Saturday, February 26, 2011

Spring Training Arithmetic

Days to First Durham Bulls Game — 40;
Days to Home Opener — 47

Today the Tampa Bay Rays play their first game of the spring training season. So let’s try to answer the question:

Once we are able to get our hands on the box score, who should Bulls fans be keeping our eyes on?

Here, with my usual caveats regarding my depth of experience / understanding, is my take.

But first, let’s do some math.

The Rays have 62 players on the 40-man and non-roster invitee lists.

1. By the end of spring training the Rays have to get down to a 25-man active roster.

2. The Bulls usually have a 24-man roster (depending on which source you believe, the Bulls can carry either 24 or 25, but they seem to limit themselves to 24 in any case).

3. That means that by the end of spring training 13 ballplayers are destined for places deeper in the Rays minor league system or may be going elsewhere.

4. It makes my head hurt to even think about pitchers, especially this early in the season. The rosters have 31 pitchers. If I scratch them off my list I don't have to think so hard.

That leaves the 31 position players. At the end of the Spring, the Rays will probably carry 13 position players; the Bulls usually carry 12.

Catchers: At this time the Rays have 5 catchers on the 40-man and 7 in camp. Not to be too cynical about it, but if you’re trying to get a look at 31 pitchers, it takes a lot of catchers to warm them up. Gotta figure that neither Shoppach or Jaso is coming to Durham. Thus, we should be watching:
  • Nevin Ashley
  • Jose Lobaton
  • Robinson Chirinos
Infielders: The Rays have five very solid infielders on the 40-man, plus Ben Zobrist. Because of that, the 7 non-roster invitees are the ones to watch. With the exception of prospect Tim Beckham, you have to think that it’s either Durham or Bust for these guys:
  • Russ Canzler
  • J.J. Furmaniak
  • Casey Kotchman
  • Felipe Lopez
  • Daniel Mayora
  • Ray Olmedo
Outfielders: The Rays have 7 outfielders on their 40-man and room on their 25-man for at most 6, but more likely 5 (Manny Ramirez takes up the 13th slot). Johnny Damon, B.J. Upton, and Ben Zobrist have locks. Matt Joyce, who knows? So we might as well keep an eye on these guys:
  • Desmond Jennings
  • Sam Fuld
  • Brandon Guyer
  • Leslie Anderson
  • Chris Carter
  • Joe Inglett
  • Justin Ruggiano
A huge unknown in these deliberations is the nature of the ballplayers’ contracts. If the past is any example, at least a few of these guys will have “opt-out” contracts. That is, if they don’t make the 25-man Rays roster by a specific date, they can “opt-out” and sell themselves to another team. For others there may be no contract beyond spring training. In other words, a couple of these ballplayers could just disappear.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Web Roaming

A few odds and ends that might be of interest to Bulls fans.
  • For those of us who aren't able to get to every game there's always television. What is not well-known is that the production of all the home Bulls games is in the hands of teenagers, Explorer Post 50. See George Habel's post over at Notes to Self.
  • I just noticed a feature of the Bulls website called a "360 tour". Worth a look.
  • And then the Boston Pops are (or should that be "is") going to show up in August. That could be a lot of fun.
  • Careful readers will recall that we've puzzled over Fernando Perez's switch-hitting for years. Either he's just decided to answer the question or maybe a journalist finally got around to asking it. At any rate, thanks to a heads-up from Rays Index, here's a piece from Cubs spring training about the issue.
  • Also over at Rays Index is this nifty chart that looks at the Rays Spring Training roster by age.
  • Lastly, just for grins, take a look at the piece by Katelyn Davis, wife of former Bull Wade Davis. An amusing look at traveling to Texas for a playoff game last year. On Nicole Johnson's Baseball Wife Blog.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Solondz On the Spring

In case you missed it on the Bulls website, here's Neil Solondz's take on the Rays' roster.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Last Year's Durham Bulls: Pitchers

