Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Thrills and a Win

Game 136, Tuesday, August 30, DBAP
Durham Bulls 4, Gwinnett Braves 3
Season: 78-58; Home Stand: 4-5; Games Left in Season: 6
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun, Examiner

Let's jump right to the thrills.

8th inning. Score tied 3-3. Right-hander Anthony Varvaro came in as the third Gwinnett pitcher of the night. Tim Beckham led off with his third hit, a double to right. Brandon Guyer sacrificed Beckham to third base. Justin Ruggiano struck out. Two outs. Gwinnett decided to give an intentional walk to the 2010 International League MVP, lefty Dan Johnson, who had had two singles (one RBI) and a long flyout so far in the evening. That brought up the 2011 International League MVP, righty Russ Canzler who had had a terrible night, three strikeouts. Canzler took a strike, looked at a ball, hit a foul. 1-2, two out. Single to right! Beckham scored. Johnson was thrown out trying to reach third, but the Bulls were ahead 4-3.

Rob Delaney came on for the 9th. The first Brave hit a foul ball deep to the left side of the outfield, but Canzler chased it down for the first out. Wilkin Ramirez singled. After a called strike to catcher J.C. Boscan, Gwinnett called a hit and run. Ramirez took off as Boscan slapped a low line drive to right. Matt Carson made a diving catch with Ramirez almost to third base. He tossed the ball to Dan Johnson at first. Double play. Game over. The Bulls are 3 1/2 games ahead of Gwinnett in the south.

How did the Bulls get to the 8th tied 3-3? To be honest, it was pretty ugly. Reliever Lance Cormier, not my favorite Bulls pitcher in any circumstance, got thrown into the breach when once again the Bulls can't find a fifth starter. Not sure what happened to Brian Baker or Andy Sonnanstine (maybe the double header messed with Sonnanstine's schedule), but we've all read about Dirk Hayhurst's release by now. Cormier started out with a walk and that runner scored soon after. The redeeming feature of the inning was the two K's with bases loaded to end the inning. The leadoff batter in the 2nd inning got a double and scored and that was it for Cormier, the first of five Bulls pitchers.

Jay Buente had three solid innings to get the Bulls to the 6th. In the meantime the Bulls scored in the first, and picked up two more in the 3rd. But Adam Russell had an ugly 6th (that could have been worse) that let another run in. The Bulls, on the other hand, went from the 4th through the 7th with just one hit.

So, a lot of ups and downs until the sustained thrills of the bottom of the 8th and the top of the 9th.

* * * * *

This was the last home game of the regular season. The Bulls are headed for Charlotte for two games, then over to Norfolk for four games. During that time the South Division championship will surely be decided, along with, very likely, a bunch of roster changes.

But let's savor the fireworks and the win. This was a big one.

September Call-Ups

First, let's get some technicalities out of the way. On Thursday the Rays can expand their "active roster" from 25 players to 40 players — the famous "September Call-Ups". A player must be on the Rays 40-man roster before he can be called to the team.

Bulls who are on the 40-man are:

  • Alex Torres (1)
  • Chris Archer
  • Jay Buente (2)
  • Dane De La Rosa (1)
  • Rob Delaney (5)
  • Mike Ekstrom (1)
  • Andy Sonnanstine (34)
  • Robinson Chirinos (60)
  • Nevin Ashley
  • Brandon Guyer (6)
(Note: If they've had time with the Rays this year, shown are innings for pitchers, plate appearances for position players)

To my surprise only Rays Index and The St Pete Times Heater blog are doing any speculating.

Obviously the Rays are going to promote players they think they need or they think they want to take a look at. Past is not prologue here. Remember that last year the Rays won the American League East and were looking at the playoffs.

Every player on this list except for pitcher Chris Archer and catcher Nevin Ashley has had his "cup of coffee" this year, albeit just a sip or two — not even enough time for one of those little cups over in Ybor City.

And there are a couple of loose ends on the DL, notably catcher Jose Lobaton and outfielder Justin Ruggiano. Lobaton is reported to be close to being ready but hard to tell about Ruggiano.

In addition, the Rays are famously willing to game the DFA/waiver/options/DL rules to their advantage. So who's not on the 40-man that could be a candidate? How about these guys?
  • Russ Canzler
  • Stephen Vogt
  • Matt Moore
  • Adam Russell
Here's my guesses/desires pre-playoff, including one non-40 man player
  • Rob Delaney and/or Dane De La Rosa
  • Andy Sonnanstine
  • Brandon Guyer
  • Russ Canzler

A coin toss on Lobaton coming to the Bulls for rehab or staying with Rays in place of Chirinos. In any case the Rays will want three catchers. Ruggiano will go to the Rays when they think he's ready, probably with the call-ups.

A non-roster invite to spring training for Vogt and Russell. Moore will obviously go on the 40-man just as soon as the system requires it (surprised he isn't there already, might be some legalistic reason).

What will it do to the Bulls for the playoffs? Pretty sure it won't do much harm assuming that not being called up doesn't get into the heads of the guys left behind. We've seen plenty of talent from Montgomery this year.

Your thoughts?

[Update:  Sep 1, Sonnanstine & Guyer to Rays. (Ruggiano doesn't count, he was just here on rehab)]

Canzler Named IL MVP

The International League just announced the selection of Durham Bull outfielder Russ Canzler as 2011 Most Valuable Player. Here's the text:

Russ Canzler has been named the International League Most Valuable Player for 2011. The former 30th round draft pick had never played above the Double-A level before signing with Tampa Bay as a free agent this past offseason. Having seen significant time at third base, first base, left field, and right field, the versatile Canzler has made his biggest contributions for Durham at the plate. He is 4th in the International League with a .312 average to go along with 18 home runs and 79 RBI. His 61 extra-base hits, 77 runs scored, 241 total bases, and .533 slugging percentage are all tops in the IL. In July, Canzler was elected as the starting third baseman for the IL at the Triple-A All-Star Game, where his three-run home run was the difference in the 3-0 contest. He is just the second IL player ever to win Top Star honors at the Triple-A All-Star Game and the League MVP award in the same season, following in the footsteps of another Durham Bull, Kevin Witt in 2006. Canzler is the fifth Durham player to win IL Most Valuable Player honors, along with Steve Cox in 1999, Toby Hall in 2001, Witt in 2006, and Dan Johnson last season.

Ya-Hoo! Well-Done Russ!

Now, let's see if we can get you on the 40-man and some playing time with the Rays this year.

