With the mid-season break of the 2016 Pacific Coast League season passed, the Memphis Redbirds (45-45), who were 12.5 games out of first place on June 10 with a 24-34 record, have put themselves within four games of the division lead. Since June 10, the Redbirds have gone 20-11 and picked up series wins over each of their division rivals.
With several top prospects and former Double-A Springfield players in the fold like Harrison Bader and Carson Kelly, and veteran leadership like Jerome Williams, the Redbirds are sleepers to overcome their slow start to 2016 and return to the playoffs after missing them last season.
Here’s how the week unfolded:
Friday, July 8: Round Rock (TEX) 2 at Memphis (STL) 3
With the score tied at 2-2 after seven innings, the Redbirds plated the go-ahead run with two outs in the eighth and defeated Round Rock, 3-2.
Harrison Bader (2-for-4) was involved with all three of Memphis’ runs, hitting a two-run homer in the sixth, his first in Triple-A, and knocking an RBI single in the eighth. Michael Ohlman (1-for-3) added a double and Efren Navarro (1-for-3) hit a single in his Cardinals system debut.
Starter Jerome Williams rebounded from a poor outing last week, striking out five and allowing two earned on five hits in 7 1/3 innings of a no-decision. Reliever Dean Kiekhefer (4-1, 1.93) followed, fanning one and scattering one in 1 2/3 scoreless innings, and earning his fourth win.
Saturday, July 9: Round Rock (TEX) 1 at Memphis (STL) 4 (7 innings)
Memphis picked up its fourth-straight win with a 4-1, rain-shortened 7-inning victory over Round Rock.
Filling in for Alex Reyes, Trey Nielsen (1-0, 1.69) was awarded his first win in his Triple-A debut after fanning four and allowing one earned on two hits in 5 1/3 innings. PCL all-star reliever Ryan Sherriff picked up his first save of the season, striking out three in 1 2/3 hitless innings.
On offense, eight different Redbirds produced a hit, led by Jose Martinez (2-for-3) and Breyvic Valera’s (2-for-2) multi-hit games. Martinez plated two runners, and Valera and Dean Anna (1-for-2) brought home one apiece.
Sunday, July 10: Round Rock (TEX) 5 at Memphis (STL) 6
Memphis scored four runs in the eighth and shut out Round Rock in the ninth to pick up a 6-5 win. The club's fourth win in its last at-bat since Monday put the team above .500 for the first time since April 21.
Valera (3-for-4) scored three runs, hit two doubles and is now hitting .565 during his current seven-game hit streak. Charlie Tilson (2-for-4) and Nick Martini (1-for-4) drove in two each, while Matt Williams (2-for-4) added another RBI.
Starter Deck McGuire struggled and allowed four earned in just 2/3 of an inning, but six Redbirds relievers shut the door with one earned and five hits allowed in the final 8 1/3 innings. Corey Littrell (1-3, 3.82) earned his first win in Triple-A, while Kiekhefer picked up his first save of the season.
Thursday, July 14: Memphis (STL) 8 at Albuquerque (COL) 12
In an offensive shootout in which each teams scattered 17 hits, Memphis was unable to capitalize on scoring chances (8-for-24 with runners in scoring position) and dropped game one at Albuquerque, 12-8.
Memphis’ offense was red hot from the start, led by Tilson (4-for-6), Anna (3-for-5) and Triple-A debutant Carson Kelly (3-for-5). Tilson, Anna and Jacob Wilson (2-for-4) plated two runners apiece, while Harrison Bader (2-for-6) had a multi-hit game as well.
Starter Corey Baker (1-1, 7.71) struggled early and earned his first loss in Triple-A after allowing nine scores on 11 hits in 3 2/3 innings. Memphis’ relievers slowed down the onslaught (three runs – two earned – over the final 5 1/3 innings), but there wasn’t enough offense to get the club back on top.
Charlie Tilson was Memphis’ best offensive weapon, going 7-for-14 with four RBI in three games.
Harrison Bader played in all four games in Week 14, going 6-for-17 with one HR and three RBI.
Carson Kelly was excellent in his Triple-A debut, hitting 3-for-5 with a double July 14 at Albuquerque.
Dean Anna went 5-for-11 with three RBI, scattered at least one hit in every game this week and showed that veteran experience is important for a baseball club.
Jerome Williams fanned five and allowed two earned on five hits in 7 1/3 innings July 8 vs. Round Rock.
