The St. Louis Cardinals endured major turnover that saw a future Hall of Fame manager in Tony La Russa retire and the departure of one of the best hitters and face of the franchise in Albert Pujols for bigger dollars in Los Angeles. The domino effect was felt throughout the farm as Chris Maloney was promoted as a coach for St. Louis and Ron ‘Pop' Warner, who spent the last five seasons as the manager in Springfield, was brought up to be the new manager for the Memphis Redbirds.
Warner's Triple-A debut began with a win but was short lived after he saw the Redbirds drop the next three in Oklahoma City and the series opener in New Orleans. Two losses were blowouts, and the other two were by deficits of one and two runs, respectively. The Redbirds offense couldn't produce with runners in scoring position, which led to their troubles.
The team is tied for last with their cross-state rival Nashville Sounds with a 1-4 record. They are in the middle of the Pacific Coast League in terms of batting average and on-base percentage but rank third from the bottom in RBI. They are also third from the bottom with an earned run average of 5.96, a contrast from the league-best ERA in 2011.
Thursday, April 5th: Memphis 4 at Oklahoma City 3
Pete Kozma started off hot with a third-inning home run that tied the game and finished 3-for-4 on the night. Adams, 2011 Texas League MVP, introduced himself to PCL pitching with a home run in the fourth to put the Redbirds on top with a lead they wouldn't relinquish. Ryan Jackson went 2-for-5 as Cox went hitless in three at-bats and made a throwing error. Both are newcomers from the Texas League. Brandon Dickson earned his first win of the year after he gave up one run off five hits, one walk, and no strikeouts.
Friday, April 6th: Oklahoma City 12, Memphis 3
Adams continued to make an impression with another home run and a double that hit off the wall. The Redbirds recorded 11 hits on the night yet manufactured just three runs; they went 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position. Ryan Jackson had another two hits as Amaury Cazana and Adron Chambers also joined the two-hit parade. Brian Broderick was shelled to the tune of six earned runs off eight hits (one home run) and one walk. Maikel Cleto made his 2012 debut and failed to record a batter after he gave up six runs (five earned) off three hits and two walks.
Saturday, April 7th: Oklahoma City 5, Memphis 4
Adams didn't start and still extended his home-run streak to three in three games in a pinch-hit appearance that netted the Redbirds three runs and brought them within one run in the ninth. Joe Kelly had a reasonably good PCL debut but gave up three runs (one earned) in four innings. The hard-throwing right-hander struck out five batters and recorded all six outs via the groundball, a trend that we should see continue from last year.
Sunday, April 8th: Oklahoma City 8, Memphis 1
Miller's much anticipated debut didn't turn out so well in the box score. The system's top prospect gave up four runs (one homer) off seven hits in three innings. The good news is that the right-hander walked nobody, struck out four, and threw 42 of 63 pitches for strikes. Cox, Chambers and Cedric Hunter each had two hits.
Monday, April 9th: New Orleans 5, Memphis 3
Nick Additon debuted by giving up three runs off six hits and four walks and the bullpen threw six hitless innings. Both Cazana and Hunter went deep for the first time this season, but it wasn't enough as Adam Reifer served up a game-winning home run in the bottom of the 13th.
Matt Adams: The obvious answer. The big first baseman has taken to PCL pitching very well by hitting three homers in his first three games.
Cedric Hunter: The Redbirds welcomed the former Padres top prospect to the team via a trade that was necessitated by Shane Robinson staying with the big club after the injury to Skip Schumaker and injuries to Redbirds Mark Hamilton and Aaron Luna. Hunter is the only Redbirds player with a double, triple, and home run.
Adron Chambers: The steals will come, but Adron has been effective at the top of the order with a batting average of .381 and on-base percentage of .500.
Joe Kelly: The right-hander has generated a lot of groundballs over his career and continued that into 2012. It might be odd that I included Kelly on this list after he gave up three runs in his start, but only one was earned. The former Cal-Riverside star impressively recorded all six outs on the ground and struck out five batters over four innings. Kelly has a lively fastball but has dealt with some command issues and inconsistencies with his secondary offerings. This could be a big year for him.
Zack Cox: This will be an interesting year for the third baseman as many wait to see if his power starts to develop. David Freese is hot in St. Louis, so it remains unclear what Cox's role will be with the organization. The former first-rounder from Arkansas started off the season with a .235 batting average and hasn't walked or collected an extra-base hit in 17 at-bats.
Eduardo Sanchez: Sanchez was sent down to Memphis after experiencing wildness in Spring Training, despite not allowing a run in eight innings and striking out 14 batters. Our seventh-ranked Cardinals prospect was also passed up for promotion when Scott Linebrink hit the disabled list to start the season. Sanchez didn't exactly make a case for himself in his first two Memphis outings, which included five hits, five walks, two hit batters and six earned runs against just one strikeout in 1 2/3 innings.
The Redbirds went 5-for-42 with runners in scoring position, which amounted to a .119 batting average. Hitting better in that regard would have probably been the difference in at least one of their losses.
Performance of Top Opposing Prospects (selected from Scout.com's Top 20 of each team)
April 5th, Houston Astros:
7) Paul Clemens (RHP, mid-90s fastball, above-average curve, good changeup, wildness): 6 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 2 HR
April 9th, Miami Marlins:
3) Matt Dominguez (third base, great fielder, underperforming hitter with potential for average hitting and power): 0-for-3, one walk
12) Scott Cousins (outfield, average-to-above-average tools across the board): 1-6 with a triple and RBI
4/5: Mark Hamilton placed on 7-day DL (hamstring)
4/5: Aaron Luna placed on 7-day DL (foot)
4/5: Roberto Espinoza placed on 7-day DL (unknown)
4/5: Cedric Hunter acquired from Athletics for future considerations
4/6: Steven Hill placed on 7-day DL (plantar fasciitis)
4/6: Luis De La Cruz called up from Palm Beach to replace Hill
The Redbirds will face the New Orleans Zephyrs Tuesday night, Wednesday afternoon and Thursday night and will then depart for their first home game of the season against the Oklahoma City Redhawks. Shelby Miller will make the home Opening Night start on Friday, April 13th.
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