Thursday, April 30, 2009

Matt Takes One For The Team

Game 20: Bulls 6, Clippers 3
Season: 13-7
Wrap, Box

Matt Joyce took one for the team and scored the winning run in the 7th.

Not that he had much choice in the matter. Clippers’s reliever Zach Jackson hit him in the back. Ruggiano then singled him to second. He went to third on a Chris Richard walk. He came home on a Chris Nowak sacrifice fly, and the Bulls went ahead 4-3.

The Bulls then scored two more runs when John Jaso singled.

I was once again impressed with our relievers Randy Choate and Winston Abreu.

Worried about Jon Weber leaving the game in the 8th. Could not see exactly what happened from where I sat, but radio reported he fouled the ball into his foot. In obvious pain.

Other notes:
  • Listening to Neil Solondz on the radio during the game I heard him say that pitcher Jeremy Cummings will be coming back to the Bulls later in May. That’s really good news.
  • Rays reliever, rehabbing right-hander Jason Isringhausen did not make an appearance.
  • Looks like the Tampa Bay took Her Rays’ admonishment to heart. They beat the Boston 13-0 tonight. Catcher Michel Hernandez went 4-5 with a double and his first major league home run!

WebWorld Notes

A couple of interesting items out on the web I thought Bulls fans might be interested in.
  • The first is more for the fun of it. As we know, the Rays have been having a dismal time of it lately. Over at Her Rays, she finally gives up and lets them have it.
  • Rays Index has invited his fellow bloggers to speculate about trades this year. Of interest to us is that a couple of Bulls show up on most of the lists: Reid Brignac, Mitch Talbot, Chad Orvella, and Justin Ruggiano.
  • Adam Sobsey has a long article over at Indy Week where he has a very interesting conversation with Gerry Hunsicker, essentially the Rays #2 guy. He explains at least some of the thinking behind the Montoyo Merry-Go-Round.
Left out of the equation, as might be expected, is much consideration of the Durham Bulls as a baseball team. Too bad. Would like to know more about what Hunsicker thought about that. Is what’s best for the Rays by definition best for the Bulls?

Good chance we’ll see the rehabbing Rays right-handed reliever Jason Isringhausen (formerly of the Cardinals) in tonight’s game.

Finally playing someone out of the Southern Division! Look for Andy Cannizaro on the Clippers' bench. He played about half the season for us last year.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Little Things Matter

Game 19: Bulls 1, Knights 9
Season: 12-7
Wrap, Box

Knights at bat in the top of the 3rd. No score in the game so far. Carlos Hernandez pitching for the Bulls.

Gookie Dawkins flies out to center. Hernandez strikes out Scott Podsednik. Two out. Eider Torres singles to right. Jason Nix comes to bat.

Now starts a little contest that I don’t understand. Hernandez makes several pickoff throws to first but Torres gets back easily. Twice catcher Craig Albernaz throws behind Torres in an attempt to catch him. Both throws bounce, but first baseman Chris Richard handles them. From where I sit it looks as if both Hernandez and Albernaz have lost track of what matters — the batter Jason Nix. Ball four, Nix walks, Torres to 2nd. Andy Phillips comes up and whacks one over the Blue Monster. Three runs and the Knights never looked back.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Justin Jolts One

Game 18: Bulls 14, Knights 7
Season: 12-6
Wrap, Box

Well, that was fun.

After a worrisome top of the first with Davis giving up a two-out walk, then an error leading to men on 1st and 3rd, we got out of the inning.

To start out our half of the inning Weber walked, Brignac singled, Joyce walked, and Ruggiano grand-slammed them all home. Richard struck out, Kennedy grounded out, but Sadler singled and Jaso hit his first home run for the Bulls. So we’re up 6 runs and everyone bats in the 1st.

By the end of the game we've got 14 runs, by far our best output this year.

Overall Wade Davis had a decent start, only getting in some trouble in the 4th with a 3 run homer. Still he wrapped things up nicely in that 4th with a strikeout, fly out, and strikeout. The 5th was interesting with Davis getting three fly balls to Joyce in right. He hit his pitch limit with the first batter in the 6th. Orvella very deftly finished the inning off — two pitches, two outs.

One other quirky event was Richard breaking two bats in the bottom of the 6th, the last broken bat leading to a grounder to second that scored Brignac.

The late innings were distinguished by sloppiness on both sides, errors, passed balls, etc. Got pretty ugly.

Nevertheless, a lot of positives in the game. Ruggiano's hitting (homer and double). Johnson's hitting (homer and single). Davis' pitching. Choate looking very good in relief (even though there were two errors behind him, he struck out two and made the third out on a come-backer).

Fun night at the park. Looking forward to see the rehabbing Rays right-handed reliever (gonna milk that alliteration for all it’s worth) tomorrow or the next day.

