Fans may have already heard, but the Redbirds have released another hint of something new the 15th season at AutoZone Park will feature. On Saturday, June 7th, when Memphis plays host to Nashville, it will be Tribute to Memphis, Egypt Night. As part of the night, fans will see Redbird players sporting Egyptain-themed jerseys. The night will conclude with a special fireworks presentation. Fans will not want to miss seeing their favorite players in these one-of-a-kind jerseys.
Here at AutoZone Park, the excitement of the season is always supported by the arrival of merchandise. A few photos from the Backstop Baseball Emporium were snapped yesterday of the gear. Of those photographed is a shirt commemorating the Battle of the Birds showdown, featuring the Redbirds and the team’s parent club, the St. Louis Cardinals. With the Battle of the Birds a short 10 days away, the excitement began to stir around the park. The team shop will be open for the showdown on the 28th and once the season starts. For all those looking to sport Redbird gear this season, make sure your first stop is in the store, and if you have not grabbed your tickets yet, click here.
Since the last post about predictions for the Redbirds roster concerning the 2014 season, St. Louis has optioned five players to minor league camp. A majority of moves have featured more pitchers than position players. It is pitching that remains one of the strongholds in the St. Louis system though and entering the season, things are panning out well.
The starting rotation in Memphis should see a few newcomers in Tim Cooney and Angel Castro, with Zach Petrick (pictured above) having an outside chance. Both Cooney and Petrick had successful 2013 campaigns, as the tandem finished as teammates at Double-A Springfield. Cooney led all St. Louis minor league players in strikeouts (148) and was tied for the top spot in wins (10). Petrick was right behind Cooney in strikeouts (122), finishing third, but bested all others in ERA (1.99). He also earned the St. Louis Cardinals Minor League Pitcher of the Year Award after the season. The pair as a whole have tremendous upside entering only their third professional seasons. If one of them is optioned to start with Double-A, then expect Boone Whiting to fill their spot. Castro was signed in the offseason after spending 2013 with Triple-A Albuquerque in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ organization. He started 19 games and recorded a 3.48 ERA in 116.1 innings of work. The Dominican Republic-native will be expected to log important innings for Memphis.
Tyler Lyons (pictured above) and Scott McGregor are projected to fill the final two spots in the rotation. Lyons made his Major League debut in 2013 pitching 53 innings with a 4.75 ERA. If the big league club has any injuries in the starting personnel, Lyons will more than likely be the first to see action with St. Louis again. McGregor, the pitcher who tied Cooney with 10 wins last season, started eight games with Springfield and 17 with Memphis. While his combined ERA landed at 4.06 in 2013, McGregor will look to improve in his first full season at Triple-A.
The St. Louis bullpen does have some questions, which poses uncertainty to trickle down to Memphis. Things should sort out once a few players return from injuries though. With Jaime Garcia going down at the opening of spring training and Jason Motte not appearing to be at full health, it keeps the door open for either Joe Kelly or Carlos Martinez to plug the gap in the starting rotation and the other to fill a bullpen spot. That still leaves one spot in the bullpen though which some see Keith Butler filling. Butler, who made his debut with the Cardinals in 2013, would likely remain with St. Louis until Motte can make a return. The rest of the projected relievers in Memphis are familiar to most.
Sam Freeman (pictured above), Lee Stoppelman, Jorge Rondon, Eric Fornataro, and Nick Greenwood are foreseen as finding their way to Triple-A. Stoppelman saw three games with Memphis in 2013, his first time above the Double-A level. He showed poise last season, posting a 1.50 ERA in 55 games combined between three levels. Rondon had a good season as a Redbird in 2013 (51 G, 3.06 ERA), while Greenwood and Fornataro seek to bounce back from tough campaigns. Finally, after hurling a franchise-record 25.2 consecutive shutout innings by a reliever, Freeman found success in both Memphis and St. Louis. The lefty was 7-2 with a 2.97 ERA at Triple-A and 1-0 with a 2.19 ERA in St. Louis. If the St. Louis bullpen did not already have two lefties locked into it, Freeman would probably be on the Opening Day roster for the Cardinals, although he does still have a chance if St. Louis does not mind having three left-handers. The last spot in the Memphis ‘pen, an opening most thought Jose Almarante would fill before getting stuck in the Dominican with visa issues, seems to be a wait-and-see issue. If the Cardinals are looking internally to fill the void, it could be Heath Wyatt, simply because of the solid year he put together in 2013 between Advanced-A Palm Beach and Springfield. However, they do have a few players that could wind up on the trade block and provide them with another arm.
