Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Hemstitching: Anderson, Beckham, Fan Fest & More

40 Days!

  • The Rays are having a stellar spring, and non-roster invitee Leslie Anderson is have a good time with 7 RBI in 4 games so far this spring.
  • Meanwhile, this must have been the day to write about prospective Durham Bull Tim Beckham with stories in the Tampa Bay Times, Rays Index, and
  • Remember the other Brandon, Brandon Guyer? He might be back in Durham at the start of this year. But, he's also got a good shot at sticking with the Rays.
  • It wouldn’t be a day in the Tampa papers without an article on super-prospect Wil Myers.
  • And then there’s a fine introductory piece on sabermetrics. They’ve gone way past OBP and OPS these days.
  • Lastly, don’t miss the Bulls Fan Fest Friday and Saturday. Time to check out the grass and see how Scot's been doing.
Update: And Beckham got a double, a triple, and praise for his infield work in today's game.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Anderson Starts Spring Training With a Bang

Photo by Al Drago, Independent Weekly

Leslie Anderson hit a home run and the Rays won their first spring training game against the Red Sox, 4-3. The Rays had split their squad. The other half of the team lost to the Pirates, 2-3.

We don’t plan to be too obsessive about watching spring training — although we are going down to take a look in a couple of weeks. So far it looks like the best game coverage will be at the ESPN site linked to above.

But a Bulls fan mostly cares about Anderson’s home run. Great way to start the  year.


Friday, February 22, 2013

Hemstitching: World Baseball Classic & More

  • WDBB favorite Alexander Torres has been added to the roster of Team Venezuela for this year’s World Baseball Classic.
  • That led me to a minor effort to try to figure out what the WBC is all about. Just barely stayed awake through that, but did discover a good start point on Wikipedia. Lots of internal links there to rosters, venues, schedules, etc.
  • Of much more immediate interest is the very cool chart over at RaysIndex. There Cork Gaines plots everyone in spring training by age. Of interest to Bulls fans are the non-roster invites. You’ve got to figure all of the older ones are prime candidates to come to the Bulls.
  • Steve Wiseman at the Herald-Sun has followed-up on Trooper Potts baseball career. Pretty interesting.
  • Herald Sun’s take on the Triple-A All-Star announcement also a good read.
  • Lastly, some very serious trivia. While in the Bulls locker room yesterday I noticed that all the clocks were on Daylight Savings Time. Momentarily disorienting. But I had to admit that it makes all the sense in the world. Why bother to change the time on clocks that aren’t looked at in the winter time? Baseball is, and should be, on summertime.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

2014 Triple-A All-Star Game at the DBAP

This really is a big deal for Durham and for the DBAP.  For several days in July 2014 Durham will be very visible to the world of AAA baseball … and that is great for all concerned. 

(Plus I got to see my first ever Bulls press conference which was kinda fun. All sorts of Durham dignitaries there. Even the N&O covered the story and put it out on a breaking news email alert.)

The All-Star game rotates from a Pacific Coast League city to an International League city. Last year it was in Buffalo (A guy named Wil Myers was the MVP). This year it will be in Reno, Nevada. (Note: for more about the IL, see Bulls Basics, and yes I know it needs to be updated a bit.) What will be fun about having it at the DBAP is that the crew that runs the DBAP will get a chance to show off their stuff … again. They proved their mettle last year with the Matsui onslaught and Scott Strickland’s grounds crew did their thing to keep the Triple-A Championship game on track in September.

The All-Star Game is, to my mind, a bigger deal than the Triple-A Championship. It comes in mid-season (July 16) when the players are looking to make the 40-man or, if already on it, working for a call-up. We would get to see quite a menu of young pitchers, and that’s always fun. And won’t it be fun to watch these guys take target practice on the Bull and the Tobacco Road Cafe during the Home Run Derby?

For DBAP regulars what you want to take a look at are the priorities that have been set for ticket sales. 2013 season ticket holders are first in line. Then there’s a link to “get on the list” if you aren’t interested in a package (click on the -select- box to find the choice.