Dull, Dull, Dull

Game 135, Monday, August 30, DBAP
Gwinnett Braves (Atlanta) 2, Durham Bulls (Tampa Bay) 1
Season: 77-58; Home Stand: 3-5; Home Games Remaining: 1
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun, Examiner, Indy Week

This has been a dispiriting week for this Bulls fan: rain in buckets and not very good baseball. I don't think I'm alone. For example, in the links above the Bulls Wrap summarized the game in just 156 words. Mike Potter on Examiner managed 449 words, but most of them were quotes. Steve Wiseman at the Herald-Sun did a workman 583. Even Adam Sobsey at Indy Week, who usually puts together essays in the 5,000 word range, could only find 3,000 and much of that wasn't on the game.

In a sentence, the Bulls were outpitched. Their one run was scored in a bases-loaded, ball bounced past the catcher, situation. Bulls batters struck out 13 times. Not a season record (that would be 14 last May 21st), but close.

Matt Torres did not have his best day, but if the Bulls had been hitting the two runs he let in would not have mattered much.

From a fan's point of view, three nice plays helped brighten the dullness of the evening. A nifty Brandon Guyer to Ray Olmedo to Robison Chirinos at the plate saved a run in the 3rd (OK, looked to me like the runner beat the tag, but the ump was on the other side of the play). A routine, but still smart, play by first baseman (!) Stephen Vogt to go home after grabbing a bases-loaded grounder saved a run when the double play was uncertain. And left fielder Russ Canzler made a terrific running grab of a line drive in the 8th.

Well, there's my 280 or so words on the game. I can't find anything else worth saying.
* * * * *

The Bulls have been very coy about announcing who will pitch in the final home game of the year tonight. I was thinking that it meant that Dirk Hayhurst was about to return to the rotation. I was wrong. He was released yesterday. I'll let him tell his own story over at his blog.

Speaking for myself, I enjoyed watching Mr. Hayhurst pitch this year. I've worried about his elbow. I was fascinated by a couple of the interviews he's done. I'm impressed with his skill as a photographer. I look forward to reading his next book and hope that I enjoy it as much as I did The Bullpen Gospels. Good luck. Here's hoping that he finds his way back to baseball, if that's what he wants to do. If not, have a great life.

* * * * *

Speculation on September call-ups is circulating. I'll take my shot at that later today. Commentary welcome.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Sunday at the Park with the Bulls

Games 133 & 134, Sunday, August 28, Durham Bulls Athletic Park
Durham Bulls 4, Charlotte Knights 3 (8 innings)
Durham Bulls 3, Charlotte Knights 0 (7 innings)

Season: 77-57; Home Stand: 3-4; Home Games Remaining: 2
Wrap, Box (133), Box (134), Herald-Sun, Indy Week

The sky was a brilliant blue. Inside the park all evidence of the storm was gone. With the win on Saturday the Bulls seemed to be themselves again. If there was a wisp of a cloud on the horizon it came in the 2nd when Matt Moore gave up a rare walk. He would end up giving up four of them during his six innings, adding to the worrisome 36 issued by Bulls pitching since this home stand began.

When Moore left after six innings, the Bulls were down 3 to 1. But a Ray Olmedo single and a Justin Ruggiano home run in the bottom of the 6th set things right. J.J. Furmaniak came in to run for Dan Johnson in the 7th, but that tactical move of Charlie Montoyo's didn't pay off ... then. The payoff came in the extra-inning 8th when the game was still tied and Brandon Guyer was on third after a triple. Justin Ruggiano drew a walk. J.J., the Bulls best bunter, came to bat with one out. Guyer was off on Furmaniak's hard bunt past the pitcher in the direction of the second baseman. He was past the Charlotte catcher and the game was won.

Interlude watching the grounds crew put things right. Diligent restoration of both sides of the batter's box. Refilling of the holes dug by pitchers out on the mound. Brushing and smoothing and redrawing the lines. After 10 minutes the eye is treated to a fresh baseball field just waiting for new teams to emerge from the dugouts.

First there was the presentation of this year's Goodmon Awards: Team Spirit — Ray Olmedo; Pitcher — Rob Delaney; Community Service/Fan Favorite — Russ Canzler. Great choices, congratulations, well-done Ray, Rob, and Russ.

The Bulls came on the field and we got to watch a superb performance by Matt Torra. Mr. Torra has quietly established himself as a key Bulls pitcher. His ERA has been steadily declining since his not very auspicious arrival in early July. He has won four out of his last five starts. By my little "efficiency" measure (pitches per out), he is the most efficient pitcher on the team. He only needed 69 pitches to get through six innings last night (Moore threw 99). You could make the argument that he should have stayed in for the 7th since Delaney made things a bit more exciting than they needed to be with a one out walk followed by a single. But he did close things down, he got a save, and the Bulls had their shutout.

Brandon Guyer led of the game with a home run over the Monster. In the 3rd Guyer singled, stole second, went to third on a Stephen Vogt fly ball, and came home on a Dan Johnson single. A Russ Canzler double was enough to bring Johnson all the way around — although I'd have to say that Charlie Montoyo's arms windmilling to send D.J. home were moving faster than Dan's feet. That was enough.

Out on the web these two curious entries from Dirk Hayhurst, last seen leaning on the dugout railing. The first complains about Durham drivers (not very good, that's a surprise?) and the second is an odd little piece reflecting on expectations of a professional athlete. He seems to think that fans will be disappointed that he doesn't play for the "love of the game." As far as I can tell, that isn't the average fan's expectation, certainly not today. Must be something about the folks he encounters out there in the bullpen.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

End Times Avoided

Game 132, August 27, DBAP
Durham Bulls 3, Charlotte Knights 2
Season: 75-57; Home Games Remaining: 4
Wrap, Box, Indy Week, Herald-Sun, Wild Card

Funny how a win, even a shaky win, defers the Apocalypse. Just yesterday we were wondering if the Bulls had been abducted by aliens and today we're standing in the sunshine on the back porch and checking the playoff calendar.

Let's deal with Hurricane Irene first. The Triangle area dodged the bullet and besides, as broadcaster Neil Solondz noted the night before last, the team is the Durham Bulls, not the Apex Bulls or the Cary Bulls or the Raleigh Bulls. That is, they are tough guys — once they get over this abduction thing. So what's a little wind and rain gonna do?

Well, for one thing, a bunch of those Apex, Cary and Raleigh folks (like me) stayed home and watched the game on TV. The attendance number of 9,549 needs a great big "paid attendance" asterisk, because if there were more than a couple of thousand I'll chew up a page of my scorebook. And what we TV watchers saw for the first four innings or so was a lot of wind and rain and interesting pitching.

This was Chris Archer's first AAA start. Pretty good. More than that, and good news for Bulls fans, he needs a good bit of work. That means we'll likely be seeing a lot of him next season. The bad news is that, much like Matt Torres, he's likely to scare/disappoint us from time to time. Last night, for example, he got two quick outs in the 2nd inning then a walk, double, and two more walks brought in an easy run for the Knights. Except for that inning, however, he looked very good and put in a nice six innings for the Bulls. For more background on Mr. Archer, Adam Sobsey did a piece for Indy Week a couple of days ago.

