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Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

Memphis Redbirds all-time opening day starters

Prior to the 1998 season, the St. Louis Cardinals relocated its Triple-A affiliation from its 16-year home in Louisville to Memphis.

Exactly 16 years later, the relationship may move to a new level if the rumored acquisition of the financially-strapped club by the parent Cardinals comes to fruition.

With the 2013 club heading into its second pass through the rotation, opening day starter John Gast makes his return to the mound Wednesday night. I thought it would be interesting to look back at the men who preceded the left-handed pickoff master in receiving the honor of throwing the Redbirds’ first official pitch each season during the club’s Cardinals affiliation.

Gast is back with Memphis after 20 starts last season following his initial promotion from Double-A Springfield after eight outings there. The good news for Gast’s future is that every one of the 15 prior Redbirds opening day starters pitched in the majors – either before or after.

On the other hand, only three of the 15 went on to have major league careers of a decent length. They are former White Sox reliever Sean Lowe (1998), Nationals starter Dan Haren (2004) and current Cardinals closer Mitchell Boggs (2009). The latter two are the only ones of the 16 to be major leaguers today.

At the other end of the spectrum, six others pitched in 13 or fewer MLB games. They are headlined by colossal bust Chad Hutchinson (2000), who went on to play quarterback for two NFL teams. His pro football career began with the Dallas Cowboys four years after the former Stanford two-way star pocketed a $2.3 million signing bonus from the Cardinals.

Of the 16, only two are in a position to reach the majors soon. They are Gast and right-hander P.J. Walters (2011), currently with Rochester, the Minnesota Twins’ Triple-A club.

In the table below, the 16 Memphis opening day starting pitchers are identified. For all, it is noted whether they had MLB experience prior to and/or after their Redbirds milestone appearance. Next is the number of career major league games pitched, how they left the Cardinals, their current club if active and notes.

Memphis Redbirds opening day starting pitchers, 1998-2013



MLB MLB MLB


Year Opening starter prior since Games Left StL Current Notes
2013 John Gast no TBD Memphis Future as a lefty reliever out of StL bullpen?
2012 Brandon Dickson yes yes 8 Release Orix – Japan 3rd of 3 years in Memphis rotation, averaged 25 starts
2011 P.J. Walters yes yes 32 Trade AAA – Twins 4 years as Memphis starter – 2008-2011
2010 Evan MacLane no yes 2 Free agent Orix – Jpn 2012 Not clear if he is pitching in 2013 after two years in Japan
2009 Mitchell Boggs no yes 219+ St. Louis Current Cardinals closer
2008 Mike Parisi no yes 12 Rule 5 AAA – LAD 2012 Not clear if he is pitching in 2013
2007 Randy Keisler yes yes 55 Free agent Ind – LI 2012 Pitched in indy ball in 2012 for Long Island Ducks
2006 Anthony Reyes yes yes 67 Trade AAA – SD 2012 May be unsigned for 2013
2005 Chris Gissell yes no 5 Free agent Retired Last played in AAA in 2009
2004 Dan Haren yes yes 297+ Trade Washington Departed in Mark Mulder trade in December 2004
2003 Nerio Rodriguez yes no 32 Release Retired Played in Mexico until age 40 in 2011
2002 Josh Pearce no yes 13 Free agent Retired Pitched for Memphis from 2001-2005
2001 Bud Smith no yes 27 Trade Retired 2001 no-hitter was his only MLB complete game
2000 Chad Hutchinson no yes 3 Free agent Retired $3.5 MM from StL and $3.1 MM from Dallas Cowboys
1999 Larry Luebbers yes yes 36 Free agent Retired Last played in AAA in 2002
1998 Sean Lowe yes yes 248 Trade Retired Pitched as MLB reliever until 2003

Hat tip to Memphis Redbirds media relations for supplying the list of names.

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2 Responses to “Memphis Redbirds all-time opening day starters”

  1. JumboShrimp says:

    What a difference a day makes, 24 little hours. Monday home opener is a horrendous bullpen collapse, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, wasting a great performance by Garcia. Tuesday we are saved by Matt Adams. Wednesday we squash the Reds. A complete game shutout by Westbrook does not happen often.

    Carpenter is off to a good start. He can be a high on base percentage guy, when on top of his game. If he continues to excel defensively, Carp is going to earn starts over Descalso.

    Matchup baseball is under-rated. It took left swingers Descalso and Adams to break up the no hitter of RHP Arroyo. Yesterday Jay, Adams and Beltran broke through vs RHP Bailey.

    Adams has a great short to the ball swing, Beltran has one of baseballs great swings. Jay and Carpenter will go to opposite field. It cannot be fun for RHPs to face them.

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