Congrats to all those who worked to make this happen.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Hemstitching: Chris Archer, Trooper Potts, & More

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.
  • A nice article in today's News & Observer about Chris Archer's workout routine this winter. Very hard-working young man. Let's hope that it works out this Spring.
  • Fans may remember front office guy Matt DeMargel. He's back in town and apparently looking for work among folks who don't understand baseball.
  • Graphic artist Craig Robinson was faced with a serious problem. Since he is going to have to give up rooting for the Yankees, how does he pick a new team?
  • The Durham Bulls are doing a lot of tweeting about an announcement to be made tomorrow. Watch this space, or our own twitter feed.
  • Local folks have heard a lot recently about Trooper Michael L. Potts who survived a particularly nasty encounter with a very bad guy. Did you know he once was a Durham Bulls pitcher? Bulls GM Mike Birling gets some airtime on WRAL.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Rays Sign Jack Cust. Too Early to Rant?

The Rays announced the signing of left-hand hitting Jack Cust to a minor league deal. That means he will probably end spring training in a Bulls uniform.

I know it is really, really early to start kvetching about how the Rays treat the Bulls. But things were looking pretty good until this announcement.

Also, I’ve never met Mr. Cust and I’ve never seen him play baseball. So I could be wrong (imagine that!). But remember that WDBB is about the Durham Bulls and a non-playing DH with questionable stats is no way to start start the season.

Mr. Cust was in AAA all of last year. He played in 98 games with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and 16 with Las Vegas (Blue Jays). Decent line .243/.400/.442, but lots of Ks, 148 in 493 PAs. Biggest problem is that he’s a pure DH. He only took the field 8 times in 2012, all while with Las Vegas.

Almost as irritating to a Bulls fan is the cavalier attitudes of the Rays bloggers. Which seems to be, What do we care about the Bulls? It’s OK with us if the Rays park this guy in Durham for a while.

For example, Robbie Knopf over at Rays Colored Glasses:
But you know what can happen over the course of the season, and stashing a halfway-decent backup option at Triple-A on a cheap minor league deal is a worthwhile move.
Or R.J. Anderson at The Process Report:
Because Cust is not a big-league free agent with six or more years of service time he will not require a retention cost come the regular season. Instead Cust could spend the entire season at Durham without added financial commitments.
And Daniel Russel at DRaysBay:
Cust fulfills the back-up designated hitter role Hideki Matsui played in 2012, and profiles as Durham’s every day DH.
But you get the idea. Around here we are remembering last year's start with Juan Miranda followed by Brandon Allen. We remember Hideki Matsui. We remember the pain of April and May 2012. We don't want it to happen again. But I guess we don't have any say in the matter ... and never did. Do we really need a professional DH in Durham?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Where Are They?

Time to take a look at the players who played for the Durham Bulls last year, but won’t be back for 2013. I’m a bit too lazy to chase down everyone who put on a Bulls uniform in 2012, so I will just mention those who were on the roster in September (including a couple of the September call-ups), but have since gone elsewhere. I’ve added some of my end-of-2012 comments about the hitters from previous posts (here and here). Pretty obvious that I guessed wrong in a couple (well, maybe more than a couple) of instances. With the exception of Brignac and Conrad, all of these players are on minor league contracts with, I think, invitations to spring training.

I was not able to find out anything about Jesus Feliciano, although he was playing Winter Ball. And Lance Pendleton does not show up on any of my searches. Help me out if you can.


Jesus Feliciano - ???
Played in the most games of any Durham Bull (125) and was #2 in plate appearances.  His line of .270/.312/.326 and 46 RBI helped. An unimpressive Weighted On-Base Average  (wOBA) of .294 and a Weighted Runs Above Average  (wRAA) of -11.5 does not auger well for his future in a Rays system that loves to crunch numbers.
Reid Brignac - Colorado Rockies
99 games and 400 plate appearances as a Bull in 2012. His line .228/.321/.347 with 46 RBI is not too impressive. His wOBA of .308 and negative wRAA (-5.6) are simply not very good numbers. And yet, from a fan’s perspective, he was a valuable Durham Bull this year. Unlike their parent club, the Bulls defense held up pretty well and that was, in my opinion, helped both by Brignac’s play and by his apparent mentorship of young Tim Beckham.
Henry Wrigley - Colorado Rockies
Played 32 games with the Montgomery Biscuits before coming up and playing 94 games with the Bulls (380 PA). His numbers are pretty good: .285/.324/.472 with 52 RBI. And his wOBA of .350 and wRAA of +7.4 is a match with Vogt’s. Although he put in a few games in the outfield (6), he played mostly 1B (53 games) and as DH (31 games). My guess is that Mr. Wrigley has a good shot at coming out of spring training with a place on the Rays’ 40-man. If he spends the winter working on his 1B footwork, he might go places.
Will Rhymes - Washington Nationals
Played in 46 games (194 times at the plate) in his two stretches with the Bulls. He was mostly at second base. Decent, but not particularly helpful hitting numbers, .256/.326/.361 with 21 RBI, an OK wOBA of .320 and a slightly negative wRAA of -0.9. Rhymes was an infielder-in-waiting all year for the Rays as they moved folks on and off the disabled list. Mostly Rhymes stayed with the Rays. However, the Rays dumped him off the 40-man at the end of the Bulls season. I was mildly surprised to see him pass through waivers.
Nevin Ashley - Cincinnati Reds
Broke his hand in April and didn’t make it back until late July. He got into 35 games with 130 plate appearances. On a small sample, decent numbers. Slash line: .245/.357/.455 with 13 RBI. His wOBA was a .363 and his wRAA was 3.8.
Brooks Conrad - Hanshin Tigers (Japan)
A mid-season hire by the Rays who finished the season with the Bulls (25 games). He was very helpful at the end. Not likely to be back.

