While the Rays offense sputtered on Tuesday, their minor league affiliates averaged over 8 runs a game while still getting great starting pitching. Sometimes minor league affiliates parallel their big league club- and other times they can represent exactly what the major league team is longing for as they hope to break out of their struggles. In this case at least, some of the players helping the Durham Bulls play just as well as they have could be doing the same for the Rays before we know it.
Triple-A International League: Durham Bulls 12, Gwinnett Braves 8
This game was over right in the 1st inning, when the Bulls tallied 10 runs, including 2 home runs by Brandon Guyer. Guyer finished the day 2 for 5 with the 2 homers, 5 RBI, and 3 runs scored as he has been on fire to begin the season, managing a .367/.478/.947 line with 2 doubles, 3 homers, and 8 RBI in 5 games. Wil Myers may be the better prospect, but with Guyer healthy and swinging the bat, he’s more likely to be called up first as the Rays hope to ignite their offense. Speaking of Myers, he had a nice day too, going 2 for 5 with 2 RBI and a run scored. He’s hitting a .333 in 22 plate appearances to begin the year, but he has struck out 7 times versus just 1 walk and he could certainly use more work on his plate discipline. One last big performer for Durham was Cole Figueroa, who went 3 for 4 with a triple, a double, a single, an RBI, and a run scored. He’s hitting .467 on the season and still hasn’t struck out in 17 plate appearances. Then there was the pitching for the Bulls, which actually wasn’t nearly as bad as the 8 runs they allowed. Alex Torres started and was great for Durham, tossing 5 shutout innings allowing just 2 hits and a walk while striking out 3, throwing only 74 pitches. Torres was horrific last season for the Bulls, but he righted himself at the end of the season and in Winter Ball and suddenly he’s looking like a player who will see big league time at some point in 2013. Steve Geitz and Frank De Los Santos did collapse in relief of Torres to allow the 8 runs, but Will Inman and Josh Lueke restored order with 2 shutout innings to end the game. This game was a little annoying given that the Bulls had a 12-0 lead and then began giving it away as the game wore on, but when you score that many runs, the fans will cut you some slack.
High-A Florida State League: Charlotte Stone Crabs 6, Bradenton Marauders (PIT) 2
It was almost the reverse of the Rays-Rangers game in this one as the Stone Crabs got great pitching and didn’t light up the sky on offense but came through big with runners in scoring position. Ryan Carpenter got the start in his season debut and his ERA is still 0.00 after he went 5 innings allowing no runs on 4 hits, striking out 7 while walking none. Carpenter has been a sleeper prospect for the Rays the past few years after a velocity loss his junior year in college dropped him to the 7th round of the 2011 Draft, but he was solid for the Hot Rods in 2012 and now has gotten himself off to a great beginning at High-A. Austin Hubbard allowed a pair of unearned runs in the 6th, but Lenny Linsky had a really encouraging outing over the last 2 innings, allowing just 1 hit while striking out 2, recording 3 of his other 4 outs on the ground. A shoulder injury has derailed Linsky’s career, but if healthy his great sinker-slider combination could get him into the Rays bullpen in a hurry. On the offensive side, Taylor Motter, Alejandro Segovia, and Curt Casali all went 2 for 3 for the Stone Crabs while Hector Guevara went 2 for 4, and while the Stone Crabs managed just 2 extra-base hits, they went 4 for 11 with runners in scoring position, getting four key RBI hits and scoring 2 more runs on errors. Great to see Carpenter looking sharp and the Charlotte offense getting contributions across the board.
Low-A Midwest League: Bowling Green Hot Rods 8, Lansing Lugnuts (TOR) 3
We’re still waiting for the Rays to get off to the races on the basepaths and use that to manufacture runs. The Hot Rods already have that covered. The Hot Rods equaled a franchise record with 6 stolen bases, and an even impressive display of their speed was Marty Gantt‘s inside-the-park home run in the 2nd inning. Gantt went 2 for 4 with his homer, 3 RBI, and a run scored in the game continuing his incredible start to the season (.438 average) after a rough go in his pro debut in 2012. Also impressing were Tommy Coyle, who went 3 for 4 with a double, a stolen base, 3 RBI, and a run scored, Tyler Goeddel, who finally had breakout game, going 2 for 4 with a walk, 2 stolen bases, an RBI, and a run scored, and Andrew Toles, who went 1 for 3 with a double, a walk, 2 stolen bases, and a run scored. On the pitching side, Jeff Ames had a great start himself, going 5 innings allowing just 1 run on 2 hits, striking out 3 while walking 1. The Hot Rods are clicking on all cylinders and it’s always fun to see them playing like this.