With the moves yesterday, St. Louis is down to 34 roster players and seven non-roster invitees left in Major League camp. The key to pitching is keeping arms healthy, which is what the organization is focusing on heading into Opening Day.
Originally posted on Ben's Biz Blog:
You don’t get a second chance to throw out a first pitch at a Memphis Redbirds game.
There I was, just a few feet from the mound, a bundle of nerves as I prepared for my moment on the hill. To make matters worse, a few…
View original 625 more words
Here is another sneak peek of a giveaway featured in the promotional calender for the 2014 season. It happens on Friday, May 23rd, when the Oklahoma City Redhawks visit AutoZone Park. Not only is it Irish Heritage Night, but the first 3,000 fans will also receive the green batting practice hat shown above. The night is presented by Silky O’Sullivan’s. Get your tickets to this game here.
When camp opened a few weeks ago, 59 players reported to Major League Spring Training with the St. Louis Cardinals. Grapefruit League play is now two weeks old and the spring training roster is down to 46. There are plenty of story lines that have developed over the progress of 14 days.
- Oscar Taveras did not show the break out spring the organization was looking for and was optioned to Triple- A on Thursday.
- Stephen Piscotty is locked in and has impressed at the plate, but barring strange circumstances, will start at the Triple-A level.
- Carlos Martinez has made things interesting for the final spot in the Cardinals starting rotation. He has allowed just five hits and two earned runs in 10.0 innings as a starter thus far.
- Lance Lynn took the mound yesterday and struck out 10 batters in 4.0 innings, including eight K’s in a row to end his outing.
- The Cardinals made a bold move by signing Cuban infielder Aledmys Diaz, who did not appear in a game during the 2013 season.
The list could continue, but the bottom line is that the team has for the most part remained healthy and strong through the first few weeks.
The Cardinals started optioning players at the beginning of the week, moving ten total so far. Three of them, RHP Angel Castro, OF Mike O’Neill and OF Rafael Ortega, were placed on the Triple-A Memphis roster. Of the other seven, RHP Boone Whiting (pictured above) is the one that should be noted. It was a bit surprising to see Whiting not placed on Memphis’ roster after he made 21 starts for the Redbirds in 2013, going 5-5. Projections had him as one of the five starters to begin with Memphis, but he could see a quick promotion similar to last year (more information on the starting rotation and bullpen will be up next week on the blog). St. Louis has since optioned only three players, all on Thursday and all to Memphis. As mentioned above, OF Oscar Taveras was most notably moved, joining RHP Eric Fornataro and C Audry Perez. As for the remainder of the Memphis roster, things are still up in the air, but the forecast of players may be foreseeable.
With Taveras locking down one of the outfield spots, most likely right field, it is expected that Piscotty and Randal Grichuk (pictured above) will join him. Grichuk has appeared in 61 games at center field in the past two years and will more than likely anchor that spot for Memphis. Seeing Piscotty succeed as he has in spring training is exciting to witness, but Cardinals’ manager Mike Matheny has hinted at a start at Triple-A for the outfielder. O’Neill is a contact hitter that may fill a spot early in the season if Taveras is not healthy enough to go right away. Otherwise, expect him to be a bench player with the opportunity at pinch hitting. The real surprise of the moves thus far was seeing Ortega placed in Memphis. Ortega did not do much in his six at-bats in spring training, plus he hit only .228 last year with Double-A Tulsa in the Colorado Rockies’ organization. Offseason-signee Joey Butler was predicted to fill a fifth outfielder spot on the Triple-A roster, but he has not been moved from Major League camp yet. The former Texas Ranger has spent the past three seasons as an opponent of the Redbirds as a part of Triple-A Round Rock. With Ortega landing on the Triple-A roster it does mean that 2012 1st round pick James Ramsey will probably start with Double-A Springfield.
