Friday, August 31, 2012

Rays Start Cleaning Out Bulls Roster

Infielder Reid Brignac, catcher Chris Gimenez, pitcher Cesar Ramos, and outfielder Rich Thompson are on their way to Toronto to join the Rays. Good for them. At a guess, they aren't the only ones who will be called up. Not quite sure why they are so anxious to pull the string on the very first day (tomorrow). Other possibilities were discussed here earlier in the month.

As Bulls fans we have seen Reid Brignac do a very good job at shortstop and second base, and get a few key hits in his time with the Bulls. However, the Rays certainly seem to have lost confidence in him. His prospects of being called up for September weren't very good until Sean Rodriguez broke his hand. 

We really like Chris Gimenez. He was hitting well and helping the Bulls. His call-up was expected and deserved. 

Cesar Ramos is a puzzle to me. He's probably a better pitcher than I think he is. He must be. He's going to the Rays.

Rich Thompson plays his heart out every day. We'll see if the Rays trust him enough to give him any real playing time. We can hope.

What does it mean for tonight and the rest of the season? Well, I'm sure the Montgomery Biscuits are hoping that the angel of call-ups passes them by. They are in line for a run at the championship — if the weather will let them play. The Southern League playoffs begin next week. My guess, and hope, is that the Rays dig down into Single-A teams and give us a look at some prospects.

Question for readers who follow those prospects — Who should get a visit to Durham tonight? And a trip to Charlotte for Labor Day weekend? Or are the Bulls just going to have to suck it up for a couple of days?

[Update: An outfielder from the Charlotte Stone Crabs has been added to the Bulls roster, left-batting, right-throwing Kevin Kiermaier. Stats are here and the RaysProspects latest data are here. The Rays obviously think a good bit of him since he's headed for the Arizona Fall League along with the Bulls' Tim Beckham and the Biscuits Hak-Ju Lee.

Thats a one for three swap. See comments from Samantha regarding previous year attentiveness the the Bulls' needs.]

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Anderson Named IL All-Star, and More ...

Leslie Anderson was named to the 2012 International League All-Star team today. He’s the only Durham Bull to make the squad. He also eased into first place in the batting stats holding at .313. Rich Thompson is lurking back at .310 and in a tie for third place.

As noted in the comments to yesterday’s post, Sean Rodriguez broke his hand hitting locker after Sunday’s game. He is off to see the Rays’ hand specialist and may be out for the rest of the season. Goes to show you how little we fans can possibly know about what happens outside the lines of this sport. What we do know is that he helped the Bulls in the two games he played. A couple of links here and here.

Meanwhile, over in Alabama Biscuits catcher Mayo Acosta, who had nine games with the Bulls earlier in the year, had his ankle broken in a plate collision. The Bulls' Craig Albernaz has been sent there to lend a hand. The Biscuits are in a run for the end of year playoffs.

However, Hurricane/Tropical Storm Isaac is playing havoc with schedules in the Southern League.

In the International League wild card Pawtucket picked up a game on Lehigh Valley and now leads by a game and a half. Bloggers comment here and here.

Lastly, a chart to dream about as we wait for tonight’s game against Norfolk. When last we looked at this chart the Bulls needed to play .600 ball to get to .500 by the end of the season. Didn't happen. Now they need to win all of their games to reach .500 by the end of the season. Maybe, just maybe?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Better Late Than ...

Season: 65-72; Home Stand: 6-3; Home Games Left: 2

A beautiful day for baseball. In what seems like a very long time the Bulls started the game in bright sunshine. So bright that it may have been what caused a slight hiccup in right field in the top of the 1st. The hiccup led to a triple, but the runner never scored. 

Cesar Ramos went on to have a terrific day. Obviously going from the bullpen to starting is much more complicated that I would have thought. Yesterday he pitched very, very well against a team that has to be wondering what happened to the 2012 Durham Bulls, the team that was lurching along near the bottom of the division. This team was the pitching, running, scrambling, hitting team of yesteryear and beat the Tides for the fifth game in a row.

Mr. Ramos was never in any real trouble until the 5th when the bases were loaded with two outs. But a popup to short ended that threat.

Josh Lueke had another shaky outing. Single, K, K, home run, K. Those two runs brought the Knights back to 4-2. Brandon Gomes came in for a two-inning save that, even though a run came in, simply felt like things were in hand.

Meanwhile visiting infielder Sean Rodriguez should be feeling pretty good. The reason he’s with the Bulls has everything to do with DH’r Luke Scott coming off the DL. Since that time, Scott has played in 4 games for the Rays, with 4 hits and 1 RBI. Rodriguez, on the other hand, has played in two games for the Bulls with two doubles, a home run, and 4 RBIs. Last night’s was off the Bull (video here). The Bulls have won all of their games, the Rays dropped their last two. Take that Tampa Bay!

As it happens, both middle infielders hit home runs last night. Tim Beckham, playing shortstop hit one to the deepest part of center field in the 5th.

Six games in a row, all at home, is a big deal in any season. Thank you, Durham Bulls! 

Outside the game
  • Rich Thompson’s run at the International League batting title is getting less stealthy. He was 3 for 4 last night, raising his average to .310. He’s now tied for third place. Leslie Anderson sat out the evening and slipped into second place when Gwinnett’s Jose Constanza went  2 for 3. Thompson also stole 3 bases (at 28 he’s in third place in the IL with no chance to catch up with Gwinett’s Durango’s 43, but maybe Indianapolis’ d’Arnaud’s 31).
  • When Roger Clemens stepped to the mound for his first game in a bunch of years pitching for the Sugarland Skeeters, in the batters’ box was none other than former Durham Bull Joey Gathright, now playing for the Bridgeport Bluefish. Gathright struck out.
  • The wild card race between the IronPigs and the PawSox continues to be very, very close.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Five W's Are Good

Season: 64-72; Home Stand: 5-3; Bulls v. Tides: 11-7
Home Games Left: 3

The Herald-Sun is reporting that Jeff Neimann’s pitching hand is OK after X-rays did not find a fracture. Fans were worried when they saw the ball hit Niemann and his very awkward, looping toss to Anderson at first base to end the inning. Niemann then met the Bulls trainer at the top of the dugout steps and disappeared into the clubhouse.

