Monday, December 21, 2009

Joe Dillon, Reid Brignac, and More

  • According to a release from the Bulls, Joe Dillon, last year’s first, second, and third baseman, and shortstop, has signed a minor league contract with spring training invite. Joe meant a lot to us last year. Good to see him back.
  • Stacy Long, who watches the Double-A Montgomery Biscuits and the rest of the Rays organization, has published his list of top Rays Prospects, with some interesting commentary on changes from his 2008 list.
  • Rays Index has updated his Rays 40-man roster thoughts.
  • No changes to the Bulls coaching staff for next year. Good news there.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Chris Richard, Jason Cromer, Joe Bateman, Winston Abreu and More

I’m not sure what’s different this year, but I like it. We seem to know much more about potential 2010 Bulls this year than in previous years. Maybe I’m paying more attention since I wasn’t blogging last year. Maybe the Rays and Bulls are putting more information out there. At any rate, with a bit of judicious speculation, here we are in December with some pretty good ideas about the 2010 Bulls roster, especially the pitching staff.

In recent days the Rays have signed quite a few players to minor league contracts, with most of those announced also getting invitations to spring training. Important to me, if not the Bulls, was that three of my favorite Bulls of this year look to be coming back.

Chris Richard, Winston Abreu, Joe Bateman, Jeff Bennett, Jason Cromer, Carlos Hernandez, R.J. Swindle and Richard de Los Santos have all signed in the last week or so. See the Bulls’ press release for details. We saw six of those last year (the exceptions being De Los Santos and Swindle). I’m guessing that we’ll see all eight on the Bulls roster come April.

I’m particularly pleased to see Chris Richard, Jason Cromer, and Winston Abreu back. Here’s hoping that they have great spring training experiences and make the Rays 40-man before they come to Durham.

Other news:

Charlie Montoyo was named Minor League Manager of the Year by the magazine Baseball America.

Rays Index has updated his projection of the Tampa Bay 40-man roster. For what it’s worth, it’s safe to assume that most players on the 40-man but not on the 25-man active roster will be in Durham (assuming they are still with the Rays).

Mitch Talbot was the subject of a long piece by Bill Chastain at a while back.

John Jaso was the subject of a short piece over at Rays Prospects.

After a terrible start, Justin Ruggiano is picking up his batting numbers down in Venezuela.

Jon Weber’s OPS slipped below 1.000 and is now just .975 down in Mazatlan.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


I spend every Monday afternoon as a volunteer at the USO at the Raleigh-Durham airport. Yesterday I did some strolling around Terminal 1 and 2 and discovered a display kiosk in Terminal 1 with all the trophies won by the Durham Bulls and Team USA last year (for those not from around here, USA baseball is headquartered in Cary, NC, one of the unmentioned cities of the "Research" Triangle).

On display is the Governors’ Cup (International League Championship), the trophy from the AAA Championship game, and the Baseball World Cup. As readers know, two Durham Bulls were on the Team USA team that won the World Cup this year. Photos in the display memorialize players, teams, etc.

Nice display. Bit of a puzzle to me that it hasn’t been mentioned on the Bulls website.

If you’re going to be at the airport, worth taking a look. Not likely that the average fan is ever going to be able to get as close to all three trophies. The World Cup trophy is a particularly impressive piece of sculpture and the Governors’ Cup, of course, has quite a bit of history behind it. the display case is in the baggage claim area of Terminal 1 (the old Terminal A).

Update: Photos now posted on the Bulls' Facebook.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Jon Weber Goes Over To the Dark Side

Well, I wish I had better news for this Thanksgiving day, but the headline says it all. Jon Weber has signed a minor league contract with the Yankees. That means that we may see him at the DBAP next year — in a Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees uniform.

Adam Sobsey broke the story locally this morning and has several apt comments regarding what Jon has meant to the Bulls over the last three years.

We knew something like this was coming after Weber was unable to get a call-up to the Rays in September after a superb season with the Bulls. He soldiered on for Team USA and is, at the moment, doing one heck of a job in the Mexican Pacific League. I had understood that he was going to make a run at playing in Japan and I guess that didn’t work out.

He will be missed, not least by the fine fellows over at Farfaleaux, Foghart, & Bloviate, L.L.C., who have had occasion to speak in Weber’s defense.

And, most obviously, by Watching Durham Bulls Baseball. But next May 10th, at the DBAP, you can bet that we’ll be there ready to dodge any bats thrown our way.

Relatively recent posts on Jon are here, here, and here.

Good luck, Jon. Here’s hoping we see you play in Yankee Stadium some day!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Odd & Ends

There’s enough happening out in the webworld to provide an update.

  • Over at DRaysBay Tommy Rancel has an item about Justin Ruggiano spending some time with a famous “swing mechanic.” Here’s hoping that he discovers something, because last year was really dismal. Given the way the Rays’ outfield is shaping up, however, even if Justin does get on track my guess it won’t be in a Rays uniform.
  • Then there’s Cork Gaines’ “Trade Value Index” over at RaysIndex. Fascinating list with a number of Bulls on it.
  • The writers at RaysProspects have put up their top 30 lists, which gives us something of a heads up regarding those guys down in the Rays system who might be showing up in Durham someday.

Meanwhile, right out at the DBAP, they’ve done a deal for Duke to play some of their home games at the DBAP. Here’s the press release, but better, Adam Sobsey has surfaced over at IndyWeek with his take.

I’ve got to wonder about the wisdom of the deal. The field looked really awful at the end of last year. I listened to the explanations regarding Bermuda germination, temperatures, etc., etc. But just seems to me that it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to add 18 games to the schedule.

For a deeper understanding, take a look at George Habel’s blog.

Seems to me it’s really simple. College students = beer sales. That’s assuming that anyone at Duke is actually interested in their baseball team. Don’t think we’re going to see a “McNallyville” (Duke’s baseball coach) outside the gates of the DBAP any time soon.
  • Charlie Montoyo won the Mike Coolbaugh Award. I have to be honest and say that I’ve never heard of the award before. But since I think Charlie should have been the International League Manager of the Year, maybe this will be at least some recognition of the job that he’s done with the Bulls.
Here’s an update on minor league free agents. In addition to the list I posted earlier add
  • Calvin Medlock
  • Carlos Hernandez
  • Henry Mateo
  • Jon Weber
In other words, just about everyone who isn’t on the Rays’ 40-man is now a free agent.

Speaking of the 40-man, Stacy Long thinks the Rays are running out of slots.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Books & Movies

We can’t go to the DBAP to watch a game.

The World Series is long over.

My Spanish is non-existent so watching erratic streaming video of the Liga Mexican del Pacifico’s Venados de Mazatlan really doesn’t do much for me. So it’s to the bookshelves or Netflix to make in through the winter.

What I thought was that I’d put up really short list and hope you readers will add to it. Here’s the criterion I used for my list — do I plan to read/watch the book/movie again some day?

So, here’s the beginnings of a list to help us through the winter. What can you add? I’ll update this post for a couple of weeks with your additions.


Shoeless Joe. W.P. Kinsella. 1982. ISBN: 9780395957738. The novel that film Field of Dreams was based on. Similar to, but in its way very different from the film.

Baseball: A Literary Anthology. Nicholas Dawidoff (Ed). ISBN: 193108209X. Terrific collection of poems, stories, essays, etc.

The Curious Case of Sidd Finch. George Plimpton. 1987. ISBN: 9780025976504. Based on the famous 1985 Sports Illustrated April Fool’s Day story. Fun read.

The Natural. Bernard Malamud. 1980. ISBN: 978-0809435944. Also made into a well-known film. Book is better.


Bull Durham. Of course. What red-blooded Bulls fan doesn’t have a secret yearning for Susan Sarandon (except for those who go for Kevin Costner -- unfortunately, once seen it’s pretty hard to get the image of those gills he has in Water World out of your head).

Major League. Mostly for the fun of it.

Bang the Drum Slowly. Robert de Niro playing a semi-literate catcher with a terminal illness. What not to like? Note that Netflix categorizes it as a “tear-jerker”.

