Twenty-seven ballplayers stepped onto the mound for the Durham Bulls in the regular season. That compares to just 17 so far for the Tampa Bay Rays. We’ll take two of those off the list, since infielders Angel Chavez and Omar Luna were thrown to the wolves in the last inning of two games. Interestingly, they both did just fine. And we'll add one to the list, Alex Torres, who pitched a couple of postseason games.
We’ll look at the rest in order of innings pitched, since with only a couple of exceptions the Bulls seemed to be a bit confused over who was going to be a starter and who was going to be a reliever this year. It will probably take a couple of posts to get through these guys.
Richard De Los Santos (26). RHP. Mostly a starter. 148 1/3 innings (7 innings, postseason), 28 games (23 starts), 14-5, ERA 3.52.
- De Los Santos started the year as a reliever, making his first appearance in the Bulls’ third game. He started a game on May 1 and eventually set a Durham Bulls record of 14 wins in the regular season. How good is he? Pretty good. In a year where all except one other starter went on the DL, De Los Santos certainly showed durability and a very respectable ERA. Furthermore, as the season went on he was going further into games, although he never got past the 7th inning. We’ll have to see how the Rays treat him next year. My guess is that he will be back with the Bulls and we should be happy to have him.
Heath Phillips (28). LHP. Starter. 139 1/3 innings. 24 games. 8-7. ERA 4.07.
- Phillips has been a “wait till next year” kind of guy for quite a while now. We like him. But then there’s the 21 home runs he gave up (the most, by far, of a Durham pitcher). He was in the starting rotation from the beginning of the year and we are somewhat surprised that he put in as many innings as he did. He went on the DL in mid-August and sat out the remainder of the season. He’s been pitching in AAA for 4 years now, so he may have reached his limit. Nevertheless, big left-handers are a treasure, so expect him back next year.
Jeremy Hellickson (23). RHP. Starter. 117 2/3 innings. 21 games. 12-3. ERA 2.45. On Rays 40-man.
- A terrific pitcher and a pleasure to watch. Deserves all of the awards he got this year for his minor league performance. Unlike David Price’s tour as a Bull, when he was clearly working to some kind of Rays program and not necessarily focused on game situations, Jeremy made a big difference in the Bulls won-loss record. Very, very impressive young man. More than that, there’s a chance that he will at least start the season with the Bulls next year depending on how their year works out. Called up in August, he had a couple of very successful starts and then went to the bullpen where he is having no success at all, so far.
Aneury Rodriguez (22). RHP. Mostly a starter. 113 2/3 innings (7 2/3 post-season). 27 games (17 starts). 6-5. ERA 3.80.
- For Rodriguez I would judge his season as one of him wondering just what the Bulls expected of him. He was pressed into service after starter Jeff Bennett went on the DL in April. He had two brilliant games as a starter, then a couple not-so-brilliant, and then worked as a reliever and starter the rest of the year. Overall, an asset to the Bulls.
Brian Baker (27). RHP. Long relief, spot starter. 105 innings. 37 games (12 starts). 9-5. ERA 3.86.
- Even though he seemed to run out of steam at the end of the year, we were very impressed with Mr. Baker. Poised on the mound, smooth delivery, slightly generous with home runs (10), but not too bad. Note the number of innings he pitched relative to the rest of the team. Good job.
Carlos Hernandez (30). LHP. Starter. 90 2/3 innings. 18 games (17 starts). 6-5. ERA 4.17.
- I want to like Hernandez, I really do. But for two years we’ve been wondering if he was going to make it to the park for his next start. Something started going wrong in mid-June and even though he pitched in four games in July and one in August, he was really out for the season. Overall, he hasn’t been a very effective pitcher for the Bulls for the last two season. His ERA is up almost a full run from last year as well (3.29 to 4.17).
Joe Bateman (30). RHP. Reliever. 76 innings (6 2/3 postseason). 54 games. 7-0. ERA 1.66. 7 holds. 4 Saves.
- Bateman is one of my all-time favorite Bulls pitchers (the other being Winston Abreu) and this year he was even better than last year. More efficient, hit fewer batters (5, down from 9), and seemed to not get himself into as many difficult situations. We have always thought it odd that he has never had a chance with the majors. He still pitches a good game as far as we are concerned and we hope that he makes it back.
Virgil Vasquez (28). RHP. Starter. 66 1/3 innings. 12 games. 6-2. ERA 4.88.
- For his fourth AAA season (two with Toledo, one with Indianapolis), Virgil got off to a bad start when he broke both wrists in a traffic accident early in the year. That happened after just three games and he didn’t make it back until June 29. He went back on the DL in mid-August. Seems a likable guy, but his stats are nothing special.
Dale Thayer (29). RHP. Reliever. 60 innings (7 1/3 postseason). 46 games. 4-1. ERA 3.43. 5 holds. 2 saves. On Rays 40-man.
- This was not Dale’s best year. He did get to Tampa Bay twice, but only pitched in one game. He did a good job for the Bulls this season, just not as dominant as he has been in the past. He was outrighted to Durham September 1 (i.e., dropped from the 40-man) which means he will be a free agent at some magic day soon. Doubt that he will be back with the Bulls next year.