Luke Weaver (© Logan Bowles / USA TODAY Sports Images)

Insider news from the St. Louis Cardinals’ Pacific Coast League affiliate in Memphis for the period of May 5-11.

The Memphis Redbirds (22-12) ended the week 5-1 on the back end of an 11-game win-streak, the longest in franchise history. After his second consecutive start without allowing a run, Luke Weaver was named the Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Week.

The Memphis Redbirds won the first four games of the week before Iowa (CHC) snapped their streak on the final game of the series. The Redbirds came back to Memphis after an off day and won game one of a four game series with El Paso.

“Today is just one; we have to start over,” manager Stubby Clapp said.      

Memphis outscored its opponents 81-38 during the 11-game hot streak and 41-21 on the week. The Redbirds starters began the week with three straight gems as Arturo Reyes, Mike Mayers and Luke Weaver pitched a combined 21 innings without allowing a run. 

“The guys are starting to see the ball a lot better,” Clapp said. “I’ve had a little bit more of a consistent lineup with some guys, but with that said, I’m trying to use all 12 of my guys and keep them fresh. Any one of these guys could go play in the big leagues tomorrow.” 

Daniel Poncedeleon, who is currently on the 7-day disabled list, and Arturo Reyes have been positive surprises to the starting pitching for Memphis. They both rank in the top 10 in the PCL in ERA.

Luke Weaver has yet to allow a run in 15 innings, and has now started twice after returning from back stiffness.   

“(Coming off the DL) It’s something I had a little practice with last year, starting off on the DL with a broken wrist,” Weaver said. “Going through that helped me with this process, and it just eases the tension a little more.”    

“During the last two outings, there have been no signs of any back problems. I feel strong, and I’m going to continue what I’m doing.”

The Redbirds lead the Pacific Coast League in home runs and are second in doubles and total bases. During the last 13 games, of which 12 were wins, Memphis has raised the team batting average from .242 to .274.


May 5: Memphis 4 at Omaha 2

The Redbirds jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the third inning when Chad Huffman drove in two with a line drive to right. Neither team scored again until the ninth with both teams adding two runs.

In the top of the ninth, Todd Cunningham knocked in Carson Kelly and Breyvic Valera. Kelly and Valera scored twice each.

Arturo Reyes threw a gem, going eight innings with four strikeouts and not allowing a run. He did not walk a batter and gave up just four hits. Rowan Wick pitched the ninth with the 4-0 lead and was charged with two runs on three hits.


May 6: Memphis 5 at Iowa 2     

The game was scoreless until Tommy La Stella knocked a solo homer off Chris Ellis in the bottom of the seventh. But Ellis still received the victory when because Memphis answered with five runs in the eighth.  

Consecutive singles by Todd Cunningham, Nick Martini, Luke Voit and Patrick Wisdom brought in two runs, then Paul DeJong hit a three run bomb. Breyvic Valera followed with a two-out triple but was stranded. 

Iowa hit its second solo homer in the bottom half of the inning, coming against Mark Montgomery, to bring the score to 5-2. Montgomery finished the game without allowing another hit.

Mike Mayers followed Reyes’ starting performance with solid outing of his own. He threw six innings of four-hit ball without allowing a run. Mayers finished with three walks and three strikeouts.


May 7: Memphis 10 at Iowa 1

Memphis’ first six batters had a multi-hit day, and they each drove in a run or scored or both. The starting pitcher went a third straight game without allowing a run.  

The scoring came early and often for Memphis with two runs in the first and runs across in five different innings. Nick Martini has a solid performance from the two spot in the lineup, scoring four runs to go along with an RBI. Luke Voit and Rangel Ravelo had two runs, three RBI and a homer apiece.

Luke Weaver made the start and followed the week’s pace with a seven inning outing that featured no runs on four hits. He struck out four batters and did not issue a walk.

Ryan Sherriff threw the final two innings and gave up the lone Iowa run. The lefty punched out two batters and allowed three hits.


May 8: Memphis 15 at Iowa 9   

For a second straight game, six Redbirds had multiple hits and three had three each. But the pitching staff struggled, allowing nine earned runs on 14 hits. Memphis trailed 8-2 before outscoring Iowa 13-1 in the final three innings for the comeback win. It was the franchise-record 11th victory in a row.  

Patrick Wisdom led the way for the offense with three runs five RBI on two home runs. Carson Kelly brought in four runs on three hits, two doubles, and scored twice. Paul DeJong and Todd Cunningham each hit a two run bomb.