Ryan Sherriff sat down all the batters he faced in 1 2/3 innings July 9 vs. Round Rock, including three strikeouts.
David Washington has struggled mightily recently, going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts in two games in Week 14 and 19-for-111 in the months of June and July.
Deck McGuire only tossed 2/3 innings July 10 vs. Round Rock, walking two and allowing four earned on one hit in the process.
Corey Baker had a worrisome start July 14 at Albuquerque, allowing nine earned on 11 hits in 3 2/3 innings, and has now allowed 17 runs (16 earned) over his last three starts (12 innings).
Reyes impresses in Futures Game
TCN’s top-ranked prospect, Alex Reyes, started and pitched 1 2/3 innings for Team World in the 2016 Future Games at Petco Park in San Diego. During his outing, Reyes touched triple digits on the radar with his fastball several times and struck out four of baseball’s best prospects, including 2015 No. 1 overall pick Dansby Swanson.
The flamethrower turned several heads with his performance, but he also scattered two extra-base hits, issued one free pass and still flashed control issues. While many among the Cardinals faithful are salivating at the thought of Reyes throwing heaters past MLB opponents, he is still young (21-years old) and would benefit from some more time in Triple-A to hone his control.
Sherriff in Triple-A All Star Game
Ryan Sherriff received an invitation to Wednesday night’s Triple-A All-Star Game in place of Sam Tuivailala, who was promoted to St. Louis following his invitation to the event.
Although Sherriff only pitched briefly in Charlotte, the lefty sat his lone batter down, inducing a ground out to third. The reliever is 3-0 with a 2.20 ERA in 45 innings so far in 2016.
The Redbirds had another busy week in player movement.
With Alex Reyes away for the Futures Game, he was temporarily replaced by RHP Trey Nielsen. Nielsen, who picked up his first win in Triple-A this week, is 6-6, sports a 3.49 ERA and is third on the team in SO (57) in Springfield this season.
The Redbirds picked up immediate minor league depth with 1B Efren Navarro to help replace OF Carlos Peguero, whose contract was sold to the Golden Eagles of Japan for cash considerations. Navarro, 30, was recently released by the Seattle Mariners Triple-A roster and suited up for the Toros de Tijuana of the Mexican League July 5. The California native has appeared in 1,057 career minor league games, slashing .296/.362/.414/ with 53 HR and 526 RBI.
Starters Arturo Reyes and Jeremy Hefner were sent down to the GCL Cardinals for rehab assignments, where they join teammate Thomas Lee. Reyes, who was sent to the disabled list June 20 for an undisclosed injury, has compiled a 5-4 record with a 5.35 ERA over 13 starts in Memphis. Hefner, who is recovering from shoulder soreness, is 2-4 and sports a 5.08 ERA in Memphis.
C Carson Kelly was assigned to Triple-A Memphis following his participation in the Futures Game. The Texas League All-Star and top prospect is batting .287/.338/.403 with six homers and 18 RBI in 64 games.
Here’s a list of all of the transactions:
07/08/2016: Memphis Redbirds release OF Carlos Peguero.
07/08/2016: RHP Trey Nielsen assigned to Memphis Redbirds from Springfield Cardinals.
07/08/2016: 1B Efren Navarro assigned to Memphis Redbirds.
07/08/2016: Memphis Redbirds place RHP Alex Reyes on the temporarily inactive list.
07/11/2016: RHP Trey Nielsen assigned to Springfield Cardinals from Memphis Redbirds.
07/11/2016: C Jesse Jenner assigned to Springfield Cardinals from Memphis Redbirds.
07/12/2016: Memphis Redbirds activate RHP Alex Reyes from the temporarily inactive list.
07/13/2016: OF Nick Martini assigned to Springfield Cardinals from Memphis Redbirds.
07/13/2016: Memphis Redbirds send RHP Arturo Reyes on a rehab assignment to GCL Cardinals.
07/13/2016: C Carson Kelly assigned to Memphis Redbirds from Springfield Cardinals.
07/14/2016: Memphis Redbirds send RHP Jeremy Hefner on a rehab assignment to GCL Cardinals.
07/14/2016: Memphis Redbirds activate OF Jeremy Hazelbaker from the 7-day disabled list.