Matt Torra - Washington Nationals
Starter: 25 games, 147 innings pitched, 12-7, ERA 4.10, FIP 4.98. Workhorse of the Bulls in 2012 with the most innings pitched. That FIP was worrisome, but looks like the Rays have a lot of youngish talent they want to see with the Bulls in 2013.
Lance Pendleton ???
Starter: 26 games, 129 innings, 8-7, ERA 4.81, FIP 4.25. Says something about baseball that his numbers are significantly better than Alexander Torres, but Torres is still here and Pendleton appears to be still looking for work.
Ryan Reid - Pittsburgh Pirates
Reliever: 46 appearances, 79 innings, 7 holds, 1 save, ERA 3.52, FIP 3.62.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Brignac to Colorado

Reid Brignac, who had been designated for assignment a while back, is headed to the Colorado Rockies spring training camp in Arizona.

He’s already been the subject of a couple of Rays blog posts on his career as a Ray, for example, this piece by John Sickels over at Rays Colored Glasses.

But we are interested in his career as a Durham Bull, and that’s pretty good. He spent parts of four seasons in Durham, appearing in 303 games with 1287 plate appearances. That puts him at #7 on the all-time list. It’s a bit of a surprise to also find him on the all-time OPS list at #15. He is a ballplayer with unquestionably good hands, maybe the high and dry of Arizona and Colorado will suit his bat.

Good luck!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Johnson and Johnson and Canzler

News regarding three former Bulls ...
  • Elliot Johnson is off to Arizona to join the Kansas City Royals. It turns out that he’s become the “player to be named later” in the Shield/Davis, Myers, et al trade. I don’t know a thing about KC, but always happy to see a Durham Bulls star do well. As regular readers will recall, Elliot ranks very high among the all-time Bulls stars.
  • Dan Johnson, former Durham Bull, former International League MVP, and also very high on that all time list, has gone over to the dark side. He’s in spring training with the Yankees. He could show up back in Durham in a Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders uniform. 
  • Russ Canzler was a favorite of WDBB back in 2011 when he had a great season and was also an International League MVP. In a bizarre sequence of events this winter he has been claimed off waivers four times. He’s ended up with the Orioles where it looks like he’s got a great shot at getting a starting position. If he isn’t out of options, however, we could see him back in Durham in a Tides uniform. Part of Baltimore’s success last year came from very clever management of their 40-man roster as they constantly moved players back and forth between Baltimore and Norfolk.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Pitchers and Catchers: Chirinos and De La Rosa

With pitchers and catchers starting work, here are two in the Rays camp we should be seeing with the Bulls this year.
  • Back in 2011 Robinson Chirinos played 78 games for the Bulls after coming over from the Cubs system.That same year he got in 20 games with the Rays. But then he essentially sat out a full year recovering from a concussion he received in 2012’s spring training. According to Marc Topkin’s terrific story in the Tampa Bay Times, he’s back. We can hope so. Good catchers are hard to find. At a guess, both Lobaton and Molina should be worried about a healthy Chirinos and upcoming Chris Gimenez.
  • Meanwhile, as we guessed a couple of days ago, Dane De La Rosa passed through waivers and has been put on the Durham roster. Good news for Bulls fans. Along with the assignment to the Bulls, De La Rosa also got an invitation to spring training. That means he, and Chirinos, will be in the Rays locker room down in Port Charlotte, Florida today.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Who Should Durham Bulls Fans Watch This Spring?

