Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Pitching Phenom

If you're reading this on Thursday, I suggest that you click this link, read this most improbable of stories out of spring training back in 1985, then check the date...

Have fun ...

Pitchers Named for Saturday Exhibition Game

Gee, I hate to start the season with a whine, but ...

How come we have to go to a newspaper in Alabama to find out who’s pitching this Saturday?

All thanks, however, to the Montgomery Advertiser who at least sent a reporter down to spring training (hear that Durham Herald-Sun, Raleigh News & Observer?) and thanks to Stacy Long for getting it up on his blog.

So, here it is: A 2008 Durham Bull, Jeff Neimann, will start for the Rays, facing off against a 2009 (and 2010) Durham Bull Jeremy Hellickson. Good match up and it will be fun to see Neimann again.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

How They’re Doing — 5

The Rays and Bulls rosters are going to have to be set in the next couple of days, so this is probably the last of these.

Player / Games / PA / wOBA

Rodriguez, S / 21 / 62 / .555
Joyce, M / 8 / 25 / .450
Ashley, N / 7 / 15 / .573
Brignac, R / 23 / 51 / .344
Johnson, E / 24 / 56 / .274
Dillon, J / 21 / 27 / .199
Colina, A / 14 / 18 / .119

Now, Ashley and Colina are surely still there just to spread out the catching duties until the Rays’ Navarro is up to full speed. But Nevin Ashley’s had a couple of good days recently. Matt Joyce strained an elbow and isn’t quite at full strength. Joe Dillon had an inning or so as catcher on Sunday.

Other interesting stuff:

Elliot Johnson had a nice piece about him in the St. Pete Times last Friday. The Tampa Tribune has a similar article today.

Rays Renegade did a thoughtful item on Justin Ruggiano a few days back.

Jon Weber is having a spectacular spring with the Yankees and getting some blogger and press attention: here, here, here, here, and here. On the other hand, he still isn’t on the Yankees’ 40-man, so looks like we’ll see him here in Durham with him playing outfield for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on May 6th. His numbers are 14/25/.558.

Update: Jon's been sent down to SWB.

Stacy Long, the Montgomery Advertiser’s sports writer and expert on all things Rays Minor League, is down to take a look at Spring Training. His semi-interview with soon-to-be Durham Bull Desmond Jennings is here and a discussion with probably Bulls’ reliever Heath Rollins is here. Noted at the end of the Rollins story is this information on WDBB favorite Jason Cromer:

Left-hander Jason Cromer, expected to go to Durham, will miss a month with a minor elbow injury he suffered this winter while playing in Venezuela.

Here’s hoping it’s less than a month and we see him soon in Durham.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Durham Bulls Basics — 4 — The 40-Man Roster

And now, sigh, we need to spend some time with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Every major league team consists of 25 players on the “active roster”, 15 more players to make up the “40-man roster”, and players on the disabled list. The Rays current 40-man is here. In general, once a player makes it to the 25-man active roster he stays there (unless traded or sold). For players who have been around for a while, there are all sorts of byzantine rules (some of them laid out here) regarding how this works.

What matters to Bulls fans, however, are those 15 ballplayers who are on the Rays 40-man but not on the active roster. Members of that 15 man group will make up the heart of the Durham Bulls.

If previous years are typical, we can expect that 12 or 13 of the players on the 40-man will be assigned to Durham and they will probably be split about 75/25 pitchers/position players. Of the pitchers, one or two will be prospective starting pitchers, the other potential relievers.

Why are they in Durham? Lots of reasons. And that’s one of the pleasures of watching AAA ball. Why is this guy here? When will he be called up? Will he be called up?

The odds of being called up are pretty good. There are enough injuries and trades in a given year that most if not all of the players on the 40-man will at least get a few days with the Rays. Some may even go there and stay.

What about the Bulls who aren’t on the 40-man? Well, here’s the problem. Unless Tampa Bay takes someone off the 40-man, they can’t be called up. Adjustment to the 40-man can, and does, happen, but not very often.

So, the 40-man roster has a lot to do with who plays on the Durham Bulls. It also has an effect on how they play. For example, pitchers will be on defined pitch counts and, in some instances, working on specific pitches that the Rays have decided the pitcher needs to develop. We will see infielders playing the outfield (and vice versa). Relievers will be tested to see if they can do two days in a row, or “tried out” as a closer. Some may be under orders to become a switch hitter.