Singing at the DBAP

Click for a larger view

Not quite sure just why this started last year. I think it was after a particularly awful rendition of the National Anthem. We began to judge each night's performer(s) with a simple thumbs-up or thumbs down, but then progressed to an Olympic-style grading system:

  • 5 - Promote to Tampa Bay
  • 4 - Starting Lineup
  • 3 - OK, Keep on Roster
  • 2 - Send to Montgomery
  • 1 - Unconditional Release

Please note the profoundly scientific approach. The n varies from 1 to 6 or 7 voters; most of us are traditionalists (shifting into high gear to warble “land of the free-eeeee” does nothing for us); but we can be suckers for youngsters who try hard (as on the last night).

The chart shows the results for the first home stand. You can see that things got better as the week went by.

We'll be voting again tonight. Weather looks good. Bulls are in town. All is right with the world.

Another note: This year in the stands you might note a couple of folks saluting the flag during the anthem. That’s the result of a not-very-well-publicized change in flag protocol buried in federal legislation a couple of years back. It stated that serving members of the armed forces and veterans may “render honors with a hand salute” while “in civilian attire”. Pretty nifty change, in my opinion.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Where the Bulls Are — Home

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I was wondering whether or not to bother to put this shot up. Then I noticed that the blog’s had visits from Austria, Ukraine, and Turkey. Now we’ve either got some seriously displaced North Carolinians out there or Google is responding to some interesting search strings.

Locals will notice that this shot was taken before Diamond View II was completed and before the new Durham Performing Arts Center got out of the ground.

Surfing around looking for these shots I was reminded of a story from long ago and far away. It was during in the midst of the Cold War when satellite imagery was difficult to obtain and even more difficult to interpret. It was also a time when Castro (at the behest of the Soviet Union) was sending his soldiers out as advisors to various bad guys around the world — such as in Angola and Afghanistan. As it happens, during this period I met a photo interpreter who liked to talk about his craft. He described the difficulty of making meaning out of various smudges and dots seen from on high. “Except for finding the Cubans,” he said, “just look for the baseball fields.”

Odds and Ends:

If you've ever been curious about why so many baseball players come from the Dominican Republic, this series in the Global Post offers some insights.

Rays rehabbing right-handed reliever (how's that for alliteration?) Jason Isringhousen will probably show up in Durham for a couple of appearances this home stand.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Let’s Go Home

Game 17: Bulls 0, Tides 7
Season: 11-6
Wrap, Box

One the hottest topics in the Rays Webworld is: When is David Price going to get called down to Tampa? As a Bulls fan I’ve got to respond: How about tomorrow? And give us Jason Cromer back.

I know all the experts are sure he’s the next big thing. And they’re probably right. But for whom? Not for the Bulls, it seems. He’s only managed to get through a total of 17 innings in 4 games for us, leads our starters in ERA, and his OBA isn’t anything to shout about. Today he gave up 4 hits and 4 walks facing only 16 batters. Half the batters he faced got on base. Actually that’s not quite right since I’m not sure “getting on base” adequately describes the two guys who just trotted around them. He’s wearing our bullpen out.

Price trivia: He’s pitched 8 games for the Bulls, 4 of them against Norfolk, according to Neil’s broadcast today.

Gee, I hate to harp on the hitting, but we’ve got 4 players below the “Mendoza Line” (.200): Jamieson, Albernaz, Ruggiano, and Richard. Slightly better, but not much if we set the cutoff at .225, are Sadler, Olmedo, Johnson, and Nowak.

A day off tomorrow, guys. Take a break. Enjoy the finer pleasures of being home in Durham tonight. Get ready for Charlotte on Tuesday.

Are we ever going to play someone out of the Southern Division?

Games 15 and 16

Game 15: Bulls 2, Tides 8
Wrap, Box, Virginian-Pilot Story

The story of Friday’s Game 15 was the arrival of left-hander James Houser (still not showing on the Bulls’ roster on web site — need to work on that guys). First game of the year for Houser, so willing to wait a while to see how he shakes out, but not a good night. Four innings, 5 hits, 2 walks, 2 hit batsmen, 4 runs, 2 strikeouts, ouch. In the meantime, the guy he replaced, Jason Cromer, went over to Montgomery and the same day pitched 6 innings, 5 hits, no walks, 1 run, 4 strikeouts, and a win. Hmmm. We dropped out of first place in the Southern Division and Norfolk won its ninth game in a row.

Game 16: Bulls 4, Tides 1
Season: 11-5
Wrap, Box, Virginian-Pilot Story

It got better on Saturday. Talbot had a fine start, his fourth, going 6 plus innings (the best so far this year for a Durham pitcher). Winston Abreu was simply brilliant in relief. He faced 6 batters. He walked the first one, then struck out the next five! His OBA (opponent’s on-base percentage) is a stellar .184. Dale Thayer slammed the door. In eight appearances, he has yet to allow a run across.

And Elliot Johnson whacked the ball a couple of times, 3 for 4 with a homer, double, and 2 RBIs! Matt Joyce went 3 for 4 and is creeping up near .300.

