Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Russ Canzler Traded

Russ Canzler Rounding Third Base, July 3, 2011.
Photo by Al Drago, Indy Week

For Durham Bulls fans, this is just about the worst possible news we could have on this last day of January. Russ was our star in 2011 and now the only way we’re going to see him back is if he doesn’t make the Cleveland starting roster and he shows up in a Columbus Clippers uniform. (Good Grief! A Clippers uniform! ).

Here’s what we had to say about Russ at the end of last season:

Played in the most games of any Durham Bull (131) and had the most plate appearances (549). He led the Bulls in batting average (.314), was second in OBP (.401) and was first in SLG and OPS (.530 and .930), and led the team in wOBA (.399). His 83 RBI were way ahead of #2, Leslie Anderson, who had 65. He also led in home runs (18), doubles (40), second in triples (5). He was the team leader in walks (67) and strikeouts (129). The all-around offensive star of the year.

We started to worry when we read that he'd been designated for assignment. Then today we learned that he'd been traded to Cleveland

The other side of the coin is that a serious minor league fan really does want the best possible outcomes for the players we get to watch, and this looks like a pretty good deal for Canzler. The folks in Cleveland seem to think a lot of him. He’s been put on the Cleveland 40-man with a solid opportunity to compete in spring training for an opening day slot. 

So, we’ve got to wish Russ the best and hope that we don’t see him back in the DBAP in a Clippers uniform. We’ve had enough of losing to those guys. Would hate to have it come at the hands of a former Bull.

Good luck, Russ!

Ruggiano Declines Assignment

As we guessed the other day, Justin Ruggiano has passed through waivers and has opted for free agency. From a very great distance it sure looks like the right decision for him if he’s ever to get a serious shot at a regular job in the majors.

But he’s been a large part of my Durham Bulls experience. You will see that he’s been mentioned a bunch of times in this blog, which makes sense since he was with the Bulls from before this blog was even started. In fact, he’s logged parts of five years in a Bulls uniform (and 30+ games in Montgomery before then). And he has done a stellar job for the Bulls.

Take a look at his numbers. They are impressive. As a Bull he hit .289/.378/.518 over five seasons. 58 home runs, 300 RBI, 105 stolen bases. If we ever get around to setting up a Durham Bulls AAA All-Star list, Justin is going to have to be on it. 

I think, but am not sure, that he holds a couple of AAA Bulls records. His 119 doubles has to be close to the top.

At 29 Justin certainly has a solid shot of getting on with another team. I worry that he might end up playing against the Bulls at some point in the future. That could be a problem. He’s got a great glove, great speed, and a solid bat. 

Nevertheless, thank you Justin for some real thrills over the last several years and the quality baseball you brought to the Durham Bulls. Good luck!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Hemstitching: Four Bulls (maybe), Ruggiano, Kinas, and More

Justin Ruggiano at the DAP

** 71 Days **

  • The Rays recently signed four players to minor league contracts, most of whom have experience in Durham, if not always with the Bulls. 
    • Will Rhymes has put in a lot of time with Detroit’s AAA team, the Toledo Mud Hens, the last three years (so he’s probably played at the DBAP). Looks to be a solid 2B. Signed to a minor league contract, probably with an invitation to spring training, you’ve got to think he’s on the hunt for the Rays 2B slot. Good possibility to end up with the Bulls this year. He sounds happy.  Stats.
    • Jesus Feliciano, an outfielder, spent most of last year with the Mets’ AAA team, Buffalo. An outfielder, at 32 he might bring some maturity and depth to the Bulls. Trivia: He was in the Devil Rays system back in 2004. Stats.
    • RHP Romulo Sanchez is 27 and has some time with Indianapolis and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, so he’s likely to have visited the DBAP as well. He spent 2011 in Japan, so we’ll have to wait and see how he comes out of spring training. Stats.
    • Then there’s Matt Torra, whom we know and like from his time with us last year. Glad to have him back.
  • Durham Bulls stalwart, Justin Ruggiano, has been designated for assignment. He doesn’t sound too happy about it. Can’t say that I blame him. He spent a good bit of time in Durham last year, but my bet is that if he isn’t picked up on waivers he’ll try free agency. 
  • The Bulls have hired well-known local broadcaster Patrick Kinas to fill Neil Solondz's slot as the “voice” of the Bulls. Thirteen seasons in Double-A. Time to get called up. See commentary at a recent post on this blog.
  • Catcher Nevin Ashley cleared waivers and has been outrighted to Durham. Good news.
  • Dirk Hayhurst, possibly channeling his inner yoda, is offering advice to minor leaguers (here and here) as spring training approaches. His new book, Out of My League, is on the cusp of being published. However, as I recall, that was what he was saying when he showed up here last spring.
  • For the stats geeks among you, here is the godfather, Bill James, speaking out on the subject of great pitchers duels.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

April Fool's Day Comes Early?