My point is that sometimes what we see on the field is decided in St. Petersburg, not Durham. The Rays really aren’t particularly interested in the Bulls won-loss record. So we will inevitably see oddities such as a player being called “up”, sit on the Rays’ bench for a couple of weeks, then come back to Durham with his timing shot and struggling at bat.

No avoiding the fact that the Durham Bulls live and die at the whim of the Tampa Bay front office. What’s fortunate for Bulls fans is that the Rays have invested a ton of effort into building a steady stream of talent to feed into the big team. More than that, very few just “pass through” AAA-level ball. This is a real testing ground for pitchers and hitters. So we may get to see a lot of them.

All of which is not going to keep me from complaining about the Rays. Hey, it’s baseball!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Durham Bulls Basics — 3 — The Schedule

We’ve looked briefly at how AAA baseball and the International League. Now let’s take a look at how that boils down into a schedule.

The International League schedules 144 games for each of its teams. Half of those games are played at home. So, unless you are truly a Durham Bulls fanatic, you will only have 72 chances to see your Bulls during the regular season (73 this year since we have the Rays-Bulls game next week).

A very important feature of the schedule is that the Bulls only have one four-day home stand with teams outside the South Division. So, if you are a Boston fan the only chance you’ll get to see Red Sox prospects will be May 22 to May 25. That’s it. They won’t be back unless we are both in the playoffs in September. The same is true if you’re a Yankees fan (May 6 - 9), or a Reds fan (June 29 - July 2), or a fan of any of the other affiliates of teams in the North or West divisions of the International League. Said another way, the Bulls play 40 games at home with the teams from outside the South Division.

On the other hand, if you’re a Braves (Gwinnett) or White Sox (Charlotte) or Orioles (Norfolk) fan, you’re in luck. They will be here about a dozen times each this year. We’ll see a lot of those three teams this year.

As a general rule Bulls home stands lasts eight days and road trips eight days. But not always. In June and August this year the Bulls have eleven day road trips.

Triple-A ballplayers have a much more relentless schedule than the majors. They play more games with fewer days off, at least until September.

The Triple-A All-Star game pitting the International League All-Stars against the Pacific Coast League All-Stars is set for July 14, 2010 and will be played at the ballpark of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. Exactly how the players are selected for the game is something of the mystery. Fans do get a vote. However, last year the IL didn’t bother to tell us how the voting went.

The International League Championship (The Governors’ Cup) is decided with two rounds of best of five playoffs in September. A one-game “AAA Championship” game is to be played on September 21, 2010 in Oklahoma City.

The Durham Bulls, as all readers of this blog must know, is the current holder of the Governors’ Cup and won the AAA Championship in 2009.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Bulls Basics — 2 — The International League

The 14 teams in the International League are matched up with major league teams in the eastern and mid-western 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.

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 Atlanta Braves AAA club is just a long taxi ride away in Lawrenceville, Georgia. On the other hand, Charlotte is a pretty far from Chicago and the 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. You can bet that someday — maybe not in my lifetime, but someday — The IL will have a team in Havana, San Juan, or Mexico City.

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
Gwinnett Braves - Atlanta Braves
Norfolk Tides - Baltimore Orioles
Durham Bulls - Tampa Bay Rays

The league offices are in Dublin, Ohio. Not quite sure what it means, but the Bulls have one seat on the Board of Directors (Bulls VP George Habel). Website.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Durham Bulls Basics — 1 — AAA Baseball

This is the first of a couple of posts intended for fans new to Durham Bulls baseball. The season opens (sort of) a week from Saturday and we’re thinking that some fans will be looking around the web. So here’s our contribution. If it seems a bit basic, that’s because a lot of it was new to me when I first chased it down, and I thought that maybe the information might be new to others.

In the very remote chance that I might be in error, I hope that readers will set me straight. I’ll fix it as soon as I can.

First, the basics of AAA baseball.

Triple-A baseball is one step below major league baseball. How do we know that? Because Major League Baseball says it is.

Furthermore, Major League Baseball tells us that there will be 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?)

The 30 Triple-A teams are divided into two leagues: The International League with 14 teams and the Pacific Coast League with 16 teams. So that sort of makes sense, so far.

What also makes sense is that, mostly, the International League is made up of teams who have their major league affiliates in the eastern and midwestern part of the country, while the Pacific Coast League’s parent clubs are, mostly, in the Southwest and West.