Field of Dreams. Keeps the heart of the Kinsella novel and a very strong cast.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Free Agents

According to Doug Milhoan over at RaysProspects a bunch of current/potential Durham Bulls have filed for free agency including:

  • Joe Bateman
  • Jason Childers
  • Winston Abreu
  • Julio DePaula
  • Rashad Eldridge
  • Jason Cromer
  • Brandon Chaves

Of course that doesn’t mean they can’t show up in Bulls uniforms next year and there are several (actually all) of these guys I’d like to see back.

Also, Milhoan reports that Chris Richard is on the tryout list for a Japanese baseball team, the Chiba Lotte Marines.

In addition to Richard, Winston Abreu made the short list of one blogger’s speculations regarding Japanese baseball [NPB Tracker]

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Checking In On Jon Weber

Sometimes you just can’t make things up (although I’ve been known to do so).

Encouraged by commenter AmyT (now there’s a serious Jon Weber fan), I went out on a hunt for the website of Jon Weber’s winter league team, Venados de Mazatlan (The Mazatlan Deer) of the Mexican Pacific League. Website found here.

[Note for guys: Serious cheesecake highlights the click-thru for online store]

Jon is doing more than just fine since he showed up down there. He’s played in 7 games (his first was Nov 6) and is leading his team in batting average (.469) and OPS (1.096). He doesn’t yet lead the team in doubles, but he’s got 5 so far. And 10 RBI. Appears to be mostly playing left field.

As Amy noted, you can watch the Venados on streaming video, so I checked it out last night.

First thing I noticed is that the Mexican Pacific League has apparently taken a cue from NASCAR and done some serious decorating of their players’ uniforms. Logos are all over the jerseys, batting helmets, even on trousers.

As it happened, Venados was at bat when I checked in, the 5th inning I think. First batter hit a home run to put them up by a couple of runs. The next batter was Jon.

And here’s where it gets weird.

Please note that it was the first time, ever, that I’ve watched a Mexican League game;

that it is beyond possibility that Weber could possibly know that at 11:33 p.m. EST I’d be checking in on the game;

and yet ...

you guessed it ...

On the the second pitch he threw his bat in the direction of the first base dugout!

Camera followed him as he rubbed down the handle of his bat ...

Gotta get that guy some pine tar!

By the way, he grounded out, short to first on a 2-2 count.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Hernandez to Baltimore; Richard to Free Agency

Rays Index is reporting that Michel Hernandez has signed a minor league deal with Baltimore and that Chris Richard has chosen to become a free agent. My guess is that means we’ll be seeing both of them next year, just not in a Bulls uniform. But maybe, just maybe, the Rays will make Chris a better offer? After all, it’s not as if they’ve got a ton of first basemen coming up through the system.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Bulls Below the Border

And out in Arizona ...

Inspired by some of the posts over on Rays Prospects I started digging around in the Winter League data, going from team to team looking for guys who played for the Bulls last year. I found several of our guys scattered around the Caribbean and Arizona and made up a list of how they’re going. Then, of course, I found a link that pretty much summarized everything I’d been looking for and more. Here’s all the Rays players currently playing Winter league baseball.

Of the position players listed, we saw Ray Olmedo and Henry Mateo last year. Neither are on a major league contract, so there’s no guarantee they’ll be back. The oddity is Tampa Bay infielder Willy Aybar. Hard to guess why he’s playing winter ball. Shouldn’t be for the money.

A bunch of the pitchers we saw last year are down south and out west: Bateman, dePaula, Medlock, Oliveros, Phillips, Rollins, and Talbot. One to watch is Mitch Talbot since he spent so much time on the DL last year. Seems to be doing OK.

Missing from any of the stats (although initially on rosters) are Justin Ruggiano and Jon Weber. Don't know what the story there may be.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Rays Roster Speculations

Cork Gaines aka "The Professor" over at Rays Index has put up his projected 40-man roster for the Rays. Why should we care? Because if Cork has guessed right then we are very likely to see most of the players on the 40-man, but not on the 25-man, in Durham in 2010. In addition, in his footnotes he provides an explanation of “options”, surely one of the most confusing terms in baseball.

Interesting to note how many of the players on both 25 and 40 man rosters are former or current Bulls.

Of importance to Bulls fans is that Elliot Johnson, Mitch Talbot, and Chris Richard are listed as being “out of options.” (So why is Mitch pitching in the Arizona Fall League, you ask? Got me.) That won’t keep them from playing for the Bulls next year (ask Elliot and Chris on Wednesday night), but it does mean a good bit of negotiating is at hand for them before we know.

Another feature of the tables is the estimated salaries.

Worth taking a look at.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Odds and Ends

Over at RaysProspects he’s got some winter league stats.

Rays Index puts together a 25-man roster for the Rays. If he’s close to being right, we could keep a solid core (Johnson, Brignac, Richard, Dillon, Weber, Jennings, and others) for 2010. Of course, that assumes no trades and new contracts for a couple of those guys.

Mark Topkin in the St Pete Times discusses Sean Rodriguez, implying we are not likely to see him back in Durham.

Nice photo of the DBAP and more promotion of next Wednesday’s celebration at Note to Self and the Bulls facebook page.

Interesting chart over at flip flop fly ball that compares innings by starters and relievers in 2009. Doesn’t appear to be much of a relationship between length of start and winning games.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Rays - Bulls - Rays - Bulls: Position Players

A couple of days ago I started a series looking at just how much the Rays and Bulls helped each other this year. The first was a look at the rehabilitation assignment players who passed through. The second looked at the pitchers. This one will look at position players. Note that all stats are for regular season only.

Only seven position players spent time on both the Rays and the Bulls rosters this year: Matt Joyce, Michel Hernandez, Reid Brignac, Joe Dillon, Shawn Riggans, and Chris Richard got into games. John Jaso was up for 4 days, but did not come to bat.

Matt Joyce
  • Bulls: 111 games, 417 AB, .273/.373/.482, OF
  • Rays: 11 games, 32 AB, .188/.270/.500, OF
Matt started the year with the Rays, but only stuck with them for three appearances in which he got one hit (a home run). He went back up at the end of May and played in 8 games before coming back to the Bulls and finishing out the year. As mentioned elsewhere on this blog (more than once) the Rays are going to have to decide about right field and how they want to play it. Matt seemed to get caught up in their confusion this year.

Michel Hernandez
  • Bulls: 13 games, 46 AB, .196/.273/.196, catcher
  • Rays: 35 games, 99 AB, .242/.292/.323, catcher
Michel started the season with the Bulls, but he didn’t stay long. He went to the Rays on April 14 and stayed there until early August when the Rays obtained Greg Zaun from Baltimore. What the stats don’t show is his effect on the pitching staff, which appeared to be very positive for the Bulls.

Reid Brignac
  • Bulls: 96 games, 415 AB, .282/.327/.417, SS (88), 2B (8)
  • Rays: 31 games, 90 AB, .278/.301/.746, SS/2B
Reid spent a good bit of time with the Rays this season, mostly in response to injuries on the Rays squad. He went up in mid-May for almost a month (21 games), made a one day visit in August, and was called up on September 7 to finish out the season. This looks like a win-win for the Bulls and Rays this year. Reid is certainly an improved shortstop from last year, and he did a decent job at the plate. Looks like he did the same with the Rays.

Joe Dillon
  • Bulls: 35 games, 123 AB, .244/.340/.333, 1B(17), 2B (4), 3B (13), SS (1)
  • Rays: 15 games, 30 AB, .300/.400/.400, 2B/3B [note: only started 1 game]
Joe is a real puzzle when it comes to how the Rays manage their players. He came to the Bulls in early May from the Oakland system, appeared in a couple of games, and went to the Rays on May 26. From then to mid-August he mostly sat on the bench and waited to pinch hit. For the Bulls he was a critical guy in the final days of the season and in the post-season. A very solid, professional ballplayer that certainly made a difference to the Bulls. Hard to tell if he helped the Rays out or not.