I haven’t been able to make many games of this next-to-last home stand, so it was fun to be at one of the better ones. Great to see the Bulls have a nice winning streak near the end of the season. 

As careful readers will know, I’m not the best judge of pitching talent. Nevertheless, it seems clear to me that even before his injury Niemann was not ready for prime time, unless he was working on specific issues without regard to the game. The first batter hit a home run. He gave up a walk in the 2nd and a single in the 3rd. The 4th was something of a mess with a single, double, walk, single, and sac fly scoring a couple of runs before he got the last out with two men on base. So far with the Bulls he’s gotten in 8⅓ innings, 17 hits, 3 BB, 4 Ks, 1 HR for an ERA of 7.56.

Fortunately, Ryan Reid, Frank De Los Santos, and Dane De La Rosa were on their games. For the next five innings they held the Tides to just 2 hits.

Meanwhile, the Tides’ young Zach Clark absolutely dominated the Bulls the first time through the order, but had trouble the second time through. In the 4th, two walks and a single got a run across (but then he struck out the next two batters). In the 5th, however, the Bulls got to him with the help of visiting major leaguer Sean Rodriguez, playing shortstop. His two-run double capped off a three-run inning, and that would be enough to win the game.

A glance at the International League hitting stats show just how tight the race for the batting title is. The Bulls’ Leslie Anderson ended the night leading the league at .313, but he’s only 1 percentage point in the lead. The key “lurker” on the list is the Bulls’ Rich Thompson at .305. No doubt this is going to go down to the wire. One of the players on the list, Mauro Gomez of the Pawtucket Red Sox, has been called up. That means his numbers are fixed. If everyone drops below .310, Gomez wins. Of course, after that Red Sox-Dodgers deal yesterday, maybe the entire PawSox team will get called up.

Outside the Game
  • In his column yesterday Adam Sobsey took a look at a couple of Bulls prospects for a September call-up: Stephen Vogt, Chris Gimenez, Leslie Anderson, Tim Beckham, Dane De La Rosa, and Cole Figueroa get profiled.
  • The Pawtucket Red Sox and the Lehigh Valley IronPigs are neck and neck for the wild card slot. Worth checking out fan blogs up that way, Bacon and Biscuits (Iron Pigs) and PawSox Heavy (PawSox).

Friday, August 24, 2012


Season: 62-72; Home Stand: 3-3; Bulls v. Tides: 9-7
Home Games Remaining: 5; Wild Card

Harold Gutman at the Herald-Sun link has the big story: five double plays, three of them started by third baseman Cole Figueroa, kept Norfolk away from home plate last night (well, a nifty play by Reid Brignac that caught a base runner trying to get home in the 1st helped as well). Meanwhile, two of the Bulls four catchers made up most of the offense. That is, Chris Gimenez hit a sac fly and Nevin Ashley hit a home run.

Decent pitching helped, but Paduch, Reid, De Los Santos, and Gomes did give up 11 hits. On the other hand, all but one of them was a single, and then there were those double plays and the caught stealing. The result was that the Bulls were outhit for the second game in a row yet won both games. Has to be frustrating for the Tides who are trying to stay in the wild card run. They are now 3½ back, so it does not look good for them.

The Bulls go against the Tides again tonight for the third game in a row, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again before wrapping up a two-game each home and away with Charlotte. We are really going to get to know the Norfolk players.

Outside the game —
  • Charlie Montoyo gets a profile in, get this, the Paris Review! Holy George Plimpton! Nice piece by sometime Indy Week contributor Sam Stephenson.
  • Rays Colored Glasses thinks that Reid Brignac can help the Rays in the last month of the season.
  • Rays Prospects takes a look at pitching. Stats guys delight.
  • Remember Darnell McDonald? If not as a Durham Bull in 2005-6, how about as a Redwing or Clipper or Bat or Red Sox or Yankee, all in the IL? Or a couple of solid stints with the Red Sox, Reds, and Toronto? At any rate, he’s now with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees and has his own thoughts on the Red Sox locker room rumblings. (Thanks to Pawtucket blogger Jenks for the hint)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

One Hit Wonder

Season: 61-72; Home Stand: 2-3; Bulls v. Tides: 8-7
Home Games Remaining: 6; Standings; Wild Card

Durham’s third batter of the night, Chris Gimenez batting as DH, hit a single to left field. That was it. He was the only Bull to get a hit for the entire night. For five innings the Tides’ Jake Arrieta pitched brilliantly until, with one out in the 6th, something went terribly wrong and he walked four batters in a row and let another in with a wild pitch. That was all of the scoring and that was enough. But you do have this weird statistical fluke on the record, a one-hit win.

In the meantime, Chris Archer had a simply outstanding evening, certainly the best I’ve seen him pitch since he came to Durham. Too bad that, if I’m guessing about the schedule correctly, we won’t have a chance to see him pitch again this season. At least we won’t be able to see him pitch in a Bulls uniform. He will undoubtedly be in a Rays uniform for at least September. And if they go into the playoffs?

Overall, a terrific pitching duel won and lost by the pitchers.

Note: Reliever Adam Liberatore had a nice evening. He and his colleague from Montgomery, Frank De Los Santos, have been pleasant additions to the team.

