Redbirds Players Try For One Last Impression on Cardinals

By Don Wade

In a Triple-A baseball clubhouse, Aug. 31 doesn’t just fade into Sept. 1 and a meaningless flip of the calendar. The first of September marks the expansion of big-league rosters, so if you’re a Memphis Redbird on the parent St. Louis Cardinals’ 40-man roster, you’re hopeful of getting called up.

In a Triple-A baseball clubhouse, the first of September marks the expansion of big-league rosters.

(Daily News File/Andrew J. Breig)

Memphis manager Mike Shildt delivered good news to a few players on Monday, Aug. 31, and pitcher Marco Gonzales was summoned to start for the Cardinals on Tuesday night, Sept. 1, vs. the Washington Nationals as Carlos Martinez’s turn in the rotation was skipped to give his sore back extra rest.

Shildt said other moves may be made in the coming days, but in the meantime the Redbirds have a season to finish. It’s that point of the season when disappointments can weigh heavily on players and maintaining focus can become more challenging.

“It’s been a tough year for me ever since I got sent back down,” said catcher Ed Easley, an Olive Branch High School graduate who is on the Cardinals’ 40-man roster and had a brief big-league taste this season. “It’s out of my control. I just go out there and play hard, and I’m hopeful and feel like I can help (the Cardinals) be successful – whether it’s on the field, in the clubhouse, helping other pitchers prepare on their off days or something like that.”

Counting Wednesday’s scheduled 11:30 a.m. start at AutoZone Park, the Redbirds have six games left in their 144-game season. And if you’re a player, that means there’s still an opportunity to show your best.

“There’s an evaluation to everything in this game, right?” Shildt said. “Especially as you move to the higher levels, you’re no longer given as much credit, necessarily, for what you do well because everybody does things well. That’s the reality of it. So what happens is, sometimes you’re put under the microscope on what you don’t do as well. And that can take a toll on a guy.”

Redbirds pitching coach Bryan Eversgerd even has a saying for this truth: “Who you are is what you do when you’re most uncomfortable.”

Starting pitcher Zach Petrick, who is not on the 40-man roster and was slated to start Wednesday’s game in Memphis, already has thrown 152 innings, or more than 2,000 pitches, this season.

“It’s a grind for sure,” said Petrick, who is 7-7 with a 4.38 ERA. “But you’ve got to think you’ll have your chance and you can’t cash out early. Your arm doesn’t feel great, but you just gotta push through it. With our trainers and all, they take care of us.”

“But you’ve got to think you’ll have your chance and you can’t cash out early. Your arm doesn’t feel great, but you just gotta push through it.”

–Zach Petrick
Memphis Redbirds

Infielder Jacob Wilson, a Bartlett High School graduate who played at the University of Memphis, has shown pop in his first Triple-A season. He had 11 home runs and 53 RBI through 81 games. Not being on the 40-man roster, he really didn’t expect a call-up this September. But he still has work to do in the last six games and, well, you never know.

“I just gotta produce as many quality at-bats as I can, not giving any at-bats away,” he said. “Not saying I want to hit a thousand, but I want to see how many balls I can hit hard each game and just take it at-bat by at-bat, pitch by pitch.”

Shildt knows the last week of the season will be tougher for some players than others.

“These are guys that care,” the manager said. “They want to compete at the highest level. Guys have put in an investment – not only the season, which is long, but spring training. These guys will take two weeks off and then they’ll start dedicating to next year. In some cases, it’s almost a yearlong commitment to right now.

“To have something not go their way rightfully should be discouraging. I would think they would be subhuman not to feel that way. And I empathize with them. That being said, it’s time to see who’s ready.”