Shawn Riggans
  • Bulls: 11 games, 40 AB, .200/.238/.325, catcher
  • Rays: 7 games, 14 AB, .143/.143/.357, catcher
Shawn came to the Bulls from Montgomery in August, having essentially been in rehab all season and he did a short stint on the DL while with the Bulls. He went up to the Rays with the September call-ups. Really hard to make any judgments on Riggans since he really hasn’t been healthy for a couple of years now.

Chris Richard
  • Bulls: 100 games, 365 AB, .263/.364/.521, 1B-DH
  • Rays: 13 games, 19 AB, .105/.261/.105, 1B
Chris got called up on September 7 after the Rays’ Carlos Peña was injured. He started 5 games at first, but mostly the Rays used utility man Willy Aybar at first and Chris sat on the bench. He obviously did not hit well when he got the opportunity. Hard to tell what would have happened if he’d had a chance to see a bit more pitching.

How much help were the Bulls to the Rays this year? Not much. From the look of it, only Reid Brignac and Michel Hernandez were of any real value. But there were some dynamics down there on the Bay that had an effect. The emergence of Ben Zobrist made a huge difference. Suddenly they had a guy who could not only play just about any position, but bang out hits on call. Why call up, say, Elliot Johnson, when Zobrist can handle second base for a while? And Willy Aybar, with Zobrist, covered the absence of Iwamura very well.

The sheer stubbornness of Rays management can’t be discounted. Long after several approaches were clearly not effective (Upton as leadoff, platooning RF, Burrell as DH) they stuck with them. However, looking at the Bulls for help in any of those areas (other than RF) didn’t find much help. Justin Ruggiano had, for him, a very difficult year. The Rays clearly don’t think that Jon Weber is a major leaguer, so they won’t use him. There are systemic problems at catcher, third base and first base all down through the Rays system, so there should be no surprise that there’s no “star” in Durham at those positions.

On the other hand, the Bulls did great! Guys that the Rays wouldn’t call up on a bet (and some that they did, such as Chris Richard) sure showed that they know how to play the game. Henry Mateo, Ray Olmedo, Joe Dillon, Jon Weber, Craig Albernaz, Brandon Chaves, and Rashad Eldridge. Then there were a couple on the 40-man that never got a shot this year, Justin Ruggiano and Elliot Johnson who did just fine or us.

I must, reluctantly, admit that we did just fine by the Rays this year.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Rays - Bulls - Rays - Bulls: Pitchers

A couple of days ago I started a series looking at just how much the Rays and Bulls helped each other this year. The first was a look at the rehabilitation assignment players who passed through. This one takes a look at the pitchers. Note that all stats are for regular season only.

David Price, Andy Sonnanstine, Wade Davis, Randy Choate, Dale Thayer, Jeff Bennett, Joe Nelson, and Winston Abreu each spent some time with the Bulls and the Rays this year. That’s eight of twenty-one pitchers who were on the mound for the Rays, and eight of thirty-four pitchers who wore a Durham Bulls uniform.

David Price
  • Bulls: 8 games, 1-4, ERA 3.93, 34 ⅓ innings, WHIP 1.340
  • Rays: 23 games, 10-7, ERA 4.42, 128 ⅓ innings, WHIP 1.348
David Price started the season with the Bulls and went to the Rays in late May. Looks like he did more for the Rays in terms of winning games than he did for us. Some of that is surely because early in the season the Rays had all starters on low pitch counts and, in the case of Price, had him working on specific tasks in each outing.

Andy Sonnanstine
  • Bulls: 9 games, 5-3, ERA 4.40, 57 ⅓ innings, WHIP 1.343.
  • Rays: 22 games (18 starts), 6-9, ERA 6.77, 99 ⅔ innings, WHIP 1.656
Andy Sonnanstine began the season with the Rays as a starter. He came to Durham in early July and went back to the Rays on September 1 (he spent some time on the DL while with the Bulls). On his return to the Rays he had three starts and all four of his relief appearances. Very helpful to the Bulls as we made our run for the Governors’ Cup.

Wade Davis
  • Bulls: 28 games, 10-8, ERA 3.40, 158 ⅔ innings, WHIP 1.254
  • Rays: 6 games, 2-2, ERA 3.72, 36 ⅓ innings, WHIP 1.266
Wade Davis started the year in Durham and stayed here until September 2. He did a superb job for the Bulls, and not too shabby for the Rays in his six starts.

Randy Choate
  • Bulls: 21 games, 3-0, ERA 3.72, 19 ⅓ innings, WHIP 1.293
  • Rays: 61 games, 1-0, 5 saves, ERA 3.47, 36 ⅓ innings, WHIP 1.073
Sidearming left-hander Randy Choate started the season with Durham and went to St Pete on May 25th. He stayed with the Rays the rest of the season. What’s interesting about Choate, and several other Rays relievers, is that he has considerably fewer innings than appearances, meaning that it was typical for him to face only a few batters and get only a few outs in an appearance.

Dale Thayer
  • Bulls: 51 games, 2-5, 17 saves, ERA 2.27, 63 ⅓ innings, WHIP 1.168
  • Rays: 11 games, 0-0, ERA 4.61, 13 ⅔ innings, WHIP 1.390
Reliever Dale Thayer made 3 trips to the Rays. He went up on May 22 and came back on May 31, appearing in three games. He went up again on July 23 and came back on July 28, after appearing in three more games. He made his third visit in September, going up September 8 and staying until the end of the season. He made five more appearances. Except for the oddity of sitting on the Tampa bullpen bench for some thirteen days in September (12th to 26th), Dale seems to have done a decent job for the Rays and been one of the few relievers that stayed in for more than a few batters at a time. Of course, for the Bulls Dale was a horse with a bunch of saves. The only problem I noted was that when he came back from the Rays it took him a couple of games to get back into it.

Jeff Bennett
  • Bulls: 3 games, 1-0, ERA 4.76, 11 ⅓ innings, WHIP 1.676
  • Rays: 11 games, 0-0, ERA 9.95, 12 ⅔ innings, WHIP 2.763
Bennett made his first appearance with the Rays on August 1 and came to the Bulls on August 18 after seven appearances with the Rays. He stayed with the Bulls until September 1 when he went back to the Rays. As a Bull, Jeff was a starter (mostly in those “committee” games). With Tampa Bay he was exclusively a reliever. Bennett had been with Atlanta this season before going on the DL and then being released after two rehab appearances with Gwinnett. Something of a wash on who he helped the most.

Joe Nelson
  • Bulls: 13 games, 2-2, ERA 6.23, 17.1 innings, WHIP 1.904
  • Rays: 42 games, 3-0, ERA 4.02, 40 ⅓ innings, WHIP 1.463
Nelson was optioned to Durham on August 4 after spending the season with Tampa (and doing what appears to be a decent job). With the Bulls in the regular season he never seemed to get on track. Have to note, however, that he had three appearances in the playoffs (two against Louisville and one against Scranton) and didn’t allow any runs.

Winston Abreu
  • Bulls: 37 games, 3-1, 15 saves, ERA 1.94, 51 innings, WHIP 0.765
  • Rays: 2 games, 0-0, ERA 2.45, 3 ⅔ innings, WHIP 1.365
I saved the best for last. Winston Abreu was arguably the most important pitcher on the team to not get a real chance with the Rays. He started the season with the Bulls and appeared in 23 games before going to Tampa Bay in mid-June. He made two appearances with the Rays and was traded to Cleveland where he made three appearances before managing to get back to the Bulls for a game on August 7. We could not have been happier. He was in 14 games and picked up four saves. Then he made 6 appearances in the Bulls 9 post-season games, picking up 4 saves. In his last appearance he only faced one batter before coming out because of an injury.

So, what can we say overall about how well the Bulls-Rays relationship worked in the pitching department this year? Looks like a win-win for the starting pitchers. We did OK and so did the Rays. As far as relievers are concerned, the Bulls did fine with the ones who began the season in Durham, but only so-so with the ones who were sent down. I think it’s fair to say that the Rays bullpen was their most significant weakness this year and that it was a matter of both talent and management, particularly late in the season. It sure looked like the Rays were trying to trade/buy relief talent rather than take a close look at what they had in Durham. That’s OK with me.

