Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Durham Bulls Home Stand, July 22-31

The Durham Bulls baseball team, the Triple-A franchise of the Tampa Bay Rays returns Friday after 10 games on the road.

How are the Bulls doing this year?

Terrific. They are well above the .500 mark and a half game ahead the Atlanta Braves AAA team, the Gwinnett Braves, for the International League’s South Division championship.

On this trip the Bulls went 2-0 with the Baltimore franchise, the Norfolk (VA) Tides. They came home for the All-Star break. After that they hit the road and split a 4-game series with the Boston AAA team, the Pawtucket (RI) Red Sox. They then trekked over to Rochester, NY to play the Minnesota Twins AAA team, the Red Wings, where they went 3-1.

The Bulls have played 98 games so far out of a 142 game season that ends in early September.

For more details about the Bulls, take a look at Bulls Basics.

Who are they?

The Durham Bulls are a mix of major league veterans, prospects (young players moving up through the system), and AAA veterans. What’s the difference as far as the game you see at the DBAP goes? Very little. These are all professional ballplayers who have been in the game anywhere from 5 years (John Matulia) to 13 years (Felipe Lopez). They are managed by one of the most successful minor league managers in baseball, Charlie Montoyo.

Their Opponents

The Toledo Mud Hens (July 22-25) are the Detroit Tigers AAA team. The Mud Hens are having a tough year in the International League’s West Division. But they are on a really hot streak lately. Check the Bulls website for most recent standings. The Bulls played them in Toledo in late May and won 3 out of 4 games. In the International League teams only play out-of-division teams 8 games, 4 at home, 4 away. This will be the only visit by Toledo this season.

Update: The Bulls finished out the series with the Mud Hens winning 3 out of 4 games. 

The Gwinnett Braves (July 25-29). All this year the Bulls have been swapping the lead of the South Division with the Braves. This will be games 16 thru 20 for the teams and they will meet two more times (in Durham) before the end of the season.

Update: The Bulls start the series 2 games ahead of the Braves.

The Charlotte Knights (July 30-31). The Chicago White Sox affiliate is currently in third place in the South Division. The Bulls will play them 10 times before the end of the season (6 at home, 4 away).

Bulls players to watch


The starting pitcher situation this year for the Bulls has been beyond chaotic. As of this writing I’d say, “Come on out to the park and see what you see.” Two who are on the hot prospect list are Matt Moore and Alexander Torres.

Position players

Desmond Jennings and Brandon Guyer in the outfield are the most talked-about prospects. Either one could get called up this month. They both play terrific defense, and can hit and steal with the best of them.

Update: Desmond Jennings has been called up to the Rays. 

Dan Johnson at first base/DH has not gotten his 2010 eye back. If he does, watch out. He can really crush the ball.

Young Daniel Mayora on third base, catcher Nevin Ashley and outfielder John Matulia are just up from the Rays' AA team, the Montgomery Biscuits. We don’t really know much about them yet. In fact, neither Ashley nor Matulia has played a game in Durham this year.

The gloves of AAA veterans J.J. Furmaniak and Ray Olmedo are very solid. Russ Canzler is having a break-out year at bat. Major league veteran Felipe Lopez has been up to the Rays twice this year and is hitting well enough to make a trip back sometime soon. Cuban defector Leslie Anderson plays first base and the outfield and is putting up pretty good numbers at bat this year.

Durham Bulls Players on the Rays 40-man (see Bulls Basics for more on the topic)

Pitchers: Alex Torres (SP), Jay Buente (RP), and Andy Sonnanstine (RP). 

Position Players: Catcher Nevin Ashley, Outfielders Brandon Guyer and Desmond Jennings.

Yes, it's going to be blazingly hot for the beginning of the home stand.  In the Terrace Reserved sections you've got monster fans that keep the air moving though. Stay still, drink lots of liquids, have fun.

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