Here's what I've heard about last year's pitchers.
  • Richard De Los Santos, 148 innings pitched, Durham Bulls
  • Heath Phillips, 139 innings, Long Island Ducks
  • Jeremy Hellickson, 117 innings, Tampa Bay Rays
  • Aneury Rodriguez, 113 innings, Houston Astros
  • Brian Baker, 105 innings, Durham Bulls
  • Carlos Hernandez, 90 innings, ????
  • Joe Bateman, 76 innings, Oakland Athletics
  • Virgil Vasquez, 66 innings, LA Angels
  • Dale Thayer, 60 innings, NY Mets
  • Mike Ekstrom, 58 innings, Durham Bulls
  • Winston Abreu, 55 innings, Toronto Blue Jays
  • R.J. Swindle, 55 innings, Durham Bulls
  • Darin Downs innings, 40, Florida Marlins
We had 11 pitchers with 20 innings or less (details here) and we'll surely be seeing some of them in 2011 (Cobb, Torres, McGee). If anyone can fill in the holes above I'll update this. Could swear that I heard something about Heath Phillips, but sure can't find my notes.

Update: April 19. Changes in italics

Last Year's Durham Bulls: Knowns and Unknowns, Position Players

We know that 62 ballplayers are at the Tampa Bay Rays Spring Training. What we don't know is who else is there in Port Charlotte at the minor league training camp. So here's a brief list of the 2010 Bulls, the number of games they were in for the Bulls, and what we know about them for 2011, if anything.
  • Justin Ruggiano, 117 games, Durham Bulls
  • Chris Richard, 117 games, Retired
  • Fernando Perez, 116 games, Chicago Cubs/Iowa Cubs
  • Angel Chavez, 113 games, Bridgeport Bluefish
  • Elliot Johnson, 109 games, Tampa Bay Rays
  • Desmond Jennings, 109 games, Durham Bulls
  • Dan Johnson, 98 games, Tampa Bay Rays
  • Joe Dillon, 96 games, Retired
  • J.J. Furmaniak, 77 games, Durham Bulls
  • Jose Lobaton, 72 games, Durham Bulls
  • Alvin Colina, 51 games, Lancaster Barnstormers
  • Ryan Shealy, 30 games, Blue Jays
  • Dioner Navarro, 43 games, LA Dodgers
  • Omar Luna, 40 games, Durham Bulls
  • Rashad Eldridge, 34 games, ????
  • Leslie Anderson, 28 games, Durham Bulls
  • Hank Blalock, 26 games, ????
Any help out there regarding Chris Richard, Joe Dillon, Alvin Colina, Omar Luna, or Rashad Eldridge? Any or all of them could be with Rays organization, just not non-roster invitees.

Update 1: Although I'm not absolutely certain, I think it will be safe to change Chris Richard and Joe Dillon to "retired".

Update 2: In the very large category of "things I don't know about baseball", it turns out that minor leaguers without invites to Spring Training are not yet in camp. Omar Luna is expected to be there.

Update 3: April 19, changes italicized.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Where the Durham Bulls (and the Rays) Are

 This is the Spring Training complex of the Tampa Bay Rays. If you zoom out a bit you can see the surrounding region and the town of Port Charlotte, which is north of Fort Myers and south of Sarasota. In my youth this was serious alligator country (and really doesn't look too much more civilized now). The facility is in Charlotte County, who paid for most of it, hence the Charlotte, not Port Charlotte, Stone Crabs, the Rays' team who plays there in the summer.

Pitchers and catchers are in camp. A total of 62 ballplayers are signed to various forms of contracts with the upper echelons of the Rays. After things sort out a bit, we'll take a shot at guessing who might be showing up in Durham in April.

Gotta admit that it looks like a terrific place to play baseball.

47 days to first game; 54 days to first game in Durham.

Friday, February 18, 2011

J. P. Howell May Start Season With the Bulls

48 days to start of the season (@ Gwinnett)
55 days to the home opener (April 14)

Way back in the dark ages — that would be the 2007 season — the Bulls had a pretty good starting left hander named J. P. Howell. It was Charlie Montoyo's first season as manager. Pretty good batch of pitchers with Jeff Neimann, Mitch Talbot, Jason Hammel, Jeff Ridgeway, Andy Sonnanstine, and my personal favorite, reliever Seth McClung.

Down in St. Pete, J.P. became a reliever and did well in 2008 and 2009 (stats) but shoulder problems took him out of the game in 2010.