The Bulls broke the Tides winning streak and are back in first place.


Blogger/broadcaster Dan Hoard writes about the Pawtucket Red Sox. Here’s his piece on a recent game between the Pawsox and Rochester. Nice bit of writing. Note that one of the batters blown away was Jason Pridie, a former Bull. Gotta admit a 9-pitch, 3 strikeout inning is very special, as was the rest of the game (if you’re a Pawsox fan).

Friday, April 24, 2009

Piling On

Game 14: Bulls 3, Tides 4
Season: 10-4
Wrap, Box, Virginian-Pilot Story

Somehow it just doesn’t seem fair. First on Wednesday I pointed out that, although Chris Richard and Jon Weber had a good game, the Bulls weren’t hitting well. Then Ryan Campbell at Indy Week made a persuasive argument that the Bulls really weren’t hitting well. And then Doug Mihoan over at Rays Prospects (using a stat I’m not very familiar with) implied at they truly were not hitting well.

I'm not entirely sure that any of us are quite right about what's going on with the hitting. These are close games that we're winning and losing. Two of our guys (Ruggiano and Johnson) are having bad years and Richard isn't far behind, but this division seems to have some strong pitching as well and all we've seen so far is Southern Division teams.

In the meantime, last night they got three runs on seven hits, but mostly the bats were quiet (11 strikeouts).

Sigh. Maybe tonight. Tides are only a 1/2 game back of us. They've won 8 in a row. New pitcher, James Houser, gets his first start.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Where the Bulls Are — Harbor Park

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Got to admit that this looks like a really cool place to play baseball.

The Bulls took a bus from Gwinnett to Durham yesterday and will be back on the bus to Norfolk today for tonight’s game. The Tides have won their last seven games and are only 1½ games back of the Bulls in the Southern Division. So, as early as it is in the season, would be great for Durham to take the series.

Local coverage in the Virginian-Pilot.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Chris Richard is Back!

Game 13: Bulls 6, Braves 2
Season: 10-3
Wrap, Box

I’m betting that the Rays’ webdom will focus on the performance of Wade Davis today, and he did a fine job going 5 innings.

But what I’m excited about is first baseman Chris Richard getting his eye back and joining outfielder/dh Jon Weber in showing how the Bulls play this game. Richard got 5 of today’s RBIs, Jon got the other one.

Chris came into the game with a miserable .182 batting average. Then in his first two at bats he hit two homers. By the end of the game his average was up to .216, his OBP to .326, and his OPS to .758. That’s a huge improvement in just one day and his RBIs pushed him up to a tie for second among the Bulls.

Then there’s Jon Weber’s performance this season. Leadoff is certainly a new place for him in Durham’s lineup (I wonder how many other teams have their DH leading off?). And look at what he’s been doing. Batting average .333 (team best), OBP .426 (team best), OPS .981 (team best), RBIs 8 (team best). Go Jon!

At the other extreme, we can only hope that Justin Ruggiano gets things sorted out. He leads the team in strikeouts (18), is only hitting .163, and his OBP is a miserable .212 (3 RBIs, though). Even worse is Elliot Johnson, hitting .139 with 11 strikeouts and a .225 OBP (0 RBIs).

Interesting that Justin and Elliot are on the Rays’ 40-man roster, Chris and Jon aren’t.

New catcher, Craig Albernaz, got a hit in his first at bat, and a RBI.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Charts - 2

Click on image to enlarge

We’re two times through the rotation (+1) so thought updates were in order. This time I hope that when you click on the chart it doesn’t blow up and overwhelm your screen.

I’ve also added a “season” bar on the right side of the performance chart. You can see the last couple of days the pitching has been a bit below the norm. In one instance the hitting (or their pitching) picked it up, in two it didn’t.

Pitching continues to be superb. Four pitchers have ERAs of 0.00! However, Orvella is letting a lot of guys on base and that’s gonna catch up with him eventually. The team OBA isn’t all that great, so our defense must be doing a good job keeping opponents from scoring (among other things, only 5 errors so far).

More Moves and More

First off, last night’s game:
Bulls 2, Braves 5

Box, Wrap, Gwinnett Daily Post

For the Bulls, game distinguished by catcher John Jaso’s unassisted double play (bases loaded, batter chips it into the dirt in front of home plate, catcher grabs ball, steps on home, tags the runner) and Mitch Talbot giving up 4 runs in one inning.

More Moves

Last year it seemed like every time we settled in for a new home stand we’d take a look at the starting lineup and turn to each other and ask, “Who are these guys?” Well, it begins to look like this year might be similar. Again the Montgomery Advertiser breaks the story, but I picked it up off Rays Prospects. Left-handed pitcher Jason Cromer is being sent to Montgomery and left-handed pitcher James Houser is coming to the Bulls. Cromer was Durham’s fifth starter with 2 starts, faced 36 batters in 10 innings, 1-0, ERA of 0.00, and OBA of .250. By a bunch the best record on the team. So why send him to Montgomery? Don’t know.

