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.

Friday, September 11, 2009

USA Defeats Germany

Team USA 9, Germany 1
Wrap, Box

I’ve seen that headline somewhere before...

Gwinnett Brave Todd Redmond went eight scoreless innings. Jason Childers closed out the 9th, giving up an unearned run. Jon Weber did not play.

USA Loses to Venezuela

USA 9, Venezuela 13
Wrap, Box, Mister Baseball

Maybe it was the jet lag, maybe it was a bad wienerschnitzel, maybe it was a fascination with flip-top beer bottles or gasthaus songs, but Durham Bull Jason Childers probably never wants to see Regensburg, Germany again. He came on in the 7th inning and got his first batter on a fly out, but walked the second and third batters. He struck out the fourth batter, but walked the fifth, loading the bases. He hit the sixth batter and served up a grand slam to the seventh one. Five runs. Got pulled from the game.

Nevertheless, the game was not decided until the 11th inning by another grand slam and that after the game shifted to the “extra inning rule” in the 10th. Don’t ask me what that is. I’m working on it. Some sort of tie-breaking, shorten the game kind of thing.

Jon Weber went 2 for 5 with 1 RBI.

Finding info on the World Cup isn’t particularly easy. The best start place that I’ve found is a page in Wikipedia. The Cup’s website is really annoying. Team USA has a site. And Mister Baseball (apparently a German site) seems to be writing particularly good stories. For general background, this article helps.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Durham Bulls 2, Louisville Bats 5

The Bulls got outpitched tonight. Simple as that. Ben Jukich, Enerio Del Rosario, and Logan Ondrusek of the Louisville Bats did what they are paid to do. The Bulls did jump on Ben Jukich in the 1st inning with three quick singles that scored one run. Then Matt Joyce hit into a double play with runners on first and third that scored another run. And that was it, folks. That was our last run.

In the 6th the Bulls got the bases loaded with no outs, but Del Rosario came and got three outs, then set down the next six Bulls. Closer Logan Ondrusek came on in the 9th to set down three more. Twelve in a row.

On the other hand, when you’re facing good pitching, someone has to step up. Four Bulls position players are on the Tampa Bay 40-man roster. Back in the 6th when the bases were loaded with no outs, three of those four came to bat: Ruggiano - fly out; Johnson - fielder’s choice ground out; John Jaso - ground out. That’s not how you get to the Rays, guys.

But I don’t want to sound too down. The Bulls were flat tonight and, as I said, they got outpitched. But the series is far from over. We are 1-1 for a five-game series. Tomorrow they’re in Louisville, Jason Cromer is on the mound, and all will be well.

As a side note, Mitch Talbot pitched three pretty good innings. Nice to see him back at the DBAP. It’s been a long time. Things came unraveled for him in the 4th. Too bad, because he had a decent game going up until then.

Cool at the DBAP tonight. Actually a bit chilly if in a t-shirt. Still, I’ll be happy to go back there next Wednesday. After all, I’ve already paid for the tickets.

Durham Bulls Win Game One of Playoffs

Durham Bulls 8, Louisville Bats 4
Wrap, Box

The leadoff batter for first game of the AAA International League Playoffs last night was the AA Southern League MVP (Desmond Jennings). The starting pitcher for the Louisville Bats was the Southern League Pitcher of the Year (Travis Wood).

Checking out the lineups I realized the Governor’s Cup teams are the best of our respective prospects who played in AA this year and our AAA veterans. Not that we don’t have a few left who could go up this year or even today (e.g., Matt Joyce). These are the lineups we’re both very likely to see next year in the regular season. Welcome to 2010!

The official attendance was 1,809, quite possibly the smallest of the year. That seems to be typical for a playoff game, certainly for the last three years. Not quite sure why, since the crowd was smaller that even the usual mid-week game. My guess is that it has something to do with marketing, or lack thereof, and the dismal state of affairs of sports coverage in the Triangle in general. But at least those who were there were definitely into the game. Even heard a few Louisville fans cheering over by their dugout.