Spring is Almost Here!
Four days from now the pitchers and catchers report for Rays Spring Training in Port Charlotte, Florida. Who should we be watching?

The 2013 Durham Bulls will be built almost entirely from the the players on the Rays 40-man roster and the 24 players on the non-roster invitation list. The Rays need to get down to 25 players at the end of Spring Training. The Bulls usually carry *(see update note) 25 players on their roster. So, just to demonstrate my extraordinary skills at arithmetic: 64 guys in Spring Training, 50 jobs — 14 guys are not going to be in either a Rays or Bulls uniform come April. 

The non-roster invitees are an interesting class of ballplayer. Some are youngsters at Spring Training to get a “taste” of the big leagues (e.g., Mark Thomas), some are players with a good bit of big league time trying to crack into the 40-man (e.g., Shelley Duncan), others are “players in waiting” the Rays have kept off the 40-man, but who will surely go to the majors some day, perhaps even by the end of Spring Training (e.g., Wil Myers), and some are AAA professionals who might be able to fill at some time next year and whom the Rays want keep looking at (e.g., Leslie Anderson and Rich Thompson). Some have contracts that have room for re-negotiation at the end of Spring Training and/or mid-season.

Once Spring Training starts we will start seeing box scores of the major league teams, but nobody will be covering the minor league training camp unless Stacy Long of the Montgomery Advertiser decides to visit. That will not matter too much to us because an oddity of Spring Training is that, for Bulls fans, most of the action is over in the big league camp. 

Who should we be watching? Lets take it position-by-position. Players in bold spent some time in Durham last year. Players with an asterisk are on the 40-man.


Initially the Rays will have seven catchers in camp, but they will eventually get down to two to start the season. Why so many? Because they start camp with 34(!) pitchers. As the pitchers drop off the roster, so will the catchers.
  • *Robinson Chirinos. Chirinos suffered a concussion at 2012 Spring Training and is still recovering. He played some winter league ball. Best guess, the Bulls or the Biscuits as he continues to recover.
  • *Chris Gimenez. The Rays #3 catcher this year. Maybe with the Bulls early on.
  • *Steven Vogt. Likely his last shot to get some traction with the Rays as a catcher. Else he will move to 1B or outfield. In the meantime he’s more than good enough to work with these platoons of pitchers.
  • Mark Thomas. Getting his taste. Likely to start year in Montgomery.
  • Craig Albernaz. Hard to say where he will end up. Albernaz seems to be functioning more as a playing coach than a catcher these last couple of years. Possibly Durham. I hope so. I like watching him at work.

Even though the Rays dropped two infielders last week, they still have 10 on the 40-man and 5 more on the NRI list. Who should Bulls fans be watching this Spring?
  • *Tim Beckham spent all of last year with the Bulls (except for his unfortunate sequestration in the Coventry of drug rehabilitation). I’m guessing he will be competing for a 2B job back with the Bulls.
  • *Hak-Ju Lee is getting a taste and is likely to be the Bulls starting shortstop.
  • Leslie Anderson got a last minute invitation. Probable Bull.
  • Cole Figueroa and Shawn O’Malley are both well-liked by WDBB. Hope they make it back to Durham.
  • Mike Fontenot spent last year with the Phillies and the Iron Pigs. 

The Rays outfield lacks depth, so this could be an interesting list to watch. Much depends on Brandon Guyer’s health. At least one of these players has a shot at staying with the Rays. All of the rest could end up in Durham. Note that none are on 40-man and only one has played as a Bull. However, both Stephen Vogt and Leslie Anderson on other lists have spent time at outfielders for the Bulls.
  • Rich Thompson. Terrific outfielder. Should be back with the Bulls.
  • Wil Myers. On a lot of top prospect lists. Will be getting a ton of attention in the press and on Rays blogs.
  • Shelley Duncan. Strong guy. Struggled last year with Cleveland. 
  • Jason Bourgeois. Another player new to Rays system. Could be fun to watch. Probable Bull.
  • Nick Weglarz. Young, interesting guy out of Indians system.

How can I possibly guess about these guys? Especially the relievers. Here’s one list of starters that strikes me as plausible. All of these guys could be fun to watch. (Well, most of them...)
  • *Chris Archer. Has a shot to jump to the Rays rotation early.
  • *Jake Odorizzi. New guy. Great rep.
  • *Alex Colome and *Matt Buschmann. We’ve seen them. We like them.
  • *Alexander Torres. Will someone figure him out and unlock the puzzle? We can hope.

