The Memphis Redbirds Report – Week 21

This week's Triple-A Memphis Redbirds report from our on-site beat reporter, Brent Diederich. Outfielder Joe Mather has 15 runs batted in over his last ten games.

It's the final week of Redbird baseball in Memphis and as the season winds down, the ‘Birds are heating up.  It's been a season-long disappointment in the standings but the team has some encouraging youngsters that have begun to show their promise and the team has picked up the pace.  With the team coming off their longest road trip of the year, 13 games in which they went 5-8, they now return home with several new faces.  The Redbirds were 4-3 for the week, a successful week that ended with a 10-8 win over Iowa on Monday night.


Where Do They Stand?


Memphis now sits at 55-82, 29 games behind division leading Nashville, who is 84-53.  The Iowa Cubs are 75-62 and the Omaha Royals are 69-68.


Injury Update


RHP Blake Hawksworth has been placed on the Disabled List to make room for recently optioned RHP Brad Thompson.  Hawksworth has some history with injuries and may just be prematurely shut down for the season.  C Ryan Christianson was also placed on the DL to make room for newly acquired C Danny Ardoin.  INF Mike Ferris is also on the DL.


Player Movement


There's has been lots of movement by the Cardinals lately to help them form their soon-to-be-expanded big league roster.  LHP Mike Venafro was signed and might become another left-handed arm for the bullpen.  UT Miguel Cairo was also recently signed and has played six positions in six games.  C Danny Ardoin was also recently signed although he most likely provides insurance in the Kelly Stinnett situation.  RHP Brad Thompson is back with the Redbirds and fellow pitcher Mike Maroth is in Memphis for a rehab assignment. 


Who's Hot


OF Joe Mather has had a big week with five home runs over his last ten games.  Mather is batting .333 with 15 RBI and 11 runs scored.  Manager Chris Maloney has spoken highly of Mather and some of the other younger players recently, reciting that they "get it" and "have really turned a corner". 


One of the other young players Maloney is speaking of INF Jarrett Hoffpauir.  Hoffpauir is batting .351 over his last ten games with five runs scored and six RBI.  Hoffpauir has consistently hit over .330 since his call-up from Springfield while showing some pop and a solid glove.


Fellow INF Edgar Gonzalez and OF Skip Schumaker are both batting a robust .429 over their last ten games and they have combined for 17 runs and 15 RBI.  The two veterans have provided a solid support system for the youngsters on the club and the offense has begun to put up big numbers.


RHP Andy Cavazos has gone five and a third innings without giving up a run.  That spans his last four appearances, in which time he has struck out six while only allowing three hits.


Who's Not


RHP Chris Lambert has definitely had a year to forget.  Over Lambert's last 26.2 innings, he has allowed 26 earned runs, including 10 earned runs in his last seven innings pitched.  In his last ten appearances, he has managed to not allow a run only twice.


LHP Troy Cate, like Lambert, has struggled recently.  In his last 10 innings pitched, Cate has allowed 17 earned runs.  Cate's biggest flaw recently has been the free passes he has issued, 13 over those 10 innings.  With both Cate and Lambert coming up short lately, the team is desperate for strong starting pitching as these two are the primary long relievers.


What We Know


The 2007 season for the Memphis Redbirds has seen the club send several key members up to the St. Louis Cardinals.  Despite the team's meager record, the real reason any minor league team exists is to prepare players for a future at the big league level.  It started with Ryan Ludwick, called up in May, who has been a solid pinch hitting bat and fourth outfielder.  Then it was Brendan Ryan, the slick-fielding infielder with the uncanny knack for getting the big hit, who has filled in at several different positions and been a sparkplug for the club.  Last, it was the triumphant return of Rick Ankiel who looks poised to become a big league star once again.  The season may be a wash in terms of wins and losses but the contributions of many former Redbirds has the big league squad in contention for a playoff berth.


For every success story though, there is a story of disappointment.  Two players that at one time looked like big time prospects for the Cardinals, may have played themselves out of the system this year.  Lambert, a former first round pick, has stumbled continually and finds his ERA above eight.  He has struggled to stay away from the big inning and his once above-average velocity has waned and he is a very hittable hurler.  At one time, INF Travis Hanson looked like he could be the future at third in St. Louis, but no more.  Hanson has struggled to hit, period.  The power has not been there, nor the consistency nor the run production.  Hanson is still a slick fielder, but third base is a position that requires offensive production as well.  The club may still want to give these players a second chance but it's obvious to everyone that their stars have fallen mightily. 



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