Meanwhile, Charlie Montoyo sent out a lineup of all right-handed batters against Charlotte lefty Doug Davis, leaving on the bench lefties Dan Johnson, Stephen Vogt, and Leslie Anderson. They did just fine, especially outfielder Matt Carson who had two doubles.

Dane De La Rosa (need to do a feature on him) did a solid two innings. Rob Delaney had a thrilling 9th that we could have done without. And there we were, a win!

Remember: Double header tonight! Two for the price of one.

Saturday, August 27, 2011


Game 131, August 26, DBAP
Charlotte Knights 10, Durham Bulls 4
Season: 74-57; Streak: 0-4; Home Games Remaining: 5
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun, Indy Week

I think I’ve figured it out.

The road from Norfolk to Durham goes through some pretty dark places. Last Sunday night when the Durham Bulls were on their way back to Durham they were abducted. The team on the field this week isn't the real Durham Bulls. Those guys in baseball uniforms at the DBAP for the last four games are aliens. They're visiting the Earth to experience the game, but they aren't very good at it. What other explanation could there be?

The real Durham Bulls went 7-3 on the last road trip. They averaged 4.1 runs a game. They only allowed 2.7 runs per game. In the last four games the Bulls let in 32 runs — 8 runs per game! Gotta be aliens on the field.

Anything good to come out of last night? Well, yes. Those of us on the third base side got a wonderful view of weather in action. One of the outer bands of Hurricane Irene was up there in the eastern sky as the sun was setting behind us. We could see the edges of the clouds rotating around from the northeast and back down to the south. Very pretty as it crept our way and then blew in gusts of rain to put the grounds crew to work.

Anything else? Sonnanstine's first two innings, J.J. Furmaniak's 9th inning (J.J. struck out Charlotte's Dallas McPherson who'd hit two home runs for 6 RBIs earlier in the game). But if they were all aliens then hard to tell if they even understood the concept of winning and losing.

If we're lucky two things will happen today.
  • The storm will keep moving on and we'll have baseball tonight.
  • The aliens will have finished their experiment and release the real Durham Bulls back to the Earth.
Remember: No double header today (Saturday). Two 7-inning games tomorrow starting at 4:00.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Saturday's Game Moved to Sunday

The Bulls have just announced that the first game of tomorrow's (Saturday's) double-header has been postponed. Instead, they will do a couple of those 7-inning deals with Charlotte on Sunday starting at 4:00.

See link for details.

All together now ...

Irene good night,
Irene good night,
Good night, Irene
Good night, Irene
I'll see you in my dreams.

Waiting for Irene

Hurricane Fran comes ashore, September 6, 1996

Irene is coming and will likely come ashore in eastern North Carolina sometime tomorrow. Last night could be the last baseball we see before Sunday or even Monday. However, maybe, just maybe, we'll get a game in tonight. If so, and if you were not here back in 1996 when Hurricane Fran came through, take a moment to ask your neighbor what it was like. Trust me, you will hear a couple of terrific stories — chainsawing paths out of neighborhoods, huge neighborhood cookouts to prevent the waste of food thawing out in freezers, steamy un-airconditioned evenings, and more. They've been waiting for someone to listen to their stories.

Nearer in time, as it was back in September, 2010, what we Bulls fans really care about is what effect Irene might have on this weekend. Based on the home stand to date, how could it get worse? So it's gotta get better, right?

Game 129, August 24, DBAP
Norfolk Tides 4, Durham Bulls 3
Wrap, Box

Game 130, August 25, DBAP
Charlotte Knights (White Sox) 12, Durham Bulls (Rays) 7
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun, Examiner, Indy Week
Season: 74-56; Streak: 0-3; Home Games Left: 6

Brian Baker took the loss last night, but he deserved better. The performances of relievers Lance Cormier and Mike Ekstrom were just pitiful. The Bulls had an oh-so-tenuous lead when Cormier came on with two runners on base. Cormier let those two guys in, plus four more. That put the game pretty much out of reach. And it was surely so after Mike Ekstrom let four more runs across. Except for a flurry of activity in the bottom of the 9th, that was about it.

Nice to see Justin Ruggiano on the field. Noted that he was announcing his major leaguer status by wearing long trousers. Guess that's sort of cool, but maybe a bit of showing off in front of the guys he played with for a long time? If so, then he ought to collect a couple more hits.

Have I mentioned that this has been a miserable home stand so far? Guess what? Among the 60+ games so far this year, the Raleigh News & Observer decided to write up last night. Well, not actually a write-up. More a cut-and-paste from the Bulls website. My hometown paper doesn't even deserve a link from WDBB for that. Of course, they don't do any better with the Mudcats over on the other side of town.

Back to the threat from Irene. We can expect the Bulls website to do a good job regarding tonight and then tomorrow's double header. Last look implied that we are on the edge of this storm, so seems like a good chance that three games could get rained out with no chance of makeup. Since Gwinnett has been beating the teams the Bulls are getting beat by (Gwinnett has two wins over Charlotte and one over Norfolk in recent days) the season is at risk. The Monday and Tuesday games against Gwinnett are suddenly very important to those of us obsessing about the Governors' Cup.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Chris Archer, At Last a Fifth Starter?

Stacy Long is reporting that RHP Chris Archer is on his way to the Bulls. Adam Sobsey over at Indy Week is reporting the transaction as well. Chris Archer is the very personable young (22 year old) pitcher who came to the Rays system from the Cubs in trade for the Rays' Matt Garza. That trade also included current Bulls Brandon Guyer and Robinson Chirinos, Rays outfielder Sam Fuld, and shortstop prospect Hak-Ju Lee now with the Biscuits.

Mr. Archer is from Clayton, so we can expect a flurry of interest from the newspapers that generally ignore the Bulls such as the Raleigh News & Observer.

Important to us is that the Bulls may at last have a legitimate fifth starter in the rotation, something we haven’t seen since Richard De Los Santos (remember him?) went on the disabled list back in mid-April. Even if Archer's stats are not world-beating, he’s been able to start 25 games this year for the Biscuits. That’s more than any pitcher on the Bulls roster — which says something about the turmoil in that role this year.

Welcome aboard, Chris. Have been looking forward to seeing you pitch all year.

Seven Pitchers, Thirteen Innings, One Loss

Game 128, August 23, Durham Bulls Athletic Park, Durham, NC
Norfolk Tides (Orioles) 6, Durham Bulls (Rays) 4 (13 Innings)
Season: 74-54; Home Stand: 0-1; Home Games Remaining: 8
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun, Examiner, Indy Week

The first oddity of the night was how hard Matt Moore seemed to be working. Nevertheless, he made it through six scoreless innings and all seemed right in the world. The Bulls were ahead 4-0 on four solo home runs (Guyer, Carson, Beckham, Johnson). That would be another oddity of the early part of the game. At that point the Bulls bullpen, with a combined ERA of 3.45, could be depended upon to close out the next three innings and we'd be on our way home by 9:30 or so.