Who is James Houser? Here’s what I know, can only guess about the rest. He’s on the 40-man roster of Tampa Bay. He spent 2007 and 2008 with Montgomery. Spent a month on the disabled list (knee surgery) but pitched three starts at the end of the season. Where has he been this season? Don’t know. Maybe there’s someone out there on the web who does.

Over at Rays Prospects Kevin Gengler has a piece on the Bulls offense this year with an interesting comparison to the rest of the Southern Division of IL.

Monday, April 20, 2009


Montgomery Biscuits’ catcher Craig Albernaz is coming to the Bulls. He’s 1 for 13 in Montgomery (.077), so must assume he’s not being promoted for his bat. Must be to fill hole left by Michel Hernandez, or does Jaso or Jamieson have an injury we haven’t heard about yet?

Also reliever Jason Isringhausen will be doing some rehab in Montgomery and can be expected to show up in Durham after a few innings there.

Thanks to Stacy Long at the Montgomery Advertiser for the heads up.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Where the Bulls Are Headed — Gwinnett County Stadium

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This is where the Bulls are playing Monday night. Well, sort of. Looks like Google has not gotten around to updating their satellite shot. In the meantime, here are two links from the Gwinnett Daily Post about their new stadium down there, here and here. Photos included in one of the links. Looks like a pretty nice place. On the other hand, they’ve lost their first three games there (to Norfolk), so expect that they will be looking for a win from us.

Slightly nearer to home, the Bulls finished their visit with the Charlotte Knights by winning a very strange game. Ahead 2-1 in the top of the 8th our usually stellar bullpen walked over two runs. But Sadler homered in the top of the 9th to go ahead. Then Charlotte got the run back in the bottom of the 9th to tie. Brignac homered in the top of the 10th to go ahead and Charlotte tied it again in the bottom. It was Joyce’s turn to homer in the top of the 11th, but Charlotte came back with a run to tie it again. In the 12th Weber homered and, at last, Day shut them down in the bottom. Bulls won, 5-4.

Wrap, Box

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Montoyo’s Merry-Go-Round

Game 8: Bulls 5, Knights 0
Season: 7-1
Wrap, Box, Charlotte Observer Story

Montoyo’s Merry-Go-Round (Charlie’s Carousel?) continues. Last night’s starting line-up had Richard at 1st (5 out of 8, so that makes him almost a regular); Kennedy at 2nd (4 out of 8); Brignac at short (7, so he is a regular); Johnson at 3rd (2); Ruggiano in left (3); Joyce in center (1, but that completes his rotation through all outfield positions); Sadler in right (3); and Jaso catching (5). I left out the dh in my previous counts. We’ve had five different designated hitters.

This is beginning to look like a strategy, and it’s a strategy that’s working. Think about it. We’ve got terrific pitching this year in our starters and relievers. We’ve had three shut-outs in the first eight games. We’ve got a very professional group of position players. So why not keep them all in the game? And looking at the game differently every night?

It’s working. Keep the carousel turning Charlie.

Interesting links:

Adam Sobsky over at Indy Week discovered this terrific piece by one of my favorite ex-Bulls, Fernando Perez, in the New York Times. Here’s hoping we see him again if he does a rehab tour this summer.

Over at Her Rays we get her take on ex-Bull Ben Zobrist’s grand slam for the Rays last night.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Where The Bulls Are — Charlotte Knights Castle

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Two interesting things about the home of the Charlotte Knights: It’s not in Charlotte and it’s not in North Carolina. As seen in this nifty overhead shot, however, it looks like a decent enough place to play. Back out from the shot and you’ll see the nasty little road pattern that creates the traffic jam that the broadcasters sometimes comment on.

According to this blog it is a pretty nice place to see a game.

The Knights are a White Sox affiliate and are 2-5 on the season. I haven't been able to find any blogs following the Knights. Mostly what I find are arguments for and against the Knights moving to an unbuilt downtown stadium.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Who’s on 1st, or 2nd, or 3rd?

Game 7: Bulls 0, Braves 3
Season: 6-1
Wrap, Box

Price did OK. Covered elsewhere. Bulls lost their first game.

But I’m confused. I sure hope I’m the only one.

I don’t understand what Montoyo’s doing with his lineup.

So far this year in only seven games we’ve had 3 different players start at catcher, 3 at 1st, 2 at 2nd, 4 at 3rd, 2 at short, 4 in left field, 3 in center, and 5 in right. I don’t understand this moving guys around.

What’s really weird is, until tonight, only 1 error had been committed (Nowak at 1st base, 2nd game).

I guess it’s possible that Tampa Bay has told Charlie that they want outfielder generalists. If so, then that might explain why all of our outfielders have played in all the outfield positions at least once (except for Matt Joyce who’s only played in two games so far, and played right field and left field). But that doesn’t explain three different 1st basemen and four different 3rd basemen in only seven games.