But, hey, it’s baseball, so there will inevitably be a few quirks in the system.. The Florida Marlins affiliate is the New Orleans Zephyrs; the Milwaukee Brewers affiliate is the Nashville Sounds; and the Chicago Cubs affiliate is the Iowa Cubs. But they are all in the Pacific Coast League.

The Durham Bulls, a Tampa Bay Rays affiliate, is in the International League. We’ll take a look a that next.

A bit more background here.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

How They’re Doing — 4

This will probably be the last of these. The Rays have got to be close to roster decisions and they won’t be easy.

Of note is how well Justin Ruggiano is doing and, to my disappointment, how poorly Dan Johnson and Joe Dillon are doing. Matt Joyce is only playing as a DH, working with an injury.

Player / Games / PA / wOBA

Rodriguez, S / 17 / 47 / .569
Ruggiano, J / 17 / 41 / .542
Jaso, J / 6 / 12 / .520
Joyce, M / 8 / 25 / .450
Brignac, R / 19 / 45 / .342
Johnson, D / 15 / 30 / .321
Johnson, E / 19 / 43 / .282
Furmaniak, J / 18 / 26 / .207
Dillon, J / 16 / 21 / .170

Saturday, March 20, 2010

An Important Announcement

As a general rule, we take Bulls front office press releases with a grain of salt.

On the other hand they do, from time to time, make an announcement of true significance; an announcement likely to be one of deep and long-lasting importance; an announcement likely to have a profound effect on our appreciation of the Durham Bulls and baseball in general.

To quote from the release:

Carolina Brewery and the Durham Bulls today announced the creation of Bullpen Pale Ale, a new beer that will be available at Durham Bulls Athletic Park, Carolina Brewery’s restaurants and other Triangle locations beginning this spring.

We will assume that this is a variant on their Carolina Pale Ale or Carolina India Pale. In either case fine, fine brews.

How important is this?

In the larger scheme of things, maybe not all that important. In the smaller scheme of things …

Amber waves of grain indeed.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Watching The Rays

Just wondering if I'm the only one who gets frustrated watching these MLB broadcasters yammer on about the Yankees...they don't even know who it is when Elliot Johnson comes to the plate.

And who but a Bulls fan could possibly appreciate the weirdness of seeing Jon Weber play first base, and then fly out to Justin Ruggiano in center field?

Update: The Rays are on TV again tonight, but it will be a split squad game for the Yankees (had to listen to commentators whine on about that last night, too. Two hour bus ride!! Whimper, whimper, whimper. And since when does it take two hours to go from Tampa to Port Charlotte?). Think I'll skip the game.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

How They’re Doing — 3

First, for those of you with cable (and maybe Dish network), MLB network has the Rays playing the Yankees tonight at 7 pm. A few potential Bulls still with the team.

Fernando Perez, John Jaso, Jose Lobaton, and Chris Richard (it’s official) went to minor league camp yesterday. Story here.

The players in bold are still with the Rays. The players in italics are in minor league camp. The stats are while they were with Rays this Spring. As far as I know, spring training stats for minor league action are not posted anywhere.


Rodriguez, S/12/34/.623
Brignac, R/12/31/.409
Ruggiano, J/12/30/.576
Johnson, E/12/26/.335
Johnson, D/10/24/.320
Shealy, R/9/18/.448
Furmaniak, J/12/18/.230
Joyce, M/6/16/.504
Chavez, A/11/16/.324
Dillon, J/11/13/.095

Perez, F/10/19/.319
Jaso, J/16/16/.480
Richard, C/6/9/.516
Beckham, T/7/9/.280
Lobaton, J/5/8/.113
Jennings, D/3/6/.632
Colina, A/5/4/.310
Ashley, N/2/2/.450
Albernaz, C/1/0/.000

Over at Rays Prospects, they continue their speculations regarding future Rays. Not very likely any of these players will show up in Durham this year, but maybe.

Also at Rays Prospects, Jake Larsen thinks that the recently signed Cuban first baseman/outfielder Leslie Anderson will be in Durham this season...eventually.

Former Bull, and fan/clubhouse favorite, Elijah Dukes has been released by the Washington Nationals.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Fernando Perez, and More

Fernando Perez was a favorite of Bulls fans in 2008. It begins to look like we’ll get a chance to see a lot of him this year as he works his way back into the Rays lineup. I couldn’t be happier about that prospect.

