Monday, March 31, 2014

Durham Bulls Rosters!

3 Days!

Nice to see that manual scoreboard is suriving

About this time of year I’m usually complaining about the lack of information about the Durham Bulls roster. Sometimes we don't know who's going to be coming out the dugout until opening day.

Not this year!

The Durham Bulls have outdone themselves this year and WDBB is really, really appreciative.

Let’s start with the basics:

Most of the information we usually hunt for is in the press release. Then over at their blog they have more with some very nifty infographics.

The basic roster link is not yet up-to-date, but I think that's out of the Bulls control. We have a couple of questions (such as who in the world is Enderson Franco or Leonel Santiago?) but that is also typical and is likely depending on the Rays sorting out all their rosters. Not to worry about except for extreme trivia buffs.

Great work by the Bulls. This is the best start of the season attention to the baseball that I’ve seen since becoming a Bulls fan. How they managed that along with getting the park ready I can’t imagine. But thank you!

So, what about this team? Take a look. I’m a little worried about he depth of experience at catcher, but we’ll put up our own charts soon and see what you guys think. We can even start guessing the opening day lineup. I'll put my guess up soon. Only sure things to start with, to me, will be Kiermaier in center fieldd and Belnome on 1B. The rest?

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Meanwhile Over in Montgomery

Next Thursday!

But while we wait, a visit to Rays/Biscuits world.

A few years ago, in 2010 to be exact, the Rays played their final exhibition game at the DBAP. It was mostly fun to watch, but oddly enough it didn’t seem to attract much coverage.

Not so yesterday in Montgomery. The Montgomery Advertiser pulled out all the stops, publishing seven stories on the visit and the game. And a blogger from Rays Colored Glasses even made a visit. Sounds like everyone had fun.

The Biscuits won the game; they should come to Montgomery more often; the catcher looked awfully good; former Biscuits happy to visit; particularly Desmond Jennings; and Maddon gave an interview.

In return, Maddon got a key to the city.

Blogger Drew Jenkins drove down from Knoxville, TN and wrote it up for Rays Colored Glasses.

To put the very tiniest of Bulls spin to this story, none, not one, of the projected 2014 Durham Bulls played on either side for this game. How's that for trivia?

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Fontenot Coming Back

Photo Courtesy Herald-Sun
Sometimes we love being wrong, and this is one of them. A guy who really helped the Bulls last year, Mike Fontenot, is coming back.

The headline for the Rays has to do with left-hander Erik Bedard who is also coming to the Bulls and also welcome. But Fontenot fills a big hole made by the injuries to Hak-Ju Lee and Tim Beckham. I’m sorry he didn’t make the Nationals, of course, but the veteran adds a good bit of depth to the infield for the Bulls.

By the way, we recently mentioned former Bull Brandon Guyer, who looks to stick with the Rays this year. Check out this terrific catch he made yesterday.

Friday, March 28, 2014


6 Days!

A look at the new video board. Already running a Gildan ad.

The infield looks much better than the last time I looked at it. Which is hopeful since the first game is next Thursday!

Speaking of next Thursday, the Rays completed their downsizing by releasing Jayson Nix, Wilson Betemit, and Mark Lowe. They also re-assigned Ray Olmedo and Mayo Acosta to minor league camp (although Olmedo is in the box score of today's Rays-Tigers game. Go figure.)

That doesn’t necessarily mean that one or more of the first three will not end up in a Durham Bulls uniform. They were released to see if they could find major league work elsewhere. That’s a good thing. If they end up in Durham it means that they want to be in the Rays system.

Pleased to see Brandon Guyer stick with the Rays. We think a lot of that young man, who has had more than his share of injuries in recent years. Good luck!

WDBB favorite Craig Albernaz was moved out of the Tigers major league camp and is not showing up on their 40-man. Not sure if he will end up with the Mud Hens or not. If anyone hears, please let me know.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Durham Bulls Basics 2014 - Part 2

The Schedule

The International League schedules 144 games for each of its teams. Half of those games are played at home. So, unless you are truly a Durham Bulls fanatic, you will only have 72 chances to see your Bulls during the regular season. Although, Charlotte and Norfolk aren’t all that far away ...