It does make some sense for two positions. Reid Brignac has made six starts at shortstop, so maybe tonight was just a day off. And Michel Hernandez was called down to the Rays so Jamieson got a start at catcher last night.

It did seem to bite us tonight. Adam Kennedy in his first start at 3rd made a throwing error in the 2nd inning that set up the Braves’ first run. Jaso’s throwing error on the double steal in the 8th brought in another run. But overall the loss was really as much about Bull’s not hitting with men in scoring position as it was about the errors.

If someone out there has any good ideas about what’s going on, let me know.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Welcome to Durham!

Game 6: Bulls 5, Braves 3, 13 innings
Season: 6-0
Wrap, Box

To be honest, so far I had been less than impressed by newcomers to the Bulls Ray Sadler and Adam Kennedy. But then came today.

In the bottom of the 8th the Bulls were behind 3-0. Chris Richard got hit by a pitch, Adam Kennedy hit a double, moving Richard to 3rd, and Ray Sadler hit one over center field wall, tying the game.

In the bottom of the 13th (!) Richard hit a single and Kennedy whacked one over the right field wall. Game over.

Maybe it’s time I started checking out the old guys instead of worrying about the new guys.

By the way, the 6-0 start is the best in Bulls AAA history.


Those who have sat near me for the last couple of years have made the mistake of encouraging me in drawing up charts of how the Bulls are doing. Since we’ve now gone through the pitching rotation one time, I thought I’d produce a set. Click on a chart to get a larger view.

This first chart is an admittedly idiosyncratic way of looking at the Bulls, but they get at something I think is important. That is, how the team is doing as opposed to individuals. We know that the ultimate measure is, of course, wins and losses. But over time trends can sometimes be seen.

What I’ve plotted here is simply the team OPS for a game again the opponents OPS (as a negative number) and called it hitting (green) and pitching (blue). Usually, if you add the two up and the difference is greater than 0, we won. Where there’s an anomaly, as there was in the first game), a close look at the scorecard will explain it. In this case, a couple of double plays got us out of trouble.

The second chart looks at the pitchers (and the team as a whole) more closely. Here I’ve charted each pitcher's OBA, or on base average. That’s simply how many guys got on base with a hit, a walk, or being hit by the pitcher. OPS might be a better number, but very difficult to pull out of the box scores for a game. I’m not a big fan of ERA as a measure of a pitcher’s performance, but I’ve got it down there beside their names along with a few other more conventional measures. A hold, by the way, is a relatively new stat introduced, most likely, by relievers’ agents, to show how middle relievers did in a game.

An interesting thing about this one is that David Price has the worst numbers. But this is a very small sample. Have to think that over time this will change.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Pitching, Pitching, Pitching

Games 5: Bulls 1, Braves 0
Season: 5-0
Wrap, Box

For the Bulls:
  • Jason Cromer: 5 innings, 3 hits, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts, no runs, the win.
  • Chad Orvella: 2 innings, 1 hit, no walks, 4 strikeouts.
  • Winston Abreu: 2 innings, no hits, no walks, 1 strikeout, the save.
Doesn’t get much better than that.

For the Braves:
  • Tommy Hansen: 5 ⅔ innings, 3 hits, 2 walks, 7 strikeouts, 1 run, the loss.
  • Mariano Gomez: 2 ⅓ innings, 1 hit, 1 walk, 1 strikeout.
Pretty darn good as well.

However, Jon Weber did his leadoff batter thing at the top of the 3rd with a single. Got to second on a wild pitch. And then got home on a double by Reid Brignac, who seems to have started to see the ball very well. That was the only scoring, but it was enough.

The Bulls have started the season by winning 5 games. The last two games were shutouts. Things are looking good! Price on the mound tomorrow afternoon. Let’s hope for some decent weather because it has been seriously uncomfortable at the DBAP the last two nights, cold and damp. Not ashamed to admit that I gave up after the 5th and headed for home, listening to Neil Solondz on the radio. Hey, we’ve got 67 more games at home this year. We’ll be in t-shirts before long wishing that it would get down to at least 80. In the meantime … just seems wrong to wear long johns and a goose down jacket to a baseball game. (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)

Hernandez to Tampa Bay

According to Marc Lancaster in the Rays Report, catcher Michel Hernandez has been called down to Tampa Bay. Shawn Riggans, the Rays’ #2 catcher has been put on the disabled list with right shoulder tendinitis. That probably means that my candidate for this year’s “ghost” catcher, Alex Jamieson, may get some playing time.

Hernandez is one of the two Bulls (by my count) in line for a championship ring. So maybe he’ll still be there when they get handed out.