He was out for almost all of 2009 after a freaky play in spring training last year. He talks about how that happened in a Tampa Tribune interview — apparently he was using a glove that behaved differently from what he expected.

A very articulate young man, he also appears to also have some acting chops as he shows in this video where he laments the difficulties of getting by on $400,000 a year.

More on bats — looks like that as much as Maddon may not like maple bats, he doesn’t really have a say in the matter.

Tony Fabrizio for the Tampa Tribune and Mark Tompkin for the St. Pete Times talk about the competition for roster spots among Sean Rodriguez, Matt Joyce, Reid Brignac, and Justin Ruggiano. The loser(s) will surely be either traded or show up in Durham next month.

Rays Prospects has gathered some prominent Rays bloggers to prognosticate about future Rays (some of whom we’ll be seeing this year). The series started yesterday and continues today.

Pitchers R.J. Swindle and Jason Cromer have been shifted to minor league camp, as has catcher Craig Albernaz. Readers of the 2009 WDBB may be assured that the President of the Jason Cromer Fan Club is very pleased to see him headed our way.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

How They’re Doing — 2

Things are going to start getting odd as spring training goes along.

My initial list was simply the Rays’ 40-man plus the “non-roster invitee” list off the Rays website. We’ve had a couple of players officially sent off to minor league camp (Beckham and Ashley). Jennings remains on the 40-man but has been injured a couple of times and is reportedly not going to be playing much before the beginning of the season. The problem is that even if he plays, none of his stats will be reported (at least where I can find them). Dillon and Richard simply disappeared off the Rays' lists. I’m guessing that they are now working out with prospective Bulls and Montoyo, but haven’t found anything in the press about them.

So, here’s my list of players to watch, that are still watchable.

Player/Games/Plate Appearances/wOBA

Ruggiano, J/8/19/.631
Rodriguez, S/8/23/.587
Joyce, M/6/16/.504
Brignac, R/8/21/.492
Shealy, R/7/13/.455
Johnson, E/8/19/.402
Jaso, J/4/8/.334
Johnson, D/7/20/.322
Chavez, A/9/15/.298
Perez, F/8/16/.266
Furmaniak, J/9/17/.244
Lobaton, J/4/7/.129
Colina, A/3/3/.000
Albernaz, C/0/0/.000

The Rays have signed yet another first baseman, Cuban Leslie Anderson. That makes about five first basemen on or close to the 40-man. Things aren’t looking good for Chris Richard to spend much time with the Rays this year.

Just for general info, Jon Weber’s spring is 5/11/.700


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Bats, Etc

Goeff Baker/The Seattle Times

David Price got hit by a piece of a broken bat and then Joe Maddon had some comments about maple bats in general. He doesn't like them. But how many Rays/Bulls use them?

So it seemed a good time to add some links I’ve been hanging on to for a couple of weeks. One is about a new bat handle shape apparently being tried out by some Seattle Mariners this spring. Odd looking critter, but makes sense. Gotta wonder what it feels like.

Another is that at least some varieties of maple bats are being banned in minor leagues, but I haven’t been able to find any follow up to see if it will apply to the Bulls this year.

Appropo of nothing in particular:

  • Yet another rumor regarding a sequel to Bull Durham has surfaced. Sure would be fun to have it done, but I’m beginning to think that the opportunity has passed.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

How They’re Doing

The Rays have only played six games (5-1), but some of the players we’re watching (see here and here) have managed to get into every game. I’m trying to learn a new stat here, wOBA. But this is a really, really small sample, so the number doesn’t mean much. You’ve got to think that sticking with the Rays is mostly a matter of how a player looks on the field and at the plate, not the numbers. Still, a couple of the guys are doing pretty well. (Note: I obviously haven't figured out how to get a table into a blog, but I'm working on it.)

Name/Games/Plate Appearances/wOBA

Ashley, N 1 1 .000
Beckham, T 4 4 .225
Brignac, R 5 12 .533
Chavez, A 6 8 .203
Colina, A 1 1 .000
Dillon, J 6 8 .155
Furmaniak, J 6 10 .234
Jaso, J 3 6 .120
Jennings, D 3 6 .632
Johnson, D 5 13 .220
Johnson, E 5 11 .613
Joyce, M 4 11 .391
Lobaton, J 2 3 .000
Perez, F 6 12 .280
Richard, C 4 7 .709
Rodriguez, S 5 13 .845
Ruggiano, J 5 12 .611
Shealy, R 4 7 .437

And then there’s this quote from Rays Index this morning.

