Friday, January 29, 2010

Winter!!! #@%$!!

It is mid-afternoon on January 29th here in Raleigh. The forecasters are predicting the apocalypse — or maybe a couple inches of snow. So what better time to write something about baseball?

Back on January 13th over on Rays Prospects they ran the numbers on Justin Ruggiano. As Bulls fans know, Justin had an erratic year in 2009. The article points out Justin’s skills at defense and his speed. To be honest, I think that I’d become so used to those two features of his play that I wasn’t paying much attention. What we noticed last year was the strike outs and the games when his bat seemed to come alive and make a difference. But he really is a terrific outfielder and very fast. Article worth taking a look at.

Then a few days later the Rays signed a catcher named Alvin Colina. I think we may have seen him when he was with the Gwinnett Braves last season and his record presents him as a solid AAA catcher — and that’s exactly what the Bulls need. So I’m liking the move on the Rays part.

Kevin Gengler profiled Reid Brignac on January 20th. The question for 2010 is the same as in 2009, is there a place for Reid at the top of the Rays organization? As Kevin notes, the Rays are in pretty good shape in the middle infield. However, looking at it from the Bulls perspective, it means that if Reid doesn’t get traded off, we’ll probably get to see a lot of him this year … and that’s a good thing.

As Bulls fans know so well, Desmond Jennings came up from Montgomery near the end of the year and really showed his stuff. Another profile from Rays Prospects takes a look at how he might fit into the Rays future.

One of the never-solved mysteries of 2009 for a Bulls fan was, who is this pitcher on the roster named McGee? Here’s a story from off the Rays website in which it is all made clear, sort of. At least it tells you who Jake McGee is even if it doesn’t tell you why he was on the Bulls roster. Guess it was one of those “everybody’s got to be somewhere” issues. At any rate, maybe this year he actually be in Durham and we’ll get the opportunity to see what he’s got.

Winston Abreu gets some attention over on Rays Renegade. We Bulls fans are well aware of the extraordinary double-season Winston gave us last year, but it’s interesting to see the year from the perspective of a Rays fan. What I thought was interesting about 2009 was the odd contractual arrangement Abreu was reported to have, i.e., call me up to the Rays by June 15 or let me go. That may explain the call-up and possibly explains why they didn’t give him much of a chance and then traded him. On the other hand, he later accepted a minor league contract and came back to the Bulls — and gave us a great year until that scary moment in the last game of the Governors’ Cup. It was reported that he had two reasons for coming back — he liked playing for Montoyo and his home is not too far away in South Carolina. Is he good enough to make it for the Rays? Does he really want to? Hard to tell. Sure wouldn’t mind seeing him back in Durham, though.

The cynic in me has always taken the view that Valentine’s Day is an invention of an evil cabal of greeting card companies and florists. On the other hand, what serious Bulls fan wouldn’t at least consider a dozen roses, a pink Bulls hat, and two opening day tickets delivered by Wool E. Bull?

Lastly, not many folks know that the announcer in the Bull Durham movie was a pretty famous North Carolinian in his own right. Here’s a nifty clip about the man who played the part, Garland Bunting.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Dan Johnson Signs With Rays

Tampa Bay Rays fans remember Dan Johnson for his heroic pinch-hit home run in September of 2008, as well they should.

But Durham Bulls fans remember Johnson’s 2008 season a bit differently. We remember him as a regular all season, sharing time with Chris Richard at 1st base and spending some time out under the blue monster. In all, he played in 113 games and hit a bunch of home runs (25) for us. As much as we celebrated his heroics in Boston there were a few (OK, maybe just one) of us who thought that maybe, just maybe, if he’d been around we’d have pushed through the playoffs and won a Governors’ Cup that September. He was, after all, the Bulls’ Player of the Year for 2008.

Which doesn’t answer the puzzle of why the Rays have signed him to a major league contract. He played in Japan in 2009, mostly at 3rd base. The report on the Rays website implies that he wasn’t all that happy in Japan, but that the option was still there.