Next: Position players.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Updates, News, Etc.

A few odds and ends that have been accumulating in my notebook.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Tampa Bay Rays - Durham Bulls - Tampa Bay Rays - Durham Bulls: Rehab Assignments

The purpose of the Durham Bulls Baseball Club, other than being the economic engine that drives the entire Triangle region, is to serve the needs of the Tampa Bay Rays. In a perfect world we’d like to see a mutually beneficial relationship. I thought I’d take a look at the comings and goings between the Bulls and the Rays this year and see if any judgments could be made on who helped whom.

Most of the numbers are from the Bulls website, but a few come from the game notes that Bulls broadcaster Neil Solondz put together for the AAA championship game, and a few from

First we have to deal with the rehabilitation assignments. We had 3 pitchers and 2 position players spend some time with the Bulls as they were recovering from an injury. The up side of a rehab assignment is significant. We get to see a bona fide major leaguer at the DBAP and, if he has a good night, he helps us in a game. The down side is that our manager’s hands are pretty much tied on just how much he can use the player and in what situations.

The pitchers:

Chad Bradford (mid June, 4 appearances), Jason Isringhausen (late April, 6 appearances), and Scott Kazmir (late June, 1 appearance) visited the Bulls this year. As a group, they did OK by the Bulls: 17 ⅔ innings pitched, ERA of 4.08, 2 wins, 0 losses.

Position players:

We only had two position players come through on rehab assignments, and both of them in August. Second baseman Akinori Iwamura and outfielder Fernando Perez played in 11 and 13 games and were very helpful as we were making our run for the Governors’ Cup. Each had ten hits and two RBIs. Both of them had an unusually high number of walks (Iwamura 9, Perez 10). Perez stole an exceptional 8 bases while only being caught once. And they both managed to get all the way around the bases a lot, Iwamura scored 9 runs and Perez scored 10.

So I’ve got to conclude that sending the rehabbers through Durham helped us this year.

In future posts I’ll take a look at the pitchers and position players who went back and forth in 2009.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Moonlight Graham Awards — 2009

Mike Wlodarczyk

Matt Hall

Some time ago we announced the establishment of the Watching Durham Bulls Baseball Moonlight Graham Award. As noted at the link, the award is named in honor of North Carolinian Archibald “Moonlight” Graham. Graham had a notably brief appearance with the New York Giants in 1905. He achieved greater fame through W. P. Kinsella’s novel Shoeless Joe and the film Field of Dreams; and has achieved book-length attention in Friedlander and Reising’s Chasing Moonlight.

The Moonlight Graham Award goes to the player who spent the least amount of time as a Durham Bull in a given year. Here are the criteria.

Position players:
  • Cannot be on a major league rehab assignment.
  • Must be spotted in a Durham Bulls uniform.
  • Tie-breaker: Number of plate appearances vs. number of games.

  • Must be a legitimate pitcher, not a position player out there just to finish a game because the bullpen’s empty.
  • Not on rehab assignment.

Our problem for 2009 is whether or not to include the playoff game appearances. We decided that we would.

Candidates for the position player award.
  • Infielder Matt Hall had two short stints with the Bulls early in the season. He finished out the year with the Charlotte Stone Crabs. With the Bulls he appeared in 8 games and had 21 plate appearances.
  • Second baseman Sean Rodriguez came to the Bulls following the Rays’ trade of Scott Kazmir to the California Angels. Rodriguez only played in 5 games in the regular season, but he played in all 9 of the post-season games.
Candidates for pitcher:
  • Chris Mason came up from Montgomery early in the year and got in 4 innings. For those of you who are following Chris’ career, you might be interested to know that he finished out the season in AAA as a Buffalo Bison with a 1-1 record as a starter.
  • Michael Wlodarczyk, however, edges out Mason with only 2 innings in the regular season. and 1 ⅓ innings in the playoffs.

We know we rigged the rules, but honorable mention must be given to the position players who stepped to the mound for the Bulls this year. They include Matt Hall (1 inning), Craig Albernaz (1 inning), Alex Jamieson ( 1 ⅔ innings), and Ray Olmedo (2 innings).

And the winners for 2009 are:

Matt Hall and Mike Wlodarczyk

Monday, September 28, 2009

Sunday, September 27, 2009

USA Beats Cuba for World Cup Gold

USA 10, Cuba 5

Coming into the top of the 7th inning tied 4-4, Team USA blew it open with 6 runs, all scored after a two-out walk. Jon Weber had an RBI single and scored a run as the team batted around.

Stories at USA Today and

Durham Bull Jon Weber finished with a .412 batting average for the tournament (cumulative stats) and was named to the All-Tournament team along with Lehigh Valley Iron Pig Terry Tiffee (AAA, Phillies) and Oklahoma City Redhawk Justin Smoak (AAA, Texas). Smoak was named tournament MVP.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Team USA Goes For the Gold

Team USA visited the Sicily-Rome American Memorial Cemetery in Nettuno, Italy; the final resting place of over 7,000 U.S. WWII soldiers. (Raniero Avvisati)

Team USA completed their approach run for the World Cup yesterday with a 8-2 win over the Netherlands. Except for their very first game, the US team has been faultless, winning 13 in a row before tomorrow’s game against Cuba for the Gold. The 3rd, 4th, and 5th place games were today, with Canada taking bronze. See the wiki page for more details on today's games.

Very weird moment yesterday when I was listening to the radio and there was a “geoquiz” to name the town in Italy most associated with baseball. The rest of the story is here.

Pleased to note that the Bulls’ Jon Weber goes into the game batting .435, with 9 game appearances: 20-46, 3 home runs, 1 triple, 4 doubles, and 12 RBI. Following his early disaster, Jason Childers has done just fine in his last five appearances. Cumulative stats here.

Tomorrow’s game is supposed to be on MLB network, 9:00 AM. So you can watch baseball with breakfast. Won’t your spouses love that?

Friday, September 25, 2009

The N&O Gives Some Love to the Bulls

I've complained about the News & Observer's lack of coverage this year and here they go and say nice things about the Bulls. And right on the main editorial page, not even buried in the Sports section.

Of course, they got a few details wrong. The Bulls didn't win in five games against Louisville, that was just the first round of the playoffs -- as all readers of WDBB will know. And if they "weren't the strongest team in the minor leagues," I'd like to know who was. But they make up for it with this line:
Because they play on the top rung of the 15-league, 176-club minor league universe, the Triple-A Bulls can legitimately claim to be the best minor league team around.
So, thanks, N&O. Think about assigning a reporter next year. We love to read about our Bulls -- every day.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Sound of One Hand Clapping

USA 5, Cuba 3
Box, Wiki Update

One of the many oddities of the Baseball World Cup is, Why is the final round being played in Italy? Much less that famous Italian city, Nettuno. But then I looked it up on Wikipedia and all became clear:

Nettuno has one of the most important Italian baseball teams, Danesi Nettuno often winner of the Championship. This game was taught to the local people during the Second World War by U.S. soldiers, who landed along the coasts for the Operation Shingle. At the north edge of town is the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery and Memorial, where over 7,800 U.S. soldiers are buried.

View Larger Map

This is where today's game was played, and where the final game will be played on Sunday.

That sort of disturbed the flow of my thought, which was that a world cup was staged, but nobody came. Let’s look at the attendance and locations for Team USA games.

Round 1
10 September, Venezuela, Regensburg, Germany: 4,200
11 September, Germany, Regensburg, Germany: 9,600
12 September, China, Regensburg, Germany: 5,900

So things in Germany not too bad. Then the venues shifted to Italy for half the teams and Holland for the other half. Team USA has been in Italy, and Italy’s been pretty quiet.