But, what about the game? Pretty good. Jeremy Hellickson only gave up three hits, unfortunately two of them were home runs. He was throwing a lot of pitches and really working hard. By the 6th inning he was near 100 pitches and when the leadoff batter reached on Sean Rodriguez’s third error, he walked the next batter. He then made a play to disrupt a sacrifice attempt, struck out a batter, and left the game at 109 pitches with two outs, men on first and second and the score tied at 3-3. Twelve strikeouts and three walks showed that he’s is very much the real thing. He’ll be the Wade Davis of 2010 for sure.

Travis Wood, the Bats starting pitcher, pretty much gave his own game away with two throwing errors in the 5th that led to three runs and a tie. The next inning the Bulls' aggressiveness paid off with five runs being scored after two outs were on the board.

New Bull Sean Rodriguez was at second base last night and truly snake-bit. Although none of his errors led to runs, they had a lot to do with Hellickson’s pitch count being driven up so high so early.

Ray Olmedo was a star with three hits, as was Matt Joyce with three singles and two RBIs. Sean Rodriguez’s two RBIs somewhat made up for his mistakes. Joe Dillon had two RBIs on a double and Wood's error.

The third time was the charm for Justin Ruggiano. In the 4th he came up with Matt Joyce on second and Rodriguez on first, and struck out. In the 5th he came up with Joyce and Rodriguez on base, and struck out. In the 6th he came up with Rodriguez on first. Rodriguez stole second and Ruggiano hit an RBI single.

Bateman, DePaula, and Abreu looked just fine in closing things out.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Durham Bulls 3.0

It seems like only yesterday that I was writing about the Bulls lineup (wait, it was yesterday, wasn’t it? And a couple of times today). But my last big update, the 2.0 edition of the Bulls, lasted precisely one week. since then we’ve had four pitching changes and four position player changes.

Here’s an updated list based on the 2.0 version. Changes are marked with an xxx for departure and bold for arrival. Players on the 40-man roster are marked with an asterisk. Pretty soon it will be the Tampa Bay Bulls and the Durham Biscuits.

  • Jason Cromer
  • Jeremy Hellickson
  • Rayner Oliveros
  • Heath Rollins
  • Paul Phillips
  • xxx Dale Thayer * xxx
  • Joe Bateman
  • Julio DePaula
  • Winston Abreu
  • Calvin Medlock
  • Joe Nelson
  • Mike Wlodarczyk
  • Mitch Talbot *

  • John Jaso *
  • Craig Albernaz
  • Michel Hernandez

  • xxx Reid Brignac * xxx
  • Joe Dillon
  • Elliot Johnson *
  • Henry Mateo
  • Ray Olmedo
  • xxx Chris Richard xxx
  • Sean Rodriguez *
  • Chris Nowak

  • Justin Ruggiano *
  • Desmond Jennings
  • Matt Joyce *
  • Rashad Eldridge

Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, over at Indy Week Adam Sobsey has made a valiant effort to lay out the Bulls - Bats match up. Great effort. Now to see if the Reds leave the Bats alone as much as the Rays have left us alone.

[Update: I left out Mitch Talbot. Ooops!]

Ouch! Thayer To Rays

Marc Topkin of the St. Pete Times has this on his blog [Thanks, A]:
RHP Dale Thayer has been called up from Triple-A Durham, to join the beleaguered bullpen. He is on his way to the stadium.

Thayer, who has been up twice previously this season, has 3.52 ERA with one save in six big-league appearances. He was 2-5, 2.27 with 17 saves in 23 chances for Durham.

Chris Nowak Returning

According to Stacy Long in Montgomery, Chris Nowak is coming back to the Bulls from the Biscuits. Chris played third and first for the Bulls earlier in the season, so expect he will do the same in the playoffs, as needed. He fills the hole left by Chris Richard.

By the way, Richard did get into last night’s Rays game in the 7th inning, playing first base. In his only at-bat he drew a walk.

An Incredible Run

(click on charts for larger view)

Time to look back before looking forward to Wednesday. This has been one heck of a year and one heck of a run in the last month. You can see that in 2008 we had much less competition within the division, but only finished four games above .500. This year we never once went below .500 and were seriously challenged by Norfolk and Gwinnett along the way.

