Rebounders leading Memphis Redbirds offense

Six veterans from outside the St. Louis Cardinals system have contributed to Memphis' good start.

2012 was a year to forget for manager Pop Warner and the Memphis Redbirds. Though the celebrated St. Louis Cardinals farm system had provided some quality arms, the offensive pipeline at the Triple-A level was mostly dry.

The club did meet its primary objective, which is always to supply the parent club with needed talent. The bottom line for Memphis fans was not pretty, however.

The Redbirds limped into the off-season with a 57-87 record, their first losing season in the last five. The team's batting average of .257 was worst in the 16-team Pacific Coast League as was their .717 OPS. The Redbirds' 4.59 earned-run average ranked fifth in the league.

Last season's attempts to shore up the Cardinals PCL edition mid-stream led to a series of additions of minor league journeymen, most of whom have since departed.

For 2013, the organization saw the potential for continued offensive gaps at Memphis, but this time around, they appeared to be more aggressive in minor league signings.

The season-opening roster included a pair of catchers with Major League experience in Rob Johnson and J.R. Towles, both of whom were signed before the New Year. On the infield, first baseman Brock Peterson had been acquired from independent Bridgeport last August. His deal covered the end of the 2012 season plus 2013, as well.

Outfielders Justin Christian and Chad Huffman were signed in November and February, respectively. While utilityman Jamie Romak had been acquired from Kansas City last May, the 27-year-old became a free agent but chose to re-sign with the Cardinals organization for 2013.

Peterson, 29, has opened the season hitting safely in 13 of his first 14 games at a .344 clip (21-for-61), and is tied for the club lead with 21 hits. He is currently riding a seven-game hitting streak (.480, 12-for-25) and has already logged two separate hitting streaks of six or more games.

Romak is tied for second in the PCL in extra-base hits (12), ranks fourth in doubles (7), third in slugging percentage (.826) and on-base percentage (.500), and tied for sixth in total bases (38). 12 of Romak's 17 hits have gone for extra bases (four home runs, seven doubles and a triple).

Even though Christian is batting just .200, the 33-year-old has a grand slam and a total of six RBI with the bases loaded. He received a World Series ring from the 2012 champion San Francisco Giants.

Huffman, who turns 28 next week, has also been productive, going 4-for-11 (.364) with six RBI with runners in scoring position.

Towles, 29, and Johnson, 30, are hitting just .216 combined. However, the two are providing veteran guidance to a Redbirds starting pitching staff that is a collective 9-4 with a 3.14 ERA, 62 strikeouts, and nine quality starts through the club's first 16 outings.

These well-traveled veterans are not going to be on anyone's top prospect list, but they have been key contributors to a Redbirds club that in the early going is sitting at the top of the American Northern Division of the PCL.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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