Class AAA

Cardinals, Rangers exhibitions on deck

The Memphis Redbirds are entering their 20th season at AutoZone Park (photo by Mike Morrow)

A noteload on the Class AAA Memphis Redbirds, minor league affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals, and the Class AAA Nashville Sounds, minor league affiliate of the Texas Rangers:

Before the major league season begins, both parent clubs of Tennessee’s AAA franchises will play exhibition games in Tennessee.

The Nashville Sounds will play the Texas Rangers’ big-league club at First Tennessee Park on Sunday, March 24 at 1:05 p.m. For the Sounds, it will be the first big-league exhibition since 1999 when the Pittsburgh Pirates visited, playing at the old Greer Stadium.

The Redbirds will play the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday March 25 at 7 p.m. at AutoZone Park. This marks the 20th season of the Redbirds playing at the downtown stadium. They’re calling the match-up with the parent club the “Battle of the Birds.”

The Redbirds are the defending champions of minor league baseball, with the Pacific Coast League club defeating Durham of the International League 14-4 in the one-game title battle last year in Columbus, Ohio.

Memphis will host the 2019 minor league championship game Sept. 7 whether the Redbirds are in the game or not. Memphis last hosted the championship game in 2016 when Scranton/Wilkes-Barre of the International League defeated El Paso of the Pacific Coast League.

The Redbirds will be making a bid for a third straight appearance in the championship game, having fallen to Durham in 2017 5-3 in a game played in Scranton, Pa.

Memphis opens its regular season on April 4 at home with the beginning of a five-game series against the Omaha Storm Chasers, affiliate of the Kansas City Royals. Nashvillle opens its regular season on April 4 at home with the beginning of a five-game series against the Iowa Cubs.

The Sounds are in the first year of their player development affiliation with the Rangers. The Rangers’ manager, Chris Woodward, played for the Sounds in 2008, Nashville just completed its affiliation with the Oakland Athletics.

This season also marks realignment for the Pacific Coast League. The Sounds and the Redbirds will be in the American Conference Northern Division with Iowa and Omaha. …

… As spring training progresses, some of the roster spots for the minor leagues are beginning to take shape. In the last few days, the Rangers have optioned left-handed pitcher C.D. Pelham; third baseman Patrick Wisdom, center fielder Carlos Tocci, right-handed pitcher Nick Gardewine and left-handed pitcher Taylor Hearn to the Sounds. The Sounds released left-handed pitcher Jack Leathersich.

The Cardinals optioned second baseman Ramon Urias, center fielder Lane Thomas, a product of Bearden High School in Knoxville, right fielder Adolis Garcia, right-handed pitcher Giovanny Gallegos, right-handed pitcher Ryan Helsey, left-handed pitcher Genesis Cabrera and shortstop Edmundo Sosa to Memphis. …

The Redbirds’ manager this season is Ben Johnson, a Memphis native. Johnson, 37, was a minor league outfielder for the Cardinals. He replaces Stubby Clapp, who was promoted to be the first base coach for the big-league club on the staff of Mike Shildt, a former Redbirds manager, who replaced Mike Matheny last year. Johnson will be the eighth manager in Redbirds history.

Johnson played at Germantown High School and was drafted by the Cardinals in the fourth round of the 1999 draft. He once played for Johnson City, the Cardinals’ affiliate in the Class A Appalachian League. He made big-league appearances with the Padres and the Mets.

Johnson spent last season as a coach for the Durham Bulls, a Tampa Bay Rays affiliate. He is a former scout for the Arizona Diamondbacks. He has managed before, for the independent league Arizona Centennials in 2012.

The Redbirds’ coaching staff will include pitching coach Dernier Orozco, hitting coach Jobel Jiminez, trainer Matt Corvo and strength and conditioning coach Frank Witkowski.

The Sounds manager will be Jason Wood, 49, who is managing at AAA for the fifth year in a row. The previous four were in Round Rock, Texas, the Rangers’ affiliate. He has also managed at Class AA Frisco in the Texas League and Class A Myrtle Beach in the Carolina League. Wood played for the Sounds in 2000 and 2001 and becomes the second Sounds player to return as manager, the other being Marty Brown. Wood played in the majors with Oakland, Detroit and Florida.

The Nashville staff will include hitting coach Howard Johnson, pitching coach Brian Shouse, bench coach Geno Petralli, bullpen coach Eric Gagne, trainer Carlos Oliva and strength and conditioning coach Al Sandoval. Gagne is a former National League Cy Young Award winner with the Dodgers.

This will be the Sounds’ fifth season in First Tennessee Park and the 42nd season for the franchise. …

… It’s always unpredictable where top propects will be or how well they will play, but the top 10 prospects in the Rangers’ system, according to, are (No. 1) right-handed pitcher Hans Crouse, (2) outfielder Julio Pablo Martinez, (No. 3) right-handed pitcher Cole Winn, (No. 4) shortstop/second baseman Anderson Tejeda, (No. 5) outfielder Bubba Thompson, (No. 6) outfielder Leody Taveras, (No. 7), left-handed pitcher Joe Palumbo, (No. 8) right-handed pitcher Jonathan Hernandez, (No. 9) left-handed pitcher Brock Burke and (No. 10) left-handed pitcher Cole Ragans.

Baseball America ranks the Rangers’ top 10 as (No. 1) Crouse, (No.2) Martinez, (No. 3) Taveras, (No. 4) Winn, (No.5) Tejeda, (No. 6) Hernandez, (No. 7) left-handed pitcher Taylor Hearn, (No. 8) Palumbo, (No. 9) outfielder Bubba Thompson and (No. 10) right-handed pitcher Mason Englert.

As noted above, Hearn was optioned in the last few days to Nashville. ranks the top 10 Cardinals prospects as (No. 1) right-handed pitcher Alex Reyes, (No. 2) third baseman Nolan Gorman, (No. 3) catcher Andrew Knizner, (No. 4) right-handed pitcher Dakota Hudson, a Sequatchie County High School product who lives in Dunlap, Tenn., (No. 5) third baseman Elehuris Montero, (No. 6) outfielder Jhon Torres, (No. 7) third baseman Malcom Nunez, (No. 8) outfielder Dylan Carlson, (No. 9) outfielder Lane Thomas from Bearden High School and (No. 10) left-handed pitcher Genesis Cabrera.

Baseball America ranks the top 10 Cardinals prospects as (No. 1) Reyes, (No. 2) outfielder Tyler O’Neill, (No. 3) Hudson, (No. 4) Gorman, (No. 5) Montero, (No. 6) Cabrera, (No. 7) Thomas, (No. 8) Knizner (No. 9) Nunez and (No. 10) Carlson.

As noted above, Thomas and Cabrera were optioned in the last few days to Memphis.

Categories: Class AAA

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