2013 Memphis Redbirds team review

The Triple-A Memphis Redbirds finished 2013 just one game short of making the post-season.

2013 is a year that the Memphis Redbirds can look back upon and wish a few more breaks went their way; the club finished just one game out of a playoff berth despite a 69-75 overall record. Memphis had a franchise-record 147 transactions this year, sending several top prospects to the majors. A fair share of injuries derailed the Redbirds and accounted for many of those transactions.

One of the most notable was the ankle injury to top outfield prospect Oscar Taveras, who only played in 46 Triple-A games and had just 173 at-bats this season. Another season-ending injury led to shoulder surgery for 25-year-old pitcher John Gast. The lefty started off his Redbirds season with 32 consecutive scoreless innings pitched before making his debut in the majors on May 13.

These injuries provided opportunities for others to step up, and because of big-league stints for starters Tyler Lyons, Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha, the Redbirds' starting rotation relied heavily on some Pacific Coast League newcomers. Playing their first seasons in Memphis, Boone Whiting and Scott McGregor were second and third in innings pitched. Several position players also made significant contributions in their first season in the PCL, including infielders Greg Garcia and Kolten Wong.

April (13-11), 1/2 game behind the Omaha Storm Chasers

Memphis started out the season with quality pitching. The Cardinal Nation and Cards organization's Pitcher of the Month Gast led the league in ERA without allowing a run in 29 2/3 frames. Wacha was third at 1.86. As a whole, the starting pitching staff had a 2.87 ERA (44 earned runs across 138 innings) with 105 punch-outs, and contributed to five shutouts in the 25 starts.

The bullpen lacked consistency, allowing 53 earned runs in only 80 frames (5.96 ERA). The relievers had four blown saves in 11 tries, with Victor Marte blowing three and Maikel Cleto credited with the other. Sam Freeman struggled as well, with 11 earned runs allowed in 12 1/3 frames pitched.

At the plate, the Redbirds held the third lowest batting average in PCL at .257, but several individuals were successful despite a poor team effort. Jamie Romak led the club in home runs (5) and was second in batting average (.333). Wong also started hot out of the gate with seven multiple-hit games in his first 20 and two separate seven-game hitting streaks.

May (14-15), 2 1/2 games ahead of the Omaha Storm Chasers

By May, several Redbirds had already departed for the majors, including two who did not return. Seth Maness left for good on April 29 and Gast was promoted May 13. Lyons was first called up on May 22 and Wacha made his MLB debut on May 30.

Nine different pitchers had started for Memphis by the end of the month, including six starts for Cleto, who was attempting to transition to a starting role. Cleto struggled with control, walking three or more batters in every start but his fastball was striking multiple hitters out, as he averaged 8.3 strikeouts for every nine innings.

At the plate, Memphis hitters found their rhythm, with the team batting average at .282 for the month. Kolten Wong earned the The Cardinal Nation and Cards organization Player of the Month awards for May. The second baseman's feats included a 15-game hitting streak, 23 runs scored in 25 games and a .375 average. Veteran hitters Romak and Brock Peterson accounted for 60 of the team's 267 RBI, and 19 of the 50 home runs to that point.

The bullpen lowered its collective ERA, but blew five saves in the month of May. Jorge Rondon had two, while Ramon Delgado, Eric Fornataro and Marc Rzepczynski each blew one.

June (13-17), 2 games behind the Omaha Storm Chasers

In the month of June, the Redbirds found some rhythm in their swing, but starting pitching regressed, giving up opportunities to close games out. During the month, Memphis hit 30 home runs while allowing only 14, with 16 combined from Peterson and Romak. An important series with Omaha started the month as Memphis won four of five games against the Storm Chasers.

Starting pitchers posted their worst single-month ERA at 4.62, but individually some pitchers showed off their stuff while Lyons and Wacha spent most of the month in St. Louis, making only one Memphis start apiece. Nick Additon and Carlos Martinez combined for a 3.05 ERA with 22 earned runs in 65 innings, and 52 strikeouts for 7.2 every nine frames. Martinez was TCN's and the organization's Pitcher of the Month.

The relievers' ERA continued its downward trajectory, lowering to 4.01 on the month and 4.67 on the year. Sam Freeman did not allow a run in June. In nine outings, the 26-year-old pitched 18 scoreless frames with only six hits, eight walks and 20 strikeouts.

July (13-15), 2 games behind the Omaha Storm Chasers

In July, two Redbirds were named to the PCL All-Star Team, Peterson and Wacha. Second baseman Wong competed in the Futures game for the second time. Wacha was named the PCL "Top Star" of the Triple-A All-Star Game.

Memphis pitching had an up and down July, allowing a league-leading 28 home runs in the month (19 by starters). The starting pitchers had the most quality starts of any single month (12) as well as the lowest ERA since April (3.36). The best starter for the month was Lyons, who had a 1.60 ERA across his five starts, with 33 strikeouts in 33 2/3 frames. The lefty was TCN's and the organization's Pitcher of the Month.

The bullpen allowed a lot of home runs, but several individuals stood out with excellent months. Jorge Rondon allowed only three earned runs in 10 appearances and Sam Freeman extended his shutout innings streak to a franchise-record 25 2/3 frames. In 14 innings, Freeman struck out 20 and yielded four runs (two earned) with only four free passes.

At the plate, the Redbirds could not find a groove as the club posted a .257 batting average (tied for their lowest month), for 11th best in the league during July. Adron Chambers had a hot July, batting .354 (29-for-82), with 17 runs scored. The outfielder recorded his best month for home runs with four, stolen bases with seven and RBI with 16. Peterson was promoted to St. Louis for a week and the lineup struggled to produce runs without the veteran, scoring three runs or less in five of the eight games he missed.

August & September (16-16), 1 game behind the Omaha Storm Chasers

Memphis moved into position to take the division playoff spot from Omaha, but losing the last three of the last five games against the Storm Chasers doomed the Redbirds. The bullpen posted their best month, with a 3.34 ERA over 110 1/3 frames. Conversely, the starters posted a 4.16 ERA across 147 innings, their second-worst month.

The Redbirds fielded a makeshift rotation down the stretch. The three best pitchers - Martinez, Lyons and Wacha - spent most of August with St. Louis, combining for nine total starts in the month. From the bullpen, Freeman was in St. Louis for a week and a half while Lee Stoppelman and Jose Almarante both made initial appearances in Memphis after spending the year in Springfield.

Chambers was on the disabled list for part of the month and then was sent back to St. Louis, Wong and Peterson both spent a majority of August in the majors as well. Greg Garcia was TCN's and the organization's Player of the Month. His team-leading .368 average (32-for-87) in August was the third-highest in the entire Pacific Coast League.

Link to master article with all 2013 award winners, team recaps and article schedules for the remainder of this series. Of course, that will include our selections as the Memphis Redbirds Reliever, Starting Pitcher and Player of the Year.

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