The signing of Diaz on Sunday piled more questions on an already packed infield. Though he is not able to compete in Cardinals spring training games because of work visa issues, it was reported he would get some action in minor league games soon. It was said that the infielder would begin in a high level of the St. Louis system, but that will be Double-A more than likely. In addition to Diaz, fans can expect many new faces on the infield. Scott Moore, Greg Miclat and Xavier Scruggs (pictured above) are slated to begin in Memphis. Moore has Major League experience with three different clubs, but spent the 2013 season in Triple-A with Tucson and Sacramento. He has experience at first base, third base and as a corner outfielder. Miclat was a Rule 5 pickup by St. Louis from Texas. The middle infielder spent the majority of 2013 with Triple-A Round Rock as a teammate to the above-mentioned Butler. Finally, Scruggs is a first baseman who has been in the organization for the last six years. He has shown terrific power (22 HR in 2012, 29 HR in 2013) through the years and actually holds the Springfield Cardinals home run record, a feat he achieved on the last day of the regular season in 2013. The downside to Scruggs is that he strikeouts a lot (177 times in 2013) and has not hit for a high average yet. The way he is hitting in spring training should be a cause for excitement though. Those new additions should team with the more familiar, namely Jermaine Curtis, Greg Garcia and Vance Albitz, to man the infield. If there was to be an odd man out, it would be Albitz. He was back-and-forth between Springfield and Memphis last season and could use the at-bats at Double-A.
Backstops are as set as they could be with Perez and newly-signed Ed Easley (pictured above). Perez got experience as a late-season call up in 2013 and appeared in 25 games with Memphis before that. Easley had spent the past seven seasons apart of the Arizona organization but signed with St. Louis in the off-season. He led all Pacific Coast League catchers last year by throwing out 35.7% of attempted base stealers with Triple-A Reno.
Rosters will continue to fill out quickly with more moves in the coming days and weeks. In the end, Triple-A Memphis, as always, will feature a surplus of young talent looking to prove themselves.
Our favorite time of the week has returned for a third installment. With Grapefruit League play getting fired up, there is plenty of action around Twitter to keep fans entertained. Below is a few of our favorite tweets that went out within the last week or so.
Jason Motte has been very active with fans in his return journey from an injury last year.
— Jason Motte (@JMotte30) March 8, 2014
Tyrell Jenkins even coordinated his sandals with the stripes in his socks
Marco Gonzalez lets us know that baseball is not done right without a bag of sunflower seeds.
Kolten Wong and Xavier Scruggs discussed Wong’s impressive sliding grab on Tuesday.
St. Louis Cardinals beat writer Derrick Goold said the diving catch was not the only thing Wong did that impressed on Tuesday.
The 2013 National League Championship Series MVP Michael Wacha made a few cards worth a lot of money with his autograph.
— Michael Wacha (@MichaelWacha) March 12, 2014
Infielder Patrick Wisdom was snapped doing a “little pregame bubble work.”
The Cardinals had some fun with PGA golfer Rickie Fowler on Tuesday. Fowler even had his own bat made and took some batting practice
— Rickie Fowler (@RickieFowlerPGA) March 12, 2014
One of the Cardinals top prospects, Rob Kaminsky, captured a special moment.
— Rob Kaminsky (@Kaminsky21) March 13, 2014
Remember that the exhibition game between the St. Louis Cardinals and Memphis Redbirds is just 15 days away! Tickets go on sale this Saturday, March 15th.
The Memphis Redbirds announced today that individual tickets for the 2014 regular season and the St. Louis Cardinals Exhibition Game will go on sale to the general public at 10 a.m. on Saturday, March 15th.
Check out the Redbirds’ website for more details.