Round 2
13 September, Canada, Reggio Emilia: 300
14 September, Netherland Antilles, Verona: 850
15 September, Japan, Macerata: 1,900
17 September, Chinese Taipei, Torino: 1,000
19 September, Mexico, Vicenza: 500
20 September, Italy, Torino: 1,000
21 September, Australia, Bologna: 250

Round 3
22 September, Venezuela, Firenze: 170
23 September, Puerto Rico, Firenze: 130
24 September, Cuba, Nettuno: 2,000

Now, I don’t want to sound too chauvinistic about this, but looks like somebody gave a party that no one wanted to come to. I saw the Cuba game today. Two thousand is a bit of a stretch, even if you included the anti-Castro protestors that showed up. Adding up the official numbers, that’s a grand total of 8,100 who have turned out to see Team USA in Italy. Less than a typical Bulls game. Less than one of the games in Germany.

Makes me wonder why MLB network was even carrying it. Certainly didn’t send their A Team of commentators. Got to think that somebody among the MLB network brass must owe someone in the World Cup crowd a BIG favor. I mean how many other whacko’s like me are out there who tuned in for a glimpse of Jon Weber sitting on the bench. (By the way, how about that Fu Manchu ‘stache!)

The larger question is, Just why is this going on? Surely Jon and Jason would rather have been drinking champagne in Scranton and Oklahoma City.

On the other hand, there are some really, really good wines where they are. And some really, really good food ...

US-Cuba on Local Cable

If you've got Time-Warner, today's (as in right now) game between the US-Cuba is on. Channel 139 or 268 HD. Unfortunately, it looks like Durham Bull Jon Weber isn't in the lineup.

That's local as in Raleigh. Not sure about Durham. MLB network. As they say, check your listings.

Elliot Johnson Interview

In case you missed it, here's an interview with Elliot done on WRAL. He's identified as a third baseman, which he was some of the time. But shortstop during all of the playoffs.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

USA Defeats Puerto Rico; Championship Game Bound

USA 3, Puerto Rico 0
Box, Story

By winning against Puerto Rico today, the US is assured a spot in the championship round of the World Cup. Tomorrow’s game against Cuba is shaping up to be a preview of the championship game, since Cuba appears to be just about the last team in contention the US hasn’t beaten. See the Wiki page (scroll down to the end) for more info.

Against Puerto Rico (don’t ask me why Puerto Rico competes as if it is a separate country) the Gwinnett Braves’ Todd Redmond (AAA, Atlanta) pitched 8 1/3 scoreless innings and the Durham Bulls’ Jason Childers (AAA, Tampa Bay) got the last two outs for the save. Durham’s Jon Weber, Binghamton’s Ike Davis (AA, Mets), and Las Vegas’ Buck Coats (AAA, Blue Jays) hit home runs to account for all the scoring.

The Best Team in AAA — Your Durham Bulls

Durham Bulls 5, Memphis Redbirds 4

Wrap, Box

I figure that almost anyone who reads this blog watched the game, so don’t expect anything new here. Still, a lot of things happened that deserve more than the cursory comment I was able to provide last night. And there are a few odds and ends certainly worth mentioning.

Jeremy Hellickson pitched a terrific five innings. He left the game with a decent 4-0 lead and I thought he was in line for the win. He was also, in spite of what I said last night, deserving of the MVP award.

Jason Cromer had a bad night. Joe Bateman wasn’t much better in his 1 ⅓ innings. If not for three spectacular catches of pitches behind the batters’ backs, it would have been worse. He left the bases loaded for Calvin Medlock and we were lucky to get away with a tie game. Calvin did fine through the 8th. Julio DePaula struck out the side in the 9th, but the 10th got really scary. Bases were loaded with one out when he got a dribbler right back to the mound that allowed him to start a 1-2-3 double play. Mitch Talbot slammed the door in the 11th, setting up the win.

Here’s a tidbit: Mitch Talbot got the first (April 9th) and last (September 22nd) wins of the season. He and I may have been the only guys who knew that before it went up here.

Offensively, the guy who stands out is the veteran Ray Olmedo. Two doubles his first two times at bat (one for a RBI). Two runs scored, the second being the hallmark of a veteran ballplayer and baserunner. Olmedo had doubled in Elliott Johnson and was on second base. Jennings beat out a bunt that moved Ray to third. The Memphis pitcher, who had made the play at first, had his back to the field and Ray (with Montoyo’s encouragement) took off for home.

In the end, Memphis’ manager allowed chaos to reign (or created it?). Michel Hernandez doubled, was pinch run for by Rashad Eldridge, who was then wild pitched to third. Ray Olmedo was intentionally walked, a new pitcher came in, and an outfielder was brought in to the infield to set up a five-man defense because there were no outs and not even a double play would save the game. But the pitcher hadn’t pitched in something like two weeks. The catcher had just come into the game. A wild pitch brought Eldridge home for the win.

Counting last night, the Bulls won five games in a row in the playoffs (and 7 for 9 overall). That’s pretty spectacular.

Six different pitchers won playoff games. Talbot, Hellickson, Cromer, Phillips, and Medlock each won a game. The winner of two games (are you ready for this?) was Joe Bateman.

Don’t know what you may have thought of it, but I thought the ESPN2 coverage of the game was pretty awful. Camera angles were poor; commentary, with a couple of exceptions, just didn’t say much. And Wool E. Bull got no camera time at all!

On the other hand, Neal Solondz and his counterpart from Memphis were doing the broadcast for 99.9 and that was terrific. Once I discovered them about the 5th inning I turned down the TV volume and had a decent night of it.

Other commentary on the game:

Indy Week was at Tyler’s Taproom. MiLB had this story. Marc Lancaster of The Tampa Tribune had this, with some Joe Maddon comments. And the AP, as reported by WRAL had a good story with some good quotes from Charlie Montoyo.

I’ll try to do a retrospective on the season soon. It was a great one. And it has been an enjoyable experience interacting with all the Bulls fans out there. Thanks for looking in, commenting, and keeping me honest (or at least trying to).

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Bulls Win AAA Championship

Just wanted to get a post up now since it will be a while before I get to a full review. An 11-inning, 5-4, run scored on a wild-pitch, nail-biter.

Hellickson was named MVP, but for my money the MVP was Michel Hernandez for the double that set up the winning run, and the three (count 'em, three) behind-the-batter's-back stops he made on Bateman pitches. Lots of folks could have moved around the bases without those stops.

Thank you Bulls for a GREAT YEAR!!!

Bulls Info! Abreu Out!

Just up on the Bulls website, click on GAME NOTES (thanks, DRR) is a 21 page .pdf file with everything you might want to know about the Bulls in 2009 and some historical stuff. Lots of details. Included is the one mentioned by DRR, Abreu is in the hospital and Carlos Hernandez has been activated off the DL.

This is a must have for Bulls fans!

Update: From a Bulls email:

Abreu was diagnosed with the aneurysm following his Game 3 appearance against Scranton Wilkes-Barre in the Governors’ Cup Finals. He has been released from the hospital and is resting at his home in South Carolina.

AAA Championship Game Tonight

The Bulls are in Oklahoma City for the AAA Championship game. How weird is that? Two teams from east of the Mississippi River flying out to Oklahoma City to play in the ballpark of the Oklahoma City Redhawks (AAA, Texas Rangers). How come the “Pacific Coast League” has teams in the middle of the country? Don’t ask.

Memphis is the Cardinals’ AAA team, but the IL won the All-Star game. So the Bulls are the home team and I assume we’ll be playing using a designated hitter. Good thing. I’d guess that none of our pitchers has been to bat in a long, long time.

For a look back to last Thursday’s game, check out Indy Week. For a look forward to tonight’s game take a look at MiLB’s preview.

Charlotte Knights manager Chris Chambliss will be doing some of the commentary for ESPN. If I heard him right, our Neal Solondz will be out there with 99.9FM and ESPN radio. Play-by-play for TV is by a PCL broadcasting veteran named Mike Capps. Here’s hoping he knows something about the Bulls.