Outside the Game —
  • Chris Kudialis, writing in the News & Observer, and following the lead of WDBB, has a nice feature on Leslie Anderson.
  • Rays infielder Sean Rodriguez, who spent a couple of games with the Bulls back in 2009, will be back for a few days as part of some roster finagling on the part of the Rays. Trivia: he was part of the same deal that brought Alexander Torres to the Rays system.
  • Matt Mangini has caught on with the Mobile BayBears, the Arizona Diamondbacks’ AA team. The Diamondbacks’ AAA team, the Reno Aces, is likely to win their division in the PCL. Bit of a stretch, but if Matt can get called up to Reno and Reno wins the PCL, he could be back at the DBAP next month.


The Tides have a remote chance to get into the playoffs as a wild card selection. They've had a very good year. Notable is how much back and forth they have had with their parent club.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Anderson Makes His Case

Season: 60-72; Home Stand: 1-3

Last night Leslie Anderson hit a home run and a sacrifice fly to account for two of the Bulls three runs. He is up to 53 RBI this year. His batting average of .315 is tied for the lead among International League hitters (and he’s played 26 more games than Jose Constanza of Gwinnett with whom he is tied). His OPS is “only” .826, essentially because he’s really not a home run hitter (he has 13 on the year). Time for him to move up.

Anderson was a star for the Cuban national team and was signed with the Rays after defecting back in early 2010. At the time it was thought that he might have a shot at filling the hole at first base in the Rays system. He moved through the system reasonably quickly that year and spent all of 2011 in Durham. At the end of last year his hitting was just OK (.277) and his OPS nothing special at .727. This year he is obviously much better. Career stats here and here.

A left-handed batter, his numbers against righties are considerably better than against lefties (.631 OPS v. .908 OPS). All but one of his home runs have come off off right-handed pitching.

The question might be, where should he play? This year he has been in the outfield and dh much more than at 1B (44 games in the outfield, 42 at dh, and 20 at 1B). He’s only committed one error (in left field) all year. Of course, left field at the DBAP is not as challenging as other positions. Even so, he has done very well..

He isn’t on the Rays’ 40-man roster, and that’s a huge problem. (See this post.) Nevertheless, his batting average is better than any of the Rays that have anything like his playing time of 107 games, as is his OPS (Note: only two Rays are hitting over .300, Jeff Keppinger (79 games) and Sam Fuld (20 games)). Nevertheless, he has never faced major league pitching, which could be a huge adjustment for him. 

On the other hand, if not now, then when? The Rays have spent about a million dollars a year for his services and, I would assume, a ton of money in lawyers fees just to get him into the country and onto the playing field. Mr. Anderson is 30 years old. Properly marketed he could bring a lot of fans into Tropicana (he really was a famous ballplayer among those who follow Cuban baseball). Obviously not an easy decision, but he has unquestionably worked for it.

As he was quoted in today’s Indy Week:
Last year was a real learning experience for me. I put in a lot of hard work in the off-season, and it’s paying off.
To which Charlie Montoyo followed up:
He’s having a good year, and he’s finishing strong.
We here at WDBB think Leslie Anderson should finish the year with the Tampa Bay Rays.

[Update: One of the local newspapers, the Raleigh News & Observer, did a feature on Anderson this morning.]

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


The troubles of this season getting to you? You’d like to just take a trip somewhere and not think about Bulls baseball for a while even though the season’s not quite over?

You could do no better than this little girl did when she saw a gentleman standing in the square. He’s all dressed up. He’s got this big bass fiddle and he's put his hat on the pavement.

Click the link. Watch the little girl toss a coin into the hat. Turn the sound up. Expand the window to fill your screen. Sit back and escape ...

Now, that was nice, wasn’t it?

Three Home Runs Not Enough

Season: 59-72; Home Stand: 0-3; Bulls v. Knights: 4-12
Home Games Left: 8; Standings; Wild Card

I was chatting with a fan before the game last night and the conversation began with him saying, “I don’t think the Rays have done right with the Bulls this year. We don’t have the Chris Richard's, the Joe Dillon's.” To which I responded, “We don't even have the Ray Olmedo's.” (By the way, if you’re wondering why Ray isn’t on the Knight’s bench, he’s up with the White Sox for his first big league time since a few games with Toronto in 2007. You can bet he’s having fun. Good for him!)

Case in point, last night’s starting pitcher, Cesar Ramos. I know that I was in the front of the line cheering his appearance as a starting pitcher at the end of July. Shows you what I know. Since that game he’s made four starts, pitched 18 ⅔ innings, and given up 30 hits, 6 walks, 5 home runs, and 17 earned runs. That would be an ERA of 8.23. In the end Ramos has been just another of the Rays’ many makeshift “fixes” to the Bulls this year, and one of the least effective.

Yes, last night’s game had its thrills. The Bulls’ 4th inning began with two home runs, a single, and another home run. But then off to the north we heard the air horn of a train coming through downtown Durham as Reid Brignac came to bat with the bases empty and no outs. An omen? A few minutes later the Knights were out of the inning and still ahead 6-4. They hit their own homer in the 5th to stay ahead. The Bulls responded with a two-run homer in the 6th to get within one run, but then Ramos gave up a single and a home run which pushed the Knights up by three runs. So, yes, a bit of fun back and forth, but always with this uneasy sense that the game wasn’t going to end well. And it didn’t. 

Let’s let Charlie Montoyo have the last word here. As quoted in the Herald-Sun this morning:
“We have to be approaching some kind of record — 32 runs in three games. That’s just tough to watch.”
Outside the game —

Remember Gary Gaetti? He was the Bulls hitting coach some years ago and now manages the Sugar Land Skeeters in the independent Atlantic League. The Skeeters were the source of the Bulls’ current pitcher Lance Pendleton and the current home of former Rays pitcher Scott Kazmir (who visited the Bulls for a couple of rehab starts). They’ve signed a new pitcher to start his first game in a couple of day, Roger Clemens. 

