Just as pitching led the way in Round 1, it failed Memphis in the finals. Together, MacLane, Dickson and Walters yielded a total of 19 runs, 15 earned, in 13 2/3 innings to the Rainiers. Hamilton paced Memphis' offense with a .429 average, two home runs and six RBI in the three contests. Link to detailed report on Round 2.

 

Roster changes

 

Maloney and staff did a fine job through an amazing amount of churn. By my count, the Redbirds had at least 125 roster changes during the season. Obviously, there are too many to list individually, but here are a few of the highlights.

 

Salas set what I believe is a record, having been called up to St. Louis six times during the season. Walters was up three times, including a post-season call.

 

After starting the season on the major league roster, Allen Craig was recalled four times. Joe Mather also made the opening day roster in St. Louis, but after being optioned out in late May, didn't return until rosters expanded in September. Greene received the call three different times. Nick Stavinoha had three stints with the Redbirds, with one a rehab assignment.

 

Jay was really the only 2010 Redbird with MLB staying power as he stuck on his second time up, which began on July 3.

 

Despite a reliance on youngsters, the Cardinals also signed a number of major league veterans for the Redbirds. Especially on the pitching side, the results were middling at best. The former Cubs star Hill was moved to relief before being released in late June. Veteran lefty Renyel Pinto was added on July 1 after his release by Florida, essentially replacing Hill. Pinto was cut loose again on August 23.

 

Former Oakland A's reliever Andrew Brown was acquired from Washington on May 24. After injuring an oblique in July, he was released in August. Another Marlins castoff, left-handed starter Nate Robertson, was with the team for three weeks in August before securing his release.

 

Veteran minor league infielder Mike Folli was with the club for a month, up from Springfield, before being traded to the Tampa Bay organization on August 3. Emergency pitcher and reserve outfielder Mark Shorey was given his release in late July. Journeyman infielder Kevin Howard spent almost the entire season with Memphis before being suspended and then released in early September.

 

Several Springfield players received trials with the Redbirds only to be sent back down. They include pitchers David Kopp, Ryan Kulik and Trey Hearne along with outfielders Henley and Aaron Luna.  Swingman Chuckie Fick, relievers Eduardo Sanchez and Francisco Samuel along with outfielders Jim Rapoport and Adron Chambers were among the in-season additions that remained with Memphis.

 

Well-traveled outfielder Amaury Cazana was loaned to Minatitlan of the Mexican League for most of June and July, returning to the Redbirds for the stretch run.

 

Injuries

 

On the pitching side, Parise injured his shoulder before April was out, returned in May, but by the end of June was hurt again and missed the remainder of the season. Norrick also injured his shoulder in the season's first month and didn't work his way back to the Redbirds until late August. Hearne had continuing shoulder problems and ended up with Springfield after re-entering the DL in late May.

 

After missing most of April with the aforementioned thumb injury, Hamilton suffered a groin injury in late May that sidelined him until mid-July. A month into the season, Robinson dislocated his shoulder, which required season-ending surgery. Henley went onto the DL in mid-May, was returned to Springfield in June where his season ended with elbow surgery. Descalso suffered a hairline crack in his collarbone that kept him out for a month starting in late June.

 

In a chain reaction from the injuries suffered by Jason LaRue in St. Louis, Anderson was called up in mid-August, followed by Pagnozzi on September 1. Help came from Springfield. Steven Hill replaced Anderson while Tony Cruz took Pags' spot and became the Redbirds' regular catcher throughout the playoffs.

 

September call-ups

 

Following Memphis' playoff exit, the Cardinals recalled five players. Four were already on the 40-man roster - Hamilton, Mather, Craig and Walters. MacLane was outrighted to make room on the 40-man roster for the fifth addition, Descalso.

 

When St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina was deemed out for the season due to a knee injury, Hill was the sixth Redbird added to the post-season recall list, on September 24.

 

Earlier, Stavinoha, Greene, Pagnozzi and Anderson had been added by St. Louis for the final month. All had seen time with the Cardinals earlier.

 

Lineups and batting orders

 

The most common regular-season lineups and batting orders used by Maloney this past season follow, with post-season designated as +x.

 

Starts by position Games Lineup Games
C Anderson 67 #1 Rapoport 67+6
1B Hamilton 65+6 #2 Greene 66
2B Descalso 109+6 #3 Descalso 71
SS Greene 81 #4 Hamilton 39+6
3B Gotay 100+6 #5 Mather 51+6
LF Craig 42+6 #6 Anderson 35
CF Rapoport 98+6 #7 Solano 36
RF Mather 72+6 #8 Pagnozzi 46
DH Cazana 16+6 #9 Pitchers 96

 

Team hitting and pitching

 

As a team, the Memphis hitters ended up in the middle of the PCL pack or slightly below during the regular season. Pitching was the strength, with the staff among the league's best in most major categories.

 

Memphis Season PCL rank Memphis Season PCL rank
Offense # of 16 Pitching # of 16
BA 0.272 10th ERA 4.42 6th
Runs 754 8th Ks 1032 4th
OPS 0.762 12th Walks 495 7th fewest
Doubles 268 9th HR allow 143 6th most
HR 133 7th Saves 46 1st

 

Individual hitting and pitching leaders

 

Ruben Gotay, primarily a second baseman who became the regular third baseman, was an on-base specialist all season long. Craig plated at team-best 81 in just 83 games.

 

Lynn set a Memphis club record with his 13 wins while Salas and Kinney combined for 36 saves.

 

Hitting leaders Pitching leaders
Average Gotay 0.285 ERA Dickson 3.23
Hits Gotay 135 Wins Lynn 13*
Home runs Hamilton 18 Strikeouts Lynn 141
RBI Craig 81 Saves Salas 19
OBP Gotay 0.410 WHIP MacLane 1.25
SLG Gotay 0.436 Average Lynn 0.259
* team record

 

Individual recognition

 

Lynn and Dickson were back-to-back organizational Pitchers of the Month for May and June, respectively. Cardinals organization Players of the Month were Jay in April and Anderson in June.

 

Here at The Cardinal Nation, we also selected Jay as April Player of the Month and tabbed Craig in June. Salas earned our top Pitcher award for May.

 

The Redbirds had three PCL Pitchers of the Week – Walters (May 10-16), Salas (July 5-11) and Dickson (August 23-29). Lynn was also named the league's Pitcher of the Postseason by MiLB.com.

 

Dickson, Salas and Greene were selected as mid-season PCL All-Stars. Greene was unable to participate in the game due to one of his promotions to St. Louis. Descalso was the club's only post-season PCL All-Star. He is only the third Memphis player to be named in the last five years (Stavinoha in 2008 and Rick Ankiel in 2006).

 

 

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog.

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