In 2014 the Bulls open their season on April 3 with a game against the Atlanta affiliate, the Gwinnett Braves. The last home game (September 1) is a day game against the Norfolk Tides.

A key feature of the IL schedule is that the Bulls only play 8 games against each team outside the South Division, 4 at home and 4 away. That means that if you are a Boston fan the only chance you’ll get to see Red Sox prospects will be June 3 - 6. That’s it. They won’t be back unless both teams are in the playoffs in September. The same is true if you’re a Yankees fan (April 26 - 29), a Reds fan (May 17 - 20), or a fan of any of the other parent clubs of teams in the North or West divisions of the International League. Said another way, the Bulls only play 40 games at home with the teams from outside the South Division.

On the other hand, if you’re a Braves (Gwinnett) or White Sox (Charlotte) or Orioles (Norfolk) fan, you’re in luck. (Well, it’s a bit difficult to call an Orioles fan as being in any sort of luck, but you get the idea.) Those teams will be here a lot this year (Charlotte - 11, Norfolk - 11,  and Gwinnett - 10 times)

The Bulls have a 10-game home stand in August, but home stands usually run 4 - 8 days. Road trips are often 8 days long, but sometimes they are shorter.

Triple-A ballplayers have a much more relentless schedule than major leaguers. They play more games with fewer days off, at least until September.

The Triple-A All-Star game pitting the International League All-Stars against the Pacific Coast League All-Stars is set for July 16, well past mid-season, and will be played at the DBAP. Exactly how the players are selected for the game is something of a mystery. Fans do get a vote; however, usually the IL doesn’t bother to tell us how the voting went. You can expect the Bulls and the city of Durham to be promoting the game, as should we Bulls fans.

The International League Championship (The Governors’ Cup) is decided with two rounds of best of five playoffs in September. A one-game “AAA Championship” game is to be played at the home ballpark of the Charlotte Knights on September 16, 2014.

The Durham Bulls, as all readers of this blog must know, in recent years won the Governors’ Cup and the AAA Championship in 2009, the Governors’ Cup in 2013, and has won the Southern Division championship six of the last seven years.

The 40-Man Roster

And now, sigh, let’s talk about the Tampa Bay Rays.

To clear up some possible confusion, the Tampa Bay Rays play baseball in St. Petersburg, Florida, not Tampa. That may come as a bit of a surprise to those not familiar with Florida geography (or modern marketing strategies).

Every major league team consists of 25 players on the “active” roster. Those are the guys in the games and in the box scores, traveling in chartered airplanes, and making a decent, sometimes obscene, amounts of money. An additional 15 players are added to make up the 40-man roster. In general, once a player makes it to the 25-man active roster he stays there (unless traded, sold, or designated for assignment). For players who have been around for a while, there are all sorts of byzantine rules regarding how this works. To complicate matters, the rules were recently changed to allow major league teams to expand their roster to 26 on days that they have a double-header. What matters to Bulls fans, however, is that a Bull cannot be called up to play in a Rays game (even to temporarily replace an injured player) unless he is first on the 40-man roster.

Here in Durham we are not much interested in the active roster. What matters to Bulls fans are those 15 ballplayers who are on the Rays 40-man but not on the active roster. Members of that 15 man group usually make up the heart of the Durham Bulls.

If previous years are typical, we can expect that 11 to 12 of the players on the 40-man will be assigned to Durham and they will probably be split about 6 or 7 pitchers and 4 or 5 position players. Players on the 40-man who aren’t with the Bulls are oddities a bit difficult to explain and don’t really make that much difference to us. Mostly they are playing at AA and lower levels, plus all those on the 60-day disabled list. Of the pitchers, one or two will be prospective starting pitchers, the other potential relievers. Fairly often when WDBB writes about a Bull we will mention whether or not he’s on the 40-man.

Why are the players we see here playing for the Bulls? Lots of reasons. And that’s one of the pleasures of watching AAA ball. Why is this guy here? When will he be called up? Will he be called up?

