The Memphis Redbirds Report – Week Twelve

This week's Triple-A Memphis Redbirds report from our on-site beat reporter, Brent Diederich. Left-handed starter Randy Keisler is going for three straight solid starts on Tuesday.



Memphis has not been home, sweet home for the Redbirds as of late.  They have now lost five in a row at home heading into Tuesday's game.  Memphis has also lost 12 of their last 15 at home.  It's not all doom and gloom for the Redbirds though, as the team did have a successful 5-2 road trip sandwiched between the current losing streak at home.  Recently called up OF Joe Mather hit his first AAA home run after leading the Texas League with 18 prior to his call up, while fellow outfielder Rick Ankiel continues to rake to the tune of .277/.311/.592.  Also, RHP Troy Percival had a quality stint in Memphis and will now try to regain his old form in St. Louis. 


Where Do They Stand?


The Redbirds head into Tuesday's day game at 34-44, trailing the Nashville Sounds by 11.5 games for first place.  The Iowa Cubs are a half game back of Nashville while Omaha Royals are 37-41 and are third in the division.


Injury Update


OF John Rodriguez was placed on the DL as his knee has been bothering him as of late, IF Travis Hanson was activated to take his place on the active roster.  IF Rico Washington was also placed on the DL with knee problems and IF Jolbert Cabrera took his place on the active roster.


Player Movement


Tomo Ohka was signed and activated on June 20th and has already had two turns in the rotation.  OF Joe Mather was called up on the same day and has been playing every day in right field.  The most recent player to be called up to the big leagues is RHP Troy Percival, as he has displayed a mid nineties fastball and a terrific change-up in his brief time in Memphis.


Who's Hot


Before heading to the DL, IF Rico Washington was hitting his stride with hits in 12 of his last 23 at bats, including a pair of home runs and 10 RBI.  Rico had been filling in every day at third base for Travis Hanson.  Unfortunately there is talk that Rico may need surgery on his knee and could be out for an extended period of time.


OF Rick Ankiel and 1B Tagg Bozied have combined for eight homers in the last ten games with Ankiel having five.  In the same stretch, Ankiel has six RBI and seven runs scored while Bozied tallied four RBI and eight runs. 


LHP Randy Keisler, Tuesday's starter, has fared well in his last two outings, going a combined 14.1 innings while allowing only two earned runs and striking out 14 while only walking four.  Keisler has flourished while other pitchers have begun to feel fatigue setting in.  He has earned the win in each of his last two outings and will look to help the Redbirds avoid the four game sweep at the hands of the New Orleans Zephyrs.


Before his recent call-up, Percival had gone six innings over five games and not allowed a run.  Percival also had nine strikeouts in that span while only walking two and allowing three hits.  His velocity increased in each outing and by his final outing on Sunday afternoon he looked like he was certainly ready to face major league hitters.


Who's Not


IF Mike McCoy, who got off to such a hot start, has fallen back to earth.  He is only five of his last 29 with only five runs scored.  McCoy has continued to play solid defense and has been the everyday shortstop in place of Brendan Ryan, who is with St. Louis.


IF John Nelson has only one hit in his last 15 at bats and has been relegated to pinch hit duty.  Also, before going on the DL, John Rodriguez had only one hit in his last 21 at bats.


Still struggling is RHP Blake Hawksworth who had another rough start on Sunday.  He went six and a third innings but gave up six earned runs on ten hits.  He struck out only one and walked three.  Hawksworth started off by allowing three runs in the first inning but continued to post zeroes until the seventh inning in which he was touched for a three run home run by New Orleans power hitter Andy Tracy.



What We Know


Memphis had run into a buzz saw as of late, known as the New Orleans Zephyrs, after their best road trip of the season.  The team has faced some quality pitchers, the latest being RHP Phillip Humber, and have not had many clutch hits.  In fact, they were only 1-for-20 with runners in scoring position in the series with New Orleans heading into Tuesday's matinee showdown.  That one hit was by recently called up Joe Mather in the ninth inning which gave the Redbirds their only run in a 4-1 defeat.


Recent addition Mather is a guy who showed tremendous potential in Springfield before being called up.  He is a power hitter who will join the middle of the lineup and learn by hitting behind players such as Bozied, Ankiel and Nick Stavinoha.  Mather has a big frame at six foot five and 210 pounds and has enough athleticism to be a good outfielder.  It also appears that the Cardinals' front office intends to get him plenty of at bats here in Memphis so his progress will be well documented here.  So far it appears he may be pressing but he's new to this level and has shown enough natural ability to succeed.


Blake Hawksworth showed glimpses in May of how good he can really be, but unfortunately June has been a tough month for him.  His inability to overpower hitters hurts him when he needs key outs.  His other big problem is the long ball as he's given up eight over his last three starts.  Blake has a lot of tools and potential to match and with a good head on his shoulders, I fully expect him to learn from his mistakes and reach his potential.  It doesn't look like he will ever be an overpowering pitcher though - more of a finesse guy - so giving up the long ball will not help him reach the majors.



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