Friday, April 20, 2018

Back From the Cold

I'm struggling to find something good to say about the Bulls' trip to Ohio. The weather was awful with one rainout and one game shortened by snow. Most games were played with temperatures in the 30's and low 40's. And, as might be expected, played to essentially empty stadiums in Columbus and Toledo.

The Bulls lost 5 of the 6 games played.

They arrived back in Durham in last place in the International League South Division.

click on image for larger view

The team taking the field tonight changed quite a bit during its trek through the frozen north:
  • RHRP Ryan Weber came down from Tampa Bay (he had one appearance as a Ray). So far he has 1 inning with a blown save as a Bull.
  • RHSP/RP Chih-We Hu went to Tampa Bay, put in 2 2/3 innings in relief, and has come back.
  • Switch-hitting infielder Andrew Velazquez came up from Montgomery and has stolen 4 bases in two games so far.
  • Infielder Christian Arroyo went on the DL
  • RHRP Hunter Wood was called up to Tampa Bay 
  • Infielder Brandon Snyder was called up to Tampa Bay
  • Infielder Jake Cronenworth came up from Montgomery and has played in two games.
  • Outfielder Johnny Field was called up to the Rays.
Matchup

The Phillies AAA franchise the Lehigh Valley IronPigs are having a decent start to the year. They are in the middle of the pack in the IL North (standings). Plus they are the only other team in AAA baseball with a fan blog (although they, like us, have not been all that busy this year).

They are obviously hitting and fielding very well (only 1 unearned run).


Monday, April 16, 2018

Matchup: Bulls v Mud Hens

Ugly, ugly weather up in Ohio. Supposed to be around 38˚ at game time.

The big, big deal for WDBB is that Mikie Mahtook will be playing with the Mud Hens. Mikie came to the Bulls back in 2014 and played some terrific ball for the Bulls. He went back and forth with the Rays until going off to the Detroit Tigers for the 2017 season, when he had a good year. He appears to be caught in some roster turmoil, is off to a slow start, and had options left. I'm skeptical. I always like watching him play, so I hope my MiLB connection is working over the next couple of days.

Matchup

The Mud Hens are off to a good start. Most notable is their defense. They've only given up 2 unearned runs this year (the Bulls have given up 6).


Thursday, April 12, 2018

Bulls Split Homestand, Off to Columbus

The Bulls started the season with a 3-3 homestand. And looked OK.

On Twitter we're hearing that Johnny Field has been called up and the Bulls roster shows outfielder Jeremy Hazelbaker coming down from Tampa Bay. Very pleased to see Field get his chance.

The Bulls are off for their first out-of-Division games this year with a trip to Columbus to play Cleveland franchise, the Clippers, then off to Toledo to play the Detroit franchise, the Mud Hens. The Clippers are the frequent power in the West Division. So far this year their pitching isn't helping them much. But it's very, very early days.


Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Even Up

Game 3
Durham Bulls 0; Charlotte Knights 5
Wrap, Box

Game 4
Durham Bulls 4; Gwinnett Stripers 2
Wrap, Box

Season: 2-2

Ugly weather day at the DBAP. I never made it out there.  I watched via MiLB. I have to point out that the two Bulls wins so far have been gifts from the opposing pitchers. But it's early days.

Who Are These Guys? - The Pitchers
(In order of appearance this year)
  • Chih-Wei Hu, RHSP, got the first start. This will be the third year that he's spent time with the Bulls. Last year he began as a starter and finished as a reliever. Now he's back as a starter. His first appearance this year was not very impressive.
  • Cody Hall, RHRP,  is coming to the Bulls out of indy ball, but has a fair amount of AAA time with Pacific Coast League teams. He's appeared in relief in Games 1 and 4 (getting a win)
  • Adam Kolarek, LHRP, is a back-and-forth to the Rays reliever from the last two years and we like him a lot. He did give up some hits in his first appearance, but did fine his second time out.
  • Ryne Stanek, RHRP, had 36 appearances with the Bulls and 19 with the Rays last year. He's already made three this year. Not sure why he didn't stay with Rays out of spring training, but likely to go back any day now.
  • Anthony Banda, LHSP, started game 2 and he looked very good. Banda was part of a complicated trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks and is considered a top prospect. He is on the Rays 40-man.
  • Ian Gibault, RHRP, is coming up through the Rays system. His relief appearance in game 2 was his AAA debut. 
  • Hunter Wood, RHRP,  was a really interesting guy to watch last year and extremely important in the playoffs. He's made two appearances and picked up his first save yesterday.
  • Jose Mujica, RHSP, got the start (his AAA debut) and the loss for game 3. He is the youngest pitcher on the team, coming up through the Rays system. My guess is that he will be either stick around and be thoroughly tested or go back to AA for more work.
  • Jonny Venters, LHRP, made his first appearance in game 3. He was helpful in the playoffs last year, but mostly he's been battling injuries for the last several years as he recovers from Tommy John surgeries. He could be a real asset if he continues on his healing track.
  • Jamie Schultz, RHRP, is back and we're happy about that. He's running out of time, but we love seeing him on the mound. Good luck. 
  • Diego Castillo, RHRP, opened his 2018 season with one inning's work and 3K's. We would expect no less. He had 3 saves in the playoffs, following a terrific post-All-Star break season with the Bulls.
  • Vidal Nuno, LHSP,  started game 4. He's bounced around a lot in his career over several years and a good bit of major league time. He looked just fine yesterday, just giving up the one home run. 
  • Forrest Snow, RHRP, made his first appearance in game 4. He's got AAA time over 8 seasons. He took free agency at the end of last season and was signed by the Rays.
Note: RHP Ryan Weber never made it to the mound. He was called up by the Rays during the Bulls game 3