Jeremy Hellickson has the start. And you can bet that if they are alive and kicking, Julio DePaula and Winston Abreu want to see some game time. In between, it would be tough to guess. In the field, it seems to me you go with what brung ya’. Ruggiano, Jennings and Joyce in the outfield. Dillon on first, Johnson at short, and Olmedo at third. If it were up to me, I’d start Mateo at second, but Rodriguez will probably get the nod. And if it were up to me, I’d start Hernandez as catcher, but Jaso won the game for us on Thursday, so maybe he gets the start. Rodriguez or Mateo as DH.

But that’s just me. I can’t remember a time when I’ve correctly predicted what Montoyo will do. So unlikely to be right for tonight either.

Hearing persistent reports of a viewing party at Tyler’s Taproom. Not sure where it’s coming from, but sounds like fun. I can’t make it, but hope that folks who do have a great time. Should be a fun game. Would love to have a T-Shirt with 2009: Southern Division Champs, International League Champs, AAA Champs.

Monday, September 21, 2009

US 6-0 In 2nd Round of World Cup

September 15: USA 4, Japan 2
Wrap, Box

September 17: USA 14, Chinese Taipei 3 (7 innings)
Wrap, Box, Story

September 19: USA 7, Mexico 3
Wrap, Box

September 20: USA 12, Italy 3
Wrap, Box, Story
Cumulative Stats

Team USA plays a game with Australia this morning and then moves on to the semi-finals tomorrow. They will play either Cuba or Venezuela in their first game.

Oklahoma City's Justin Smoak (AAA, Rangers) is the hitting star of the team with 8 home runs and 18 RBIs so far. But the entire team is hitting well, with seven members of the team hitting over .300. Durham's Jon Weber (AAA, Rays) leads with .452 and a startling .500 OBP over 8 games. Durham's Jason Childers has had three relief appearances for only a total of three innings. That's partly because two of the US's games were called at seven innings. The World Cup has a 10-run mercy rule.

Bulls On the Bay

An update on what’s happened with the Bulls called to Tampa Bay since the early September.
  • Dale Thayer: One appearance (9/12, @ Boston), 1 1/3 innings, 2 hits, 1 run, 2 Ks.
  • Wade Davis: Three starts (1-1), 18 2/3 innings, ERA 4.34, highlight a complete game shutout of Baltimore on Sep 17.
  • Shawn Riggans: One at bat, 9/7, @ NY, 0-1.
  • Reid Brignac: Three games. 9/7, SS, @NY, 0-3 with a walk; 9/14, SS, @Bal, 4-4, 3 RBI; 9/15, 2B, @Bal, 0-2.
  • Chris Richard: Five games. 2-13 w/three walks.

All things considered, not too bad. None of us should be surprised at Wade’s success. I'm sure that we’d all like to see Chris Richard get more playing time so that he would get a chance to show the Rays what he’s got, but they seem to prefer playing Aybar. Reid, of course, is competing with Jason Bartlett who has the best batting average on the team, so he’s not likely to get much time, even with a 4-4 game last week. Dale simply isn’t being given any chances. Not sure why that would be. Shawn? Not sure about him either.

And this from a Tony Fabrizo column:
The Rays don’t plan to promote anyone else to the big-league roster unless prompted by injury, meaning OF Matt Joyce, the former Armwood High star whom the Rays obtained from the Tigers for RHP Edwin Jackson, will probably finish the season as a minor-leaguer.

Joyce batted .188 with three home runs in 11 games with the Rays earlier in the year. He hit .273 with 16 homers and 66 RBIs for Triple-A Durham, which won the International League championship Thursday night.

The Rays apparently also won’t get an early look at IF Sean Rodriguez, considered the key piece in the trade of LHP Scott Kazmir to the Angels last month.

Durham, incidentally, still has a game to play. The Bulls will play Pacific Coast League champion Memphis (Cardinals) for the Triple-A national championship Tuesday in Oklahoma City.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Durham Bulls To Play Memphis Redbirds

The Memphis Redbirds (St Louis Cardinals) won the PCL championship. So they are the team our Bulls will be playing in Oklahoma City next Tuesday.

Stacy Long over in Montgomery is reporting that Jeremy Hellickson will be the Bulls' starting pitcher. No surprise, just wondering how come Stacy knows about it and we don't.

Desmond Jennings and Hellickson were down in St Petersburg accepting awards yesterday. And Rays manager Joe Maddon is quoted as saying he doesn't think he will be calling up any more players this year.

Friday, September 18, 2009

More On the Game

Thought I’d throw up a few more links for those of us who haven’t already scoured the web for stories.

Governors’ Cup Comes To Durham

Durham Bulls 3, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees 2

Wrap, Box

What a night! And only fitting that pitchers who began their seasons with Durham should finish them by beginning and ending the last game of the season with the International League's Governors’ Cup in hand. Jason Cromer started the season as the fifth starter, went off to Montgomery for a while and came back. He got 20 starts in the regular season and two in the post-season. Julio DePaula was on the mound in the very first game of the season and had 49 appearances before its end. In the post season he had six (out of eight games) including last night’s save.

It wasn’t easy. In fact, our pitchers struggled all night long. Very few hits by the Yankees, but we sure walked a bunch (11) and hit one. Jason really wasn’t all that sharp. And yet he kept getting out of trouble. In the 2nd, for example, Juan Miranda (called up to the NY Yankees after the game, by the way) got a lead-off triple. A sac fly brought him home. Cromer hit a guy, walked a guy, but got out of the inning with a K. Same thing in the 3rd — two walks, single (run scored), but closed out the inning with two men on base. In total, during Cromer’s innings the Yankees left seven runners on base. In the 7th Joe Nelson walked a guy with two outs, but got out of it. In the 8th inning he had two outs and walked the bases full before getting a fly out to right. In the 9th Rollins let a guy get all the way around to third base before it was closed out. In the 10th Medlock walked one, but a double play ended the inning. In the 11th Medlock gave up a double to open the inning and the runner to third before he got two K’s to end it. And in the 12th Abreu walked his only batter (leaving the game with a burst blister on his hand), DePaula walked another, and men were on second and third, two out, before he got the comebacker that he ran to first for the last out.

So we kept them to two runs. For our own part, things were really, really quiet until the 8th and we got past starter Ivan Nova. Ruggiano drew a walk, Johnson singled him to second, and a double steal put them both in scoring position. It was the first time all night we’d even had runners in scoring position. Desmond Jennings singled both of them home and the game was tied. Sean Rodriguez got tossed in the 7th for aguing about whether a ball was foul or not and Chris Nowak came in for his only appearance of the series. He had a couple of chances to get famous, but didn’t make it, grounding into a double play in the 9th, and a base-loaded ground out in the 11th.

In the 12th, however, Elliott Johnson singled to right and John Jaso doubled him home. That was enough for the Bulls to bring home the trophy.

I’ll do a bit more later, but for now I just want to thank the team and the coaches for a great, great year. Topped off by a terrific post-season.

Great job! Have fun in Oklahoma City!

Update: Sean Rodriguez got tossed in the 7th, not the 9th as I had it in post.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

2-0, Almost There

Durham Bulls 4, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees 1

Bulls lead Governor’s Cup 2-0

Wrap, Box

The night was ugly, but the baseball was pretty. A little over two thousand of us (2,480 to be exact) came early and stayed through the light rain that came down all night. Some broke out their umbrellas, some just moved back underneath the roof. Plenty of room.

Unlike most nights, everyone there seemed to understand the larger goings on — no need to explain who Rashad Eldridge was or why Mitch Talbot was only going to pitch a couple of innings. If you made a comment — such as one I heard at the top of the 4th inning when Desmond Jennings got a leadoff single, “About time the leadoff man got on base.” — folks around you nodded their heads. They all knew that Jennings’ playoff performance has been below par. Little bits of game trivia got passed around — “Ray Olmedo is the only Bull who doesn’t have a strike out.” “Bateman got the win when he came in for Talbot in the first game of the Louisville series.” “Damn, that’s three games in a row for DePaula, but he did have a day off.” “Did you know that’s only the second home run in the entire playoff series for the Bulls?”

Everyone knew that this was the last home game of the season. Even if the weather was crummy, we were all going to stay, because this is a really good team this year and they are capable of playing really good baseball. Which is what they did last night.