Josh Zeid continued his struggles by yielding seven runs in 5 1/3 innings. He did have five strikeouts, but issued three walks and allowed 10 hits. Chris Ellis came in to finish the sixth inning and gave up one run.

John Brebbia threw a scoreless seventh inning by striking out the side. Josh Lucas pitched the final two innings, receiving the win despite giving up one run.


May 9: Memphis 1 at Iowa 3    

In a scary situation in Des Moines, starting pitcher Daniel Poncedeleon was hit in the head by a batted ball and had to exit the game in the second inning. With only one run by the offense, the Redbirds 11-game winning streak came to an end.  

Mark Montgomery threw three innings and did not allow a run. Zach Phillips added three more innings and was charged with two runs, and Ryan Sherriff yielded one run in an inning of work.

Todd Cunningham singled in Breyvic Valera for the Redbirds’ only run.


May 10: day off


May 11: El Paso 4 at Memphis 6

The Chihuahuas scored two runs each in the first and fourth innings, but Memphis answered with three and two runs of their own in the bottom halves. Arturo Reyes allowed four runs over seven innings, but received the win.

With two outs in the first, Luke Voit doubled and Patrick Wisdom singled to put runners on first and third. Then Paul DeJong brought everyone home with a three-run long ball.

In the fourth, DeJong singled and Harrison Bader cleared the bases with a two-run shot. Bader’s second homer in the sixth broke the tie and added a two-run cushion for Memphis.

John Brebbia pitched the final two innings and did not give up a hit, earning his first save.


Who’s hot

Luke Weaver — TCN’s No. 2 prospect has had two great starts in a row after coming off the DL. Weaver has started just three games this season after exiting early on opening day.

In his past two starts, he has combined for 13 innings and nine strikeouts without allowing a run or issuing a walk. Weaver has given up only seven hits in those two starts as well. The most recent start led to him being named Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Week for the May 1-7 period.

Weaver pitched well in his first start too, going two innings with a strikeout and a hit before back stiffness forced his leave.

Mike Mayers — After making the “who’s hot” list last week with a six inning, no run performance, he did the same thing this week. Mayers went six innings against Iowa giving up just four hits with three strikeouts, but did not receive the win.

The 25-year-old started slowly, giving up at least three runs in each of his first four starts — 16 total earned runs in those games. His ERA jumped to 8.15, but he has brought it down to 4.85 in his past two starts.

John Brebbia — The 2015 Rule 5 pick-up has had a solid season so far. Through April 21, the reliever had given up given up five runs in six appearances, but since then, he has been dominant. 

In his five outings since April 21, Brebbia has pitched nine innings of scoreless ball. In that time, he has 11 strikeouts to three walks and has given up only two hits.

Nick Martini — Freshly-returned from Springfield, Martini has been solid. In his first game for the Redbirds, May 6, the outfielder went 1-for-2 with a walk and a run.      

In his next three games, Martini collected seven more hits, including a four hit game. The 26-year-old is batting .400 through his first five games with Memphis.

Harrison Bader — The top outfield prospect has had five multi-hit games over the past nine contests with three home runs and five RBI, the latter of which came in two games. His batting average rose from .261 to .273.

Bader has fanned in six straight games and eight of the past nine. His strikeout ratio for that time is 28.5 percent, which is five points more than his season average.

“It’s a lot easier to hit when you got a line like we’ve had,” Bader said. “We’ve had a lot of success the past two weeks and a lot of guys are rolling and locked it and it has rubbed off on me.”

Luke Voit — In his first season in Memphis, Voit has been hitting at a high level all season. He is currently batting .345 and tied for the team lead with 23 RBI. The 26-year-old is also tied for third in the PCL with 72 total bases and fourth with a .621 slugging percentage.

This past week, the first baseman had three multi-hit games with two doubles, a homer and four RBI.

Carson Kelly — After his average fell to .224 in early May, Kelly has brought it up to .321 in six games. The Cardinals top catching prospect now has a six-game hitting streak with four multi-hit games.

During that six game stretch, Kelly has eight RBI, four doubles and a home run. He has also just stuck out one time and walked three times.

Breyvic Valera — The second baseman was off a slow start to the year after hitting .341 in 73 games in Memphis last season. He started the season batting under .200 until late April. Since then, his average has steadily risen to .314.     

Valera has hit safely in 10 straight games and 12 of the last 13. In the last 13 games, he has scored nine runs, tripled five times and doubled twice. The RBI have been few and far between with just three in the 13 game stretch and four on the season.