Didn't happen.

The next six (count 'em, six) Bulls pitchers had their fair share of trouble, but it was Jay Buente and Adam Russell who did the most damage by putting runners on base, then giving up home runs. It could have been worse, I suppose, since the Bulls got out of a bases-loaded (all on walks) situation in the 7th. Nevertheless, by the end of the 7th, the score was tied and stayed that way until the 13th. In that inning Joe Bateman, much like every other Bulls pitcher, could not handle Norfolk's Carlos Rojas. Here's a guy batting ninth in the order, barely above .200, who got on base five out of six times last night (three walks, two crippled singles). As it happens he didn't score any runs, but it says something about Bulls pitching that he got on base at all, much less five times.

Deep breath.

Sometimes a day off is not a good thing for baseball. Maybe that's all it was.

Alex Torres tonight. Still playing the Tides. The Bulls have to play these guys five more games this year, tonight at the DBAP, plus four games in Norfolk at the end of the season. Might as well get used to seeing Manager Gary Allenson put on his show. Last night's had something to do with how many times you have to touch second base when you're not sure you've hit a double or a home run. Maybe he'll get tossed early and we will have a shorter game.

To end on a high note: If you went to the game you got to see third baseman J.J. Furmaniak make a couple of stellar plays.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Durham Bulls Home Stand, Aug 23-30

The Durham Bulls baseball team, the Triple-A franchise of the Tampa Bay Rays, returns to the Durham Bulls Athletic Park today (Tuesday) after 10 games on the road. The trip took them to Buffalo, New York; Scranton, Pennsylvania; and Norfolk, Virginia. They won seven out of the ten games.

How are the Bulls doing this year?

Terrific. They are well above the .500 mark (74-53) and are 6 games ahead the Gwinnett Braves (Atlanta) in the contest for the International League’s South Division championship.

The Bulls have played 127 games out of a 142 game season that ends in early September.

For more details about the Bulls and the International League, 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 4 years (shortstop Tim Beckham) to 11 seasons (first baseman Dan Johnson). They are managed by one of the most successful minor league managers in baseball, Charlie Montoyo.

Their opponents

The Norfolk Tides (Aug 23-24) are the Baltimore Orioles AAA team. They are not having a good year (49-79), much like their parent club. The Bulls just split a two-game series with them in Norfolk and will finish the season playing them in Norfolk for four games September 2-5.


The Charlotte Knights (Aug 25-28, 5 games) are the White Sox’s AAA affiliate. At 5 games below .500 (62-67) they are not having their best year, but they are a dangerous team. Their series will feature a double header on Saturday (Aug 27) Sunday (Aug 28). The Bulls will play two more games against the Knights in their stadium on Aug 31 and Sep 1.


The Gwinnett Braves (Aug 29-30) are the Bulls lead competitor for the South Division Championship and have a shot at the Wild Card slot in the IL Championship. Good pitching. This could be a key series for the Braves and the Bulls.


Bulls players to watch

The Bulls roster turned over in July. Half of the pitchers and fielders were new to the team, some sent down from Tampa Bay, some up from the Montgomery Biscuits (the Rays AA team), and some purchased outright from other teams. All of them have done well. A couple have gone back to their original teams.


Matt Moore is possibly the best pitcher in minor league baseball. He should be pitching today. Alex Torres, another talented left-hander, will probably pitch Wednesday. Starters Matt Torra and Andy Sonnanstine have had very good games recently, but the fifth slot in the rotation is up for grabs. The Saturday double-header screws up any projection beyond that. The Bulls have one of the best bullpens in AAA. If a starter can get through five or six innings, the relievers can usually carry the load.


The new guys are simply fun to watch, including catcher/outfielder/first baseman Stephen Vogt, catcher Nevin Ashley, and shortstop Tim Beckham. They are all recent call-ups from  Montgomery. 

Outfielder Brandon Guyer is a rising star. You will want to say you saw him play as a Bull. He's my guess as a possible call-up to the Rays if outfielder B.J. Upton's injury yesterday is more serious than early reports indicate.

Outfielder Russ Canzler is having a breakout year. He’s WDBB’s favorite for a September call-up to the Rays. Dan Johnson’s power has been erratic this year. But flashes of last year’s Johnson shine through from time to time.

Catcher Robinson Chirinos just returned from a stint with Tampa Bay. Ray Olmedo, J.J. Furmaniak, and young Daniel Mayora are (along with Tim Beckham) a formidable infield. They turned six double plays in a game last week. 

First baseman/outfielder Leslie Anderson is recovering from a very painful hit by pitch a couple of nights ago.

Outfielder Justin Ruggiano is with the Bulls on a rehab assignment. If he plays, expect some serious power at bat. An ex-Bull, he knows the DBAP better than any player on the field. Also a possible immediate return to St. Petersburg if Upton's injury is serious (and Ruggiano's rehab goes well).

Speaking of the DBAP, our park got some love from Stadium Review recently. 

After these nine games, the Bulls play six games on the road and that’s it. No more baseball for 2011. Except, the Governors’ Cup playoffs! That’s a possibility of four more games at the DBAP.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Bulls Finish Great Trip and Head Home

Game 126, August 20, Harbor Park, Norfolk, Virginia
Norfolk Tides (Baltimore) 3, Durham Bulls (Tampa Bay) 2
Wrap, Box, Indy Week, Virginia-Pilot

Game 127, August 21, Harbor Park, Norfolk, Virginia
Durham Bulls 4, Norfolk Tides 3 (10 Innings)
Season: 74-53; Road Trip: 7-3; Home Games Remaining: 9
Wrap, Box, Indy Week, Virginia-Pilot

What an amazing road trip. After dropping the first two games by just one run each, the Bulls ripped off six wins, took a loss (also by just one run) and then won last night in extra innings. They come back to a well-deserved day off and then a nine games at home, six games on the road finish to the season.

The Independently Weekly is either taking very seriously the task of showing other Triangle media how sports should be covered by paying for his trip, or (more likely) Adam Sobsey is just about the most Bulls-obsessed guy out there. He's got two columns up (see the Indy Week links above) about the Saturday and Sunday games in Norfolk.

In addition to games reportage, he mentions that Justin Ruggiano has been with the team the last couple of days on his rehab assignment and may start playing during the home stand. It'll be nice to see him on the field and he should be able to help the Bulls hold on to their 6-game lead in the South Division.