Fernando Perez drove in the winning run with a single in the 10th. It was the Rays 3rd walk-off win and 4th win in their final at bat. Joe Maddon said he wanted better at bats late in games. Of course if any of the guys that are coming through in the clutch now are on the roster in April, the Rays are screwed…

The implication being that all the walk off hits — Ruggiano, Perez, and Chavez — were from second-stringers. Which from a Rays fan point of view is probably OK. On the other hand, in spring training, just who are you gonna have in the game in the late innings?

The Rays added Hank Blalock on a minor league contract yesterday. So I’ll be adding him to my list. But surely if he has a decent spring he’ll stay with the Rays.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Players to Watch This Spring — Part Two

The 25 man active roster for the Tampa Bay Rays isn’t firm until the end of spring. Nevertheless, even a cursory glance at the blogs gives you a good idea of at least the core position players in line for jobs. So what I’ll look at in this list are position players currently on the 40-man roster whom we might end up seeing in Durham once the spring is over.

One interesting feature of the non-roster invitees list posted yesterday was that all of them were infielders. With that in mind I’ll start out here with outfielders.

Desmond Jennings, OF, 24. Jennings is one of the really hot prospects in the Rays system. He had a terrific year in 2009 in Montgomery and looked just fine in his games here in Durham. I’m guessing he’ll start the year with us, but it may depend on the health of Crawford and Upton. Stats and more.

Matt Joyce, OF, 26. I don’t really expect to see Matt back in Durham this year. I’m not sure why he didn’t go to the Rays and stay about the middle of last year, although he helped us out a lot. Stats and more, and even more.

Fernando Perez, OF, 27. Perez missed almost all of last year because of a spring training injury. Have read somewhere (can’t find the link) that he had shoulder surgery last November. So, hard to tell just what’s going on. Perez is scary fast, but I don’t see a place for him with the Rays. I’m guessing he’ll be back in Durham, but could be traded. Stats.

Justin Ruggiano, OF, 28. Ruggiano has had three productive years with the Bulls, but this year might be his last shot. I like him. I look forward seeing him playing for the Bulls this year. But I’ve got to think he’s available for a trade. Stats.

Reid Brignac, SS (mostly), 24. This will be a tough year for Brignac to break through. After being a hot prospect for a several years he’s now competing with Sean Rodriguez, Elliot Johnson, and Dan Johnson for a job. He’s a terrific ballplayer, but he’s been mentioned in trade rumors before. Maybe this spring? Stats and more.

Dan Johnson, Inf, 31. Dan is back from a year in Japan, where he played a lot of third base. We like him a lot here in Durham, but it remains to be seen if he can claim a spot with Rays. Stats and more.

Elliott Johnson, Inf, 26. Elliot would have to pass through waivers to get back to Durham this year (which is possible). His best hope is to have a great spring and either stick with the Rays or become part of a deal. Stats, more, and even more.

Sean Rodriguez, Inf, 25. Rodriguez was a welcome asset to the Bulls during our championship run last year. He came from the Angels organization with a good rep. Pure guesswork on my part, but he could start the year in Durham. On the other hand, he hit two home runs in the first two games with the Rays. Stats and more.

John Jaso, catcher, 27. We’ve seen a lot of Jaso in the last couple of years and, sorry to say, we haven’t been impressed. He seems to call a good game and that’s in his favor. The Rays organization has a problem at catching, but I doubt that Jaso is the solution. Probably will see him start the season in Durham. Stats.

Jose Lobaton, catcher, 26. Have no idea how he fits into the Rays plans. Not sure why he’s on the 40-man. Wait and see. If a reader has some ideas, please pass them on. Stats.

So, we have a total of 19 players to keep an eye on — more than will fit on either the Bulls or the Rays rosters come April. Best of luck to all of them!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Rays/Yankees on TV Friday (March 5)

Only for the fanatics among us —

If the local Time-Warner stuff is right (now Time-Warner wouldn’t lead me astray, would they?) the Rays will play the Yankees starting at one o’clock. Channels 139 and/or 268 in Raleigh, not sure of the numbers in Durham.

A chance to see Jon Weber (yeah!) in pinstripes (boo! hiss!).

