The Memphis Redbirds Report – Week Six

This week's Triple-A Memphis Redbirds report from our on-site beat reporter, Brent Diederich. Blake Hawksworth is among the recent standouts as injuries have hit the club hard.



It's been a rough week for the Redbirds. Not only have they had to play every game on the road, they've had to do it without some key players.  Middle of the lineup hitters Tagg Bozied and Rick Ankiel have both recently been placed on the Disabled List, as has starter Chris Narveson.  This also comes only a week after Memphis sent up Ryan Ludwick and Brian Falkenborg to the Cardinals.  The Redbirds managed to hold their own though, going 3-4 despite facing two tough teams in the Salt Lake Bees and the Colorado Sky Sox. 


Where they stand


Memphis is one game under .500 at 19-20 while trailing division leading Iowa by 2.5 games.  Iowa is 21-17, Nashville has fallen to 19-19 while Omaha is 17-20.


Injury Update


The injury bug bit Memphis this week and it bit down hard.  SP Chris Narveson was placed on the disabled list with an injured oblique muscle.  CF Rick Ankiel is on the DL with an injured achilles tendon.  1B Tagg Bozied is on the shelf with a pulled hamstring.


Player Movement


For the second consecutive week, the Redbirds lost key players. This time though, it wasn't to the Cardinals, but instead to injuries.  They've called in the reinforcements in the form of catcher Mike Pagnozzi, Uutility player Mike McCoy, RP Ryan Meaux and outfielder Skip Schumaker, who was optioned from St. Louis.  Meaux is a 28-year old lefty who started the year in the Giants organization, while Pagnozzi was the backup to Bryan Anderson in Springfield and McCoy should help the team at a number of positions given the recent rash of injuries.  Cardinals fans know the story of Schumaker and he will be a welcome addition to the club, especially with the injury to Ankiel.


Who's Hot


Rico Washington has been a godsend for Memphis this year providing much needed power and versatility.  Washington has played some third, second and corner outfield.  He started at first on Monday night and promptly went 4-for-4, scoring four runs, driving in three and hitting his fifth home run of the year.  Rico's left handed stroke and solid defense across the diamond have made him invaluable to the team this year.  In 66 at-bats, his numbers are .338/5/11 with five doubles and 11 runs scored.


John Rodriguez has had a pretty successful week as well.  In his last ten games, Rodriguez is batting .464 with six doubles, a home run and seven RBI.  J-Rod looks to be regaining his stroke and some power and it comes at a much needed time.


Blake Hawksworth had only one start this week but he made it count.  Continuing his hot streak, Hawksworth went six innings, giving up only five hits and one earned run while striking out three.  Hawksworth didn't walk anyone for the third straight start and his numbers over the last three starts are terrific: 18 innings, 17 hits, three earned runs and eight strikeouts, giving him a sub-1.00 WHIP and much needed innings for the ‘Birds. 


In three appearances this week, reliever Andy Cavazos went 4 1/3 innings without giving up a run and only walking two.  Cavazos is another young pitcher who needs to throw strikes and let his stuff take over.  When Andy is not walking people, he is a very effective reliever and it showed this week. 


It should also be noted that two players that have struggled in Memphis this year each hit their first home runs of the season this week.  Travis Hanson had a big, game tying home run that was later eclipsed while Brian Esposito also hit a home run in Monday's victory. 


Who's Not


The starting pitching outside of Hawksworth has struggled this week as Randy Keisler has given up six runs in each of his two starts since rejoining the club, although he did complete one of those games.  Mike Smith has also struggled, giving up 11 earned runs over 8 2/3 innings.  Mike Parisi had an uncharacteristically bad start giving up 12 hits and 10 earned runs while Troy Cate has give up eight runs in 9 1/3 innings while walking three batters each in his past two starts.


Utilityman John Nelson has only five hits over his last 27 at bats, while striking out eight times.  He's hitting only .194 on the season with two home runs and three RBI but has played a number of positions to help the team.


Brendan Ryan is hitting only .233 over his last ten games and it appears that the wrist injury that hindered him all last season may be beginning to flare up again.  He did bat second in the lineup Monday night, giving way to Skip Schumaker.  With Ryan and Schumaker at the top of the lineup, the Redbirds have a lot of speed but also two players with questionable bats. 


What we Know


The recent rash of injuries has forced Manager Chris Maloney's hand a little bit in regard to finding a way to fill out his lineup.  With Rick Ankiel and Tagg Bozied both shelved on the DL, Maloney will have to rely on players like Nick Stavinoha, John Rodriguez and Edgar Gonzalez to be middle of the order producers.  Bozied in particular was really hitting well before his injury and had appeared to put a stamp on the number four spot in the order. 


This may be Skip Schumaker's last chance to make an impression with the St. Louis brass.  Schumaker is out of options and might not be Cardinal property after this year if he does not show potential in Memphis.  It will be exciting to see Skip and Brendan Ryan and the top of the order, and those two may be asked to run more with the lack of power guys behind them. 


We may be seeing the real Blake Hawksworth.  He has put together a string of solid starts and has kept guys off base by not walking them and being aggressive.  Although his strikeout numbers aren't very high, his stuff is there and his confidence has to be booming, which is key for a young player.  It will be interesting to see if Blake can maintain this form and position himself for a future big league rotation spot.



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