By: Hubble Smith, Sports Editor
The program lists Memphis Redbirds outfielder Tommy Pham at 6-1 and 175 pounds, measurements most likely recorded during his physical exam when he was drafted in the 16th round by the St. Louis Cardinals from Durango High School in 2006.
The 26-year-old has added substantial bulk since then, judging by his chiseled upper body that looks befitting of a defensive back in football. Let’s go with 205. That’s more like it.
“They encouraged me to gain weight and muscle mass to stay healthy and make me more durable,” Pham said in the corridor outside the visitors’ locker room at Cashman Field.
Pham became part of the Cardinals pipeline of prospects from Las Vegas after being named second team High School All-American at Durango, going to an organization that had already taken fellow Durango graduate Ryan Ludwick and Cimarron-Memorial’s Brad Thompson. The Cards drafted Niko Vasquez of Durango in 2008.
Converted from shortstop to outfielder after scouts questioned his range, Pham has advanced his career to Triple-A Memphis Redbirds in the Pacific Coast League and went 3-for-12 with a double and RBI during a four-game series against the Las Vegas 51s at Cashman Field.
He’s hitting a smidgeon over .300 in his second year with the Redbirds, showing a little pop with five home runs, nine doubles and 18 RBI. Baseball America rated him the best defensive outfielder in the Cardinals organization last year.
“It’s been smooth,” Pham said of his transition to outfield. “Speed helps. I had to learn position and routes to the ball and situations during the game.”
He’s been beset by a chain of injuries, including a strained left oblique and strained left shoulder that led to season-ending surgery and kept him out of the Texas League All-Star game in 2013. Pham still has a strong throwing arm and good speed, stealing eight bases this year.
After going 1-for-5 with three strikeouts June 22 against the 51s, Pham said he didn’t do a good job of controlling the strike zone.
“You make it harder on yourself. You put yourself in tough counts and then you’re on the defensive,” he said. “I’m still just trying to work on being the best, find consistency in my plate discipline, just driving the baseball and becoming a better base stealer. I’m fine-tuning those three things.”
Pham said it was fun growing up in Las Vegas, especially having the opportunity to play baseball year-round.
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