Monday, April 27, 2015

Split, Bulls Hit the Road

Season: 9-9; Home Stand: 5-2
Wrap, Box 1, Box 2

A 5-2 home stand is a very good showing. Especially since we have to say that the weather was not good for baseball the entire time.

Alex Colome’s start in game 1 was very, very nice. Unlike some rehab experiences we’ve had over the years, this was a good one for the Bulls. Since the Bulls are off to Pennsylvania, my guess is that if Colome gets another rehab start before going back into the Rays rotation, it won’t be with the Bulls.

Meanwhile, Alexi Casilla had a terrific game with 3 hits (two doubles) and 2 RBI in the 7-inning game. The two that he got across with his double in the 6th turned out to be game winners. The other two RBI were from, who else, Mikie Mahtook. He’s having quite a year.

Have to mention Gwinnett’s young pitcher (at least I don’t have to try to guess how to pronounce his name), Mike Foltynewicz. He took the loss, but a guy who routinely chunks 97 mph fastballs is going to get some big league time. And he’s fun to watch.

Old-time Bulls fans would recognize the kind of shuffle in the lineup for the second game. We saw Vince Belnome, who has started at 1B almost every, if not all, games this season, playing third. Leonard Reginatto, who had played 3B since come up, was moved to 2B. J.P. Arencibia was at first. Taylor Motter (who is not having a very good year so far was in right.

Meanwhile, the one pitcher we Bulls fans would have chosen to come in the game in relief, had an awful night. Kirby Yates gave up three runs in just 2/3 of an inning and took the loss. All reports had been that the only reason Mr. Yates was back with the Bulls had to do with the Rays roster shuffling and his option status. I hope that’s the case. He’s only had three outings with the Bulls and, except for yesterday, he’s done well.

Not much to say about Bulls bats in the second game.

Outside the game —

  • The Bulls are off for their first games outside the division. They start with the Phillies affiliate, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, for four games, then over to Pawtucket, Rhode Island for three games with the Red Sox AAA team. 
  • The ‘Pigs are off to a rough start at 5-13. They are followed by one of the rare fan blogs in minor league baseball. Kram has just put up his assessment of the pitching staff.
  • A couple of places (e.g., here) are reporting that Alan Dykstra is on his way back to the Bulls. Guess we’ll have to see how that plays out. My initial report didn't not mention that he'd been designated for assignment which meant that might have been claimed by another team.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Durham Bulls Back to .500 on Walk Off

Season: 8-8; Home Stand: 4-1; Standings
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun [paywall]

Joey Butler was last night’s hero accounting for half of the Bulls’ RBIs, most spectacularly with the walk-off home run that won the game. At 29 he’s one of the senior members of the team and he’s got plenty of AAA time under his belt, parts of 5 seasons, not counting a stretch in Japan last year. He has some major league time with both the Rangers and the Cardinals. [stats] Happy to have him here to hit the first Bulls homer over the Blue Monster that I’ve seen this year, plus the double to right field in the first inning.

Nice ending to what was something of a struggle for starting pitcher Dylan Floro and reliever Jim Miller. Floro gave up two home runs (in the 2nd and the 4th), but it was the lengthy 5th inning where he seemed to lose his touch. Jim Miller, at 33 the elder statesman of the bullpen crew, came in to end the 6th and had a clean 7th. However, he gave up the tying run in the 8th, setting the stage for Joey Butler’s heroics.

Mikie Mahtook was back in town after a very short, one game, no plate appearance visit with the Rays. He has not lost his touch. He got on base 4 out of five times with a walk, a hit-by-pitch and two singles. He scored three runs, to include the winning run when driven in by Butler’s homer.

Coming to the Bulls with Mahtook was first baseman Allan Dykstra. Mr. Dykstra was on the Bulls roster at the beginning of the year, but got called up to the Rays before the Bulls’ first game. That was the first visit of the 28 year old to the big leagues. He spent 2014 with the Mets AAA team out in Las Vegas with some pretty good power hitter numbers (OPS: .930 in 117 games with 16 home runs and 74 RBI. Stats.) Not a strong debut, 0-4 as the DH.

Rosterizing —
  • As mentioned, Mikie Mahtook is back. Alan Dykstra is now with the team. Catcher Mayo Acosta is off to “Hudson Valley”.

Friday, April 24, 2015

House of Durham Victorious!

Wool E. Bulls Arrives (check video board behind him)

Season: 7-8; Home Stand: 3-1
Wrap, Box

Wool E. Bull rode in on a horse and everyone had a great time to the sound of Game of Thrones music. A terrific GoT-themed video (see below) played a couple of times and every ballplayer was given a GoT-themed image for his at-bat. Good idea, hope the auction went well.