I have to admit that the Bulls had some good fortune at the front end of the game because the Yankees’ re-habbing Ian Kennedy was on a low pitch count. It was three-up and three-down for three innings (six strikeouts). But he had to leave and Kei Igawa came in. Now, I don’t want to say that the Bulls have got Igawa’s number, but back on August 15th we touched him up for five runs in one inning. Not quite the same last night, but when Igawa came on in the 4th Desmond Jennings got a single and Rashad Eldridge doubled him home to tie the game. It would be another couple of innings before Eldridge’s homer in the 6th put us ahead.

Good pitching and solid defense kept us in the game. A simply brilliant Johnson-Rodriguez-Dillon double play in the 2nd abruptly shut down a serious Yankees threat. If you weren’t there (even if you were) you need to see that play. Click over to the Bulls website and then click on the video highlights box and watch it. Back up and watch it again. Maybe again. Johnson flips ball with his glove behind his back to Rodriguez who barehands it and chunks it to Joe Dillon. Pretty, pretty, pretty. OK, watch it again.

Two more double plays ended the 4th and the 8th innings, although I guess the one in the 4th wasn’t exactly a double play. It was an out and an interference call for the second out. At any rate, the Yankees rarely got anyone into scoring position and when they did only once did they get home.

Julio DePaula and Winston Abreu have become one heck of a tag team. In the first game against Louisville DePaula came on in the 8th and held them, Abreu came on in the 9th and closed it out (no save, we were ahead by a good bit). In the third game, Julio came on with two outs in the 7th and a one run lead, kept things quiet through the 8th, and Abreu slammed the door in the 9th. In the deciding fifth game against Louisville, Julio came on with two outs in the 6th, handed it off to Winston with one out in the 8th, and Abreu got a save. Against the Yankees the night before last DePaula came on with two outs in the 7th and handed it over the Abreu to close out the 9th. And then last night Julio came on the in the 8th, ground out, single, double play. Abreu came on in the 9th, K, single, K, K.

Here’s the thing: Every win in the playoffs has been a DePaula/Abreu show at the end. But tonight my man Jason Cromer is on the mound and Julio/Winston may not be available (although I wouldn’t put it past Charlie if he needs them). I would really like to hear that we finished the Yankees off. So here’s hoping the rest of the bullpen gets a chance to show their stuff (assuming Jason needs it). Let’s wrap this up Bulls!

In the meantime, it has been a great year at the DBAP. They showed a fan appreciation video which, if they get it up on YouTube as they usually do, I’ll link to it. Nicely done and fun to watch on the way out of the park last night. It’s been great. Hope to see all of you again next year when the Bulls open their season by beating the Tampa Bay Rays.

Other commentary.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Bulls Win Game 1

Durham Bulls 4, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees 1

Bulls lead in Governor’s Cup 1-0

Wrap, Box, Indy Week, Scranton Times-Tribune

I’m beginning to have a hard time keeping from using the same words over and over again on the nights that Jeremy Hellickson pitches. He is really, really good. The only time he appeared to be in the slightest bit of trouble was when he gave up a single to the leadoff batter in the 4th and then walked the next batter. But he then struck out the next batter, and got a double play ball from the one after that. A two-out, bases-empty home run in the 7th accounted for the only run charged against him.

DePaula was sharper than usual for his inning and a third, Abreu wasn’t. Have to say that I got concerned when he walked two guys in a row in the 9th (with one out), but then he re-discovered himself and struck out the next two to close out the game.

I’d like to talk some about Henry Mateo. He kicked things off the first by drawing a walk, blowing past second on a Joe Dillon single to end up standing on third. He was either stealing or Charlie’d called a hit and run. Either way we had a man on third with one out and waiting for Sean Rodriguez’s RBI single. Then as leadoff in the 6th Henry puts a beautiful bunt down towards third and a few seconds later is standing on third. Clean bunt single, bad throw, poor back up by the right fielder. He then scored on another Joe Dillon single.

And I’d like to talk about Michel Hernandez. Scranton intentionally walked Justin Ruggiano to load the bases with one out (this was still in the 6th, after Mateo had scored and Matt Joyce had doubled Joe Dillon to third). Elliot Johnson struck out, so it began to look like slow-running Michel was in trouble. But he really slammed one up the middle for 2 RBIs. Looked to me like it was old guys night at the plate, Henry Mateo, Joe Dillon, and Michel Hernandez showing the youngsters how the game is played.

Mitch Talbot’s on tomorrow. I’m encouraged. He just went one inning longer than he should have the last time and we only used DePaula from the pen, so we’ve got a full crew there.

Last home game of the year tomorrow. Let’s go out on a high note, guys. There may not be a huge crowd in the DBAP, but we’re the ones who really care. Brilliant season. Let’s keep it up!

Gettting Ready

This is going to be mostly links as we get ready for tonight’s game against the SWB Yankees.

First, a couple of looks back to Sunday’s game in Louisville.
  • Darin Smith at wrote the game up, with some good quotes from Justin Ruggiano.
  • Adam Sobsey over at Indy Week had this take on the game.
  • In Louisville, two somewhat elegiac looks at the game and the Bat’s season. One by Michael Grant and another by Eric Crawford [link].

Looking forward, Adam Sobsey takes a look at the matchups.

Up in Scranton Chad Jennings blogs about the SWB Yankees and he’s got some interesting stuff about the upcoming series.

With all this talent out there, I think I’ll just go to the game and see what happens, then write it up. But I've got to say at least a little something. Once again, I'm pretty comfortable with our position player situation, particularly with Michel Hernandez available handle all the complications we're bound to have with pitching. My hope is that we can build a good cushion for Jeremy tonight so that maybe, just maybe, he'd be available if we need him for game 5. Somehow we cobbled together enough good pitching to get by Louisville. All we have to do is do it again.

And we can.

Mercy, Mercy

USA 11, Netherlands Antilles 1 (Seven Innings)
Wrap, Box, Cumulative Stats,, Overview

It looks like the World Cup has a “mercy” rule. Apparently if a team is ahead by 10 runs or more at the end of the 7th inning then the game is called. That happened yesterday before less than a thousand fans in Verona, Italy. Oklahoma City’s Justin Smoak (AAA, Rangers) had two homers in the game.

Jon Weber (Durham Bulls, AAA, Rays) had a home run and a couple of singles. He is batting .529 (!) for the Cup series.

The US is currently 2-0 in the second round and plays Japan (1-0) today.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Round Two: USA Downs Canada

Team USA 8, Team Canada 0
Wrap, Box

Guess who hit two RBI doubles? And an RBI single?

Jon Weber, of course. Really pleased to see how well Jon, and the rest of the team, is doing.

The starting pitcher, Cory Luebke of the Padres AA team in San Antonio, pitched a 1 hitter. Terry Tiffee of LeHigh Valley (AAA, Phillies) shared hitting honors today with Jon.

On the other hand, Reggio Emilia, Italy does not appear to be a hotbed of baseball interest, 300 fans in attendance (compared to 6,000-9,000 at the games Germany).

Team USA moves on to Verona, Italy to play the Netherlands Antilles team on Monday.

Bulls Beat Bats — Now For the Yankees

Durham Bulls 5, Louisville Bats 3
Wrap, Box

Now I know where I’m going to be Tuesday and Wednesday — at the DBAP cheering for the Bulls. We have won the first round of the playoffs with superb pitching performances by the relief crew and scrappy play by everyone else. The Bulls are on their way home and will be playing the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees for the Governor’s Cup beginning Tuesday.

If I didn’t know better, I’d think Paul Phillips was a starter. But in a couple of hundred professional games he’s made exactly two starts, one of them tonight, the other on September 6th against Norfolk. Nevertheless, he was exactly what we needed to win. He got through five solid innings.

We were up 4-3 when Medlock came on, so Phillips got the win. He deserved it. On the other hand, Calvin Medlock was really shaky, hitting a batter, walking two and enduring a muffed double play. But Charlie was quick with the hook. Julio DePaula set the Bats down to finish the 6th, had a 1-2-3 7th, but gave up a one-out walk in the 8th. So on came Winston Abreu for his third appearance in this five-game series. Winston got two outs to finish the 8th. A bunt single was all that happened in the 9th. The next three batters were out and the Bulls are now catching a plane back to Durham to play some more baseball.