Players To Watch This Spring — Part One

The Rays rode a bus (or two) all the way from Port Charlotte to Sarasota yesterday and played their first game of the year. They got their head handed to them by Baltimore, 12-2. Because it’s Spring Training, and, after all it’s the Rays, we aren’t too interested in the outcomes of these games.

On the other hand, as Bulls fans, several players who will be showing up in the lineups are of interest to us. So we’ll be checking the box scores to see how they are doing.

Here’s the beginning of my list of position players worth watching. I’m not going to try to speculate on pitchers, too many variables.

By “worth watching” I mean that there’s some chance that we could see players on this list in Durham this year. Each has a shot at the Rays 40-man, or may currently be on it. Some have already gotten some attention on the web and I’ll provide a link or two in that event. I’m not going to dig into contractual stuff — I don’t understand it all that well and sometimes the information is just too hard to get to.

I’ll start with the “non-roster invitees”, that is, players who are in camp and playing with the team, but not on the Rays’ 40-man roster.

Ryan Shealy, 31, 1B, minor league contract, with the Royals and their AAA team in Omaha last year. Stats.

J. J. Furmaniak, 31, infielder, minor league contract. We saw him playing for the Phillies’ AAA team Lehigh Valley last year. Stats.

Joe Dillon, 35, infielder, minor league contract. Super-solid player with the Bulls virtually all of last year. Trying to extend his range by working in the catcher position this year. Stats and more.

Chris Richard, 36, 1B, minor league contract, NRI. Chris is a stalwart of the Durham Bulls. He got a few at-bats with the Rays last year, but we can expect to see him back in Durham this year — and he’s very, very welcome. Stats.

Angel Chavez, 29, 3B, minor league contract. Played for Boston AAA affiliate Pawtucket last year. Stats.

Tim Beckham, 20, SS. Top prospect making his way up through the system. Possible he might show up in Durham near the end of the season, but Rays will put an emphasis on keeping him healthy and developing his skills. Stats.

Craig Albernaz, 28, catcher, NRI. Albernaz spent virtually all of 2009 with the Bulls, but didn’t get a lot of time behind the plate. Exceptional arm. Stats.

Nevin Ashley, 26, catcher. Ashley is a prospect working his way up through the Rays system. He spent last season with the Rays’ AA affiliate, the Montgomery Biscuits and the Charlotte Stone Crabs, the Rays’ A affiliate. Stats.

Alvin Colina, 29, catcher. Colina is a veteran AAA ballplayer who was with the Braves’ affiliate, Gwinnett, last year. Stats.

For more on prospects Ashley and Beckham, check out the Rays Prospects website.

Next: Players on the 40-man.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


Welcome to a blog about the best team in minor league baseball
The Durham Bulls!

Watching Durham Bulls Baseball is a place to have a conversation about our favorite team.

Major League Spring Training is pretty much in full swing, the Rays' first game is this Wednesday. But we aren’t going to know much about the Bulls until April. So this is a good time to “reset” this blog. By “reset” I mean that I’ll sort of start over from where we were about this time last year and not assume any of our readers have been here before. That way I’ll get a chance to re-visit and maybe come to a better understanding of the Bulls, minor league ball, AAA, and stuff such as just what the heck the International League really is.

Just for background, this blog started out in early 2009. At the time I really didn’t know all that much about the Bulls, the Rays, or minor league baseball. On the other hand, I figured that I was pretty much like most of the folks in the stands at any given Bulls game. As should have been clear last year, I also didn’t know much about blogging.

I wanted to learn more and I knew that the best way to learn something was to try to describe or explain it to someone else. Plus one of the nifty things about the web is that if you don’t know something, there’s someone out there who does.

When it comes to the specifics of the Durham Bulls, I am a real newcomer to following the team. After all, I’ve only been going to games regularly for four years, which makes me by far the junior person (along with my wife) among the regulars in front row of Section 208. They have been a wonderful source of trivia and anecdotes.

Looking back I seem to be following a couple of principles. I don’t think I’ll change them much with this reset.

  • Keep the focus on the Bulls and the International League as much as possible. That’s another way of saying this is a blog about the Durham Bulls, not the Tampa Bay Rays.
  • Don’t worry too much about being wrong ... and don’t get upset when someone tells you that you are.
  • The business of minor league baseball can be more than a little arcane. Explain if you must, but don’t let it get in the way of the game.
  • Have fun.