Meanwhile there was a lot to like and a lot that was worrisome about the game. Likes included Scott Diamond’s start and Andrew Bellatti’s first appearance as a reliever (he’s had two starts so far this year). I’m just guessing, but possibly Alex Colome’s rehab start allowed the Bulls to move Bellatti into the role he was hired for.

Likes also included a walk, two singles, a RBI, and decent 3B play by Leonardo Reginatto in his first AAA game; a breakout game at bat by Curt Casali with 3 singles, a walk and an RBI (more about that RBI later); and a home run by Alexi Casilla.

Worrisome aspects were the 14 men left on base; yet more errors leading to unearned runs; DH J.P. Arencibia’s 4 K’s; and the fact that only one of the first 24 batters got the ball out of the infield.

But we would not be doing our job if we didn’t point out the oddity of the game that led to the first Bulls score. Vince Belnome got to first base when Charlotte pitcher Erik Johnson botched a routine toss to 1B. He moved to 2B on a walk handed out to Joey Butler. After J.P. Arencibia K’d for the second out, Johnson got to a 3-2 count on Curt Casali. So the runners were going. Groans from our part of the stands as he hit a sky-high popup over the middle of the infield. Suddenly we were visited by a flashback to our little league days as the ball landed in the dead center of the pitcher’s mound with the pitcher, shortstop and first baseman all staring at as it rolled off. Meanwhile Belnome trotted on home.

Rosterization —
  • Mikie Mahtook called up to the Rays (sigh). Bulls are one short at the moment. He did not play last night. The Rays have twelve players on some sort of disabled list, but that doesn’t count the four on the Bulls roster also on a disabled list. At least I don’t think it does.
Outside the Game —
  • My blogging colleague over at Noise Nation (KramsKorner) who follows the Lehigh Valley IronPigs (Phillies), has put up a cautionary post I commend to all of you. Fortunately, no one reading this blog is likely to need the caution. None of us ever turn our backs to the game when someone’s at bat, do we?
Meanwhile, here’s the very cool Game of Thrones video that won’t mean a thing if you’ve never seen the show, but nice music anyhow.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Last Minute Loss; More Rosterization

Season: 6-8; Home Stand: 2-1
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun [paywall]

I wasn’t able to make it to the park last night. Was able to listen to the 9th inning. Exciting, but the Knights closer did what closer’s do.

In the meantime...

Rosterization —
  • One Rays blogger is now referring to his team as the Tampa Bay Bulls, seems apt. 
  • Ryan Brett, who started the season with the Bulls and played in 7 games, then went to the Rays and played in 3 games, hurt his shoulder and went on the Rays' DL.
  • Which led to  the Bulls' Jake Elmore going up to the Rays yesterday. Elmore had a pinch hit home run in his one and only at bat last night. That puts him into the statistical stratosphere of an OPS of 5.000! At least until his next AB.
  • To make room on the Tampa Bay 40-man roster, they moved former Bull Jeff Beliveau to the 60 day disabled list as he heads for the operating room today to fix a shoulder problem.
  • Why wasn’t Hak-Ju Lee, who is on the 40-man called up? Hard to say. But Elmore’s stats, team best OBP and third best OPS, were much better than Lee’s. 
  • To fill Elmore’s slot on the Bulls, Leonardo Reginatto, a youngish infielder from Brazil who has been working his way up through the Rays system is up from Montgomery to get his first taste of AAA ball. [stats]
Outside the game —
  • From time to time we get questions about the pay for minor leaguers. Turns out that at least some of them are taking the bizarre position that they should be paid at least the federal minimum wage! Imagine that! And they have filed a lawsuit. See today's feature in USA Today for more.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Education Day Win

Season: 6-7; Home Stand: 2-0
Wrap, Box

If you have never been to an “Education Day” at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, then you have missed an experience. Just imagine the park seething with thousands of youngsters (mostly middle schoolers, I think). No chance of getting to a concession stand, so bring your own snacks. Most of the children seem to be moving in colorful packs through the concourse. And they can be LOUD. But it’s fun. However, as an indication of their interest in baseball, they were collecting autographs from the peanut guy, who was able to get his call and response thing going late in the game. The next, and only other, Education Day is May 7th, against Buffalo. Check it out.