On offense the Bulls played smart, effective baseball all night long, only making one mistake in the 8th (Jennings got picked off). Twelve hits, four walks, four stolen bases, it was basic heads up ball. Nevertheless, we scuffled for every run. As an example, Matt Joyce tripled to lead off the 4th, but it took a broken bat single by Justin Ruggiano to get him home. Ruggiano, by the way, has had a terrific series. And he was 3 for 4 tonight, two singles and a double, and two RBIs.

I think I said at the beginning of this playoff series that a lot was going to depend on the ability of Charlie Montoyo and Xavier Hernandez to manage the pitching staff. I still think that’s true and still think that is how we managed to win this round. Thank you, Charlie and X!

Oh, yeah. Jeremy Hellickson is supposed to start on Tuesday.

We’re Going to Five

Durham Bulls 7, Louisville Bats 10
Wrap, Box, Indy Week, N&O, Courier-Journal

Well, it finally caught up with us. I had my hopes that somehow, someway the fact that we only have two starters wouldn’t make a difference. But it did, and does. Of course, the fact that we haven’t had one of our multi-homer games in what seems a very long time made a difference as well.

Raynor Oliveros and Mike Wlodarczyk bookended a night where three of the four pitchers who appeared in the game were new arrivals from Montgomery. Our guys gave up six runs in the first two innings, but we stayed in the game when their guy gave up six runs in the first three innings. So up until the 6th things weren’t all that bad. But we coughed up two in the 6th, off of Heath Rollins, and only got back one in the 8th. Meanwhile they got two more in the 8th off of Mike Wlodarczyk.

In defense of Oliveros, he had not pitched since September 5th, when he went seven innings and got a win against Norfolk. I’d be the last person to claim expertise on how pitchers’ fitness should be monitored, but that sure seems to me like a long time to go between starts. Did we get enamored with the “comeback” of Mitch Talbot? Or is this “rotation” hopelessly screwed up and Charlie and X. just have to figure it out an inning at a time?

Michel Hernandez hit a home run in the 2nd inning. Why is that a big deal? Because, unless I missed one, that was the first home run of the playoffs for the Durham Bulls. Oh, if only Chris Richard had been here these last couple of days, but, of course, he’s desperately needed to sit on the bench up in Boston. He’s got good company — Reid Brignac (1 game, 4 plate appearances) and Shawn Riggans (1 game, 1 AB).

But that is just whimpering, I suppose. We’d be in good shape if we could just get a hit off Louisville’s relievers. Our team OPS wasn’t all that bad (.736). We’ve won with worse, but not when the RISP is only 2-9. Louisville’s OBP was a whopping .436. Ugly things are gonna happen if almost half the opposing batters get on base and then if their RISP is 6-11, it can get worse.

Charlie Montoyo sort of says it all, as quoted in the N&O (The N&O covering a Bulls game? An away game?)
“It wasn’t a crazy game, it was just bad pitching,” Montoyo said. “Really there are no excuses. The pitching was just not very good.”
Shake it off, guys. New game tomorrow. We don’t have a regular starter available, but we do have the heart of our relief corps. The series is in your hands.

By the way, game starts at 5 o’clock.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Team USA Beats China; Into Round 2 of World Cup

USA 8, China 0
Wrap, Box, Cumulative Stats

Team USA is going to the second round after their win over China in Regensburg, Germany. Jon Weber played today and went 1-4 with a triple and scored a run.

Team USA meets Team Canada in Reggio Emilia, Italy for a second round game (Group G) on September 13th. From the schedule this looks like they will play 7 games in 8 days in various towns in northern Italy. Probably an interesting trip there and interesting bus rides around northern Italy.

A major thank you to whomever is keeping the World Cup Wikipedia page up to date.

A while back I mentioned that the first game that the US played against Venezuela was settled in accordance with the “extra inning rule”. Well, here’s that rule in all its glory. The simple explanation is, if you’re tied after the 9th, you put two guys on base at the start of each inning thereafter and hammer away.

Extra-Inning Rule:

If the game remains tied after the completion of nine (9) innings, the following procedures will be implemented during extra innings:
  • Each team will begin the 10th inning (and any subsequent necessary extra innings) with a player on first and second, no outs.
  • To begin the 10th inning, representatives from each team will meet at home plate and will indicate (at the same time) to the home plate umpire where the team wishes to begin the batting order. That is, the teams have the option of beginning the 10th inning anywhere in the existing batting order that was in effect when the 9th inning ended. Note that this is not a new lineup (just potentially a different order), and it may very well be the same lineup that ended the 9th inning. The rationale for doing so is to ensure that both teams have an equal chance at having what they consider to be their best hitters and base runners in a position to score in the 10th inning.
  • For example, if the team decides to have the #1 hitter in the lineup hit first, then the #8 hitter will be placed at 2B and the #9 hitter will be placed at 1B. Furthermore, if the team decides to have the #3 hitter in the lineup hit first, then the #1 hitter would be at 2B and the #2 hitter would be at 1B.
  • Once those players/runners are determined for the 10th inning, the order of any subsequent innings will be determined by how the previous inning ended. That is, if the 10th inning ends with the #6 hitter having the last plate appearance (PA), then the 11th inning begins the #7 hitter at bat, and the #5 hitter at 2B and the #6 hitter at first base.
  • With the exception of beginning the inning with runners on 1B and 2B with no one out, all other “Official Baseball Rule ” and “IBAF Competition Norms” will remain in effect during extra innings required to determine a winner.
  • No player re-entry is permitted during extra innings.
  • The traditional system of the visiting team hitting in the top of the inning and the home team hitting in the bottom of the inning (if needed) will remain in effect until a winner is determined.
  • An official form will be provided to the teams for the 10th inning. During the meeting at home plate with the umpire prior to the start of the 10th inning, managers will turn in the forms which will state which player will be the first hitter in the lineup. The form will be signed by the manager and given to the home plate umpire, with the TC over seeing the process.

Cromer Takes Bulls Into the Lead

Durham Bulls 4, Louisville Bats 3
Wrap, Box, Indy Week, N&O, Louisville Courier-Journal

The Jason Cromer Fan Club is pleased, mighty pleased, to report to you that our man has come through for the Bulls again. Six innings, and except for those unfortunate two home runs, yet another solid game for our guy. Of course, he was helped quite a bit by his colleagues Joe Bateman, Julio DePaula, and Winston Abreu. Not to mention the infield and outfield. The Bats left 12 men on base and that is an indicator not only of timely strikeouts, but good defense.

As much as we love Jason, we also have to mention Winston Abreu. He just seems to get better and better. In the 9th inning last night he struck out the first batter on three pitches, the second batter on three pitches, and was 0-2 on the third batter before an infield hit got dribbled past him. He was 0-2 on the fourth batter before he threw his first ball of the game. And then that batter dribbled another slow roller no one could handle. Abreu was hitting 96-97 mph all along. By this time Winston was ticked. The next batter had no chance. He was 0-2 before he fouled one off, took a ball, and then struck out. Dominating is the only word to use.

The Bulls got all their runs in the 4th inning off starter Sam LaCure. A Joe Dillon single, Matt Joyce walk, and a walk to Sean Rodriguez loaded the bases with none out. Justin Ruggiano singled in a run (Justin was 3-4 on the night), Elliot Johnson singled in a run, Michel Hernandez grounded into a double play, but that scored a run. And Henry Mateo (first appearance in series) singled in the fourth run.

According to reports, Montoyo is going to go with Raynor Oliveros tonight. He did OK against Norfolk on September 5th, and one of these days our bats are going to wake up (seems like it has been quite a while since that happened). Things are looking up.

We are now 2-1 in the best of five and need just one more to come back to Durham for the next round. By the way, Gwinnett won at Scranton/WB last night. In that series SWB leads 2-1.