Of course, this is a major league contract signing, so it might not mean anything at all to the Bulls. However, one reporter says that it is a “split” contract meaning that he might show up in Durham (although he’d surely stay on the 40-man).

I suppose it is possible that Rays Index has it right, that the Rays are looking for a corner infielder backup to Willy Aybar who was injured playing winter ball. (Here’s a question for you, how come Aybar was playing at all? For the fun of it? Just to stay in shape?).

Seems to me that it’s possible that the Rays simply aren’t comfortable with the depth they have at either of the corners. We haven’t seen a really talented 3rd baseman here in Durham since Longoria passed through. And as much as I like Chris Richard at 1st base, clearly the Rays think he’s third or fourth behind Pena, Aybar, and Zobrist (and now Johnson).

Still, here's hoping that Dan shows up here in Durham. He brings a ton of power to the roster.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Bulls Pick up Two (Three!) MiLBY’s

What’s a MiLBY you may ask? Well, the answer is: Minor League Baseball Yearly Award. Given out by The Bulls won one as a team and Winston Abreu won one as a player. The awards were announced in late December, but I’m just getting around putting them up here.

First off, the Bulls won a MiLBY as the Triple-A team of the season. Lisa Winston wrote it up for She apparently caught Charlie Montoyo in a much more talkative mood than usual.

The entire article is at the link, but a couple of key quotes stand out:

For example, Charlie claims not to pay much attention to an opposing team’s record, instead he just looks at recent transactions:

The knowledge that Triple-A is where all the changes occur, the players move up, the players move down, has taught Montoyo an important lesson: When scouting the opposition, he never looks at the team’s record or even the standings. He only looks at their recent transactions.

“By the time you play a team, it’s not the same team as it was earlier, so that’s why I never talk about the other team’s record,” Montoyo said. “It’s not because I’m superstitious.”

Charlie also explained what I was calling the “Montoyo Merry-go-round” last year. According to him,
“I always thought I’d be a decent Triple-A manager because, after five seasons at Triple-A, I know what it’s like when you don’t play,” he said. “So on my team, everyone plays. No one goes more than two days without playing. Everyone gets their chance. I treat my team the way I wanted to be treated as a player.”

And for a guy who supposedly doesn’t pay much attention to the numbers, listen to this description of the playoffs:
“In the playoffs we stole 28 out of 30 bases. We won 21 games in our final at-bats including the playoffs. We won 23 games where we were tied or behind after seven innings,” he said. “We won 37 games when the other team scored first, including five out of seven times in the playoffs. And out of 15 extra-inning games, we had four games where we went into an inning where we had run out of pitchers and won the game.”

Then there’s Winston Abreu. He got the MiLBY as the best reliever in Triple-A. No doubt in our mind that he deserved it. Readers of WDBB will remember how happy we were that Winston came back to us from Cleveland after leaving the Bulls in June, spending a few days with the Rays and then getting traded. He deserves a lot of the credit for the way the season went for us, especially the last couple of weeks and the playoffs.

Very pleased to hear that he’s finished his rehab and will be available this year. Good article at the link.

Odds and Ends

  • Over at Rays Index, Cork Gaines has just wrapped up his 12 Days of Raysmas where he outlines the twelve things he’d like to see in the coming year. A fun read.
  • I think, but am not sure, that winter league baseball is just about wrapped up. Of interest to Bulls fans is that Reid Brignac got in some playing time in Mexico (17 games, 60 AB, .233/.324/.267). Didn’t do anything special, so I’m a bit worried about him. Similarly, Justin Ruggiano has played in 20 games down in Venezuela, .246/.329/.348. The worrisome, if familiar number, is the high number of strikeouts, 21. Joe Bateman’s been real busy in Venezuela. He’s appeared in 25 games, apparently mostly in middle relief. 37 innings, 3.41 ERA.
  • Jon Weber apparently wrapped up with a .396 batting average over 40 games and an OPS of 1.032.

Lastly, checking out the Note to Self Blog I discovered the Chris Richard had won a MilBY for his two grand slam game last year. Congrats to Chris!