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Taking the 5th

Game 2
Durham Bulls: 11; Charlotte Knights: 1
Wrap, Box, Play-by-Play, Video (Banda strike 'im out, Moore throw 'im out)

Charlotte's Chris Volstad gave up a couple of runs in the 5th, so reliever Robbie Ross came in and threw a couple of wild pitches moving runners around, then a walk, then two singles, and then another walk. Rose left the game with 4 earned runs and an essentially infinite ERA on the year. By the time Ross' replacement, Tyler Danish, finished the inning the Bulls had scored 8 of their 11 runs. A big inning on a big night.

Bulls starting pitcher Anthony Banda, out of the Arizona system, was impressive.

Who are these guys? (continued)
  • Brandon Snyder started at 3B and batted 5th in the order last night. If he looks familiar, that might be because he's played with almost every team in the International League including Norfolk, Pawtucket, Gwinnett, and Syracuse. He brings a wealth of experience to this young team. Last night he was 1 for 4.
  • Micah Johnson started in center field and batted 6th. He is out of the Atlanta system with time with both the Charlotte Knights in 2015 and Gwinnett last year. He was 2 for 4 last night with 2 RBI.
  • Adam Moore started at catcher and batted 9th. Moore is the "old man" on the team at 34. He spent the last two years with Columbus and can be seen at work in the video above with a nice strike 'im out, throw 'im out sequence. He was 2 for 5 last night with 3 RBI.
I'll get around to the pitchers eventually.

Weather for tonight does not look good. Let me refer you to my advice on dealing with rain up to the right, or you can click here.

Friday, April 6, 2018

The 2018 Season Begins

Game 1
Durham Bulls: 2; Charlotte Knights: 6
Wrap, Box

Who are these guys?
  • Christian Arroyo played 3B and led off. He went 0-4. He was a key part of the Rays' Evan Longoria trade. On 40-man. 
  • Jake Bauers played 1B and batted second. He went 2-4 with two doubles. He was a star last year and we're happy to see him back, if only for a little while. 
  • Willy Adames started at SS and batted third. He went 1-4 and got on base with a HBP. He looked good last year (with the most starts of any Bull). Also on the 40-man, it's guesswork to determine how long he will be here.
  • Joe McCarthy, in left field, is new to the Bulls and he started as the cleanup batter. He went 1-4 with a double. He's been coming up through the Rays system for the last three years (all of last year with Montgomery). Staring his first AAA game batting cleanup says something about him.
  • Jason Coats, the designated hitter, is out of the White Sox system. He missed all of 2017 with an injury. He was 1 for 4 last night.
  • Justin Williams, batting 6th, was in right field. He spent all last season in Montgomery, but came to the Bulls in the post-season and played well. He's on the 40-man.
  • Johnny Field, in center field, batted 7th. Last year he was our favorite leadoff batter. Maybe he'll get back to it. 1 for 4 last night.
  • Kean Wong, 2B. Hero of the postseason with his grand slam in the championship game, he is a fun-to-watch infielder. And, here's a fun bit of trivia, at 23 the oldest of this game's infielders. It's a young team this year.
  • Curt Casali, catcher, has spent a lot of time in Durham over the last several years. He is essentially the Tampa Bay Rays backup catcher (although this year they'll have to do some roster manipulation to call him up). In our view, he's very important to this year's team. Hope he sticks with the Bulls for a while.
Pitchers? We'll get to them later.

Opening Day Comments

The video board did not get into full operation until about the 5th inning and I was surprised at how much I missed not having the lineup right in front of me. By the end of the game, however, things appeared to be on track.

Very pleased to hear broadcaster Patrick Kenas and his sometime partner Scott Pose back on the job. They are clearly the best broadcast crew in AAA baseball (and I have listened to all of the broadcasters in the International League). That said, however, the feed dropped out last night for an annoying 15 or 20 minutes. Listen on various apps, or 620 AM, 96.5 and 99.3 FM. Note: All games are streamed via MiLB.com and later in the season most games are on broadcast TV.

Monday, April 2, 2018

2018 Roster Announced

We'll have comments later, but first here's a link to the


A quick glance here shows 7 pitchers and 4 position players on the Rays' 40-man roster (about average). Several familiar names.