The Gwinnett(?) Braves Come to Town

Games 4: Bulls 3, Braves 0
Wrap, Box

Gwinnett is a county in Georgia. Go out from Durham to I-85, head south towards Atlanta for about 350 miles and you’re there. The nearest town to the stadium appears to be Lawrenceville. This is the new home of last year’s Richmond Braves, Atlanta’s AAA team. Richmond apparently couldn’t do as nice a deal as Atlanta wanted and the Gwinnett County folks would. The stadium is only about 30 miles from Turner Field. So the possibility now exists that if an Atlanta pitcher gets into real trouble, you could see some very creative delaying of the game while someone gets called in from the bullpen at Gwinnett. Maybe a ride in a nice long truck with a mound and plate in the back so the reliever could warm up on the way?

We got our first look at Carlos Hernandez and, after the first inning, he looked pretty good. See Indy Week for interview and analysis. For our little band behind first base the best part of the night was seeing Jon Weber really put some life into the leadoff spot. He got on base 4 out of 5 times with two walks, a single and a double. His OBP is up to .415, just the sort of numbers you want for a leadoff man. Montoyo seems to be using Jon as leadoff against righties and Ray Olmedo against lefties.

Justin Ruggiano continues his exploration of the outfield. He’s now played all positions at least once. Chris Richard was out with shoulder problems, the result of his collision at second base on Sunday night.

Tampa Bay opened its season at home by crushing the Yankees 15-5, putting at risk their business model of filling the stands with opposing team’s fans. But what do they care? They’re last year’s champs.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

An Unlikely Star?

Games 3: Bulls 2, Tides 1
Wrap, Box

Ray Olmedo reportedly told Manager Charlie Montoyo not to expect home runs from him. That makes sense, he only hit 4 all last year with Columbus and only 22 in 10 seasons as a minor leaguer and 2 more in the majors. Then what does he do? He hits a homer in the bottom of the 8th on Saturday night helping put that game away. Then his next at bat (tonight) he hits another. And then he singles home the winning run in the bottom of the 9th! He’s tied for the lead in RBIs and has a stunning OPS of 1.375. Plus he’s doing a fine job at third.

I can’t figure out what Montoyo’s doing with his placing of players. Tonight he switched Ruggiano to left, put Weber in center, and Johnson in right. And now I hear that with Upton’s return to the Rays’ lineup, Matt Joyce is coming to Durham. We’ll see how it goes.

We won, but strike outs were a problem, 13 of them. In fact, every Bull struck out except Ray Sadler in his pitch hitting appearance (he got a walk).

It’s only three games, but neither Chris Richard nor Elliot Johnson has gotten a hit yet. Should I be worried?

Don’t know what to think about the Matt Joyce thing. Here’s a couple of other links about the move: Marc Lancaster in the Tampa Tribune, The St. Petersburg Times, and Her Rays.

Firsts in the Second (Game)

My guess is that anyone coming to this blog already knows the results of a game and how to get to box scores. Nevertheless, I’ll post basics here.

Bulls 8, Norfolk 4, 2-0 on the season, wrap, box.

Just to get it out of the way, Price started and lasted into the fourth. 17 batters, 74 pitches, no decision. By the way, Bulls starting pitchers are being limited to 75 pitches or 5 innings, whichever comes first. For a thoughtful look at Price’s performance check out Adam Sobsey’s article.

Various firsts:
  • Sunshine! Top of the third, maybe a minute or so, but sure was pretty while it lasted. Maybe some more this afternoon.
  • Home run. By Ruggiano, 3rd inning. Justin’s having a great start with the Bulls. He went 3 for 5 last night. Hope that we can keep him here for a while.
  • Appearances on the field. Ray Olmedo, Chris Nowak, and Chad Orvella. Olmedo looked good on third base and homered in the 8th. Nowak started at first base. Didn’t know he has experience there, but turns out he played mostly first at Montgomery last year. For some reason I thought he was a third baseman. Nice to see Chad back on the mound.
  • Hit by pitch. Adam Kennedy by Norfolk’s Chris Waters, 3rd inning.

I saved the best news for last — Radio in the ballpark! Turns out that there’s a really low-powered FM signal at 87.7. Easily heard while in the stands, but drops off very quickly. So, on the days that 99.9 is transmitting only on HD, you can still hear what’s going on. All of us Secret Service wannabes can now plug our earphones back in and listen to every game.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

What To Do When It Rains

Adam Sobsey over on Indy Week meditated on Leo Durocher, how come David Price is even playing in Durham, and Jonny Gomes. And uses a word I haven’t seen in a long time, if ever, “lightninged.”

So I had to check out Jonny. He’s with the Louisville Bats and playing left field. He’s 1-4 in one game (a double). The Bats lost it to Columbus 4-12. Their second game was rained out just like ours.

Matt Eddy over at Baseball America did a long piece on the Price-Weiters confrontation that didn’t happen. Maybe tonight?

Cork Gaines on Rays Index noted that every team in the Rays’ affiliates list got rained out except for the one in Florida. BJ was playing for the Charlotte Stone Crabs.

