Most Memphis baseball fans are familiar with the big-league fortunes of former Redbirds like J.D. Drew, Eli Marrero, and Albert Pujols, each an active and important member of the parent St. Louis Cardinals. But what about those Birds who have flown the coop? As the 2002 baseball season winds down, the time seems right to check in on some old friends. (Statistics are through September 15.)
Adam Kennedy, 2B, Anaheim Angels -- Cardinal fans appreciate Kennedy for being the central piece in the trade that brought Jim Edmonds to St. Louis. Angel fans are beginning to appreciate Kennedy for having one of the sweetest strokes in the American League. Hes among the junior circuits leading hitters (.323), has stolen 15 bases, and played a solid second base for a club that is very much in contention for an AL pennant. Kennedy hit .327 and stole 20 bases for the 1999 Redbirds.
Joe McEwing, OF, New York Mets -- Little Mac was the Redbirds player
of the year during the inaugural season of 1998, when he hit .334. The scrappy utilityman was a regular in Tony LaRussas lineup a year later, before being dealt to the Mets on the eve of the 2000 campaign. Hes struggled in the Big Apple this season, hitting .211 with 3 homers in 180 at bats. LaRussa kept his spikes as a reminder of McEwings exemplary work ethic.
Braden Looper, P, Florida Marlins -- This big righty has been a workhorse for the Marlins, having appeared in more than 70 games in each of the last four seasons. He has a career ERA below 4.00 and 15 saves (10 of them coming this year). Looper led the 98 Redbirds with 20 saves and averaged more than a strikeout per inning.
Mark Little, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks -- A regular outfielder for the 2000 Pacific Coast League champions (.283, 15 HR), Little has found it difficult to latch on to a major league roster. He hit .341 for Colorado in 2001, though in only 85 at bats. The Rockies traded the former University of Memphis star to the Mets July 31st. After only 3 games under Bobby Valentine, Little was shipped to the world champion Arizona Diamondbacks, where he was among their September call-ups.
Britt Reames, P, Montreal Expos -- Reames was packaged with Fernando Tatis in a deal that sent pitchers Dustin Hermanson and Steve Kline to St. Louis after the 2000 season. Splitting time between the Montreal rotation and bullpen, Reames went 4-8 in 2001 and is 1-3 this year. He was 6-2 with an eye-popping 2.28 ERA over 13 starts with Memphis in 2000.
Chris Richard, 1B, Baltimore Orioles -- With perhaps the prettiest swing in five years of Redbirds baseball in Memphis, Richard drilled 16 home runs for the 2000 squad before being traded to Baltimore in a swap that brought relief pitcher Mike Timlin to Busch Stadium. In just 56 games for the Orioles that year, Richard hit another 13 dingers and batted .276. As the Os regular first-baseman last season, he hit .265 with 15 homers and 61 RBIs. Slowed by a shoulder injury this year, Richard has been held to a .246 average in 130 at bats.
Sean Lowe, P, Colorado Rockies -- The big righthander from Texas spent three years with the Chicago White Sox, where he compiled a stellar record of 17-5, with 3 saves. He pitched out of the bullpen for Pittsburgh this season, where he was 4-2 before being released September 9th. Colorado signed him two days later. Lowe led the 1998 Redbirds with 12 wins and sported a 3.18 ERA.
Luis Ordaz, SS, Kansas City Royals -- Based on his glove alone, Ordaz looked like major league material when he debuted with the Redbirds in 1998. He hit .290 that season and took over shortstop duties in St. Louis when Royce Clayton was traded to Texas. Alas, along came Edgar Renteria. Ordaz has been with Kansas City three years now and has never accumulated more than 104 at bats in a season. A career .219 hitter, hes still looking for his first big-league home run. Ordaz hit .309 in 35 games with Omaha in the PCL this year.
Armando Almanza, P, Florida Marlins With a name better sung than spoken, Almanza has made himself a career out of the Marlin bullpen. Now in his fourth year with the Fish, Almanza is 3-2 with a pair of saves (9-7 for his career). Almanza was 3-1 with a 3.03 ERA for Memphis in 1998.