After wrapping up the 2019 Grapefruit League season over the weekend, the Cardinals have one final tune-up before the regular season commences later this week. On Monday night, the Cardinals will be in Memphis for a game with the Redbirds, their Triple-A affiliate, at AutoZone Park.
This will be the 10th meeting between the Cardinals and the Redbirds dating back to 2000. The Redbirds won the inaugural contest, tied in 2002, and were victorious again in 2004; it has been St. Louis on top in the other six games, including the most recent in 2017.
The starting pitching matchup for this game is a fun one. Adam Wainwright will start for the Redbirds against Michael Wacha for the Cardinals. Wainwright and Wacha’s spots are not due up in the rotation until Sunday (3/31) and Monday (4/1), so this is the best way for them to both get another round of work in before the season opens. Miles Mikolas, Jack Flaherty, and Dakota Hudson will start, respectively, the first three games of the season for the Cardinals against the Brewers. Wacha will pitch the fourth and final game of that series before Wainwright pitches against the Pirates in Pittsburgh.
The Redbirds feature plenty of familiar names on their roster, especially if you are a regular follower of the farm system - or even watched some early Spring Training games. Infielders Edmundo Sosa and Max Schrock are here, as are outfielders Adolis Garcia, Lane Thomas, and Scott Hurst. Austin Gomber, Daniel Ponce de Leon, Ryan Helsley, and Jake Woodford highlight the pitching staff.
With Stubby Clapp joining the Cardinals’ coaching staff, this will be the first look at new Redbirds skipper Ben Johnson. The Cardinals drafted Johnson back in 1999, and Johnson made it to Class-A Peoria by 2000. Johnson was traded in the middle of the 2000 season and went on to spend time in the Majors with the Padres and Mets. Johnson managed the Durham Bulls in 2018 and also brings experience in the fact that he was scout, a job he held with the Diamondbacks for three seasons dating back to 2015.
The Redbirds have won back-to-back Pacific Coast League titles and won the Triple-A National Championship last season, defeating the Bulls. (Yup, Johnson’s now-former team was defeated by his now-current team.) The Redbirds were a combined 174-107 in 2017 and 2018 under Clapp. You may recall that Clapp took over as the Redbirds head coach when Mike Shildt was promoted to the big league staff following successful 2015 and 2016 seasons. It goes without stating that Johnson has entered a position where he is expected to mentor this young group to success and eventually earn Major League opportunities shall he do so.
If you’re going to this game, the gates will open at 4:00 PM Central time. The Redbirds will take batting practice from 4:15 to 5:15, followed by the Cardinals until 6:00. Pregame ceremonies will begin at 6:30, highlighted by the Redbirds getting their rings. The first pitch is scheduled for 7:00. A radio broadcast of this game will be available on MLB.com.