A year to be proud of.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Joe’s Get Jolted

Game 144: Durham Bulls 3, Norfolk Tides 4
Season: 83-61
Wrap, Box

Just looking down from the stands you knew this was going to be a different kind of game. Henry Mateo was playing first base. Chris Richard, Justin Ruggiano, and Joe Dillon weren’t in the game. Leaning up against the rail was Mitch Talbot, of all people. Last seen in Durham when he won a game against Rochester on May 27th, Mitch sort of disappeared into disabled list limbo after that. At the plate the Bulls were all using the same bat, reportedly one of Jon Weber’s that he left behind. They got two home runs off of it during the game (Johnson and Eldridge).

On the mound for the Bulls was Jason Cromer. He was followed by Calvin Medlock, Mike Wlodarczyk (in his first AAA appearance), Joe Bateman, Julio DePaula, and Joe Nelson. Obviously, Charlie Montoyo was giving his bullpen some exercise, but not too much.

Because it was the last game of the year, it looked like the players on both teams were pretty much swinging away. Very few base runners and no runs at all until Johnson’s homer in the 7th. Then Bateman (the first Joe) came on in the 8th. Unlike previous Bateman experiences, this did not work out well. Pop up, single, single, single, walk, walk, pitcher change, double play. Two runs and it was 1-2. But Eldridge hit a home run in the 8th to tie it. Joe Nelson (the second Joe) came on in the 10th and got two quick outs. But a home run, single, stolen base, and a double made it 2-4. In the bottom of the 10th we got one back, but the Bulls couldn’t pull off their usual comebacks.

Nevertheless, the Bulls have one of their best years ever. We go into the playoffs in pretty good shape if these young pitchers hold up.

The loss of Chris Richard will be important. He was put on a plane to New York immediately after today’s game to fill a hole created by a season-ending injury to Carlos Peña. Guess he didn’t get there in time for the second game of the Rays’ double-header with the Yankees since he didn’t appear in the lineup (8:00 pm).

The radio reported that Jeremy Hellickson will start Game 1 against the Bats and Mitch Talbot will start Game 2, Jason Cromer Game 3, and next, well who knows? Maybe we won't need a game 4. If Mitch is in shape, he could make all the difference.

Chris Richard Gets the Call

Per the Bulls Twitter, Chris Richard has been called up to the Rays. Carlos Peña, the Rays first baseman, was hit on the hand in the first inning of a double header at Yankee Stadium. That game is now in the 8th inning with Willy Aybar playing first. Richard’s plane may get there in time for him to play in the second game. Great to see him have the opportunity.

[Thanks, DRR, for the heads up]


According to the St. Pete Times Peña has two broken fingers. Guess that means that Chris’ trip isn’t temporary.

Wlodarczyk Assigned

Left-handed reliever Mike Wlodarczyk has been assigned to the Bulls from Montgomery. He’s had 47 appearances with the Biscuits this year, all except three in relief. He carries an ERA of 4.51 in 65 innings with 46 strikeouts and 26 walks.

We’re slowly becoming the Durham Biscuits. If I was complaining about what Tampa Bay was doing to us, just think what we’ve done to Montgomery. We’ve picked up Jennings, Eldridge, Oliveros, Rollins, Phillips, Hellickson, and Wlodarszyk in recent weeks/days. Looks like Albernaz may have been pushed off the roster to make room. Too bad. I was looking forward to seeing him pitch today.

Now if I could just pronounce his name ...

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Score Tied, Bottom of the 9th, Two Outs, Guess What?

Game 143: Durham Bulls 3, Norfolk Tides 2
Season: 83-60
Games Left in Season: 1
Wrap, Box

This game started out pretty much as expected. Just up from Montgomery Paul Phillips got the start and everyone (Bulls included) was swinging at just about everything. The game didn’t really matter to either team and, at first, it was mostly three-up/three-down for both teams.

Phillips was touched up for a couple of hits in the 5th, but left at the end of the inning no runs on the board. Similarly, the Bulls did very little through four innings, then new guy Sean Rodriguez hit a home run to start the 5th. A little flurry in the 7th from Norfolk, two runs; a Ruggiano double drove in Rodriguez in the Bulls side of the 7th. Score now 2-2 and both teams were clearly back into it, caring about who was going to win this one.