If he makes his first start on Saturday, Clemens will be sharing the evening’s entertainment bill with a fellow named Ted Batchelor, a stuntman who sets himself on fire and runs the bases. What a pair! Pretty sure the Skeeters are going to sellout this Saturday. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night

Season: 59-71; Home Stand: 0-2; Bulls v. Braves: 10-11
Home Games Remaining: 9; Standings

The Bulls started the season with a four-game set against the Gwinnett Braves back on April 6th. The Bulls won in a lengthy, cold, 12-inning affair. That was followed by an 11-inning loss, a win, and wrapped up with another win. They left town in first place in the International League South Division. A few games later they were playing Gwinnett in the Braves' home stadium and began their long slide down to 12 games below .500, which is where the Bulls reside today, tied for last place with those same Gwinnett Braves.

All of which is a prelude to a pretty miserable night at the park, especially since it started as a twilight game and looked so promising. Yes, it appeared as if the Bulls had it in hand after three innings. They were up 7-3 and it felt a bit like they were cruisin’. And they kept on scoring, three runs in the next three innings.  Gwinnett was also scoring, 1 in the 5th, 2 in the 7th. But, there’s always a “but” in a losing game, the 8th was a mess with Beckham’s error and, a few batters later, Gartrell’s homer, ending up a two-inning, six-run give back. Now all we had to wait for was for Josh Lueke (why Lueke? A chance for redemption from Saturday night’s implosion?) to give up three singles and two runs followed by Rich Thompson’s inexplicable error in right that led to a third run.

For some reason I thought that in August we’d see at least interesting baseball as individuals began to strive for a September call-up. We are seeing a bit of that with Tim Beckham showing some flash in the field and at bat, with some fine work behind the plate by Chris Gimenez, and with the notable batting of Leslie Anderson. The pitchers, especially the relievers, seem to botching things (with the exception of Chris Archer). Even Frank De Los Santos gave up four runs last night, although thanks to the way things work they all were unearned and didn’t have much of an effect on his ERA.

The nine home games remaining are against Charlotte and Norfolk. The most interesting part of those games, maybe, will be roster shifts due to the Bulls and Tides parent team competition in the AL East. That is, they may be using their farm teams to set themselves up for their respective September runs.  Against the Knights, we have this matchup. Note how dramaticially team ERAs appear to affect the run-scoring metrics.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Pretty 3-6-1

I mentioned in an earlier post that the Bulls had a very pretty double play last night: 1B Henry Wrigley to SS Tim Beckham to Pitcher Jim Paduch covering first. Here it is. Also at YouTube .

Done for 2012

Season: 59-70; Home Stand: 0-1; Bulls v. Braves: 10-10
Home Games Remaining: 10; Standings

After a very pretty play in the top of the 3rd inning that got Jim Paduch off the hook, things got really ugly at the DBAP in the 5th. In the end, the Bulls were officially eliminated from contention in the IL South Division by their loss and Charlotte’s win at Norfolk. 

As important as selective amnesia is to fans and players of professional sports, this was not a pretty game to end all hopes in this mostly dismal season.

The Herald-Sun and Indy Week links have the story of Josh Lueke’s tough two-thirds of an inning. About all I have to add is how small the difference was between a decent relief outing and a 7-hit, 6-run disaster. Only one of those hits was solid and that one didn’t make a difference. The rest were squibs, dying quails, ground balls with eyes...

We will have a few more games to watch this year and, if we’re lucky, we’ll see a few more nifty plays like last night’s Wrigley to Beckham to Paduch double play. That’s about the best we can hope for.

And, as a bonus, maybe a few of these guys will spend September with the Rays and maybe we’ll be able to watch them there.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Niemann To Start Sunday

Jeff Niemann, June 14, 2011
Jeff Niemann is a large (as in 6'9", 255 lb) right-handed pitcher who pitched for the Durham Bulls all of 2007 (131 innings, 3.98 ERA) and 2008 (133 innings, 3.59 ERA) before going up to the Rays in 2009 (541 ML innings, 4.11 ERA, so far). 

He was in a Bulls uniform just last year for a brief two-game rehab assignment.

Earlier this season he had a leg broken by a line drive and he is now working his way through the system on his way back to the Rays. Since this is such a long home stand we might get to see him twice before the Bulls leave town. As noted the other day, there’s been some speculation that the Rays could save themselves some roster-juggling problems by leaving him with the Bulls until September 1. That might  give him a third start with the Bulls. 

Expect him to be on a low pitch count. Nevertheless, it will be fun to see him again.

The Last Big Trip

Season: 59-69; Trip: 2-6; Bulls v. Clippers: 4-4; Standings

The Clippers crawled back into the hunt for the International League wild card slot. The Bulls are one game away from absolute elimination, but they are about to play the one team in the South Division that has been eliminated. Hope?

Chris Archer had a fine start, except for the unfortunate 2-run home run in the 6th. And the Bulls were hitting OK. They had 10 hits to the Clippers’ 7. But the nine runners they left on base were a problem.

Overall, this was simply an awful road trip for the Bulls. My expectation was that what we’d hear about would be heroic individual efforts (perhaps in losing causes) as players beat on the door of September callups. But maybe they were just tired and wanted to go home.

To wrap up the season the Bulls have nine games at home, a day off, three road games, two home games, two road games. This nine game home stretch could be a time for some fun for fans and players. No team has anything to play for than the simple fun of the game. Charlotte has locked it up, none of the rest of the teams has a shot at the wild card. The opportunity is to just play.

