Memphis Redbirds Notebook: 2013 Week 8

Despite significant pitching churn, the Triple-A Redbirds had a winning week and remain in first place.

Memphis Redbirds (4-3 this week, 27-24 overall)

The Redbirds finally strung together a winning week, winning four games to move three games ahead of Omaha and Iowa for the American Northern Division lead. With so many pitchers moving up to the majors, Memphis is starting an entirely new five-man rotation since the season opened; each of them did pretty well this week. The bullpen showed improvement, allowing only nine earned runs in 25 1/3 innings for a 3.20 ERA this week.

May 23 at Salt Lake City, Win 9-7

The last game of the Salt Lake City series was a win for the Redbirds. Three of Memphis' hitters smacked one out of the park (Kolten Wong, Adron Chambers and Rob Johnson), and everyone registered a hit in the high-scoring affair.

Wong struck his fourth home run of the year to right field to put Memphis ahead by one in the first. In the next frame, the Redbirds added three via Johnson's RBI single, Vance Albitz' sacrifice fly and Justin Christian scoring on a groundout. In the fifth, Chambers added two more with a two-run shot. The first pitch of the next inning pushed the lead to three at that point, and Christian's two-out triple in the ninth gave the Redbirds two more for nine runs on the day

. The Bees managed to score six runs on left-hander Nick Additon, who picked up the win despite his rough outing. In the third, a sacrifice fly scored one and with two outs, a two-run home run put the Bees in the game. Additon yielded another home run in the fourth frame to tie the game at four. Salt Lake scored three more, one in the sixth, seventh and ninth innings. The run in the ninth was on closer Victor Marte, who earned the save.

May 24 vs. Round Rock, Win 7-0

Maikel Cleto got the nod for Friday's game, and struggled to find the plate at the start. He opened with two straight walks, but to his credit, the Dominican Republic native pitched six shutout innings. Kevin Siegrist made his Triple-A debut and continued the scoreless pitching for two frames with two strikeouts. Fornataro closed the game out for the Redbirds' sixth shutout of the year and the first in May.

Memphis hitters gave Cleto a four-run cushion in the first, as six of the first seven reached base. Ryan Jackson's sacrifice fly scored Christian, and Curtis brought one home with a double that bounced off the bullpen gate in left-center field. A walk loaded the bases, with the third and fourth scoring on Johnson's single and Chambers' groundout.

Jamie Romak added one in the fourth on a sacrifice fly, then in the seventh, Johnson extended the lead to seven with a two-run home run. His second dinger in as many days was belted down the left field line and scored Romak.

May 25 vs. Round Rock, Win 4-0

Boone Whiting made his second start for the Redbirds, and got his second win. The California native had a hard time throwing strikes like Cleto, with just 48 in 87 pitches. Even with the control issues, he never allowed a Round Rock player past second base in his six innings of work.

Marc Rzepczynski replaced him and retired the side in the seventh, but had runners on second and third with one out in the eighth after a single and an uncommon Wong throwing error. Jorge Rondon relieved Scrabble and finished out the frame to continue the shutout effort.

Rondon pitched into the ninth, but allowed two straight singles, leaving with runners on second and third with no outs because of another Wong throwing error. Marte retired one, and then Chambers made a great sliding catch and doubled the runner up at second to end the game. With that save, Marte tied Brian Falkenborg's Redbird career save record at 44.

Aside from his shutout-saving double play, Chambers also helped the pitchers behind the plate. With one out in the second, he struck a deep fly ball off the bullpen fence over the center fielder's head to score two runs and push the lead to three with a triple. In the fifth, Brock Peterson singled to score Wong for his ninth RBI in seven games.

May 26 vs. Round Rock, Loss 3-4

After three games with only one run allowed by the Redbirds' bullpen, the relievers let Saturday's game slip away. The Express scored a run on Sam Freeman in the sixth and two tallies on Fornataro in the eighth.

Richard Castillo made his Triple-A debut as the starting pitcher, and only allowed one run on a wild throw in five frames. A constant theme this week was the high walk count for the starters. The 24-year-old Venezuelan walked four batters and threw 57 strikes in 89 pitches and left the game with the score tied at one.

Freeman took over in the sixth and allowed a runner to score from second on a two-out single. He pitched the seventh with no hits, and was relieved by Fornataro in the eighth with the score tied. After two straight singles and a sacrifice bunt, there were two runners in scoring position with one out for Round Rock. A fielder's choice threw out the runner at home, but a two-out double put the Express ahead by two.

Memphis managed to score in the eighth on a passed ball, but the eighth inning rally was halted by a double play and the Redbirds came up short.

May 27 vs. Round Rock, Loss 2-5

Four early runs were too much for the Redbirds to overcome, losing the second straight to split the Round Rock series at AutoZone Park. Scott McGregor started for the Redbirds, and yielded one run in the second on a RBI single, and followed with three tallies in the third. A sacrifice fly scored one, a double and a single added one apiece to put Round Rock ahead by four. McGregor was attributed with his first loss as a Redbird, and yielded seven hits with four earned runs in five frames.

In his Redbirds' debut, Ramon Delgado struck out two in two innings. Memphis hitters struggled with runners in scoring position, going 1-for-10, with the only run support on Romak's two-run blast in the fourth.

May 28 vs. Albuquerque, Loss 2-7

Recently-optioned Carlos Martinez made the start for Memphis on Tuesday, but didn't last very long. Stretching out from relief to starting again, the right-hander went three innings with only two hits and four strikeouts. His fastball made a couple of Isotopes look silly after setting it up with his excellent curveball.