Last night's game? After the first couple of innings, I was worried that Matt Torra was not going to make it, but after giving up three runs, he did just fine. The relief crew of Bateman, De La Rosa, and Delaney pitched shutout baseball over the next five innings, waiting for the Bulls to get one of their many base runners across. That was finally done in the 10th on a Tim Beckham single.

Gotta love this chart.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Good-Bye to PNC Field

Game 125, Friday, August 19, PNC Field, Moosic, PA
Durham Bulls 7, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees 4
Season: 73-52; Trip: 6-2; Streak: 6-0; Games Remaining: 17
Wrap, Box, Times-Tribune

Don't get me wrong, I'll take a win anywhere, anytime. But I am just a bit wistful that this beautiful run hasn't taken place at the DBAP. After all, home is where teams are supposed to play their best, right? This year the Bulls don't seem to care where they're playing. They are 37-26 at home and 36-26 on the road.

Last night started off worrisome. We expressed some concern about Brian Baker yesterday and the very beginning of the game bore that out. The Bulls got a run in the top of the first, but the first three Yankees to bat had a single, a double and a home run. Not good. But, as hoped, the Bulls bats were with them and they got two runs back in the top of the 2nd off a bases-loaded double by Brandon Guyer. Unfortunately, the leadoff batter for the Yankees in their 2nd hit a home run to put the Yankees back ahead. This was beginning to look like a very long game for all concerned (and it did end up going almost 3 hours).

What helped a lot was that the Yankees pitcher was having as much or more trouble as Baker. Dan Johnson led off the Bulls' 3rd with a homer, Baker settled down for the 3rd and 4th. The Bulls picked up two more runs in the 4th.

Brandon Guyer had a terrific night: triple, double, two singles, 4 RBI. Stephen Vogt played 1B (Anderson still out, Dan Johnson DHing) and had a double, single, and 1 RBI. Dan Johnson had a homer, double, and single. 13 hits in all for the Bulls.

The Bullpen: They have really stepped up for this streak. As noted in the wrap, but worth repeating here, in this six game run the relievers have put in 20 2/3 innings and only allowed one earned run!

This might have been the last game the Bulls play at PNC Field for a couple of years. Apparently a major renovation is in the works and the Yankees may play no games at home next year. Interesting that it was first reported in Baseball America, not the local newspaper.

What I'd hope for is that with a renovation they'll also hire a television crew. For most of the games of this session your subscription to MiLB.TV got you a fixed, wide-angle camera shot from high above home plate. Bit like watching a video game with figures scurrying around on the ground way below you. At first kinda cute, since audio feed of Neil Solondz was on a 45-second delay. You would see folks scurrying around and then wait for the play-by-play. In the end, however, it was just irritating. They had regular TV coverage for one of A-Rod's games, but that was the only time. Too bad.

The Bulls got on the bus to head for two games in Norfolk, then a day off, and then the last home stand. Can't wait.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Governors' Cup — What's Up?

The International League has put up their first look at this year's championship race. [Click on the link here]

More on the topic later, but the key info is:

First round, best of five:

First two games: West Division @ South Division; North Division @ Wild Card
Next games at West and North

Championship round, best of five:

First two games: North/Wild Card winner @ West/South winner
Next games: reverse

Why Governors' Cup (note the location of the apostrophe)? Well ...

In 1933....the Governors of Maryland, New Jersey, and New York and the Lieutenant Governors of the Provinces of Quebec and Ontario sponsored a trophy to be awarded annually to the winner of the International League playoffs.

Buffalo won, Rochester was the runner-up, Newark and Baltimore were in the playoffs. Over the years four "international" teams have won the cup: Havana, Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal. More.

Russ Goes Home

Game 124, Thursday, August 18, PNC Field, Moosic, PA
Durham Bulls 5, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees 1 
Season: 72-52; Trip: 5-2; Streak: 5-0, Games Left in Regular Season: 18

The 10,000+ fans who came to see Alex Rodriguez on Wednesday dwindled to 3,000+ for Thursday. Apparently most of those came to see the Bulls' Russ Canzler. He put on a show for them and got some love in the local newspaper. Deservedly so. The local lad (from nearby Hazelton) had three hits, including a big home run in the 8th. 

Every year it seems the Bulls have a non-40-man roster guy who is beating on the door of the Rays in August. This year it's Russ Canzler. We can hope that the Rays are listening — just wait for the playoffs to be over, if you don't mind. 

Meanwhile the Bulls infield continued with some simply stellar baseball. Six double plays! OK, two of them came after errors by Bulls' infielders that let runners on in the first place, but six in one game has to be some sort of season high. (Am I too lazy to go leafing through all the box score? You bet I am.) Ray Olmedo's hitting might have fallen off a cliff since coming to Pennsylvania (0-8), but he and Tim Beckham make one heck of a pair out there at short and second. Pretty to watch them. Beckham, by the way, got his second home run of his brief AAA career. His rep was not as a batsman, but 7 RBI in 8 games for a leadoff batter is quite an accomplishment.  

With that kind of defense, as long as you're not giving up home runs, a pitcher can do just fine. Alex Torres went seven innings, Jay Buente finished off the last two. 

The Bulls have won five in a row. The Yankees have lost eight in a row. Brian Baker is starting tonight. Time for the big bats to roll out, cause Baker is gonna give up a couple of runs. We like Mr. Baker a lot, but he has only pitched 3 innings since July 25. We hope he's ready to come back. 

Speaking of coming back, catcher Robinson Chirinos, last seen in a Bulls uniform in Pawtucket on July 16, is coming back. John Jaso has finished his rehab and went to St. Petersburg yesterday. With Brandon Guyer back and covering center field, outfielder John Matulia was sent to Montgomery. Hope he's ready to come back, because I'm guessing the Rays are gonna want to take a look at Guyer in September. 

Pleased to read that Alex Cobb's surgery was successful.


What we're looking at here is the team wOBAs for each of the last 15 games. The green bars are the Bulls, the red bars are the Bulls' opponents. The Bulls won 10 of the last 15 games and the widening gap between the trend lines helps explain why — pitching and defense has been just terrific.  By the way, the Bulls are now 20 games over .500, the best they've been all year.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Two Games in Moosic

Game 122, Tuesday, Aug 16, PNC Field, Moosic, PA
Durham Bulls 2, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees 0
Wrap, Box, Scranton Times-Tribune

Game 123, Wednesday, Aug 17, PNC Field
Durham Bulls 3, SWB Yankees 2
Wrap, Box, Scranton Times-Tribune, IL Wild Card
Season: 71-52; Trip: 4-2; Streak: 4-0

It sounded like a good fraction of eastern Pennsylvania came to Moosic to boo Alex Rodriguez the last two nights. I guess I don't understand the hostility he generates within Yankee fandom. But they drove out to the park to watch him play and give him a hard time. He responded by giving balls away to youngsters near the third base line.