The odds of being called up are pretty good. There are enough injuries and trades in a given year that almost all of the players on the 40-man who start the year with the Bulls will at least get a few days with the Rays. Some will go there and stay.

What about the Bulls who aren’t on the 40-man? Unless Tampa Bay takes someone off the 40-man, they cannot be called up. Adjustment to the 40-man roster can, and does, happen, but not very often. On the other hand, the Rays are nothing if not creative in gaming the major league player rules system.

The 40-man roster also has an effect on how the players who are with the Bulls are used. For example, pitchers may be on limited pitch counts and/or working on specific pitches that the Rays have decided the pitcher needs to develop. Relievers may be tested to see if they can do two days in a row, or “tried out” as a closer. We will see infielders playing the outfield (and vice versa).

My point is that sometimes what we see on the field is decided in St. Petersburg, not in the Bulls’ clubhouse. The Rays really aren’t particularly interested in the Bulls’ won-loss record. So, we will inevitably see some unfortunate (for the Bulls) decisions, such as a player being called up, sitting on the Rays’ bench for a couple of weeks, then coming back to Durham with his timing shot and struggling at bat. And with this new 26 man roster for double header rule, Bulls’ pitching rotations can get really screwed up with a pitcher being called up for a spot start and then coming back.

We cannot avoid the fact that the Durham Bulls live and die at the whim of the Tampa Bay Rays front office. What’s fortunate for Bulls fans is that the Rays have invested a ton of effort into building a steady stream of talent to feed into the big team. More than that, in the Rays system very few upcoming prospects just “pass through” AAA-level ball. Time with the Bulls is a real and very serious testing ground for pitchers and hitters. That means we will get to see a lot of very talented ballplayers with first rate managing/coaching crew. Lastly, of course, without the Rays we wouldn’t have AAA ball here at all.

All of which is not going to keep me from complaining about the Rays. Hey, it’s baseball!

For  more background on the 111 years of Durham Bulls history, check out the Bulls’ web page and the Wikipedia page.

For WDBB’s and other views on who are the Great Triple-A Durham Bulls see this post about great hitters and this one and another from last year about great pitchers.

If you missed Part 1, check it out here.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Durham Bulls Basics 2014 - Part 1

The season opens soon and I’m thinking that fans will be looking around the web for information about the Durham Bulls. As we've done for the last couple of years, WDBB will make a stab at telling folks the basics of this wonderful baseball team. I hope that it doesn’t come off as too basic, but this is mostly stuff I did not know when I became a Bulls fan.

If you see a mistake, let me know. I’ll fix it as soon as I can.

AAA Baseball

The Durham Bulls are the Triple-A franchise of the Tampa Bay Rays.

Triple-A baseball is one step below major league baseball. How do we know that? Because Major League Baseball says it is.

Major League Baseball has 30 teams: 15 in the American League and 15 in the National League. Each major league team has a AAA team in their farm system. Thus, there are 30 AAA minor league baseball teams — who said I couldn’t do basic arithmetic? (Except, of course, that there’s a AAA Mexican League with 16 teams and recognized by Major League Baseball, but I’ve never been able to figure that one out. This is the last mention of the Mexican League for another year.)

The 30 Triple-A teams are divided into two leagues: The International League with 14 teams and the Pacific Coast League with 16 teams. So that sort of makes sense, so far.

What also makes sense is that, mostly, the International League is made up of teams who have their major league affiliates in the eastern and midwestern part of the country, while the Pacific Coast League’s parent clubs are, mostly, in the southwest and west.

But, hey, it’s baseball, so there will inevitably be a few quirks in the system. The Marlins, Brewers, and Cubs affiliates, for example, are all in the Pacific Coast League not in the International League.

The Durham Bulls are in the International League.

The International League

The 14 teams in the International League are matched up with major league teams without regard to whether the parent club is in the National League or the American League. The IL has teams affiliated with Boston, New York (Yankees), Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Atlanta, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Detroit, Chicago (White Sox), Toronto, and Minnesota. That gives the IL 9 American League and 5 National League affiliates.