Paul DeJong — The shortstop has moved around the infield some with three starts each at second and third, and his bat has been consistent all year.

DeJong is currently on a five-game hitting streak and has hit safely in nine of the last 10 games. During that time, he has knocked in 16 and has six home runs.

He ranked second in the Cardinals organization with 22 homers last season and leads the team with nine so far this year. He is tied for fourth in the PCL, three behind the leader.

Todd Cunningham — The former Atlanta second round pick started the season slowly, but thanks to a nine game hitting streak, which ended Thursday, he has turned things around.        

Before the streak, Cunningham was batting .220 but has taken it to .280 since. In the past 10 games, Cunningham has a double, triple and homer each to go along with six RBI and eight runs.


Who’s not

Josh Zeid — The starter’s struggles continue as he gave up seven runs to Iowa in 5 1/3 innings. He has been charged with at least three runs in five of his six starts for an ERA of 6.82.

Zach Phillips — Phillips started the season off well with a 1.54 ERA in his first nine appearances. But his last two outings have taken his ERA to 4.41.

In his last two games, 4 2/3 innings, Phillips has given up six runs on nine hits. He has still been striking out a lot of batters, five in his past two games, but has not found much success.

Rangel Ravelo — After his 3-for-4 Redbirds debut, Ravelo’s hitting has fallen off. He has not hit safely in three of the last five games and is batting .250.

Wilfredo Tovar — The 25-year-old has struggled all season and has not seen his average go above .250 since the second game of the year. The infielder has gone hitless in his past four games, an 0-for-12 skid.

Alberto Rosario — In limited time behind Kelly, Rosario has played in just 11 games. He is batting .154 and is 1-for-17 in his last four appearances.

Chris Ellis — After his first five appearances as a starter, Ellis came out of the bullpen twice this week. He pitched 1 2/3 innings in the two outings and gave up two runs and a walk.

Ellis was up-and-down in his five starts. The 24-year-old had a 7.77 ERA as a starter, which was inflated by allowing 10 runs in three innings during his third start.

Ryan Sherriff — Coming out of the bullpen, Sherriff has 14 appearances for 14 2/3 innings pitched. In that time, he has allowed 10 runs and 20 hits to earn a 6.14 ERA.

In his two outings this week, the lefty went three innings and allowed five hits, which led to two runs.


The Cardinal Nation Top 50 Prospects

#2 Luke Weaver — See “who’s hot” above.

#4 Carson Kelly — See “who’s hot” above.

#6 Harrison Bader — See “who’s hot” above.

#13 Paul DeJong — See “who’s hot” above.

#32 Daniel Poncedeleon — The right-hander was placed on the 7-day disabled list after taking a batted ball to the head in Tuesday’s game. 

“It was horrific,” Weaver said. “It was probably the scariest thing I’ve ever seen. It broke my heart to see it, but we see it happen every once in a blue moon, and it’s probably the scariest thing we see. We hear that he is doing good and making strides and getting healthier.”

#34 Mike Mayers — See “who’s hot” above.

#37 Sam Tuivailala — The reliever is currently with St. Louis.

#38 Rowan Wick — Wick has a 6.08 ERA in 13 1/3 innings pitched this season.

#44 Luke Voit — See “who’s hot” above.

#45 Breyvic Valera — See “who’s hot” above.



Memphis now has the best record in the PCL at 22-12 and lead the division by seven games. The Nashville Sounds (OAK) (13-17) are a half game in front of Round Rock Express (TEX) (14-19). The New Orleans Baby Cakes (MIA) bring up the back of the division at 12-21.


Team transactions

5/7: Marco Gonzales transferred from Memphis’ disabled list to Palm Beach.

5/9: The St. Louis Cardinals released RHP Mitch Harris. The right-hander had been on Memphis’ DL.

5/11: Daniel Poncedeleon placed on the 7-day disabled list, retroactive to May 10.

Update: On Friday, the parent Cardinals named Gonzales as the roster replacement for Poncedeleon. Gonzales is scheduled to make his 2017 debut against El Paso on Sunday afternoon at AutoZone Park. After pitching in extended spring training, Gonzales made one start for high-A Palm Beach. The lefty is coming back from 2016 Tommy John surgery


What’s next   

Memphis will finish the four game series with the El Paso Chihuahuas (SD) on Sunday then host Albuquerque (COL) for four games to finish out the eight-game home stand.


Follow Jon Morgan Bell on Twitter @NotTheLawyer.

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