Thursday, August 4, 2011

Durham Bulls Home Stand, Aug 4-11

The Durham Bulls baseball team, the Triple-A franchise of the Tampa Bay Rays, returns today (Thursday) after 2 games on the road. They are coming back from a short trip down to Ft Mill, South Carolina, where the Charlotte Knights play baseball. They won both games.

How are the Bulls doing this year?

Terrific. They are well above the .500 mark (62-47) and a game and a half game ahead the Atlanta Braves AAA team, the Gwinnett Braves, in the contest for the International League’s South Division championship.

The Bulls have played 109 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 on the “Favorite Links” list.

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 (outfielder John Matulia) 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 Lehigh Valley IronPigs (Aug 4-8) are the Philadelphia Phillies AAA team. The Iron Pigs are having a year much like the Bulls. They are 63-49 on the year and a 1/2 game ahead of the Pawtucket Red Sox, Boston’s AAA team. The Bulls played a four-game series against the Iron Pigs back in early June and split the series 2-2. They are likely to be the toughest team the Bulls see in the month of August.

[Update: August 4, Bulls split the series 2-2 in four well-played, fun to watch games.]

The Rochester Red Wings (Aug 8-11) are the Twins affiliate. They are having a tough year, 44-66. The Bulls played four games against them just a couple of weeks ago and won three out of four.

Bulls players to watch

The Bulls roster has really been turned over in July. Half of the pitchers and fielders are 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.

Pitchers: Matt Moore is possibly the best pitcher in minor league baseball. He should be pitching on Sunday. Alex Torres is another talented left-hander. He will probably pitch next Monday. Relief star from the 2010 Bulls, Joe Bateman, just re-joined the team. See Bulls of August, Pitchers.

Fielders: A bunch of new guys that are simply fun to watch, including catchers Stephen Vogt and Nevin Ashley just up from Montgomery, outfielder John Matulia also just up from Montgomery, and an outfielder from the Oakland A’s, Matt Carson.

Outfielder Russ Canzler is having a breakout year. Dan Johnson has been showing some of his old power the last couple of days. Shortstop Reid Brignac is down from Tampa Bay to work on his hitting. Ray Olmedo, J.J. Furmaniak, and young Daniel Mayora are keeping the infield sorted out. Leslie Anderson has been showing a lot of power recently. See Bulls of August, Position Players.

Like the last session, it looks 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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