As for myself. I sat in the stands and watched the rain fall and chatted about whether or not we have enough speed this year. (Answer, who knows?) Drove home. Watched Thursday night’s Survivor on the DVR (nobody got voted off) and “solved” the driving to the game in the rain problem (check the tarp first).

Rain: A Better Solution

Jon Bishop of the Bulls informs me that there is a live webcam of the DBAP. I checked. It’s there under the Wool E.’s Clubhouse menu.

So you can pull that down and see if the tarp’s on.

Thanks, Jon.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Rain: A Solution for Some of Us

Bulls vs. Tides: ppd, rain

Here is the basic math for a rainy day: Many (most) of the regular fans live within 45 minutes of the DBAP and the time from pulling the tarp off the field to the start of play is 30 to 45 minutes. So if we knew the tarp was coming off we could get to the game.

The Bulls have a web site. The Bulls have the email address of almost all of us.

On a rainy day we need two pieces of information. Is the tarp on the field? If yes, then, has the tarp been pulled?

That’s two emails and/or two updates on the web site.

Seems to me that wouldn’t be hard to do.

Opening Day

Bulls 2, Norfolk 1

Back at the park at last. Weather got cool near the end, but still it was a beautiful night and a decent crowd.

The team that took the field only had two new guys, second baseman Adam Kennedy and right fielder Ray Sadler. Interesting to see Jon Weber in a leadoff role. Think he did that a couple of times at the end of last season, but not sure that’s his forte. He did bang a double off the left field wall in the 5th, though. Also interesting to see Elliot Johnson at third. He handled his opportunities well.

Mitch Talbot looked just fine. Not quite sure why he’s had trouble when called up to Tampa, but I’m happy to have him here. Then Montoyo ran through five relievers, all of them, except Thayer, new to the Bulls — Childers, de Paula, Choate, Abreu, and Thayer. Childers walked the bases full in the 6th but got out of it and Thayer gave up a lead-off triple in the 9th but got out of that.

Reid Brignac got the first Bulls hit of the season, but Norfolk’s hot prospect Matt Weiters threw him out trying to steal second (on the other hand, Weiters overthrew second and gave the base to Ruggiano in the 8th).

I’m worried (maybe too early) about speed in this team. We’ll see.

Highlight of the night for quirkiness was Ray Sadler breaking three bats, two of them at one at-bat. David Fellerath at Indy Week chased it down after the game to discover that the bats were free, which leads me to a the something for nothing observation.

All of which would have been even more fun if I could have been listening to the commentary on the radio! I read the fine print when the Bulls announced their radio “partnership” with 99.9 a week or so ago, I even commented on it. But opening day without radio coverage? Guess if I’d have had an HD pocket radio (do they exist?) or maybe an iPhone to listen via the web, I could have had a connection. Sigh. Who wants to listen to a Canes game? It’s BASEBALL!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Best Preview

Welcome to the 21st Century. A Tampa Bay Rays blog out of New York City (Thanks, Cork) alerted me to a preview article on the Bulls by Adam Sobsey in The Independent Weekly — the weekly arts/politics/etc. paper out of Durham. Terrific article. The best I’ve seen this year. Check it out on the web or maybe pick it up along with your veggie quesadilla at Salsa Fresh.

Read All About It

Mike Potter at the Herald-Sun is off to a great start on the season for Durham’s home town paper.

On April 5th he got some good quotes from Charlie Montoyo and a solid overview of the team we should be seeing this year.

Potter followed that up on April 8th with an article on Justin Ruggiano’s return to Durham. And today with a closer look at Montoyo

Chase down the links. Good work, Mike

Over at Raleigh’s N&O today Javier Serna takes a look at the Bulls, giving a good bit of ink to David Price.

Best of all, however, today's N&O carries George Will’s annual baseball think piece, this time about umpires. Nicely done.

See you all tonight!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

April Cool

For those who missed last night, you missed one of the great pleasures of April in Durham at the DBAP -- freezing your butt off. But it looks good for opening day tomorrow. Now if it just holds up for the rest of the week.

The players were out in the field running down fly balls and taking a bit of batting practice. Looks like they’ve got new warm-up jackets this year and they are an improvement over last year’s.

The opening day roster was handed out and showed up on the Bulls website today.

Three of the players on the roster I’m really happy to see back with the Bulls: Chris Richard, Jon Weber, and Michel Hernandez. Jon is a master of the Blue Monster and dangerous at bat. Looks like Chris Richard will be the designated veteran of the team, at 35 he’s two years older than Adam Kennedy. A very solid first baseman and another left-handed bat for us. Michel Hernandez has what we need behind the plate and in the bullpen: major league experience and time handling just about every sort of pitcher to come along. All three got invites to the Rays spring training and Jon and Chris in particular did very well there. Here’s hoping they keep it up. I think that Michel stuck with the Rays through the World Series last year, so he’s probably in line for an American League championship ring.