Which brings us to a 2009 Durham Bulls ending (We’ve won 19 games in the final at bat this year). Two outs, bottom of the 9th. John Jaso hits a double off Norfolk closer Bob McCrory. Desmond Jennings sent in to run for Jaso.

Ray Olmedo comes to bat and I’m remembering the Ray Olmedo and Ray Sadler games of April and May. I’m guessing so does Ray Olmedo. A single to right brings Jennings around. Ray steps on first base and waits for the team to come out and gang up on him.

I think I heard Neil Solondz say that 83 wins ties the best record in AAA Bulls history.

Last game of the season tomorrow, but then the playoffs start Wednesday. This team just gets better.

World Cup

Team USA 11, Canada 2 (Exhibition)
Wrap, Box, Indy Week Story

As special thanks to Mike Potter for covering these games this week and posting on the Independent Weekly's Sports Blog.

Durham Bulls 2009 South Division Champions

Game 142: Durham Bulls 5, Norfolk Tides 1
Season: 82-60
Games Left in Season: 2
Wrap, Box

I was apprehensive going into last night’s game. Sure, we were going to get into the playoffs, but how were we going to win with only two starting pitchers (Cromer and Hellickson)? Maybe, just maybe, a piece of that puzzle got solved last night.

One of the recent arrivals from Montgomery, Raynor Oliveros, in his first AAA start, went 5⅔ innings and only gave up 2 hits and 1 walk while striking out 8. Pretty darned good even if the Tides, as with Charlotte, have been chopped up by their parent club. Not sure what it is about Montgomery, maybe something in the water. First we get Jeremy Hellickson, who’s been doing a terrific job. Now Rayner steps up when we really needed a starter. Or maybe it’s just wanting to be sure they don’t go back to Montgomery.

DePaula, Thayer, and Abreu slammed the door.

If Montoyo and X. agree, then that gives us three starters. We can probably get through the playoffs with four, so who’s going to get the start tonight, Joe Bateman, one of the new guys? Stay tuned. Better yet, go to the park and find out.

A curious feature of the game is that we won without an extra base hit. Nine singles, four walks, one hit by pitch, and one reached on an error. We also gave Norfolk's infield a ton of practice. Even though they committed four errors, they also turned four double plays.

Two brilliant plays in the 7th were fun to watch. Matt Joyce stretched himself out in right to steal at least a double from Norfolk’s Brandon Snyder. And the very next play Elliott Johnson, playing short, went deep behind second base to grab a grounder and throw out Norfolk catcher Guillermo Rodriguez. Sort of made up for his two errors on the evening.

Gwinnett got crushed by Charlotte 10-1. How could that happen? Charlotte seems to be Gwinnett’s nemesis this year. Nevertheless, when Syracuse lost, Gwinnett locked up the wild card berth.

And the Durham Bulls won the South Division Championship!
Three years, three championships. Really, really something to be proud of. The Bulls will play the Louisville Bats in the first round of the playoffs. It was fun to see Winston throw that third strike and watch the guys dash out on the field with champagne bottles in hand.

Adam Sobsey got some interesting quotes in the clubhouse after the win. Worth looking at.

World Cup

Team USA 6, Canada 5 (Exhibition)

Jason Childers got a save. No other stats available.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Running For Home

Game 141: Durham Bulls 4, Knights 1
Season: 81-60
Games Left in Season: 3
Wrap, Box, Indy Week

This has been a remarkable run. On the 23rd of August the Bulls were 13 games above .500 and four games behind Gwinnett in the International League’s South Division. Now, twelve games later, the Bulls are 21 games above .500 (the best of the year) and lead Gwinnett by two games. We’ve won 10 or our last 12 games and are very close to winning the division. Extraordinary!

Now they’re coming home after sweeping the Charlotte Knights, closing it out with a very nice 4-1 win last night behind yet another sterling performance by Jeremy Hellickson — he hasn’t let a run score in his last two games. Charlie Montoyo let the new arrival from Montgomery, Heath Rollins get his second taste of AAA ball in the 8th inning last night, but after his first pitch went over the wall, didn’t let him stay too long before bringing in Winston Abreu to close it out.