Logic would say that since AAA is the next step down from the majors, the teams would prefer to be in close proximity to each other. Sometimes that’s true. Toledo is linked to Detroit, Pawtucket is the AAA team of Boston, and the Atlanta Braves' AAA club is just a long taxi ride away in Lawrenceville, Georgia. On the other hand, Charlotte is pretty far from Chicago and the Durham to Tampa Bay distance is a good bit more than average.

Obviously, all the teams in the “International” League are in the US, but up until recently there was a team in Ottawa. That gave us the chance to sing along to “O, Canada” four times a year. You can bet that someday — maybe not in my lifetime, but someday — The IL will have a team back in Cuba (Havana had a team in the 50’s), San Juan, or Mexico City.

Sports author John Feinstein's newest bookWhere Nobody Knows Your Name, mostly features International League personalities.

With teams from both the National and American Leagues, what about the designated hitter rule? In the International League the only time pitchers go to bat is when both clubs are National League affiliates. That means that no Durham Bull pitchers will go to the plate this year (except in the very weird circumstance where a pitcher could go to the plate as a pinch-hitter — not likely, but possible).

The International League has three divisions: North, West, and South

Divisions and Affiliations

North Division

Buffalo Bisons - Toronto Blue Jays
Lehigh Valley IronPigs - Philadelphia Phillies
Pawtucket Red Sox - Boston Red Sox
Rochester Red Wings - Minnesota Twins
Syracuse Chiefs - Washington Nationals

West Division

Columbus Clippers - Cleveland Indians
Indianapolis Indians - Pittsburgh Pirates
Louisville Bats - Cincinnati Reds
Toledo Mud Hens - Detroit Tigers

South Division

Charlotte Knights - Chicago White Sox
Gwinnett Braves - Atlanta Braves
Norfolk Tides - Baltimore Orioles
Durham Bulls - Tampa Bay Rays

The league offices are in Dublin, Ohio.

Next: See Part 2

Monday, March 24, 2014

Ouch! Alex Colome Suspended

Stacy Long is reporting that prospective Bulls starting pitcher Alex Colome has been handed a 50-game suspension for steroid use. Colome did not have all that good a 2013, spending the end of the season on the DL. But we all had high hopes the 25-year old would be coming back to take a lead job with the Bulls this year. Not for the first 50 games it would appear.

More on story here and here.

Can Bulls GM Mike Birling Top This?

I know that we are in the South, but we have had some fairly miserable opening days. Just wondering if  Durham Bulls General Manager Mike Birling could possibly top this offer by GM Rob Crain of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Railriders.

Hemstitching: Lee Re-Injured? E.J. Makes Indians. And More ...

  • Montgomery Advertiser reporter and Biscuits blogger Stacy Long is down in Florida and scaring us to death with posts like this telling us Hak-Ju Lee left a game Saturday in a golf cart. However, a bit later he also reported that the injury wasn’t serious. I sure hope so. 
  • Long also has some interesting stuff on pitcher C.J. Riefenhauser and outfielder Kevin Kiermaier.
  • Meanwhile, I’m pleased to report that Elliot Johnson made it all the way from being a non-roster invite to the 25-man active roster of the Cleveland Indians. Good for him. I really did not want to see him back in the DBAP playing in Triple-A this year.
  • On the other hand, Dan Johnson is likely to be back in Durham later this year. This time in a Buffalo Bisons uniform. He was cut from the Blue Jays spring training roster a couple of days ago.
  • At a game last year we got into a discussion on “pitch framing” with a person who umpires college baseball. She insisted that pitch framing was overrated. This article in Sunday’s New York Times would beg to differ and implies that it’s a skill that the Rays are value very highly.
Update: Tampa Tribune reporter Roger Mooney is tweeting that it's a calf strain and that Lee will be out for 3-4 weeks.

Friday, March 21, 2014

New Blog on the Block

WDBB is pleased welcome the latest, and likely most informative, Bulls blog on the block, Hit Bull Win Blog.

