The past year was rough for Brandon Guyer. After being acquired by the Rays in the Matt Garza deal before the 2011 season, he made his major league debut later that season and showed some flashes when given the chance to play. Then in 2012, he was called up amidst the Rays’ bevy of injuries and it seemed like he would a player who could seize the opportunity those injuries were giving him and maybe even his play his way into regular time. Instead, Guyer himself went down with a shoulder injury that required surgery and now he’s stuck in limbo as a 27 year old with only 18 MLB games under his belt and Wil Myers rapidly coming up behind him on the Rays’ outfield depth chart. But despite all that, there’s one easy way for Guyer to get beyond this: to play well at Triple-A and get called up to the major leagues. He’s done that so far this season for Durham and had an especially good day in the Bulls’ doubleheader versus the Norfolk Tides.
Triple-A International League Game 1: Durham Bulls 3, Norfolk Tides (BAL) 2 (7 innings)
After an Opening Day rainout on Thursday, the Bulls and Tides finally were able to make it up on Sunday as they played two 7-inning games. Both games were exciting and went right down to the wire. In Game 1, Mike Montgomery made his season debut and was enigmatic but not terrible, going 3.2 innings allowing 2 runs on 5 hits, striking out 4 while walking 3. His control was pretty bad as he threw just 48 of 83 pitches for strikes, leading to walks in each of his first 3 innings. But after Montgomery managed just a 5.69 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A in his last two years in the Royals organization, hopefully he’s beginning to make progress, at least in baby steps. Jim Paduch took over for Montgomery and was excellent to end the game, going 3.1 shutout innings allowing just 2 hits, striking out 2 while walking none. Paduch, 30, has been a starter his entire career, but he has looked good since the Rays converted him to relief in the spring, and while his career numbers don’t inspire much confidence, the move to relief might finally earn him his first big league time, whether in Tampa Bay or elsewhere, if he keeps pitching even remotely like this. In terms of the run support, it was a pair of former big leaguers who came up big for the Bulls offense, with Jason Bourgeois going 2 for 3 with 2 walks, 2 stolen bases, and 2 runs scored, and Chris Gimenez going 2 for 3 with a double, a walk, an RBI, and a run scored as he looks to play his way onto the Rays’ MLB roster. Cole Figueroa also went 2 for 3 with a walk, Wil Myers had an RBI double, and Tim Beckham also went 1 for 3 with an RBI single. The Bulls actually got 10 hits and 9 walks as a team but went just 2 for 14 with runners in scoring position, leaving 13 on base, although they got just enough to come away with the win thanks to Paduch’s great performance.
Game 2: Norfolk Tides 4, Durham Bulls 3
This game went back and forth, but the Tides rallied against the Bulls at the end to emerge victorious. J.D. Martin started for the Bulls and got hit around a little bit, allowing 3 runs on 7 hits in 4.2 innings, striking out 2 while walking 1. The control specialist Martin unraveled a little bit in the 5th as he allowed a run on a rare walk and a hit and failed to complete 5 innings. That was especially frustrating since the Bulls had rallied to take the lead in the half-inning before. Will Inman did pitch well behind him, tossing 1.1 hitless innings, as this game was tied entering the 7th and final inning. But Kirby Yates recorded just out in the inning on his way to allowing a walk-off hit to Danny Valencia as the Tides won 4-3. The Bulls’ offense in this game was all Brandon Guyer, Hak-Ju Lee, and Mike Fontenot, with Guyer following up 2 walks in the opener with a huge games in the nightcap, going 3 for 4 with a double, a homer, and 2 runs scored, and Lee and Fontenot both went 2 for 2 with a stolen base, with Lee also walking and scoring a run. Once again the Bulls couldn’t do anything with runners in scoring position, going just 1 for 8, and that cost them this time around. Great to see Guyer and some top prospects playing well, but you always want to win and the Bulls, who may have the most talented roster in the International League, have to find a way to execute in key spots and not let winnable games slip away.
Double-A Southern League: Birmingham Barons (CHW) 8, Montgomery Biscuits 4
This was just one of those days for the Biscuits as their starting pitcher got hit hard and their offense was decent but not great. Victor Mateo lasted just 4.2 innings allowing 7 runs on 9 hits, although 2 runs scored after Jimmy Patterson came into the game, and a 5-run 5th by the Barons turned what had been a 3-2 game into an 8-2 blowout. Braulio Lara did finish the game well for Montgomery, going 2 shutout innings allowing 2 hits and a walk while striking out 2. After struggling mightily in the High-A rotation last year, Lara has gotten off to a good start in the Double-A bullpen, and maybe he’s finally found his niche to get to the major leagues. With a fastball that has touched triple digits, Lara could be an interesting relief piece for the Rays down the line. The Biscuits’ bats in this game did not do much beyond Mayo Acosta, who went 3 for 4 with a double, a homer, 2 RBI, and a run scored. Cameron Seitzer did triple in 4 trips while Ty Morrison went 1 for 5 with a stolen base. Rough game for the Biscuits in this one, and they’ll hope to finish their series versus Birmingham strongly tomorrow.
High-A Florida State League: Palm Beach Cardinals 8, Charlotte Stone Crabs 1
One day after the Stone Crabs nearly no-hit the Cardinals, the Cardinals had their revenge as this one wasn’t close. Roberto Gomez wasn’t horrible, allowing 3 runs on 5 hits in 4 innings, striking out 2 and walking 2, and Andrew Bellatti followed him with 2 shutout frames, but the Cardinals were all over Nate Garcia, tagging him for 4 runs in the 7th. The Stone Crabs did have a few offensive highlights, with Richie Shaffer and Curt Casali going 2 for 4 and Taylor Motter going 1 for 2 with a double, a walk, and a stolen base. Pitching makes all the difference, and after having it so resoundingly on Saturday, it was non-existent on Sunday.
Low-A Midwest League: Bowling Green Hot Rods 5, South Bend Silver Hawks (ARI) 0
Six South Bend errors made all the difference in this one as the Hot Rods glided to an easy win. Sean Bierman took the ball for Bowling Green and gave them a strong outing, going 5 shutout innings allowing just 1 hit. He wasn’t overpowering at all, striking out just 1 while walking 1, although he did force an 8-4 groundout to flyout ratio. Bierman will never be a big strikeout guy, but we know he can do better than that. Throwing 5 one-hit innings without your best stuff, though, is pretty impressive. At the plate, a few Hot Rods had nice days, with Andrew Toles going 2 for 5 with a stolen base and 2 RBI, Ben Kline going 2 for 4, and Tommy Coyle going 1 for 3 with a double, 2 walks, a stolen base, and 2 runs scored. The most interesting thing in this game had to be that Tyler Goeddel started at shortstop for the first time in his career and did fine defensively, starting a couple of double plays and making no errors, while going 1 for 5 at the plate. Goeddel is probably still a third baseman moving forward, but we know how much the Rays love versatility and Goeddel’s ability to play shortstop at least in a pinch could serve him well as his career progresses.