The Memphis Redbirds Report – Week Eleven

This week's Triple-A Memphis Redbirds report from our on-site beat reporter, Brent Diederich. Outfielder Rick Ankiel continues to shine.



The Redbirds went 4-3 this past week, including taking three out of four games from the Iowa Cubs, knocking them from the top spot in the PCL American North division.  Signs of life have emerged from the Memphis offense, including flashes of brilliance from the bat of outfielder Rick Ankiel.  The team was also once again stripped of some very good players as the parent club is in need of depth.  With the team directly in the middle of an eight game roadtrip, the Redbirds will continue to fight adversity and try to get their starting pitching on track to meld with the terrific offense the team has put together in this short stretch. 


Where Do They Stand?


The Redbirds are now 32-40, 10.5 games behind the streaking Nashville Sounds, who have won six in a row.  The Iowa Cubs are 40-30 while the Omaha Royals are 33-38.


Injury Update


RHP Matt Ginter has been activated from the disabled list and will most likely take over Troy Cate's former role of starting when needed and coming out of the bullpen as well.  RHP Dennis Dove was placed on the DL as well this week to make room for Troy Percival.  LHP Chris Narveson has suffered a setback with his shoulder while rehabbing and will not be available anytime soon. 


Player Movement


Memphis added Troy Percival early this week while losing RHP Anthony Reyes to the Cardinals once again as well as LHP Troy Cate and OF Skip Schumaker.  Reyes, Cate and Schumaker have all been playing well as of late in Memphis and obviously both Reyes and Schumaker have extensive big league experience while Cate pitched well in a short stint last month and it was good enough for St. Louis to give him another look.


Who's Hot


Once again, Who's Hot starts with OF Rick Ankiel.  Ankiel has been on a tear this week, highlighted by his three home runs against the Cubs on Saturday.  In his last 10 games, Rick has hit seven home runs in 40 at bats, while batting .350 with 12 RBI.  The only discouraging part about his hot streak is the fact that he has struck out 11 times while only walking once.  Throughout the season though, Ankiel has proven to be an aggressive hitter and his 19 home runs in 217 at bats are the results but so are his 54 strikeouts to only 12 walks.  It's becoming more apparent every week to Cardinals fans that he is not only a future big league outfielder but a potential star.


2B Edgar Gonzalez has also been on a tear, batting .359 over his last ten games while also hitting three home runs and stealing three bases.  He has eight RBI and seven runs in that span and his season average is now at .302 while posting a .367 OBP.


Between his return trip from St. Louis to Memphis and back, SS Brendan Ryan hit .370 with four doubles and two stolen bases.  Ryan did not walk in that span and his .315 OBP needs to come up if he wants to continue to be a top of the order hitter, but his defense is always terrific.  


Closer Brian Falkenborg has now converted four save opportunities in a row without yielding a run.  Falkenborg has give up only two hits over the last four innings while striking out eight and only walking one.  With Troy Percival in town, Falkenborg is polishing up on his closing skills and most likely asking Percival for a couple of pointers.


Who's Not


After going through a phenomenal stretch in which he was pitching lights out, RHP Blake Hawksworth has really been lit up lately.  In his most recent start on Monday, Hawksworth eight earned runs on nine hits in just one and 2/3 innings.  Hawksworth has allowed 20 earned runs over his last four starts and he is 0-2. 


Another player who not too long ago was found on the above list is now in a bit of a funk.  OF John Rodriguez is hitting only .139 since June 8th, with only one extra base hit to his credit.  Rodriguez came off the DL like a hitting machine and was saying he wanted to be in St. Louis but right now he doesn't appear ready.


What We Know


Although Anthony Reyes refused to talk to the media while he was back in Memphis, it was obvious that he was getting back into a groove.  Reyes allowed only four runs in 22 innings, spanning three starts, a sign that his "stuff" was there, while his head may not have been in St. Louis.  It appears that Reyes' second stint will be better than his first this season as he out dueled Milwaukee phenom Yovanni Gallardo and overpowered most of the hitters he faced in Memphis.


The Redbirds lineup has been lauded by rival managers this season, but has not always lived up to the hype.  With players like Ankiel, Rodriguez, Gonzalez, Tagg Bozied and Nick Stavinoha in the middle of the order, there is a lot of potential.  Ankiel's tear has hopefully sparked the team and if all the above mentioned are hitting, this team can score a lot of runs and quickly.  Unfortunately that has not always been the case without a true table-setter at the top of the order and the black hole that is the bottom of the order. 


The Redbirds have two major holes that have not produced all season, catcher and third base.  Third base belonged to Travis Hanson much of the season but has been in the various hands of John Nelson, Rico Washington and Mike McCoy as of late.  Nelson has power flashes but is a known commodity. While Rico Washington is a very good hitter, (as evidenced by his four hit, five RBI game Monday) he doesn't have a lot of range defensively.  As for catcher, Brian Esposito is hitting below .170 in over 100 at bats while Ryan Christianson is at .220 as is Matt Pagnozzi. The Redbirds need more offense from these positions.



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