Wednesday, October 26, 2011


This year's World Series will probably not be known for this, but it should be:

We are getting to watch two great catchers — The Card's Yadier Molina and the Ranger's Mike Napoli — at the very top of their games. Great arms, good at-bats, calling good games, just a lot of fun to watch.

Which in turn brings to mind that out of all the terrific ballplayers we've seen in a Bulls uniform over the years, I can't recall an outstanding catcher. We've had a couple of Crash Davis types, and I have really enjoyed watching them, but never a really promising youngster.

DRR's comment yesterday pointed out that many in the blogosphere are expecting (hoping?) that the Rays will be in the hunt for a catcher because although they have five catchers on the 40-man, none is very promising — Ashley, Shoppach, Jaso, Chirinos, and Lobaton. We've seen all except Shoppach in a Bulls uniform and we have to agree that the Rays should be shopping for a first string catcher.

But to come back to my original point, what I'd really love to see in a Bulls uniform is a young Molina or a young Napoli. Wouldn't that be fun? Wouldn't it be neat if the Rays, in addition to a first-stringer, also get their hands on a young catching prospect for us to watch here for a couple of years?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Winter Ball

How do you measure real baseball fanaticism? Well, maybe take a look at Jim Donten’s work over at Rays Prospects He is diligently tracking down once and future Rays who are playing elsewhere this Fall and Winter. As each league opens up, he posts a list of players he's found on the rosters. Then he’s been doing daily updates. That's real dedication and we thank him for it.

Players of immediate interest to WDBB:

Arizona Fall League (Surprise Saguaros)
  • SS Tim Beckham
  • RHP Marquis Fleming
Venezuelan Winter League
  • C Robinson Chirinos (Navegantes del Magallanes) (Note: Robinson has reportedly broken a wrist)
  • C Jose Lobaton (Leones de Caracas)
  • IF Daniel Mayora (Leones de Caracas)
  • LHP Alex Torres (Aguilas de Zulia)
  • C Stephen Vogt (Leones de Caracas)
  • IF Ray Olmedo (Tiburones de la Guaira)
  • RHP Rob Delaney (Bravos de Margarita)
Dominican Winter League
  • RHP Richard De Los Santos (Estrellas de Oriente) (Happy to see him pitching after last year’s troubles)
  • IF Omar Luna (Aguilas Cibaenas)
  • C Nevin Ashley (Gigantes del Cibao)
  • IF Elliot Johnson (Gigantes de Cibao) (Note: Why would he he playing winter ball? Caribbean vacation?
Keep an eye on Rays Prospects (maybe add the RSS feed) to keep up).

Another ex-Bull to keep an eye on this winter:

Jon Weber is playing for Venados dos Mazatlan, as he has for several winters. Turns out that the 33-year old Weber returned to professional baseball with the Indy League Winnepeg Goldeyes last summer and had a decent year.

Update, 18 Oct: Rob Delaney in Venezuela (Thanks, Anon!)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

2011 Moonlight Graham Awards

WDBB's Moonlight Graham Award recognizes those players who had the least amount of time with the Durham Bulls during the season.

The award is named in honor of Archibald "Moonlight" Graham who achieved lasting fame as a character in the W.P. Kinsella novel, Shoeless Joe, and then became even more famous when he was played by Burt Lancaster (and Frank Whaley) in the Kevin Costner film, Field of Dreams. As a ballplayer he played two innings in the major leagues as a right fielder for the New York Giants in 1905. He never came to bat. You can look it up. He did, however, go on to a career as a well-loved physician in Chisholm, Minnesota.

Of interest to us is that he was a North Carolina native (born in Fayetteville, grew up in Charlotte); graduated from UNC (where he played baseball); and was the older brother to UNC President and US Senator Frank Porter Graham. If you find him an intriguing character, the Wikipedia article is a good start. Then there’s a nice NBC piece done on him a couple of years ago. And then there's a terrific book by Fayetteville writer (and Bulls fan) Brett Friedlander and Robert Reisling, Chasing Moonlight. Copies of the book are in the Wake County Library system, Amazon, and I found my copy at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh.

We have a few modest criteria for selection: Not considered were players who came through on a rehab assignment, played only in postseason, and (for the pitcher) a position player thrown to the wolves at the end of a game.

The 2011 Winners

Outfielder John Shelby

Mr. Shelby came over from the Montgomery Biscuits to play one game for the Bulls on July 31, against Charlotte. Box Score. At 25, this was his sixth pro season and, although he didn't have a hit in his one game with the Bulls, he did OK, but not outstanding, with the Biscuits. Stats.

Right-Handed Relief Pitcher Marquis Fleming

Mr. Fleming came up to join the Bulls in Rochester, New York and made two appearances, July 20 and 21. In the first he had a rough time — five batters, one out, blown save — but in the second he did just fine. Overall for a 24 year-old in his fourth professional season he had a good year. Stats. The Rays must think well of him since they have him pitching with the Surprise Seguaros of the Arizona Fall League. That means we are very likely to see him in a Bulls uniform this next season.

Congratulations to John and Marquis! Good luck in 2012!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Something to Worry About

Scroll down to the end of this little end of season piece by Marc Topkin of the St. Pete Times. He makes the perfectly logical speculation that if Rays bench coach Dave Martinez should get a manager job (Boston or Chicago), Charlie Montoyo would be in the running to move up.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Bulls/Rays Playoff Thread

Let's see if we can keep track of our Bulls as the Rays move forward. But first to backtrack a bit.

September 28, 2011
Tampa Bay Rays 8, New York Yankees 7 (12 innings)
Wrap, Box

This was, of course, the most important game of the season for the Rays that, combined with Boston's loss, earned them the wild card spot. Dan Johnson got the game-tying home run. Other recent Bulls who were in the game included Desmond Jennings, LF (0-6, 1 BB), Russ Canzler, PH (0-1); Justin Ruggiano, RF; Brandon Guyer, RF (1-1); Dane De La Rosa, 1⅓ innings.

Interesting links:
September 30
Tampa Bay Rays 9, Texas Rangers 0

For Bulls fansMatt Moorewas the story on Friday, pitching to a catcher he'd never pitched to before, Kelly Shoppach (who got two home runs). Other than Moore, none of recent Bulls call-ups except Desmond Jennings got into the game. Jennings batted an uncharacteristic 8th in the order and went 1-3. Another oddity was seeing Wade Davis in relief.

  • Not many of the recent call-ups made it into the playoff roster, although some are traveling with the team. Recent Bulls missing are Dan Johnson, Russ Canzler, Justin Ruggiano, Brandon Guyer, Matt Torres, Dane De La Rosa, and probably a couple of others I've missed.
  • Moore was very impressive, as noted in DRaysBay analysis.
October 1
Texas Rangers 8, Tampa Bay Rays 6

Desmond Jennings moved back to his leadoff position, but no other recent Bulls were in the lineup (mostly because few of them are on the playoff 25-man). James Shields pretty much single-handedly lost this game for the Rays hitting batters and throwing pitches away. Almost a heroic comeback later in the game.

Upcoming games in St Pete: October 3, 5:00 pm
  • Big day for the Tampa Bay region, sold out for both football and baseball |St Pete Times|
  • David Price scheduled to start. Lineup
Update, 4 Oct

Rangers 4, Rays 3
Wrap, Box

Jennings did his job, 2 home runs. Price has six good innings, needed seven. J.P. Howell, seen briefly in Durham this year, gave up the winning run(s).

Game 4, October 4, 2 pm
Rangers 4, Rays 3

Thus endeth the season.