TCN Top 40 Prospects
The Redbirds have 12 of The Cardinal Nation’s Top 40 Prospects on their active roster but two starters and a position player remain on the disabled list. Here is how the prospects have performed recently:
1. Alex Reyes: While Reyes wasn’t available for the Redbirds this week, TCN’s top prospect pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings in the Futures Game, fanning four and allowing two hits. The starter is 2-1 with a 4.35 ERA and, although he is second on the team in SO (61) behind Deck McGuire, that number is in half the amount of games as McGuire.
3. Marco Gonzales: Gonzales underwent Tommy John surgery, ending his season.
5. Tim Cooney: Cooney is out indefinitely and remains on the disabled list with shoulder soreness.
6. Harrison Bader: Bader played in all four games in week 14, going 6-for-17 with one HR and three RBI. Prior to his call up from Springfield, the outfielder slashed .286/.350/.491 with 13 HR and 33 RBI in 73 games for the Texas-League club.
7. Charlie Tilson: Tilson was excellent for Memphis during the shortened week, going 7-for-14 with four RBI in three games. So far in 2016, the speedy outfielder is hitting .285/.350/.411 with three HR and 27 RBI in 84 games for Memphis.
12. Carson Kelly: Kelly performed superbly in his Triple-A debut Thursday night, going 3-for-5 with one double. The catcher, who was on Team USA in the Futures Game, was assigned to Memphis after participating in the event, and hit .287/.338/.403 with six HR and 18 RBI in 64 games for Springfield.
21. Jacob Wilson: In three games, Wilson was 3-for-11 with three doubles and two RBI. The infielder has boosted his average up above .200 (.218) since being taken off the disabled list June 14, and is third on the team in HR (6).
25. Mike Mayers: With the All-Star Game reducing this week’s schedule to four contests, Mayers did not pitch in Week 14. So far in Triple-A, the starter is 3-2 and sports the lowest ERA of all Memphis starters (2.49).
26. Corey Littrell: Littrell picked up his first Triple-A win in Week 14 with a two strikeout, one hit allowed performance in 1 1/3 innings July 10 vs. Round Rock. The reliever followed that up with two strikeouts, one walk and one hit allowed in one scoreless inning July 14 at Albuquerque.
31. Patrick Wisdom: Wisdom was placed on the disabled list on June 17. The infielder is hitting .234/.317/.359 with three HR and 21 RBI in 2016.
33. Michael Ohlman: Ohlman played in two games this week, going 1-for-6 with a double, and is a combined 2-for-9 with one HR and two RBI on his second stint in Memphis. So far in Triple-A in 2016, the catcher is hitting .255/.336/.415 with three HR and 14 RBI in 33 games.
38. David Washington: After riding a high during May, Washington seems to have crashed right back down to earth, going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts in two games in Week 14 and 19-for-111 in the months of June and July. The infielder, who last hit above .300 June 2 vs. New Orleans, has seen his average drop down to .231, but still leads Memphis (14) and the system (19) in home runs.
|Offense||Season Stat||PCL Rank|
|Pitching||Season Stat||PCL Rank|
Standings – American Southern Division
Prior to Thursday night’s game at Albuquerque, the Redbirds (45-45) were in second position and three games away from first place. However, the Round Rock Express (47-45) won in extras against Sacramento and bumped the Redbirds down to third place, with the Nashville Sounds (50-42) in first and the New Orleans Zephyrs (43-46) in last place.
|Round Rock Express||47-45||.506||3.0|
|New Orleans Zephyrs||43-46||.483||5.5|
After going 3-1 during Week 14 of the 2016 PCL season, the Redbirds (45-45) finish their four game road series with the Albuquerque Isotopes (38-53). Following the series, the club continues their road trip with a stop at league-leaders El Paso Chihuahuas (53-38) for another four-game set.
El Paso is by far and away the best offensive team in the PCL this season, hitting .312 with 108 HR and 534 RBI as a team, all of which lead the league. The Padres’ Triple-A affiliate is led by one of San Diego’s top prospects, outfielder Hunter Renfroe, who leads the league in home runs (21) and RBI (76) and is third in the league in average (.335). The Redbirds aren’t going to beat them in an offensive shootout, but if Memphis can capitalize on El Paso’s poor pitching staff (4.87 ERA), St. Louis’ Triple-A ball club has a chance to steal a game or two.
After Corey Baker’s start Thursday, Mike Mayers comes to the mound Friday night at Albuquerque, followed by Alex Reyes, Jerome Williams and Deck McGuire.
Follow Thomas Simpson on Twitter @jthomasSimpson.
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