Rays Opening Day is not until later today, but last night was Opening Day for all the Rays’ full-season affiliates. Let’s recap what happened and get excited about the 2012 season for the prospects the Rays’ currently have in their system.
Triple-A International League: Durham Bulls 4, Gwinnett Braves 3 (12 innings)
It wasn’t enough for the Bulls to start their season with an ordinary win- they had to start off with a bang. Their opener ended up as a classic. RBI singles by Matt Mangini and Chris Gimenez gave the Bulls an early lead. Alex Cobb was the Bulls’ Opening Day starter and while he was hit around a little bit, allowing 6 hits in 5 innings, but he held the G-Braves to 1-run thanks to great swing-and-miss stuff, striking out 8. Cobb was replaced by the rehabbing Brandon Gomes, who struck out 2 and walked 1 in a scoreless inning. But after striking out the side in the 7th, Romulo Sanchez blew the lead in the 8th, allowing an RBI double to Stefan Gartfell, and the game ended up going to extra-innings. Neither team could score as both teams’ relievers dominated, but in the 12th, the G-Braves finally got something. Catcher J.C. Boscan led off the 12th versus Cesar Ramos with a solo home run to give the G-Braves a 3-2 lead. But Ryan Reid was able to escape a jam to get out of the inning without any more damage, giving the Bulls one last chance in the bottom of the 12th. They made it count. Chris Gimenez singled to begin the inning before in typical Rays fashion, Kyle Hudson bunted him over to second base. Will Rhymes followed with a single, but it was hit too hard for the catcher Gimenez to score. That brought Tim Beckham to the plate. Beckham could not manage the flashy game tying hit, but he got the job done, hitting a soft grounder where the only play was at first to tie the game at 3, and after Brandon Guyer walked, Shawn O’Malley hit a groundball to short that turned into an E6, and won the game for the Bulls in a walk-off. A bunch of players we should see by the end of 2012 for the Rays had good games. Chris Gimenez went 2 for 5 with an RBI and a run scored, Matt Mangini went 2 for 4 with an RBI, Will Rhymes went 2 for 6 and scored twice, and Hudson went 2 for 3 as well. Tim Beckham went 1 for 6 with a stolen base and an RBI, but the interesting player tonight was Brandon Guyer. Guyer started the night 0 for 4 with 2 strikeouts, and I noted previously that his timing was way off in spring training, but he worked tough walks in his final two plate appearances of the night, and hopefully those will get him going. It’s always nice to start with a win, and it’s great to see some of the players we know the Rays will need at some point playing well.
Double-A Southern League: Pensacola Blue Wahoos (CLE) 3, Montgomery Biscuits 1
A great starting performance was wasted as the Montgomery Biscuits were unable to begin their season with a win. The Biscuits got great pitching from Shane Dyer, who tossed 5 innings of 2-hit ball with 3 strikeouts versus 1 walk. He allowed an unearned run after Hak-Ju Lee felt the jitters to begin the game, leading to a throwing error and subsequent sac fly. On the hitting side, Hak-Ju Lee went 1 for 4 with an RBI in his season debut, but the game’s hitting star was Cole Figueroa, who went 3 for 4 with a double for the Biscuits, but was stranded on base every time. Isaias Velasquez went 1 for 3 with the lone run scored for Montgomery. The game was tied 1-1 until the 8th inning, when Frank De Los Santos collapsed after two shutout innings to allow a 2-run homer to Henry Rodriguez. Pedro Villareal didn’t earn the win for Pensacola, but he matched Dyer’s performance with 5.2 one-run innings, striking out 7 while walking 1. Hopefully the Biscuits’ offense can get on track, and we’ll see Lee show his promise the rest of the season.
High-A Florida State League: Charlotte Stone Crabs 8, Fort Myers Miracle (MIN) 6
The Stone Crabs were faced with a difficult task on Opening Night, facing a rehabbing big leaguer, Scott Baker. But they more than lived up to the challenge. Baker had trouble getting his work in as the Stone Crabs slammed him for 2 runs in a third of an inning. The Rays had trouble on their side as well, as 2011 supplemental rounder Grayson Garvin struggled to the tune of 3 runs allowed (2 ER) in just 3 innings, striking out 3 but walking 4. But the Stone Crabs were able to compensate for their pitching woes with outstanding offense. Mikie Mahtook had a big day in his official professional debut, going 2 for 2 with a double, 2 RBI, a stolen base, a run scored, and 2 walks. However, Mahtook was far from alone. Five others Stone Crabs had multi-hit days: Phil Wunderlich (3 for 5, double, 2 RBI), Derek Dietrich (2 for 5, double, 3 RBI, 2 runs), Hector Guevara (2 for 5, double, stolen base, 2 runs), Kevin Kiermaier (2 for 3, double, stolen base, 2 runs), and Cody Rogers (2 for 3, RBI). That led to an 8-run explosion, enough to survive a bullpen implosion in the late innings to hold on to win 8-6. We’ll have to see about the Stone Crabs’ pitching staff, but they have a high-powered offense and will be an exciting team to watch in 2012.
Low-A Midwest League: Bowling Green Hot Rods 3, South Bend Silver Hawks (ARI) 0
On Thursday in Bowling Green, Kentucky there was a star-studded matchup between the Rays’ and Diamondbacks’ Low-A affiliates. There were four players in the game who were drafted in the first round or supplemental first round of the 2011 MLB Draft: RHP Archie Bradley, the 6th overall pick by the D-backs, and three supplemental picks on the Rays’ side: SS Jake Hager, 3B Tyler Goeddel, and OF Kes Carter. Three of the four would play huge roles in the game. Bradley found himself in a pitchers’ duel with the Rays’ 6th round pick in 2011, Jake Floethe, and this time, Floethe was victorious. Floethe tossed 5 three-hit innings, striking out 6 without walking a batter, while Bradley struck out 7 versus 1 walk in his 5 innings, but allowing a run on 4 hits. On offense, the Hot Rods were led by a big day by Hager in his full-season debut, as he went 3 for 3 with a double and a run scored, and Goddel also singled in 3 trips in his pro debut. The run producer was Carter, who went 1 for 4 with a 2-run double. Drew Vettleson also went 1 for 3 with a walk and a stolen base for Bowling Green. It was a big win for the Hot Rods, and it will be fun to follow all the Rays’ 2011 draftees, along with top prospects like Vettleson and Ryan Brett (who went 0 for 4 in the game), as the Hot Rods look for their second consecutive postseason appearance.
3-1 is a nice start to the year, and we see a lot of the Rays’ top prospects are getting down to business. 2012 looks to be a great year for the Rays’ minor league teams along with the big league squad, and there wil definitely be more glowing reports on the prospects to come.
Tags: Alex Cobb Archie Bradley Brandon Gomes Brandon Guyer Chris Gimenez Cody Rogers Cole Figueroa Derek Dietrich Drew Vettleson Hak-Ju Lee Hector Guevara Isaias Velasquez Jake Hager Kes Carter Kevin Kiermaier Kyle Hudson Matt Mangini Minor Leagues MLB Draft Romulo Sanchez Ryan Brett Ryan Reid Scott Baker Shane Dyer Shawn O'Malley Tim Beckham Tyler Goeddel Will Rhymes