What to look for in this Norfolk series — rotation experimentation. We’ve only got two starters, Jason Cromer and Jeremy Hellickson, so just how do you go ready for a playoff series? Montoyo could choose to keep Cromer out until Wednesday or pitch him in his normal rotation on Monday afternoon, which would bring Jason up for the fourth game of the first round of the playoffs. My guess is that it depends mostly on how Jason deals with days off. For some guys too many is just as bad as too few. Jeremy’s normal rotation brings him up for the first game of the playoffs. So we’re good there.

I’d expect Charlie to use these three games to take very close looks at Raynor Oliveros, Paul Phillips and Heath Rollins.

The rest of the lineup really looks great. Desmond Jennings fell off his remarkable streak last night, going 0-5 after going 7-7. Nevertheless, Rashad Eldridge and Sean Rodriguez seem to be fitting in. Matt Joyce should be recovered from his foot injury. Chris Richard is banging the ball well. Justin? Continuing his feast or famine problems at the plate. Has not been his year, but we all know he’s capable of making a real difference these last two weeks.

World Cup

Team USA 7, Canada 4 (exhibition)
Indy Week

Jon Weber played left field and went 1-3 with a walk and a RBI.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Durham Bulls Clinch Post-Season Spot; Jennings Sets Record

Game 140: Durham Bulls 14, Charlotte Knights 3
Season: 80-60
Games Left in Season: 4; Home Games: 3
Wrap, Box, Indy Week

In a game of superlatives played in Fort Mill, South Carolina, the headline emerges from Allentown, Pennsylvania. The Syracuse Chiefs lost to Lehigh Valley. With the Bulls’ win in Fort Mill we now have a lock on a playoff spot as either the Southern Division champs or as the Wild Card team. So, next Wednesday, at the DBAP, first game of the first round.

Desmond Jennings kept up with his hot hitting, this time setting a Durham Bulls AAA record of 7 hits in 7 at-bats. Really hard to do in a 9-inning game. Really hard to do, period. Six singles and a double, three RBIs and he scored four runs. In fact, the top of the order did much of the damage since Rashad Eldridge, playing right field in place of injured Matt Joyce, was 4-6 with a walk and two RBIs. The Bulls as a team had 17 hits and drew 12 walks against a Charlotte team that has simply been decimated by September call ups and World Cup team assignments. Further, the White Sox have wanted to keep their AA and A teams in contention, so some of the players last night were true rookies getting their first experience at pitching to AAA hitters or facing AAA pitchers.

But I don’t want to take anything away from Calvin Medlock. A superb game in a spot start situation. He was touched for a home run in the 1st and the 3rd (Charlotte’s only runs), but went 4 ⅔ and struck out 9. Joe Bateman got the win and Dale Thayer pitched the 9th.

Norfolk beat Gwinnett last night, so we’re two games ahead of the Braves in the Southern Division with four games left to play. Things are looking pretty good.

Team USA 6, Canada 4 (exhibition)
Indy Week, Box

Jon Weber played left field and went 1-3 with a walk. Jason Childers pitched a scoreless inning.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Eldridge Back; Brignac Gone; Nelson Clears Waivers

According to Stacy Long, Rashad Eldridge is coming to the Bulls from the Biscuits. Rashad was with us earlier in the year and did quite well: .301/.356/.370. An outfielder, it looks to me he might fill a hole if Joyce gets called up. Sorry for Montgomery’s loss, but a positive for us.

According to Marc Tompkin, Reid Brignac is on his way to Tampa Bay and Joe Nelson passed through waivers and accepted an assignment to Durham.

If new infielder Sean Rodriguez stays more than a couple of days, and if his hitting is still in the shape it was in when he left Salt Lake, we should be OK in the infield. Maybe better than OK.

Even though what we really need is starting pitching, and even though Nelson hasn’t shown us much yet, maybe Charlie and X. know something we don’t. We can hope.

That’s Better

Game 139: Bulls 9, Knights 0
Season: 79-60
Games Left in Season: 5; Home Games: 3
Wrap, Box, Indy Week

For all my complaining about the Rays, it pales in comparison to what the White Sox have done to Charlotte over the last couple of days. I guess we should be thankful (but I won’t be).