Which leads to the report that we may get to see him on the mound a couple of times this year. Hope so, because it would mean that he's on his way back.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Ruggiano and Anderson on 2011 Bulls Roster?

According to Marc Topkin at the St. Pete Times [Thanks, Adam] Justin Ruggiano and Leslie Anderson passed through waivers and remain part of the Tampa Bay Rays organization. This puts them both in roughly the same status that Elliot Johnson was at this time last year. They'll probably go to spring training as "non-roster invitees", play their hearts out, start the season in Durham, and then we get to see what happens.

I'm a little surprised that Ruggiano made it through the waiver process. My only guess is that other teams were just too close to spring training to give up a slot on their 40-man.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Ruggiano, Anderson, and more ...

A while back when the Rays had a flurry of signings they also went up to 42 players on their 40-man roster. So we've known for a while that two players had to go to make room. That happened today. Justin Ruggiano and Leslie Anderson have been "designated for assignment." That means that either another team picks them up on their 40-man (paying the Rays appropriate compensation — have no idea how that's determined) or they perhaps show up in a Bulls uniform this year. Marc Tompkin of the St. Pete Times quoted Rugg as saying:

I'm disappointed but at the same time it could open up another door or opportunity for me...

Unlikely that Tompkin would have gotten a good quote from Anderson unless he speaks really good Spanish.

Over at DRaysBay Steve Slowinski sees the situation as too many outfielders and first basemen in the Rays system and R.J. Anderson at the Process Report notes that Anderson's numbers weren't very good and that there wasn't much room for Ruggiano.

Here at WDBB my guess is that none of our careful readers are surprised at either choice. After the Rays called up Justin last year and sat him on the bench for a week it was clear that he wasn't high on their list of guys to watch. As for Anderson, let's say that he never really showed Bulls fans very much as an arm or bat or glove. Seemed to be a nice guy and we are certainly glad to see him get out of Cuba safely (and hope that his immigration status doesn't get screwed up). But did not look like a major leaguer to us (not that we are all that good at making that kind of call).

Still, given the way this works, we could have both players with us in Durham this year.

As long as I'm pecking away, here are a few odds and ends that might be of interest.

  • The 2011 Triple-A Championship game is not going to be in Oklahoma City. It will be on September 20th in Albuquerque, New Mexico on the Isotopes' field. Albuquerque (and nearby Santa Fe) is one of my favorite towns. Maybe an excuse to trek out west in September?
  • The Bulls are soliciting fans for food suggestions. Know that at least one reader of WDBB is very interested in sausage, so he should take a look.
  • For folks with an interest in the business of baseball (I am obviously not one of them) DRaysBay had a in-depth look at the upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement review.
  • For deeply obsessive Rays' fans, here's what will be happening with jersey numbers.
  • Interesting interview with potential Durham Bull Dirk Hayhurst a few days ago on DRaysBay.
  • Durham Bulls' watchers are often left in the dark regarding our young pitchers pitch count/innings limits. Cork Gains over at Rays Index discusses the Rays philosophy that may give us some hints on what to expect this year.
  • Lastly, the Rays have signed RHP Juan Cruz and infielder Felipe Lopez to minor league contracts with invitations to spring training.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

National Anthem Auditions Coming Up

The Bulls will be hosting auditions for folks who want to sing the national anthem a couple of Saturdays from now (February 26th). Time to offer our 2¢ worth.

But first, a bit of background. Back in 2009 a few fans started a rating system to judge the performance of the national anthem at Durham Bulls games. Quite obviously as a result of our influence the year saw a steady improvement (at least until we quit keeping track late in the year).

For 2010, however, we did not sustain the effort. The main reason is that someone in the Bulls front office came up with the idea of inviting local choral groups to perform. For the most part, as we noted in our 2010 wrap-up, they did a brilliant job.

With that in mind, here’s WDBB’s advice for 2011 and the auditions:
  • The national anthem is not a country-western song.
  • The “free” in “land of the free” is a word of one syllable and is sung as one note.
  • Brass groups are good.
  • String quartets are good.
  • Choirs/choral groups are good.
  • Very small children in parent’s arms are cute, but cringe-making.
  • Performers from shows at the DPAC have done well. Invite back.