The stand opens with the Gwinnett Braves. They have had a tough season. They had a terrific April and May, then fell off the edge of the earth. Lately, they’ve been wobbling around the 13 games below .500 mark, much like the Bulls have wobbled around the -8 point since the beginning of the season.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

7 in the 8th

Season: 59-67; Trip: 2-4; Bulls v. Clippers: 4-2; Standings

I had a meeting in downtown Raleigh last night and since 620 coverage there is basically awful (why is it that one of the most important media guys on the east coast and baseball team owner can't arrange for a radio signal that goes more than about 5 miles?), it wasn’t until late in the 6th inning that I could get the score,. The Clippers were up 6-2. Remembering that I’d heralded the arrival of Cesar Ramos as a new starting pitcher, I started a lead paragraph retracting that assertion.

Got home. Bulls now down 7-2. Parked the car. Went inside. Fired up the computer and gameday and audio stream, just in time to hear Kinas call Chris Gimenez’ second home run of his 5 RBI night with Stephen Vogt and Henry Wrigley on base. Since Wrigley had doubled in Rich Thompson earlier, it was Clippers 7, Bulls 6! Brooks Conrad walked and the Clippers brought in former Bull and former Tampa Bay Ray Dan Wheeler. Will Rhymes hit a home run, just his 4th of the year, and the Bulls go up 8-7. Rich Thompson, in his second at bat, singled in a run later, much later, to make it 9-7. Twelve Bulls came to plate in the inning and that would be enough.

This year’s Bulls have not been much of a come-from-behind team. But last night was different. I count myself lucky to have happened to listen to it. Congrats to Josh Leuke on getting credit for the win, Adam Liberatore for the hold, and Dane De La Rosa for his 15th save.

Chris Gimenez is hitting .335 with an OPS of .932. His two 2-home run games recently has surely been noticed down in St. Petersburg. He should be playing down there in September.

Outside the game —
  • Guess I need to mention that the Tampa Bay Rays gave up a perfect game to Seattle’s Felix Hernandez yesterday. Only 23 perfect games have been thrown in major league history — three of them against the Rays/Devil Rays. 
  • DRaysBay speculates that the Rays might wait until September to bring Jeff Niemann onto the lineup. He’ll have to be somewhere. Perhaps in Durham?
  • The local Kia dealer is having a meet the team event on August 25th.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


That was a really tough four games in Toledo. Made worse by blowing a 5-0 lead. About all that could be done is move on down the road to Columbus. According to broadcaster Patrick Kinas the shoulder issue of Alex Colome is not thought to be serious. That’s essentially the only good news from Toledo.

Season: 58-67; Trip: 1-4; Bulls v. Clippers: 3-2; Standings

Matt Torra was pitching. Henry Wrigley, Leslie Anderson, Stephen Vogt, Brooks Conrad, and Reid Brignac were hitting. All was right in with the world up there in Columbus. 

After that awful trip start in Toledo, it was really nice to hear the Bulls have a good night. 

Columbus is in the chase for the International League wild card slot. However, they have been in a recent slump similar to the Bulls. They need to win a bunch of games and need some luck regarding the Pawtucket Red Sox and the Iron Pigs to get into the playoffs. 

Last night wasn’t the night. The oddity was two triples. One was by not-very-quick Henry Wrigley, the other by Reid Brignac. I’ve never seen the Clippers stadium, but it must have some odd corners. This was first triple of the year for both of the players.

Torra continues to look very good. He gives up home runs, but he wins games. 

Outside the game —
  • I was so disappointed with MiLB.TV last year, I didn’t sign up this year. But I’m tempted now just to see the 7'1" Dutchman Loek van Mil take the mound for the Clippers. It will happen some time during the Bulls visit, I’m sure. To put him in perspective, he’s 3 inches taller than former Bull Jeff Niemann.
  • Here’s how the Governors’ Cup works. The winner will be coming to Durham for the Triple-A Championship game.
  • Confused by the term ”prospect“? Rays Prospects brings us up to date.
  • Meanwhile, I’m hoping that they update us all on who’s coming into minor league free agency. Nevin Ashley for sure. Anyone else?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Dark Days

Season: 57-66; Trip: 0-3; Bulls v. Mud Hens: 2-5; Standings

Toledo was Will Rhymes’ home stadium for most of the last three years, but his home run in the second game Saturday night seemed to have been particularly offensive. The end result was the manager and two pitchers getting tossed. The first pitcher hit Nevin Ashley, Manager Phil Nevin got tossed for arguing about it, and the next time Rhymes came to bat the Mud Hens pitcher pitched behind him and he got tossed. The one pitchers got a five-game suspension, the other sits out three. 

Otherwise Saturday had to have been simply frustrating. Setting the stage for the suspended game with the bases loaded must have been odd for a reliever like Brandon Gomes, and he ended up allowing 5 runs in 1⅓ innings and really, really messed up his stats for the year.

In the next game, the one with all the excitement, only Rhymes managed to touch the ball with authority.

Sunday’s game drove me to my spreadsheet where something very odd jumped out. Since Chris Archer returned from his stint with Tampa Bay in early July he has allowed just 8 earned runs in 7 appearances. Here’s the oddity — seven of those eight runs came in the 1st inning. I’m guessing that I’m late to the party, but the opposing teams are not. I’m guessing that their scouts have seen this oddity and are telling their hitters to come out swinging when Archer is on the mound. Seems like there ought to be a way to take advantage of that.

Otherwise, a pretty quiet game. The Bulls simply could not put anything together after their big first inning.