In the meantime, the Bulls won two games, making it four in a row and putting them nineteen games above .500. That's the best they've been all year. Gwinnett has split the last two games and is four games back in the South (2.5 in the Wild Card). Toledo has joined Rochester and Norfolk in falling completely out of contention.

The first game saw four batters hit by pitches (two by Yankees pitching, two by Bulls pitching), but none of them scored. No HBPs in the second game.

Matt Torra looks better each game he pitches. The Bulls are inching toward having a starting rotation! Four out of five slots (Torra, Moore, Sonnanstine, and Torres) are doing pretty well. What about the fifth slot? Not much hope there unless Hayhurst comes off the DL or the Rays decide to promote someone from Montgomery.

In the first game, Matt Carson, the new guy we haven't seen on the field in Durham yet, hit a home run and Dan Johnson knocked in John Jaso. Torra, Beunte, and Delaney combined for the Bulls first shutout in a couple of weeks.

Matt Moore had his least effective start as a Bull in the second game, but at least the pitchers quit throwing at each other's batters. And Moore got another 8 K's (in just four innings) while only allowing one run (a homer). His pitch count was way up by the end of the 4th though (84).

How about the Bulls rehabber, John Jaso? While all the attention was on Rodriguez, Jaso seems to be coming along. He DH'd on Tuesday and caught his first complete game on Wednesday. 1-8 at bat with 1 walk and 4 K's, so needs some work. Hope that it doesn't come at the Bull's expense. Don't like seeing Vogt out of the lineup when he's been so hot.

Speaking of being hot, Russ Canzler got one of the RBIs last night. This is, sort of, a hometown crowd for him. And then there's Tim Beckham with another triple and two of the runs scored last night.

I missed the last couple of lead-ins to the game broadcasts. If someone has heard the update on Leslie Anderson, please jump in. He was hit by a pitch in the second game on Monday and limped off the field. Has not played since.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Bye Bisons

Game 120, Monday, August 15, Coca-Cola Field
Durham Bulls 2, Buffalo Bison 1 (7 Innings)

Game 121, Monday, August 15
Durham Bulls 8, Buffalo Bison 3 (8 Innings)
Season: 69-52; This Trip: 2-2
Wrap, Box, Buffalo News, Wild Card

To be honest, given the track record of the last two games, I was really worried about the bottom of the 7th in the first game yesterday (7-inning game). The Bulls had gone ahead 2-1 on a triple by young Mr. Beckham that drove in Ray Olmedo. I was putting gas in my car and had rolled down the rear window so I could hear the game. Andy Sonnanstine had gotten the first out but then gave up a single. Rob Delaney came in. A popup for the second out. Runner on first stole second. Gas pump dings. Batter grounds out to Johnson at first. Game over. Breath easier. Put nozzle back on the pump. Go on home.

At home with MiLB TV fired up for the second game, I begin to wonder if some bad karma could be out there. Former Bull Fernando Perez hit his very first home run (!) as a Bison and put Buffalo ahead 3-1. The Bulls got one back in the 4th, but then another former Bull, reliever Dale Thayer, came in for the 6th and weaseled out of a bases-loaded, one-out situation.

The planets come back into a proper alignment in the 7th, however, when Mr. Beckham hit a double, got to third on a Brandon Guyer sacrifice, and came home to tie the game on a Stephen Vogt sacrifice fly.

Mike Ekstrom kept things under control in the bottom of the 7th and Russ Canzler led off the 8th with a game winning home run, the first home run for a Bull since August 10 (Canzler and Ashley).

The icing on the cake was Tim Beckham's grand slam three batters later. Beckham hit for the cycle over the two games and accounted for five of the ten runs scored by the Bulls, not bad. See the Buffalo News link above for some comments by Beckham and Charlie Montoyo about his stellar night.

Dane De La Rosa came in to close things out and the Bulls were off to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Expect intense press coverage of the Bulls-Yankees games the next couple of nights. But not likely to have anything to do with Tim Beckham or Justin Ruggiano's bursitis of the knee.

Alex Rodriguez is scheduled for a rehab start with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees and the eyes of Yankee faithful will be watching what he does. A challenge for Bulls starter Matt Torra.

The sweep of the double header puts the Bulls three games ahead of Gwinnett. With recent losses, Norfolk and Rochester have been officially eliminated from contention.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Waiting for Baseball

Just for the record ...

Game 119, Saturday, August 13, Coca-Cola Field, Buffalo, New York
Buffalo Bisons 7, Durham Bulls 6
Wrap, Box, Buffalo News

Two notable things about the game: Brandon Guyer was back in the lineup and did very well; and the bullpen lost the second game in a row.

Rainout last night. Double header starts at 5:00 today (7 inning games).


About that bullpen. This chart shows the cumulative ERAs of the Bulls starters, relievers, and team for the last 15 games. With the team at over a 1,000 innings, the numbers are hard to move. But the last couple games are discouraging. Let's hope it's an anomaly. The bullpen has made a huge difference this year. The Bulls need for them to keep it up.

How about the hitters? Pretty good. For the last 10 games, the ups are really up (Canzler, Johnson, Furmaniak). And the downs are minor.

I really like wOBA as a measure of offense, but from this scatter chart it doesn't look like it tells you all that you'd like about wins and losses. These are the teams with a shot at the playoffs. Scranton/WB is 7 games back in the North Division and 6 games back in the wild card. Their wOBA is awfully good, though. They are the Bulls next opponent and based on their wOBA, the Bulls could have some work to do. Source: StatCorner.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

A New York Night

Game 118, Friday, August 12, Coca-Cola Field, Buffalo, New York
Buffalo Bisons (Mets) 3, Durham Bulls (Rays) 2
Season: 67-51, Road Trip: 0-1, Home Games Remaining: 9
Wrap, Box, Wild Card, Buffalo News

The Bulls started off the game with three straight hits and scored one run off Bison starting pitcher Pat Misch. Misch then struck out the side (and struck out 9 more Bulls in his 8+ inning start).

The Bisons started off the bottom of the 7th with three straight hits off reliever Dane De La Rosa, scoring a run. A hit by pitch and a grounder added a second run, and a wild pitch scored a third run. That was enough to win the game.

Matt Moore had a good night with a solid six innings. De La Rosa had an awful 2/3 of an inning. To his credit, Pat Misch went 8 1/3 very well-pitched innings. I was not happy to see Dale Thayer come on for the last two outs of the 9th. For some reason the sight of Fernando Perez in a Bisons uniform doesn't bother me as much as Thayer.
Web World

  • Joe Posnanski has a terrific meditation on the current state of baseball in a recent Sports Illustrated, Loving Baseball. [Thanks, John]
  • Dirk Hayhurst looks at some of the cross-cultural dynamics burbling under the surface in minor league ball.