We think that Cork Gaines' "Rays Index" is a terrific blog. We check it out every day. He keeps an eye on the minor league franchises, so we weren't too surprised to see Charlie Montoya's image in a post today.

What surprised us was why. Apparently Cork thinks it would be a good idea for the Rays to have a AAA franchise at the old Al Lang field in St. Petersburg. That would be ... the Bulls???

It's not clear if the idea is to bulldoze the Trop and offer the Bulls in compensation as the Rays move to ... Charlotte? Nashville? Memphis? San Antonio? Raleigh? Or to just have the teams close together.

But what about a swap? The Bulls move to Al Lang and the Rays move to the DBAP. At least we could probably fill the DBAP for them, for a while.

I guess I'll wait until it happens. If Sidd Finch is in the lineup as the starting pitcher for opening day, then I'll know we Bulls fans have been had.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Hemstitching: DJ, EJ, Aging Hitters, and Ashley

In the weaver’s world the word hemstitching is used for two purposes: to tie up loose ends (literally, because an “end” is a thread in a warp) and for decoration.
  • Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune did an interesting piece on Dan Johnson, with a nice photo accompanying it. For the first time in the years of running this blog, however, a paper refused permission to reproduce a photo, so you will have to click the link to see it. For Bulls fans who have been following Dan a long time there’s two new bits of info (new to me anyhow). First, he and his wife Holly have a new baby girl (congrats!). Second, he was playing with an injury essentially all of 2011 (he was hit by a pitch on April 15 and never quite recovered). He’s looking for work. Here’s hoping he finds it and does well. He’s brought Bulls fans a lot of pleasure over the years. [Thanks for the tip on this one, DRR]
  • I don’t quite know what to make of Adam Sobsey’s adaptingT. S. Elliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock to celebrate (?) former Bull Elliot Johnson’s failure to lay down a bunt. Baseball certainly attracts the literati, but I simply can’t figure out if Sobsey is mocking Johnson, trying to make some obscure point about the difficulty of being a low-roster guy, or just showing off. Seems a bit invasive of EJ’s space to me. But then in my day it was our affectation to scorn expatriate T.S. Elliot in favor of the “new guys” like Alan Ginsberg, Gregory Curso, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, so I probably never quite got the point of Prufrock either.
  • And then there’s the chart above copied from fangraphs. Fascinating bit of statistical analysis that seems to show that hitters mature even earlier than may be usually thought. [And thanks to DRaysBay for the hint on this item]
  • Lastly, Bulls catcher Nevin Ashley has been "designated for assignment" to take him off the Rays' 40-man roster. We'll have to see if he passes through waivers.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Charlie's Back!

Great news for Bulls fans and Bulls players — Charlie Montoyo will be back as the manager of our favorite team this year. Without a doubt one of the best managers in minor league baseball, we'd been wondering with very mixed feelings if this would be the year that we would lose Charlie to the Rays' dugout. At a guess they must feel that what he does here in Durham is more important to the Rays system than anything he could be doing down St. Pete way.

In any case, it's great start for the Durham Bulls in 2012.

[DRR: Thanks for the heads up]

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Hemstitching: Devil Rays, Moore, Shortstop, and Second Base

When there’s no hot baseball news, sometimes you have to stretch it a bit.
  • Over at Rays Index, Cork Gaines laments the end of the Devil Rays.
  • Matt Moore gets more favorable press and there’s some interesting down-ticket commentary on the Rays site. It is less and less likely that we will see Mr. Moore in Durham next year. Too bad. He really is the best we’ve ever seen.
  • Rays Prospects keeps on trucking with their thoughts on shortstop (Tim Beckham and Shawn O’Malley with the Bulls) and second base (Cole Figueroa).