Outside the game —
  • The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees are getting a new stadium next season (they’ve been essentially homeless this year). In celebration they are going to give themselves a new name. In keeping with 21st Century marketing wisdom, they are crowd-sourcing the name and letting fans vote. I’m voting for Trolley Frogs. I’ve no idea what that means, but I didn’t know what an Iron Pig was until a baseball team got it as a name.
  • Reporter Randy Turner of the Winnipeg Free Press hit the road with the Goldeyes of American Association (an independent baseball league). He has written a terrific bit of reportage focusing on the players in this fairly obscure corner of baseball — why are they playing, what are their dreams. Fascinating stories including a few from a former Durham Bull. And a video/photo essay. Nicely done.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Rain; Charts; History

Late this afternoon a Bulls pitcher faces an interesting challenge: He will come to the mound and it will be the bottom of the 3rd inning, two outs, bases loaded, and a one ball, two strike count on the Toledo batter. Just how nutso was it for the umps to let it get to that point? But, it is what it is. Tune in. 5:30. By the way, the score is 1-1. If I understand the way this works, they will have to play out the 9 innings, then follow it with a 7-inning game.

So might as well roll out updates to my charts.

The South Division of the International League

It sure looks like Charlotte is in charge. The Bulls have six games against the Knights (4 at home, 2 away) before season’s end, but the Knights are looking very good for the championship.

Path to .500

When we first came up with this chart in late May, .500 seemed a reasonable goal for the Bulls. Not so much now. The Bulls have come back a bit from their early July slump, but it doesn’t look like it will be enough. To reach .500, the Bulls need to win 15 out of the remaining 24 games. That is, they need to play .600+ ball to reach .500.

The Past —
  • A year ago Matt Torra was pitching well. Russ Canzler was doing his MVP thing. Tim Beckham had just come up from Montgomery. 
  • Two years ago I was complaining about the heat.
  • Three years ago Elliot Johnson, Chris Richard, Jon Weber, and Justin Ruggiano were in fine form.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Brignac/Beckham Play Goes Viral

I've seen this play on four different sites in the last hour or so. Why not have it here? From last night's Clippers game. Very, very pretty.

In the discussion last night, Scott Pose seemed to think the play was an accident. To my eye it looks like a deliberate play by Brignac.

Bang! Bang!

Season: 57-63; Home Stand: 5-3; Bulls v. Clippers: 2-2
Home Games Left: 11; Standings

The Bulls had some fun last night. Good idea before this morning's early wakeup and trip to Toledo, Ohio.

Everyone got a hit and almost everyone scored a run in the biggest game the Bulls have had in a long time. Notable was Chris Gimenez’s two home runs (5 RBI), Brooks Conrad's homer announcing his return to the lineup, a Henry Wrigley homer, and Nevin Ashley returning to the lineup with a triple. Speaking of triples, Rich Thompson had his 7th on the year. Thompson just gets on base a lot and with his speed, if he gets a chance he’ll get to third base.

It was a nice end to a pretty good home stand, 5-3. Matt Torra gave up his usual home run(s), but both with no runners on base and they made little difference. Certainly not with the kind of run support he was being given.

Outside the Game —
  • Henry Wrigley and Alex Colome were named the Rays Minor Leaguers of the Month for July. Congratulations!
  • What would happen if a pitcher could throw the ball really, really hard? You wouldn’t want to be at bat (or be the pitcher for that matter).
  • A look at the hitters in the Rays system is over at Rays Prospects. Cole Figueroa, Henry Wrigley, and Nevin Ashley show up fairly well except on the “speed” metric (but we knew that).
Matchup: The Toledo Mud Hens

The Bulls split a 4-game home series with the second-most famous team in minor league baseball, the Toledo Mud Hens, in the middle of June. They are not having a good year, even worse than the Bulls.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Roster Moves: Mangini & Conrad

Infielder Brooks Conrad cleared waivers and has been assigned to the Durham Bulls. That meant that someone had to go. The someone turned out to be infielder Matt Mangini.

Mangini had been the Bulls starting third baseman for most of the year, sharing duties with youngster Cole Figueroa.

Brooks Conrad just came down from Tampa Bay and was subsequently pushed off the 40-man to make room for Evan Longoria.

Oh Runs, Wherefore Art Thou?

Season: 56-63; Home Stand: 4-3; Bulls v. Clippers: 1-2
Home Games Left: 12; Standings

A tough 10-inning loss and a shutout. The Bulls simply aren’t a run-scoring team most of the time. Alex Colome looked just fine until the 6th inning which he began with a single, a walk, and a single. At 80+ pitches and 6 innings work, no one was warming up. He made it through the inning, partially due to call at the plate that went the Bulls way, but two more runs were in. Hindsight being 20-20, looks like maybe he was in too long.

Those two runs may not have mattered that much. The Bulls hitters were clearly outmatched by the Clippers’ Jeanmar Gomez. Here’s hoping that Cleveland calls him up before the Bulls get to Columbus next week. Only Rich Thompson and the returned Will Rhymes seemed to be able to touch his stuff.

Oh well, there was a beautiful partial rainbow out to the southeast in the early innings. We take our pleasures where we can.

Jim Paduch, last seen in a fairly disastrous 6 inning start on July 27, put an inning as a reliever to finish the game for the Bulls. Did OK. 

Outside the Game
  • As noted, Will Rhymes is back in a Bulls uniform. Couldn’t tell for sure, but looks like he’s going without his mustache. Hard to keep track of that. 
  • Pitcher Bryan Augenstein came off the disabled list. Alex Torres is on the DL, so the roster matches up.
  • Infielder Brooks Conrad was designated for assignment the day after he hit a home run for the Bulls. If he passes through waivers he could end up back in a Bulls uniform.
  • Tampa Bay rehabbers lurking out there include pitcher Jeff Niemann and DH/1B Luke Scott. We saw Scott earlier this year. One or both could show up, but probably while the Bulls on the upcoming trip to Toledo and Columbus, Ohio.