Time to take a look at the runs scored/runs allowed picture. Not bad at all. The Pythagorean Expectation for the Bulls based on these numbers is 64-54, well below the actual 67-51. The general thinking about variation with the expectation is that it's a function of luck and bullpen, i.e., the Bull's bullpen is doing a great job and they've had some luck. Makes sense to me. Our bullpen has been doing a good job ... mostly.

How about the guys who play in the bandbox by the bay? They are also on an upward trend. Their Expectation (64-54) exactly matches their actual record.

Click on charts for larger image

Friday, August 12, 2011

Nice Home Stand

Game 117, Thursday, August 11, Durham Bulls Athletic Park
Durham Bulls 6, Rochester Red Wings 1
Season: 67-50; Home Games Remaining: 9
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun, Examiner, Indy Week, Wild Card

The Bulls are off to Buffalo today after a very good 5-3 home stand. They have four games in Buffalo, four games against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees, two games against the Norfolk Tides, a day off, and then are back here for their last home stand of 9 games (including a double header on August 27).

Matt Torra, who has been improving steadily since his arrival from Reno, had a very solid seven innings last night. The Red Wings did not get a baserunner until the last of the 3rd inning and didn't get a runner to second base until the 5th. Torra isn't a strikeout kind of guy, but he doesn't walk many either (none last night). He lets the fielders do the work and last night that worked out just fine. Particularly notable was John Matulia's over the shoulder grab of a Justin Marneau shot to deep, deep centerfield in the 6th and J.J. Furmaniak's nifty grab of a foul ball out of the Red Wing's dugout in the 7th. Torra did give up a home run, but that was it.

Adam Russell (let's be very quiet here and not disturb anything) continued his 0.00 ERA performance since his arrival. Rob Delaney closed out the 9th.

Russ Canzler continued his amazing performance — walk, single, triple, 2 runs scored. He leads or is close to the lead in a bunch of International League categories: Doubles (#1), Slugging (#1), Runs Scored (#1), Total Bases (#2), RBI (#3), Hits (#3), OBP (#2), Extra Base Hits (#1), Batting Average (#4), OPS (#1).

Ray Olmedo almost hit his first home run of the year, but the umps got together and decided that the ball hit the top of the fence. But Ray got 2 RBI out of the hit at any rate. His double was part of a four-run 2nd inning that was enough, with Torra's pitching, to win the game going away.

For a game oddity we had the Red Wings third baseman Chase Lambin get thrown out of the game while standing on first base after hitting a single to left. Speculation was that he griped about the ump's call of a close play earlier in the game. Don't think I've seen that happen before

Tim Beckham's first game as a Bull was notable for not being notable. He handled several plays straightforwardly and got an infield hit.

As seem to be the norm this year, we can expect more roster changes as the Bulls hit the road.
  • The Herald-Sun and the Indy Week links above report that Justin Ruggiano is coming back to the Bulls as part of a rehab assignment. The Indy Week piece expresses some of the same cynicism that I have about this move. My hope is that Ruggiano doesn't let his maltreatment by the Rays affect his play. He could be a huge asset over the next couple of weeks, and he doesn't count against the Bulls 24 man limit.
  • The same links are also reporting that Brandon Guyer and Matt Carson may be about to come off the DL. If so, someone will probably have to leave. My guess would be John Matulia back to Montgomery.
  • There are some terrific photos at the Indy Week link.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Ups ... and Downs

Game 115, Tuesday, August 9, DBAP
Durham Bulls 10, Rochester Red Wings 6
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun, Indy Week

Game 116, Wednesday, August 10, DBAP
Red Wings 11, Bulls 3
Season: 66-50; Home Games Remaining: 10
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun, Examiner

The lights flickered on Tuesday night, but all was well in the end.

But last night. Last night. Last night. Oh, woe. Oh, woe. Let's just tell the worst of it and move on to something else. The scoring summary gives a clue. Durham: 12 hits and 3 runs. Rochester: 8 hits and 11 runs. How can that be? Good question.

It all started in the bottom of the 2nd inning. Bulls starter Ryan Reid's "troubles" began with a two-out walk to Rochester right fielder Rene Tosoni. Reid then proceeded to walk the bases full, but got off the hook with a grounder to third.

The 3rd inning was possibly the worst inning I've seen the Bulls play this year. Mr. Reid walked the first two batters. Ray Olmedo (at shortstop) bobbled a grounder from the third batter and the bases were loaded. Reid then walked in a run and was pulled.

Brian Baker came in for his first appearance since July 25th. (Note to broadcaster Steve Barnes — love the stories you and Scott Pose tell each other, but love background on players more. No background on Baker's long vacation from baseball. Had to look it up after I got home.) Baker induced an easy ground ball and I'm thinking, OK another run but things will be OK. But Olmedo committed his second error of the inning and two runs scored, leaving runners on first and second. Double, single and three more runs were in. Three runs on two hits. It would have been worse except for an accurate throw from outfielder John Matulia to home that caught an overaggressive Rochester baserunner trying to score from first on the third hit off of Baker. But, I have to note that the run saved by Matulia was given back with a throw into the dugout after a Rochester double in the 7th. That runner then scored — a "Little League Home Run."

Last note before going on to other things: The 11 walks awarded by Bulls pitching was the most in a game this year and, to explain the rest of that odd scoring summary, Rochester's four double plays meant that a lot of the Bulls hits didn't lead to runs.

Web World

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Cobb Out for the Year

According to a couple of sources (MLB.com, St. Pete Times) Alex Cobb will undergo surgery in a few days to remove a "blockage" near his right rib. To be honest, I haven't a clue what that means other than he won't be pitching again this year.

Cobb started the season with the Bulls and made two trips to Tampa Bay before sticking there on the third trip. Twelve appearances with the Bulls, 5-1, stellar ERA of 1.87. 

We were indulging ourselves with the fantasy that he might come back for a couple of games. That isn't going to happen. In fact, if the Rays want to take it easy on their starters for the rest of the year, they now have a space on their 40-man for someone like Matt Moore

Alex Torres and Andy Sonnanstine are the only Bulls starters on the 40-man. One of them could be going up soon.

Brignac Back to Tampa Bay

Marc Topkin is reporting that Reid Brignac is going back to the Rays. Justin Ruggiano going on the DL made room.

At the moment that leaves the Bulls with only 10 active position players — Brandon Guyer and Matt Carson haven't been playing. With Jaso here on rehab maybe they can get by in the near term, but have to think an outfielder will be called up before the hit the road on Friday.

Was fun having you here, Reid. Best of luck down in the bandbox by the Bay.