Additon relieved Martinez in the fourth, and his off-speed pitches didn't fool the visitors, as he allowed four runs (two earned). In the fifth, a 1-1 delivery was gift-wrapped for Isotopes' right fielder Alex Castellanos and was belted over the Redbirds' bullpen. Later in the seventh with a runner on, Additon let another pitch go and it was struck hard enough to bounce off the bullpen fence. Chambers tried to make a heroic leaping catch running into the wall, but the ball bounced out of his glove, giving Rusty Ryal an RBI triple. The first baseman would score from third to give Albuquerque a two-run lead.

Rondon relieved Additon in the eighth and had two outs with a runner on first. A single scored that runner, and two walks loaded the bases. Another single scored two runners before Rondon got the final out in the frame. Memphis' only run production came from a two-out two-RBI single by Peterson in the fourth.

May 29 vs. Albuquerque, 5-1 Win

The Redbirds snapped their three-game losing streak with a five-run seventh inning. Maikel Cleto started for Memphis, and threw 102 pitches in his 6 1/3 frames, with seven strikeouts and five walks. He left the game with a runner on second with one out before being pulled for Siegrist. A bunt single with two outs scored the runner, which was charged to Cleto.

The Redbirds followed that score with five of their own in the bottom of the seventh. After Double-A call-up Chris Swauger singled, Romak drove him in with a two-run shot over the left field fence. Johnson walked and was brought home by Christian's home run to right field. Chambers followed that up with his own home run, the fourth time this season the Redbirds have smacked back-to-back jacks.

Siegrist and Rzepczynski finished the game, Siegrist struck out four in 1 2/3 frames, and Scrabble got three straight outs in the ninth.

Heating Up

The Deep Fly Ball – Eight home runs were struck this week by a squad without Taveras or Peterson contributing. Romak, Chambers and Johnson each hit two, with Wong and Christian both going yard once.

Bullpen - Despite struggling for the majority of this year, this week was a bright spot. Aside from Fornataro allowing two on Sunday and Rondon yielding three on Tuesday, the bullpen only allowed four runs in a week. With an entirely new starting rotation, the bullpen needs to continue to develop some solidarity.

Brock Peterson – The first baseman has regained some of his early season form, with ten RBIs in his last ten games, with a .308 (8-for-26) average this week. He is tied for the team lead in RBI with 29 (Romak and Curtis).

Outfielders at the plate (not named Tavaras) – Chambers, Romak and Christian have been hot this week. Overall, the three combined for a .250 average (18-or-72) with 14 runs scored, 16 RBI, two triples and five home runs. Christian is riding a ten-game hitting streak.

Getting Cold

Starting pitcher control – Losing the two best ERAs in the PCL (John Gast and Michael Wacha), there has to be an expected drop-off. In May, starters walked 57 batters as opposed to 35 in April. This week alone, the starters walked 17 batters in 37 2/3 frames.

Nick Additon – Has allowed at least two earned runs in his last six outings. This week specifically, the lefty yielded ten earned runs in 10 1/3 frames, with 18 hits and five home runs.

Eric Fornataro and Jorge Rondon - Three frames and two earned runs do not constitute struggling, but Fornataro's performance on Sunday gave away the game. Rondon yielded three runs on Tuesday night and killed a chance for a Redbirds' comeback win.

Roster Updates

This was a busy Memorial Day weekend for the Redbirds' roster. With Huffman and Taveras on the disabled list, Chris Swauger was called up from Springfield to fill-in the outfield. Several Memphis pitchers have also been moved, but they went to St. Louis instead of the disabled list.

Tyler Lyons, Marte, and Michael Wacha were all sent to St. Louis. Martinez was optioned to Memphis after making his major league debut this year. Delgado and Siegrist were brought up from Springfield to replace Barret Browning (released) and Marte in the bullpen. Castillo, Whiting, McGregor, Cleto and Martinez made starts for Memphis this week. With so many hot pitching prospects, 11 different pitchers have started for the Redbirds this year, whereas all of last year, 12 different pitchers started.


May 24 Pitcher Barret Browning was released
May 24 Catcher J.R. Towles was released
May 24 Pitcher Richard Castillo promoted from Springfield
May 24 Pitcher Kevin Siegrist promoted from Springfield
May 24 Shortstop Greg Garcia activated from disabled list
May 27 Outfielder Chad Huffman placed on seven-day disabled list
May 27 Pitcher Ramon Delgado promoted from Springfield
May 27 Pitcher Victor Marte promoted to St. Louis
May 27 Pitcher Carlos Martinez optioned to Memphis from St. Louis
May 28 Outfielder Oscar Taveras placed on seven-day disabled list (May 25)
May 29 Outfielder Chris Swauger promoted from Springfield


Outfielder Chad Huffman placed on disabled list May 27.
Outfielder Oscar Taveras hurt his ankle sliding into second on May 12, but wasn't on disabled list until May 28 (replaced by Swauger), and can return to action June 1st.

Looking Forward

The Redbirds will finish out the series with Albuquerque, then travel to Omaha to play five games (including a Sunday doubleheader to make up for May 4ths postponed game). After starting 2-4 against the Isotopes, the Redbirds can even the series by winning the next two games. Memphis has taken two of three against Omaha this year, and can improve their division lead with a solid road trip.

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