After an eight-game road trip to begin the 2014 regular season campaign, the Redbirds will celebrate AutoZone Park’s 15th Anniversary season beginning with a 7:05 p.m. home opener on Friday, April 11th against the Iowa Cubs (Triple-A Cubs).
Word got out quickly on Wednesday after Rick Ankiel announced he was retiring during the St. Louis Cardinals’ broadcast of their game between the Miami Marlins. With the proclamation, the former 1997 second round pick of the St. Louis Cardinals closed the book on an up-and-down, unique playing career.
Ankiel opened his professional career at Single-A Peoria of the Midwest League in 1998. He advanced through two levels in 1999. He was then rated the #1 top prospect in the minor leagues before the 2000 season, and after a dazzling performance on the mound, Ankiel found himself on the St. Louis roster for the first time in his career. The hard-throwing left-hander became an 11-game winner over 30 starts. He concluded the year with a 3.50 ERA in 175 innings. It would be his only good season as a pitcher, as most know the story of the wheels falling off for Ankiel. The inability to throw strikes forced him to turn his attention to the outfield, where he would adequately survive over seven more seasons with five different big league clubs.
The now-34-year old veteran saw parts of four seasons in Memphis (’99, ’01, ’04, ‘07). As a pitcher with the Redbirds, the southpaw ended with a combined 8-5 record and a 3.76 ERA, even being named the Baseball America Minor League Player of the Year in 1999. Even during his best season as a pitcher at Triple-A, the potential as a full-time hitter always seemed to be with Ankiel, when he went 6-for-21 with two doubles and four RBIs in ’99. Records say he would not log an at-bat with Memphis again until 2007, when he hit .267 with 32 home runs and 89 RBIs. Those stats warranted a call-up from St. Louis, finishing the year by playing 47 games with the Cardinals and driving in 39 more runners.
That 2007 season with Memphis was one for the books though. He led the team in total bases, (221), home runs and RBIs. He holds three single-game Redbird records, two of which he earned in one game during the ’07 season. He is tied with three other players after hitting three home runs on June 16th against Iowa. Ankiel ended up with 13 total bases that game after adding a single to his 4-for-5, three-RBI game, which still stands as the record in that category. The outfielder paired a .314 on-base percentage with a .568 slugging percentage, a career-high between both the majors and minors. He had the highest HR/AB ratio in the Pacific Coast League that year, a mark that stood at 1/12.16. There were 13 different games when Ankiel recorded three or more RBIs. He hit home runs in back-to-back games seven different times, even going yard in four consecutive contests from July 3rd to the 7th. The strong arm he used to pitch with came into play during his time split between right and center fields. While he committed seven errors in 238 chances, Ankiel posted eight outfield assists and started three double plays. Adding to all of that, the then-27-year old swiped four bases in seven chances. He was named a starting outfielder at the Triple-A All-Star Game and awarded a Post-Season All-Star selection from the Pacific Coast League. His promotion to St. Louis on August 9th was well warranted. Ankiel would go on to play two more seasons with the Cardinals in ’08 and ’09 before moving elsewhere.
For me, Ankiel was someone I thought had it all together. I knew he could throw hard and that he was considered to be good. When he tried to make the conversion from pitcher to outfielder, I gave up on him for a little while. That 2007 season in Memphis would go on to springboard him into a respected all-around outfielder. I will always have two memories regarding him. The first was when I had gotten two of the same rookie cards of him in one baseball pack. I remember being the hot trader on the block with that extra card. The other is actually baseball related and it came when I was glued to the television as the Cardinals were in the midst of a six-game road swing during the 2008 season. It was a beautiful May night in Colorado and Ankiel was manning center field for St. Louis. In what I still consider to be two of the greatest throws from the outfield, Ankiel recorded two assists by gunning the ball with pinpoint accuracy to third base. When he nailed the runner at third for his second assist in eight innings, I was cheering so loud my mom had to tell me to settle down. (Enjoy)
Rick Ankiel was a talented man. Having success after switching from a top pitcher to outfielder will rarely, if ever, happen in the way that Ankiel made it happen. As he continues his life past a playing career, I wish him all the best and give thanks for the memories he provided me with growing up.