Update: As Jamie commented and Stacy Long just reported, shortstop and top prospect Tim Beckham is on his way. We've been waiting to see this young man since he was drafted in 2008. 

I was, of course, wrong in my prediction, but what's new there? Have to say that I think this is a terrific choice. Beckham will also have the chance to play with Ray Olmedo for a while, which I think would be a help.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Rays and Alex Cobb

Rays Index has an interesting piece on the relationship between David Price’s troubles this year and his workload last year. |Rays Index|

That brought to mind Alex Cobb’s recent trek to the disabled list. My concern is that the Rays are not paying enough attention to Cobb’s workload this year.

First I need to point out that this quote also set my teeth on edge. It is from the MLB.com item on Cobb going to DL. Buried in the article that reported Alex Cobb going on the disabled list was this comment.

Cobb did not say anything to Joe Maddon prior to -- or during -- Saturday night’s game. The Rays manager said that Cobb needs to be more up front about any problems in the future.

What struck me about Maddon’s quote was that it sounded like classic “blame the victim” kind of thinking. Alex Cobb is 23 years old and has never done anything in his adult life except play baseball. Was he supposed to go whimpering to the manager if his arm doesn’t feel quite right? Not very likely. Shouldn’t all those coaches be watching a youngster like Cobb?

That sent me off on a modest number chase. Putting off all the usual commentary about modern pitcher’s conditioning, here’s what I found: ML Stats; Minor League Stats

So far this year Mr. Cobb has pitched in 9 AAA games and 12 major league games for 119 innings. That’s as many innings as he pitched in all of 2010 in AA (he pitched 10 more innings in the AAA playoffs) and about the same number of innings as in 2009 (124). He pitched a few more in 2008 (139).

Does it make sense for him to have pitched 119 innings by August 6th of his first year in the majors?

Don’t know.

What do you think? Is there someone out there who understands all this pitch f/x stuff that can do a deeper analysis? Did the Rays break young Mr. Cobb?

Double, Double

Game 114, August 8, DBAP
Durham Bulls (Rays) 6, Rochester Red Wings (Twins) 5
Season: 65-49; Streak: 3-0; Home Games Remaining: 12
Wrap, Box, Examiner, Wild Card

I was sitting next to a teacher of Shakespeare last night, so forgive the headline. Nevertheless, it does point out to a key feature of the game: The Red Wings put a lot of runners on base, but the Bulls turned four double plays. Here's the quirk (of course there's a quirk, why else would I mention it?), two of the four were started by the pitcher.

Alex Torres has had better starts. It took him 91 pitches just to get through five innings. On the other hand, in the 5th he had runners on second and third, one out, and got two K's to end the inning.

Russ Canzler continues with a hot bat, single, two doubles, two RBI. Leslie Anderson continues to struggle, 0 for 4. Stephen Vogt's 9-game OPS of 1.111 warms the heart (along with two critical RBI last night).

The highlight play of the evening came in the 9th. Adam Russell came in to close, but the first batter dinked one over third base. The sacrifice bunt was popped up and Russell stretched out all of his 6'8" and flopped to the ground, catching the ball. By that time the runner on first was standing on second. He had no chance of making it back before Russell tossed the ball to first. (Note: play is on the video highlights at Bulls website.) Russell's first save. In four appearances no runs scored.

The big deal was the appearance of famous big leaguer Justin Morneau rehabbing his way back to Minneapolis. I'm guessing that since he's not actually assigned to AAA he doesn't have to follow AAA rules. He was wearing a one-flap major leaguer's batting helmet. Here's a guy who's missed a lot of baseball from a concussion, but still wants to look good, I suppose. I'm reminded of the motorcycle guys protesting helmet laws. Have always thought that as long as they've signed their organ donor cards they should be allowed to go bare-headed. Maybe the same should apply to baseball players.

With this win the Bulls went 16 games over .500, the best they've been all year. Could not have picked a better time in the season.

As careful readers know, the business of baseball is not my forte. So when it's announced that a player has been "exposed to waivers" my reply is usually, "Huh?" Rays Index makes an attempt to explain recent "exposures" by the Rays.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Baseball in the Steam Room

Game 113, August 7, DBAP, Durham, North Carolina
Durham Bulls 6, Lehigh Valley IronPigs 4
Season: 64-49; Home Games Remaining: 13
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun, Examiner, Wild Card

Matt Moore showed himself to be human last night, allowing two runs in the 7th inning of what turned out to be a 6-4 game. But he also had a bit of bad luck up at the scoring table. Yes, he did start the inning by giving up a double and a single, putting runners on first and third. But Reid Brignac really did botch the grounder hit to him by Lehigh Valley's Josh Barfield — probably getting ahead of himself going for a double play. Instead of what should have been an E6, the grounder was scored as a hit. That meant that the run scoring from third was scored an earned run and on the books against Moore. If an error then the run goes on the books as unearned. The next run that scored (on a wild pitch from Jay Buente) might also have been unearned. And Moore's fabulous numbers would have been even better. Oh well, Moore will just have to live with the awful 1.09 ERA. Nice to see Moore's work so well recognized by Bulls fans as he left in the 7th. Gonna have to work on his hat tip, though.

This series with the IronPigs tested the mettle of the roster that we are likely to see through August and the end of the season. Although the changes are far from over, as you'll see below, we can hope that the pace of change will dampen down some. Russ Canzler rediscovered both his power and plate discipline last night with a single, double, home run, and a walk. Stephen Vogt's home run turned out to be very important. John Matulia's bat is hidden somewhere on the other side of Magnum St. Reid Brignac laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt, but still isn't hitting all that well. Dan Johnson had the day off. My point is that this is the team we'll be watching for the rest of the month and they are playing pretty well, with each having his ups and downs. Given the brutal heat, that has to be expected.

Speaking of the heat, yesterday was just awful. Again, all praise to the conditioning of these young men.

The Bulls gained a game on Gwinnett and are now 2 1/2 games ahead of Gwinnett.

Roster changes. Brian Baker is back from his stay on the Hudson Valley roster. As noted in an earlier post, Cesar Ramos went back to St. Petersburg. The Bulls have no left-handers in the bullpen at all. John Jaso is coming back to the Bulls for what may be an extended rehab assignment. Should be in the lineup by tomorrow. That will help out a lot.

Question of the day: Who is the catcher who's been warming up pitchers while Ashley's been behind the plate and Vogt's been in left field? Not Craig Albernaz, too tall, too much hair. No name on his jersey. Anybody know? Anonymous answers welcome.

Last roster change: Broadcaster Neil Solondz has been called up to St. Petersburg for a few days. He's expected to rejoin the Bulls in Buffalo where he can spend the evening telling Fernando Perez stories.

Update: Oops! Forgot to put up the link to the fabulous Brignac-Johnson play on the 6th.