At the plate:
Center-fielder Shane Robinson has come out strong, posting a hit in each game of the series and leading the team in hits with six. All of the ‘Birds regular starters have recorded a hit, but have been fairly quiet at the plate, averaging 6.67 hits a game, not helping the run production of 2.3 runs per game. With 2008 sluggers Nick Stavinoha and Joe Mather not getting a hit until Saturday night, the offense just has not been able to find its groove.
Against Rangers Top Prospects:
No. 1 Neftali Feliz pitched four scoreless innings against the ‘Birds. He walked a ton of people, but looked pretty great doing. Those balls were crossing the plate at a lethal speed.
No. 2 Derek Holland was scheduled to start on Sunday’s game, but the rain helped the ‘Birds dodge those left-handed bullets.
Avoiding Holland, the ‘Birds only faced one inning of left-handed pitching. Gabbard came in on Friday to deliver a HBP on Jay and a walk to Mather before being relieved. Quite the different story on Saturday, when Ballard came in to pitch a hitless inning. Still, the LHP remains an untested facet of the game for the ‘Birds thus far.
On the mound:
The Redbirds have a certain standard to live up to this season after leading the PCL with a 4.34 ERA in 2008. So far so good, we thinks.
Mitchell Boggs started the’Birds season off right after getting the Opening Day nod for Memphis. He showed flashes of the same pitcher who lead the PCL in ERA last year, staying on the hill for six innings and allowing just one run on five hits. Boggs was a consistent starter for the ‘Birds and I think Memphis fans can expect much of the same in ’09. Boo-yah
Adam Ottavino might have collected the loss in his first taste of Triple-A action, but he put together a fairly solid performance in his Redbird debut Friday night. The right-hander allowed just one earned in a little over five innings of work, issuing three walks and fanning five.
P.J. Walters absolutely dominated in his first start of the year, with a seven-inning performance that saw the pitcher not allow a single RedHawk on base until he issued a walk in the top of the fourth and was hitless through five and two-thirds innings of work. If he stays on this kind of pace, opposing batters are going to be in for a long season.
Right-hander Chris Perez was the star of the bullpen over the weekend, adding a save Saturday to a resume that already included a win he collected the previous Thursday. In his two appearances over the weekend, Perez posted three shut-out innings with three strikeouts and two walks. Each of his two outings came when the game was within a run, which shows he’s a go-to-guy in tight spots.
Jess Todd was another member of the ‘Birds staff that had a couple of appearances over the weekend. His first came Thursday night in relief for Mitchell Boggs when Memphis was clinging to a one-run lead going into the seventh. He started off with a 1-2-3 seventh, but struggled some in the eighth and let the lead slip away when the ‘Hawks drove in two runs at the top of the inning. His appearance Saturday went a little smoother, as the right-hander went one inning without any Oklahoma City batters getting on base. If the last couple of games are any indication, Todd should be capable of chewing up some crucial middle innings when getting the call from the bullpen this season.
Team Rating: B-
With a solid starting rotation (still yet to see Hawksworth and Mortenson) and a few choice closers, the pitchers look to be a strong part of the team. Probably an A for starters and a B+ for relief. However, it’s the offense that is the biggest question mark. Where are our heavy-hitters? Giving the team a C for hitting is still probably generous. Average it together and there you have a B-.
Well, as they say, all good things must come to an end and our Spring Training trip is no different. The Redbirds traveling party disbanded this morning with the important people (President/GM Dave Chase and President Bill Harter) leaving first thing this morning and the not quite as important people (Broadcaster Steve Selby and myself) sitting in the Palm Beach Airport right now waiting to fly back to Memphis. (Side note: the trip is already off to a great start as they just announced our flight is delayed by nearly an hour.)
The last day of the Spring Training trip is always a little bittersweet. First, you don’t want to leave the baseball behind and second, no one wants to leave the sun and the fun of southern Florida. But the end of the trip always comes with a silver lining, especially this year. Baseball at AutoZone Park is only one week away with the ‘Birds and Cards kicking off the 10th season of AZP next Friday at 7:05.
I will say one thing about this trip, it has made me more excited for the 2009 season than any other since I started working for the Redbirds in 2005. There are still a few roster spots to be determined but even with those spots still up in the air the ‘Birds Opening Day Roster is going to be packed with young talent. The pitching staff will arguably be one of the best in the Pacific Coast League with the majority of last season’s rotation and part of the bullpen returning. Memphis posted the best ERA in the league last season and will be a serious threat to do it again. With Mitchell Boggs, P.J. Walters, Clayton Mortensen, Jess Todd and Blake Hawksworth penciled in as the starting five it should help what could potentially be a really young bullpen. There are no big boppers for the offense this year with David Freese looking more and more like he’ll be in St. Louis with each passing day. So look for a little more running on the basepaths and a lot more small ball this year…at least to start the season.
We’ll see you at the yard.