It looks to be an “Official Affiliate” blog on the MLBlogs network, that usually carries the tagline, “Official Affiliate/Unofficial Opinion”. If it stays with us, it may become the only surviving “official” AAA blog in the International League. I haven’t run my traps this year, but all the previous ones that I’ve seen opened a season with a few entries and then died. There were a couple of Triple-A fan blogs last year, but I haven't checked on them yet. And I haven't seen if the Independent Weekly will be bringing back its Bulls coverage. The more the merrier.

Certainly they are out of the box with a terrific analysis of the Durham Bulls possible roster on opening day, including some speculation I haven’t seen before (e.g., Casili to the Biscuits), but which makes sense.

I’m hoping that the blog will address the severe lack of news when the Bulls go on the road. During road trips we are completely dependent on radio reports and we can't always listen to the games. Maybe this the new blog will fill the gap. In the meantime, we’ll put a link up on our home page and you can check it out.

In more roster news,  the Rays are cleaning out their locker room. Yesterday eight more went off the in-camp roster. Pitchers Steve Geltz, Adam Liberatore, Juan Sandoval, and Brad Boxberger; infielder Cole Figueroa, catcher Roman Ali Solis, and outfielders Jerry Sands and Justin Christian.

That puts 30 players who started spring training in major league camp now in the minors. The Bulls usually carry 25, so likely a few on this chart will start with the Biscuits or, possibly, exercise an opt-out clause and look for work elsewhere.

Only three of the non-roster invites from our earlier chart remain with the Rays: Infielders Jayson Nix and Ray Olmedo, and pitcher Mark Lowe.

2013 Team(s)
To Minor Camp
Enny Romero*23LHPBulls/Biscuits3/8/2014
Mike Montgomery*23RHPBulls3/8/2014
Alex Colome*25RHPRays3/8/2014
Matt Andriese†23RHPPadres AAA3/8/2014
Merrill Kelly†25RHPBulls/Biscuits3/8/2014
Victor Mateo†24RHPBiscuits3/8/2014
James Darnell†27OFPadres AAA3/8/2014
Luke Maile23CBowling Green (A)3/8/2014
Braulio Lara†25LHPBiscuits/Bulls3/11/2014
Santiago Garrido†23RHPRoyals AA3/11/2014
Sam Runion†25RHPRoyals AA3/11/2014
Curt Casali25CBiscuits3/11/2014
Jeff Beliveau*27LHPBulls3/13/2014
Nathan Karnes*26RHPNationals System3/13/2014
C.J. Riefenhauser*24LHPBulls/Biscuits3/13/2014
Kirby Yates*27RHPBulls3/13/2014
Vince Belnome*26InfBulls3/13/2014
Kevin Kiermaier*23OFRays/Bulls/Biscuits3/13/2014
Hak Ju Lee*23InfBulls3/13/2014
Mikie Mahtook†24OFBiscuits3/13/2014
Eddy Rodriguez28CPadres system3/18/2014
Jeremy Moore†26OFDodgers System3/18/2014
Brad Boxberger*26RHPPadres/Tuscon3/20/2014
Jerry Sands†26OFPittsburgh System3/20/2014
Roman Ali Solis†26CPirates System3/20/2014
Justin Christian†33OFCardinals AAA3/20/2014
Cole Figuroa†26InfBulls3/20/2014
Juan Sandoval†33RHPBulls/Biscuits3/20/2014
Adam Liberatore†27LHPBulls3/20/2014
Steve Geltz†23RHPBulls3/20/2014

* = Rays 40-man Roster
† = Invitation to Spring Training

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Playing Time and the Bulls Roster

Playing time, and when you come in the game, are great indicators of who’s going to end up where at the end of spring training. At least that’s what Cork Gaines over at Rays Index thinks. I agree. So first you should take a look at the chart he’s developed and his conclusions he's drawn regarding the Rays 25-man roster.

Based on Cork's table we can make some educated guesses about the Bulls’ starting lineup.

For example, just looking at three infielders we see that the playing time of three players  — Cole Figueroa, Ray Olmedo, and Jerry Sands — have mostly come in the later innings. Looking back at our last post, we see that Vince Belnome and Hak Ju-Lee have already been sent down so it looks like the Bulls have an infield (and a pretty darn good one at that). Two loose ends, from a Rays perspective, are Wilson Betemit and Jayson Nix.