Charlie Montoyo had some interesting things to say in his interview with Neal Solondz. He thinks the season should end on September 1.

Nevertheless, I don’t want to take anything away from my favorite left-handed Bulls pitcher (What’s that our only left-handed pitcher? OK, in that case simply my favorite Bulls pitcher), Jason Cromer. Terrific night for Jason. Six innings, 5 hits (all singles), two walks, two strikeouts, no runs. His ERA went down to 2.33. Followed in the 7th and 8th by Julio DePaula, who didn’t let any runs in, and in the 9th by Winston Abreu, who struck out the side.

The new guy, Desmond Jennings, and the veteran, Chris Richard led the offense. Jennings showed why he was named MVP of the Southern League almost a month after he was gone: Two walks, one hit by pitch, a triple, a home run, two stolen bases, three runs scored, and 2 RBIs. Chris Richard went 4-5, with a homer and three singles, and 4 RBIs.

Norfolk did us a favor by beating the Braves 8-1, so we’ve back up into sole possession of first place in the South Division. I’ve also noted DRR’s comments regarding how there’s an advantage to being the wild-card team as opposed to the division champs, and I agree. On the other hand, I’d really like a t-shirt that would tout three years in a row (plus Gov’s cup, of course).

World Cup

Mike Potter covered Team USA’s media day. Thanks, Mike. The best link I’ve found so far regarding the world cup is here. I still haven’t found any sportswriter-type stories on the Cup. If anyone else does, let me know.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Durham Bulls 2.0

Game 138: Bulls 2, Braves 10
Season: 78-60
Games Left in Season: 6; Home Games: 3

Again, I will commend to you other accounts of last night’s game. If you are feeling a bit down and just want to get it over with, then this might suit you. If you’re deeply into pain and suffering, or deeply depressed and in need of something to push you over the edge, this might be more to your liking.

I don’t know where the Bulls’ heads were last night, but it sure wasn’t at the DBAP. I will note that the 32nd and 33rd pitchers of the year were on the mound.

I’d rather take a stab at understanding the 2.0 version of the Durham Bulls. Please keep in mind my most recent post regarding the interest that the Rays have in our fortunes. To wit: none, zero, nada. Suck it up, Durham. We want these guys up here so they can see how the big leaguers lose a playoff race.

(OK. Take a breath, C. ... Better?)

Players on the 40-man roster of Tampa Bay are marked with an asterisk. They are much more subject to call up in the next couple of days, but have not, so far as I know, been called yet.


With the Wade Davis call up and Nelson DFA, here’s what’s left:
  • Jason Cromer
  • Jeremy Hellickson
  • Rayner Oliveros
  • Heath Rollins
  • Paul Phillips
  • Dale Thayer *
  • Joe Bateman
  • Julio DePaula
  • Winston Abreu
  • Calvin Medlock
First impressions of the new guys from Montgomery (Oliveros, Rollins, and Phillips) are pretty good. We’re about two short of what we need for the next several games and Thayer could get called up at any moment (the Rays used 8 pitchers in a real fiasco last night). Montgomery’s season lasts just as long as ours, but maybe someone could be pulled up for the playoffs. I suppose that Joe Nelson could actually show back up, depending on contracts, agents, other ML teams, etc. I’m assuming Carlos Hernandez and Mitch Talbot are not part of the picture.

  • John Jaso *
  • Craig Albernaz
  • Michel Hernandez

We can go back to carrying three catchers now. I don’t see Jaso going up unless Riggans goes on the DL again.

  • Reid Brignac *
  • Joe Dillon
  • Elliot Johnson *
  • Henry Mateo
  • Ray Olmedo
  • Chris Richard
  • Sean Rodriguez *

Tampa folks are so high on Rodriguez I gotta figure he’ll go up there after only a few days here. Reid and Elliott? Don’t know. Hard to guess. But in any case we are not in desperate shape for infielders.

  • Justin Ruggiano *
  • Desmond Jennings
  • Matt Joyce *
Pretty sure that Matt Joyce will be getting a call up. Doubt that Justin will. We’ve got a problem here, but Johnson has played some outfield and Montgomery has a couple of good guys available for the playoffs.