Think I’ll wait until the first game to comment on other veterans such as Elliot Johnson and Justin Ruggiano, as well as what looks like a very solid starting pitcher lineup.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


Meet the players today at 6:30.

Norfolk Tides, 7 o’clock, the day after tomorrow.

Check out the preview that can be downloaded at the Bulls website. Elliot Johnson at third base?

Monday, April 6, 2009

The International League & AAA Baseball

Just a little bit of the basics of what we’re seeing at the DBAP -- a sort of “Who are these teams?” introduction.

There are 30 major league baseball teams, 14 in the American League and 16 in the National League. Each of them has a AAA team in their farm system. Thus, there are 30 AAA minor league baseball teams. (Who said I couldn’t do basic arithmetic?) Then we have two AAA leagues: The International League with 14 teams and the Pacific Coast League with 16 teams. So that sort of makes sense, so far.

The 14 teams in the International League are matched up with major league teams in the eastern and midwestern part of the country without regard to whether the parent club is in the National League or the American League. The IL has teams affiliated with Boston, New York (Yankees and Mets), Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Atlanta, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Detroit, Chicago (White Sox), and Minnesota. That gives the IL 8 American League and 6 National League affiliates.

Hey! What about Florida and Milwaukee and that other Chicago team? Got me. Their AAA teams are in the Pacific Coast League. Go figure.

Logic would say that since AAA is the next step down from the majors, the teams would like to be in close proximity to each other. Sometimes that’s true. Toledo is linked to Detroit, Pawtucket is the AAA team of Boston, and the new home of the Braves AAA club is just a long taxi ride away. On the other hand, Charlotte is a pretty far from Chicago and Durham/Tampa Bay distance is a good bit more than average.

Obviously all the teams in the “International” League are in the US, but up until recently there was a team in Ottawa. That gave us the chance to sing along to “O, Canada” four times a year. Which sort of leads me to how the schedule works. Bear with me. The IL has three divisions, North (6 teams), West (4 teams), and South (4 teams). For the most part each team plays the teams outside its division 8 times (four at home and four away) and the teams inside its division 21 or 22 games in home and away series. Usually a series is four games, but there are exceptions. Unless you’re really into math, please don’t try to fit that model into 144 games, it’ll give you a headache. Also, usually, the Bulls play 8 games at home and 8 games away. Obviously a rainout outside the division complicates things, but, hey, it’s baseball!

Last piece of trivia before wrapping this up -- What about the designated hitter rule? In the International League the only time pitchers bat is when both clubs are National League affiliates. That means that no Durham Bull pitchers will go to the plate this year (except in the very weird circumstance where a pitcher could go to the plate as a pinch-hitter -- not likely, but possible).

Divisions and Affiliations

North Division
Buffalo Bisons - New York Mets
Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs- Philadelphia Phillies
Pawtucket Red Sox- Boston Red Sox
Rochester Red Wings- Minnesota Twins
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees - New York Yankees
Syracuse Chiefs - Washington Nationals

West Division
Columbus Clippers - Cleveland Indians
Indianapolis Indians- Pittsburgh Pirates
Louisville Bats - Cincinnati Reds
Toledo Mud Hens- Detroit Tigers

South Division
Charlotte Knights - Chicago White Sox
Gwinett Braves - Atlanta Braves
Norfolk Tides - Baltimore Orioles
Durham Bulls - Tampa Bay Rays

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Almost There!

I’m back from my pre-baseball season sojourn at the John C. Campbell Folk School. The weather up in the hills wasn’t the best and the dogwoods were not yet in bloom in the Brasstown area, but a week in the mountains indulging on my other obsession (weaving) was really great.

Back in Raleigh the dogwoods were in bloom and the prognosticators were hard at work taking a look at the major league teams. A bit hard to find in the N&O since UNC is one game away from a national championship and the Hurricanes made it to the playoffs (but it did publish the AP’s Ronald Blum’s take on the season today).

Over in the Rays blogiverse Her Rays offered her unique perspective on the Rays season.

But this blog isn’t about the Majors or even the Rays, it’s about the Bulls. So what do we know so far?

Stacy Long in the Montgomery Advertiser has his take on all of the Rays minor league rosters, including the Bulls (Thanks, Cork). Cork Gaines over at Rays Index has plugged those names into his “Cork-Board” with the caveat that there’s still some room for changes.

Even the Bulls website has gotten into the game by announcing the starting rotation yesterday.

It looks like we’re actually going to be able to hear all the games this year even if you’re not standing next to the broadcast tower and holding your tongue just right -- with 99.9 FM. Gotta wonder about last year. After all, it’s Goodman Field and Goodman owns the Bulls and the station. Nevertheless, it looks like there’s gonna be a couple of games where you’ll have to get the game via the web (or HD radio ... what the hell is HD radio?).

What’s important, however, is this Thursday we’re gonna have some baseball!

And at 6:30 Tuesday, April 7th, the Bulls will have a Meet the Team Day at the DBAP. That may be the first time we get a look at the full roster.