Trying a new bit of numerology here. Just a basic matchup. Shows the Clippers score more runs, get on base/hit for power (OPS), and pitch better than the Bulls. I  think we knew that (except for the power part, they haven’t done much bashing, yet).

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Stars of the Game — The Grounds Crew!

They weren't dancing last night ... they were workin!
 (photo from Aug 4 by Orin Day, used with permission)

Season: 56-61; Home Stand: 4-1; Bulls v. Clippers: 1-0
Home Games Left: 14; Standings; Wild Card: -8
Box, Wrap, Herald-Sun

I was doing a volunteer shift at RDU and isolated from the weather, but then my shift replacement arrived shaking the water off her umbrella. A check of the webcam showed the tarp on the field. Leaving RDU I heard on the radio that the tarp’d been pulled, which meant that we were 30-45 minutes away from the game starting. I went home and watched on TV. Kudos to the fans who were still there after 9:00 pm.

I did get to see a pretty interesting game played in almost continuous rain. The tarp was pulled for another delay late in the 4th inning. Then it was rolled up and the field prepped and play resumed for a while, mostly in the rain. A small fortune in Diamond Dry was spread along the baselines and around the bases, but eventually the rain won out. At the end of the 7th the tarp was pulled for the third and final time (at 10:00 this morning it's still there). Heroic efforts were made by the grounds crew and the “all hands” effort that it takes to pull and roll up the tarp, particularly the last time when the wind kept trying to get underneath it.

Meanwhile the Bulls were facing their nemesis of 2010 and 2011 for the first time this year. Columbus has been one of the most talented and best-managed teams in the International League and is in the hunt for the wild card this year (Indianapolis is running away with the IL West division much like Charlotte is running away with the South). As with all out-of-division teams, the Bulls only play them four at home and four away each year. This year those games occur nearly back to back with this series and then a trip to Columbus to follow up next week. Also making the games interesting is the presence of 2011 Durham Bulls hero Russ Canzler who has been playing for the Clippers this year.

Take a look at Harold Gutmann’s piece in the Herald-Sun for some solid number-crunching on the two teams and last night’s game.

I’ve been lamenting the Bulls lack of power and it took new guy Brooks Conrad to change that with the key hit of the game, a two-run homer past the Bull in the 4th.

Lance Pendleton had an above average outing. In fact, if he could somehow wipe the slate of a couple of unfortunate outings during the Bulls long slide in early July, his year would be looking much better. He did a great job getting out of tough situations in the 4th and, after the delay, in the 6th. Adam Liberatore got himself into, then out of trouble (bases loaded K) in the 7th for his first save of the year.

Outside the game —
  • Evan Longoria was activated off the disabled list and is back with the Rays. Will Rhymes will be returning. I wish Longoria well. 
  • If you keep score at the game as I do (I like the Reisner system, but the one in the programs works almost as well), you might want to consider having a very, very elegant pen to mark your scorecard. Last week, I happened to meet the fellows who make Baltz pens in Raleigh. I like stuff that’s made by hand, especially if someone can combine skill with beauty as these guys are doing. To be honest, I probably wouldn’t take the one I bought to a game. I really wouldn’t want to lose it. But it is very, very pretty and it writes well. They have a pencil under development. May want to try that when they have it done. I might take a pencil to a game. On very, very rare occasions I make a trivial mistake that needs correcting. 

Monday, August 6, 2012


Season: 55-61; Home Stand: 3-1; Bulls v. Braves: 10-9
Home Games Left: 15; Standings

The rituals and norms and received wisdom of baseball include bringing in your “closer” to close a game. Even if that closer pitched back-to back-nights on Thursday and Friday. Even if the guy who pitched the 8th inning only used 7 pitches to get through his inning. The wisdom is probably right most of the time (that’s why it’s called “wisdom”). Today it looks really suspect. Frank De La Santos came on in the 8th, and gave up a double. After that he was the beneficiary of a brilliant play by shortstop Reid Brignac who threw out the runner trying to go from second to third on a hard ground ball. A double play finished the inning on those above-mentioned seven pitches. In came the closer with a 1-run lead. Dane De La Rosa couldn’t find the plate until after enough runs had been scored to win the game. 

Post game interviews of rehabbing Evan Longoria mention his slide into second base. They make no mention of what a bad piece of base running it was for him to even try to get to second base, much less that the ball got there long before he did. Longoria’s single dropped off the netting that covers the video board in left and it was an easy toss to second base. 

Every game Wool E. Bull has a “race” around the bases pitted against a very young child. Wool E. always loses (except once a year on his birthday). Trust me. Wool E. Bull could beat the Evan Longoria in his current condition. Yes, Longoria got two singles (including the one he wasted trying for a double), one for a RBI. No, he did not come to plate in the bottom of the 9th with runners on second and third. He’d had his four plate appearances for the day.

The Braves starter Sean Gilmartin is recently up from Atlanta’s AA club. He is really good and that does not bode well for the 2013 Bulls. Assuming he follows the traditional path of young Braves pitchers, he could be with the Braves all next year. Yes, the Bulls got three runs off of him, but he looked very sharp and will be a formidable opponent. Maybe Atlanta will trade him away. The Bulls can hope.