Relievers? Sorry all I can do is say that there are a couple of guys we’ve seen and liked on both 40-man and NRI list. Such as:
  • Jim Paduch
  • Marquis Fleming
  • Adam Liberatore
There are many, many more relievers in camp, but we just don’t know much about them and, to be honest, we’re too lazy to figure it out at this early date. 

*UPDATE: A careful reader has pointed out that, as simple as it was, I still got my math wrong. The Bulls can carry 25, not 24, players on their roster. 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

De La Rosa Designated

As the Rays continue to sort out their 40-man roster, 2012 Durham Bulls stalwart Dane De La Rosa has been designated for assignment, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

Unlike Brignac and Johnson, I’d guess that there’s a chance that he could pass through waivers and end up with the Bulls this year. I’m not smart enough about baseball to put any money on that guess, but it does seem possible. If so, that’s good news.

De La Rosa was, by far, the most effective short reliever the Bulls had in 2012: 54 games, 68 innings, 20 saves, ERA of 2.90 (3rd best on team), FIP of 2.73 (4th best). If he had a slight statistical weakness it was that he worked awfully hard. His pitches per out ratio was pretty high (5.78), even if nothing like the truly awful ratio of the fondly remembered Alex Torres (7.35). Charts here. Stats here.

Here’s hoping that he makes it through waivers and decides to spend the year with the Bulls. We’d love to see him coming on in the 9th inning sometime this April.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Elliot Johnson and Reid Brignac DFA'd

Elliot Johnson

Reid Brignac

Elliot Johnson and Reid Brignac have been designated for assignment by the Tampa Bay Rays. Both of these ballplayers have spent a lot of time with the Durham Bulls. Johnson ranks #3 on the all-time Bulls list and played in 410 games in a Bulls uniform. Brignac is #7 at 303 games. And both did reasonably well on the all-time OPS list, with Elliot coming in at #14 (.735) and Reid just behind him at #15 (.715).

Is there any chance that either player will show up in a Bulls uniform? Well, they don’t seem to think so. But you never know. They sound upbeat in their interviews with Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times and again with Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune. (Although I suppose it could have been the same conference call. I'm not sure how these things work.) In the case of Elliot Johnson, I’d have to agree that he should be able to find a home somewhere else. Reid Brignac has a fine glove, but he hasn’t had a good season at the plate in a long time. It certainly looks like the Rays have lost confidence.

I have to admit that in his first year as a Bull (2007!) I was unimpressed with Elliot Johnson. However, I didn’t know he’d been pushed over to 2B to make a space for the upcoming superstar shortstop, B.J. Upton. Elliot played some terrific baseball over the next few years for the Bulls. I sure hope he finds a home. If not, he will be more than welcome by Bulls fans (at least one of them).

Reid Brignac has some of the best hands in the game. But he’s being pushed around both in St. Pete and at AAA with the ascension of Tim Beckham and Hak-Ju Lee. He’s helped the Bulls win a lot of games. And he’s provided on-field leadership in some tough moments.

Good luck to both young men!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Hemstitching: Baseballs, Perez, Archer, Hayhurst

Baseball Sewing Machine
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.
  • As it turns out, efforts to build a machine to stitch baseballs haven't been very successful.
  • For a bit of fun, let’s recall the 2008 season when Fernando Perez was just about the most exciting player WDBB had ever seen. The hitting coach that year? Gary Gaetti. So 2013 in Houston could be interesting. Perez tweets that he has signed with an independent league team, Houston’s Sugarland Skeeters managed by former Durham Bull hitting coach Gaetti. As far as I can tell Perez was out of baseball all of 2012, so it will be interesting to see if he can get back to his game.
  • Over at Rays Colored Glasses, Chris Archer spoke with Robbie Knopf about 2012 and getting ready for 2013.
  • Remember Dirk Hayhurst? The writer/pitcher spent most of 2011 with the Durham Bulls. He’s obviously got a book in progress about that year. Here are some excerpts (here and here) about his early in 2011 encounters with Rays manager Joe Maddon.
  • I find myself agreeing with RCG writer David Hill, Leslie Anderson seems to be a forgotten man in the Rays system. Too bad. Hill reports that Anderson doesn’t even have an invitation to the Rays Spring Training camp.