So where do we stand overall? Here’s my answer — It’s in the hands of Charlie Montoyo. Seems to me the talent is there (sure, need some pitching and at least one outfielder), but orchestrating the talent we have and keeping things sorted out in the clubhouse is what will make the difference. Norfolk and Charlotte have been stirred up as well. X. has his work cut out for him working with the new pitchers (as do Jaso and Michel Hernandez). But building a team, well the old hands (Chris Richard, Justin Ruggiano, Joe Dillon, Henry Mateo, Ray Olmedo) are going to have to step in and help keep on top of things.

In the end, it seems like we’re in pretty good shape. It could have been worse. It could get worse given Tampa Bay’s attitude. But at this moment, we’re OK.

Just no more games like last night.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Joe Maddon, the Rays, and the IL Playoffs

Every now and then something comes along to jolt me out of my little fantasy world in which I think that the folks down in that jukebox between the beach and the bay actually know we’ve got a great team here and maybe they care something about how our season’s going. This comes along from a Bill Chastain item on the Rays website.

Maddon said more players will be called up at the end of the week and next week. But the Rays won’t be leaving players at Durham just to help the Bulls in the International League playoffs.

“We’re not going to leave people there we want here,” Maddon said.

Nice to know what Joe Maddon really thinks about the Bulls and the Governor’s Cup.

Auf Wiedersehen Jon & Jason

Game 137: Bulls 6, Braves 8
Season: 78-59
Games Left in Season: 7; Home Games: 4

I’ll leave last night’s game to the wrap, the Herald-Sun, and Adam Sobsey. What I want to write about today is the contributions of Jon Weber and Jason Childers to the 2009 Durham Bulls. Without them we wouldn’t be where we are today — on the verge of a division championship and heading towards the playoffs. Thank you.

Jon Weber

The numbers are simply superb. He played in 117 games this year. I don’t recall him missing a day with an injury. He’s the only .300 batter on the team (.302). His OBP was .382, his OPS was .879. He leads the International League with 46 doubles (and likely to hold that lead since the next in line has 36) and in extra base hits. Those are his numbers, and those numbers were clearly good enough, in my opinion, for him to get a shot with the Rays this year. I’ve written about that more than once this year.

More than that, even a fan can notice that he seems to be a man with a sense of humor and good spirit. He’s certainly put up with a good bit from this blog regarding his bat-throwing tendencies. (In that regard, I have it on good authority that all the partners and associates of Farfaleaux, Foghart, & Bloviate, L.L.C. join me in wishing Jon all possible success and genuinely regret missing the opportunity of filming Jon tossing a bat in Fenway Park.)

He has remarked that he’s looking to play in Japan next year and if that doesn’t happen he hopes he will be back in Durham. Here’s hoping that he gets his wish.

Jason Childers

Back on April 19th, the very first game of this season, Jason made the first of his team-leading 55 appearances for the Bulls this year. He has done a bit of everything from middle relief to closing, accumulating 9 wins, 6 losses, 9 holds, and 5 saves. I like his Opponent’s On Base Percentage, a nice low .310. His 61 strikeouts to 23 walks isn’t anything to sneeze at either. As a fan the great thing about Jason is that I don’t flinch when I see him come into the game. If we’ve got a lead, I don’t think he’s going to let it get away. If we don’t have the lead, he’ll give us a chance to get back in the game. He’s done that all year. We’re going to miss him these next two weeks.

Jon and Jason are off to the wilds of Cary, NC to tune up for the World Cup of Baseball. If there’s a major sporting event that’s gotten less coverage I don’t know what it could be (think about that…). Here at WDBB we’ll do our best to keep an eye on them as they travel off to Regensburg, Germany for the first round game on September 10th against Venezuela. Or maybe I’ll get over to Cary to watch them play Team Canada on 3rd, 4th, 5th, or 6th.

If there were ever two men who represent what American baseball is all about, Jon Weber and Jason Childers are those guys. They work hard, play hard, respect the game, and have fun. What more could you ask for in men who are representing our country and the game we all love?