Outside the game —
  • Up in the broadcast booth writer John Feinstein (Living on the Black, Tales from the Q School) was interviewed by Patrick Kinas and Scott Pose. Feinstein is writing a book about AAA baseball. Feinstein has a very good eye and ear for an interesting story, and told some of them last night. I'd expect his book to be worth reading. No word on when it will be coming out. 
  • One of our favorite players from 2011 should be here tonight with the Columbus Clippers, Russ Canzler. I don’t quite understand why he isn’t playing in Cleveland yet.
  • One more time, let me make the plea that Kinas’ interviews be made available as podcasts. Sometimes we just can’t tune in before the game. He’s chatted with some interesting guys. Mystery to me why they can’t be put up on the website. For that matter, how come the video isn’t available on the website?
  • The Bull has been very quiet this home stand. In fact, the last time a Durham Bull hit a home run was July 26th, down in Gwinnett.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Torra Leads the Bulls

Evan Longoria tries to dodge an inside pitch on Saturday. Didn't.
Photo courtesy of Orin Day

Season: 55-60; Home Stand: 3-0; Bulls v. Braves: 10-8
Home Games Left: 16; Standings
Box, Wrap, Herald-Sun

Matt Torra has brought a lot to the Bulls this year and we should acknowledge that. He doesn’t have a stunning ERA (but his 4.26 is the second best among the starters). He has pitched the most innings (118), tied for starting the most games (19), and accumulated the most wins (9). He was just fine last night, letting one run squeak across in the 1st and another in the 3rd. His unfortunate tendency to give up home runs was not in evidence although a few long balls went really long.

Meanwhile the Bulls scratched out three runs in the 2nd inning and that would be enough.

I can’t bring myself to overlook a bad call in the 5th. After a brilliant 12 pitch at bat at the top of the 5th, Rich Thompson singled to right field. According to the ump, he was then picked off. Thompson steals a lot of bases and he knows how to read pitchers. Certainly I am no one pontificate on the balk rule, but I’d say the opinions of everyone in the crowd were with Rich.

Rich Thompson is "helped" off the field by hitting coach Dave Myers while Charlie Montoyo reviews some of the finer points of the rules of baseball with umpire
(photo courtesy Orin Day)

Before that there was Stephen Vogt’s double followed by an “overslide” of second base in the 4th. Mr. Vogt’s a pretty big guy. Once he gets up to speed he sometimes finds it hard to stop. Ump had fun calling the play. I’m sure the folks in the dugout had fun calling the play as well.

A big play in the 6th, when Matt Mangini (playing third base for the first time in quite a while) pegged a ball over the head of Henry Wrigley at first, Wrigley chased it down and threw out the Brave who was  trying to go from first to home. Good hustle that made a difference.

Four wins in a row is a big deal for the Bulls. Congratulations guys.

Meanwhile a great ballplayer is not playing great baseball. Evan Longoria went 0-4, but did get on base when he was hit by a pitch. Otherwise, a K and two popups. At first base after the hbp, perhaps as professional courtesy, Gwinnett did not hold him on.

Outside the game —
  • I believe that I’ve failed to report that the Bull is alive and well and smokin’ and blinkin’ and helping us celebrate these last three wins.
  • Alexander Torres has been put on the disabled list. 

Nice bunch of photos here by Bulls fan (and Duke women’s basketball expert) Orin Day. Thanks Orin!

Wool E. Bull checks out the 9,000+ fans at the DBAP on Saturday night
 (Photo by Orin Day)

Longoria in a lighter moment August 3
(photo by Orin Day)

Grounds crew show how it's done in Durham, Saturday night
(photo by Orin Day)

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Youth vs. Age

Season: 54-60; Home Stand: 2-0; Bulls v. Braves: 9-8
Home Games Left: 17; Standings

The Atlanta Braves have taken an interesting approach to dealing with their end-of-season minor league pitching needs. Looks like they may be thinking about re-naming the team something like the Gwinnett Geriatrics. Last night they started out with a 41-year old (Miguel Batista), followed by a 34 year old, a 30 year old, and finished with a 33 year old.

The Bulls, for their part, began with new guy Alex Colome (23), followed by a 25 year old, a 24 year old, and then finished with the senior member of the corps, 29 year old Dane De La Rosa.

Alex Colome was terrific in his AAA debut outing. Possibly a bit nervous at first, his first five pitches were in the 95 to 97 mph range, but four of the five were balls. But he had a very solid, 98 pitch outing. The guy who scared me was Frank De Los Santos. For the first time since showing up here, the lefty had some pretty serious trouble in the 8th, giving up a home run after letting two guys get on base. Fortunately that came after Stephen Vogt’s heroics in the 7th when his triple put two runs across. That was followed by a single by Leslie Anderson that sent Vogt home and then a Chris Gimenez double that sent Anderson home. Terrific inning that won the game for the Bulls.

Outside the game —
  • A pretty good crowd came out to watch Evan Longoria strike out, draw a walk, and hit a fly ball and a grounder. From my seat in the stands, he does not look good. He made it to third base after his leadoff walk in the 4th and stood on the base through three batters (another story there, the Bulls left 10 runners on base last night). The whole time he was stretching and keeping his weight off his left leg. He has not been particularly helpful as a Bull, 3 for 19 in this visit (all singles), with 6 walks and 5 Ks. Just about the same as Hideki Matsui, who managed four RBIs during his visit. Reports are that he’s off to St. Petersburg soon.
  • Matt Mangini is off the inactive list and expected to play soon.
  • On the bench: Mangini, Wrigley, Thompson (defensive sub in the 9th for Anderson), and Ashley (Albernaz on DL). 
  • Some chatter out there that former Bull RHP Jeff Niemann is well into his rehab as he recovers from a  broken leg. That could mean him showing up to pitch for the Bulls. Also note Maddon’s comments in the same item about possibly calling up Alex Colome.
  • Down in Daytona Beach, Florida, the DJ got ejected from the game and the audio shut down for the rest of a game. Reason: DJ was playing, “Three Blind Mice.” Story. Video.