The baseball was fun as well. Alex Colome, who spent most of the last two years with the Durham Bulls, is with the team on a rehab assignment. Not sure for how long. He’s recovering from a bout of pneumonia and is on a limited pitch count. Today it was reportedly 75 pitches and he left the game at 77 pitches.

How did he do? Just OK. Plenty of velocity and a slowish curve ball that I don’t recall seeing last year. Odd collection of hits (4), walks (3), and strikeouts (6) over his 3⅓ innings. Did not hear how much longer he will be with the Bulls.

Meanwhile Joey Butler and new guy J.P. Arencibia were having fun at bat. Butler tripled and scored two runs. Arencibia had a timely sacrifice fly and a late inning RBI single. A home run from leadoff man Eugenio Velez was a pretty thing to watch.

Speaking of watching, Mikie Mahtook firmly established his credentials as a center fielder. Chasing down a fly ball in the 5th he crashed into the wall, and broke it, knocking one of the padded panels out. Game was delayed for several minutes while the ground crew went out to fix the panel. Then in the 7th he timed a catch and throw perfectly, making it an easy out on the runner trying to move from second to third.

Outside the game —
  • For all the stats geeks out there: Jeremy Dowdy, the Charlotte Knights catcher, was playing in his first game at the Triple A level. In four plate appearances he had two singles and two walks. What’s his OPS? 

After the Deluge, First At-Home Win

Season: 5-7; Home Stand: 1-0
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun [paywall]

The storms came and the fans stayed home (or went home) before Everett Teaford & Co got to show their stuff. The tarp crew has really earned its pay so far this year, and the year is very, very young.

Nevertheless, the Bulls have their first win at home and their first error-free game of the season.

After a 1½ hour delay Mr. Teaford started the game in control and stayed that way. It should be noted that the last time he started a game  there was a 2½  hour delay (Apr 15, the home opener). Perhaps the rain gods just don’t like him.

So very happy to have Mikie Mahtook back on the team. A timely hit in the 5th drove in two runs and a fielder’s choice in the 7th brought home a runner from third.

Jared Sandberg obviously likes having this team run. I’ve lost track of how many runners have been thrown out at home, at least a couple. The Bulls have 11 stolen bases so far, but have also been caught 7 times.

Outside the game —
  • Alex Colome is in town for a rehabilitation start. He was in the Bulls rotation for much of 2013 and 2014 and we were never particularly impressed. He was tipped to be in the Rays starting rotation before pneumonia kicked him onto the disabled list. Rehab starts are not always a good thing for Bulls fans. We’ll have to wait and see.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Split; Bad News, Good News

 Wrap, Box, Virginian-Pilot

Season: 4-7; Trip: 1-1
Wrap, Box, Virginian-Pilot

The Bulls split their series with the Norfolk Tides. The Bulls spoiled the Tides home opener on Saturday, but yesterday’s game was a bit of good news and bad news.

Bad news first: This is a very error-prone team. In fact, the Durham Bulls are the worst in the International League with 19 errors in 11 games. Of the 50 runs scored against the Bulls, 13 have been unearned.

Consider yesterday’s 5th inning. At that point the Bulls were ahead 2-0. However, a walk put a runner on 1B, an error by Taylor Motter (his fourth) put runners on 1st and 2nd. Before the inning was out those two runners scored as did one more. That was enough to win the game for the Tides.

Which leads us to the good news, even if it is a bit odd. Young Dylan Floro pitched a complete game loss. He had a terrific game allowed just four hits and one earned run over 8 innings.

Dylan Floro came to the Bulls with an impressive résumé spending 2012, 2013, and 2014 coming up through the Rays system. His manager at Charlotte was the young Jared Sandberg. Last year he had some very nice numbers in 28 starts (a WHIP of 1.307) and he’s doing even better this year (WHIP 0.895). So keep an eye on the schedule if you want to see some interesting pitching.

Both pitchers were exceptionally efficient. Game time was just 2:11.

Outside the game —
  • Kirby Yates is back on the Bulls’ roster and he pitched an inning in Saturday’s win. Mr. Yates was an exceptional reliever for the Bulls last year and we did not expect to see him back ever again. Here’s hoping that his time with the Bulls is both productive and brief. Not clear why he’s here, but the Rays are nothing if not confusing regarding their pitching turmoil this year.
  • Brandon Gomes, who was doing OK in four appearances as a Bull, 5⅓ innings, WHIP of 1.312, is back on the Rays 40-man roster and back with the Rays. The Rays Designated for Assignment former Bull (15 games in 2008) Grant Balfour. I can’t imagine a circumstance where he would end up with the Bulls.
  • Mayo Acosta returned from Hudson Valley.