At catcher, Ali Solis is the only one getting any early playing time. Curt Casali has already been sent down. Still some room for guesswork here.

Based on this list we’d have to guess at Justin Christian and Jeremy Moore being added to outfielder/DH slots, but a lot will depend on whether or not the Rays think Mikie Mahtook is ready for Triple-A.

Meanwhile, of course, with four (count ‘em, four!) Triangle teams in the NCAA tournament, we’re going to be hard-pressed to pay attention to baseball for a while.

Friday, March 14, 2014

More Moves, Roster Shaping Up

Something going on with infield this morning
More moves yesterday to minor league camp and it begins to look like the Bulls roster is shaping up very nicely. We aren’t going to know for sure until April, but we can certainly expect most if not all of the players on the 40-man to be in a Bulls uniform. A few of the non-roster invitees will likely end up on the Montgomery Biscuits roster.

PlayerAgePosition2013 Team(s)To Minor Camp
Enny Romero*23LHPBulls/Biscuits3/8/2014
Mike Montgomery*23RHPBulls3/8/2014
Alex Colome*25RHPRays3/8/2014
Matt Andriese†23RHPPadres AAA3/8/2014
Merrill Kelly†25RHPBulls/Biscuits3/8/2014
Victor Mateo†24RHPBiscuits3/8/2014
James Darnell†27OFPadres AAA3/8/2014
Luke Maile23CBowling Green (A)3/8/2014
Braulio Lara†25LHPBiscuits/Bulls3/11/2014
Santiago Garrido†23RHPRoyals AA3/11/2014
Sam Runion†25RHPRoyals AA3/11/2014
Curt Casali25CBiscuits3/11/2014
Jeff Beliveau*27LHPBulls3/13/2014
Nathan Karnes*26RHPNationals System3/13/2014
C.J. Riefenhauser*24LHPBulls/Biscuits3/13/2014
Kirby Yates*27RHPBulls3/13/2014
Vince Belnome*26InfBulls3/13/2014
Kevin Kiermaier*23OFRays/Bulls/Biscuits3/13/2014
Hak Ju Lee*23InfBulls3/13/2014
Mikie Mahtook†24OFBiscuits3/13/2014

* = 40-man Roster
† = Non-Roster Invite to Spring Training

Monday, March 10, 2014

Eight Men Moved

The Rays have moved eight players to minor league camp, giving Bulls fans a developing look at roster possibilities. Of the six pitchers, three are on the 40-man and there’s little reason for them not to move to the Bulls roster. When you move that many pitchers, though, you don’t need all the catchers in the big league camp, so young Mr. Maile moved “down” as well. All of them were on our master list from a few days ago.

Note that the Port Charlotte setup is huge. Moving to minor league camp means moving from one locker room to another. They’ve got five or six fields down there, but no press coverage to speak of. So these fellows will disappear off the stats sheets until April.

PlayerAgePosition2013 Team(s)
Enny Romero*23LHPBulls/Biscuits
Mike Montgomery*23RHPBulls
Alex Colome*25RHPRays
Matt Andriese†23RHPPadres AAA
Merrill Kelly†25RHPBulls/Biscuits
Victor Mateo†24RHPBiscuits
James Darnell†27OFPadres AAA
Luke Maile23CBowling Green (A)

* = on Rays 40-man roster
† = Non-Roster invitee

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Hemstitching: Elliot Johnson back to the DBAP? And more

Durham Bulls Athletic Park, March 8, 2014

  • 26 Days to Go!
  • The sun came out today!
  • Condition of the infield looks worrisome
  • Former Bull and WDBB favorite Elliot Johnson is off to a hot start as a non-roster invitee to the Cleveland Indians camp. In five games his OPS is 1.308 with two triples and 1 HR. If he doesn’t break through, then we will very likely be seeing him with the Columbus Clippers this year. They come to town on May 1. 
  • Vince Belnome, one of last years stars, is getting some good press down with the Rays.
  • As is Kevin Kiermaier as seen here.
  • Former Durham Bull, Dirk Hayhurst has just published the third installment in his ongoing saga as a baseball player, Bigger Than the Game. He has not yet reached his year with the Bulls (2011), so we don’t yet know what he thinks about Durham. Review by Adam Sobsey here. I haven’t had a chance to get a copy yet. 
  • Bull City Summer got some national attention on Slate magazine.
  • An interesting look at how the Rays approach the DH situation is here. Playing on artificial turf is awfully tough no matter how much they work at making it imitate real grass.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Where Nobody Knows Your Name

Book Review

John Feinstein, Where Nobody Knows Your Name: Life in the Minor Leagues of Baseball, Doubleday.

John Feinstein, sportswriter/commentator of great repute, spent the 2012 baseball season roaming around Triple-A, mostly in the International League. He followed several players, an umpire, and two managers (including the Durham Bulls’ Charlie Montoyo). We heard him interviewed by our own Patrick Kinas during that season.

I really wanted to like this book because very little has been written about Triple-A baseball and Feinstein spends a good bit of time with managers and players I am intensely curious about. I am a fan of Charlie Montoyo and really wanted to hear what he’d said to Feinstein. Nevertheless, I have my reservations that I’ll get to later.

For Bulls fans you need to know up front that several Bulls, former Bulls, and DBAP denizens who were prominent in the 2012 season get at least some mention, including Craig Albernaz, Chris Gimenez, Dan Johnson (he was playing for the Charlotte Knights that year), Stephen Vogt, Jeff Salazar, Brooks Conrad, Reid Brignac, Wil Rhymes, Scott Strickland, broadcaster Patrick Kinas, Rich Thompson, the Matsuzaka/Matsui matchup game, and more names that I’m probably forgetting. But all of them also show up right here in WDBB if you search on them.

Feinstein worked hard to get inside the heads of the players and managers of Triple-A, reinforcing WDBB’s own view that Triple-A, while it is a minor league, is also different from the rest of the minors in that the players are so very, very close to the majors.

His technique is to introduce several players (veteran pitchers and position players), two managers (Norfolk’s Ron Johnson in addition to Durham’s Montoyo), and an umpire at spring training. He then spends some time with them throughout the season. Along the way he introduces a ton of other folks and, to be honest, I began to lose track of who was in the spotlight and could not follow just why they were introduced. All the players highlighted were players who had made it to the big leagues for at least a few games and were trying to make it back and/or decide to not try any more. I often lost the thread of the stories he was trying to tell.

Entirely missing is an effort to take Triple-A as a baseball experience of its own. Admittedly, that’s a rare thing to try to do, and there’s likely little audience. But some small fraction of the audience at the 2,000 games played in the International League each year go to the games because they want to watch a specific team play within a specific context of International League competition.

On the other hand, the book is full of trivia that I’ll probably be using for years.

Final assessment: Bulls fans might need to read this book, but it is a bit of a slog. Plus, what Bulls fan really wants to remember much about 2012?

On the shelf at Raleigh’s Quail Ridge Books.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Hemstitching: Player Watch, and ...

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.

On a rainy Monday morning. Video board's going to be huge. Wonder what's going to go behind visitor bullpen area?
Keeping an eye on potential Bulls.

  • The big news is that Hak-Ju Lee looks healthy.
  • We missed Erik Bedard on our list, but he also looks like he's got a good shot at the Rays rotation. Stories here and here.
  • Cork Gains over at Rays Index projects a 25-man roster that has a couple of our watchlist guys on it: Logan Forsyth, Jake Odorizzi, Juan Carlos Oviedo. Gains would put Karns and Bedard with the Bulls.
  • Rays Radio had a interesting interview with Adam Liberatore.
  • Tim Beckham was interviewed regarding his knee injury and rehab progress.
  • Rays Index scoured the web for images of former Rays in their new uniform. Several have spent time with the Bulls in recent years.
  • DRaysBay has its season projections up. Several players on our watch list mentioned.
  • The Bulls media office got into a fun twitter exchange with their counterparts in Allentown (the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs)
  • The Process Report reports on Rays depth and takes a close look at almost everyone on our list.