When the Rays have an injured pitcher starting rehab games, they like to send them to their High-A Charlotte affiliate, which is conveniently located just an hour and a half from St. Petersburg and happens to be the Rays’ home for spring training. The rehab games are like a spring training of sorts for the rehabbing players as they look to whip themselves back into shape to return to the major leagues–but instead of working on a particular pitch or a certain part of their delivery, their focus in purely on staying healthy. In his first rehab start for the Charlotte Stone Crabs, Alex Cobb wasn’t sharp, but like in spring training, the results don’t matter much. The only thing that matters is that he made the start without any pain and has begun his return to the major leagues following the line drive that abruptly halted his season.
Triple-A International League: Durham Bulls 11, Gwinnett Braves 3
Always fun to pair great pitching with clutch offense up and down the lineup because when you do, the result is a lopsided score. Mike Montgomery got the start for Durham and was solid, going 6 innings allowing 3 runs on 5 hits, striking out 4 while walking 2. Montgomery has struggled a bit of late but was able to register his first quality start since July 1st and hopefully start a run of solid pitching. Brandon Gomes followed with a strong rehab appearance, striking out 1 while working around a hit in a scoreless inning. With the Rays working in a four-man rotation spot, he may actually find himself with a roster spot waiting for him when he’s ready. Steve Geltz and Jeff Beliveau went an inning each allowing just 1 hit while striking out 2. On the offensive side, there were almost too many heroes to count but Tim Beckham was right at the top, going 2 for 5 with a double, 3 RBI, and 2 runs scored as the Bulls’ leadoff man. He extended his hitting streak to 7 games, and he’s hitting .370 with 3 doubles over that span. Cole Figueroa went 3 for 3 with a stolen base and 2 RBI, Jason Bourgeois went 2 for 5 with a stolen base and 2 RBI, Shelley Duncan had a 2-run double, and Kevin Kiermaier went 2 for 3 with 2 doubles, an RBI, and 3 runs scored. Kiermaier has held his own since getting brought up to Triple-A, managing a .278/.381/.333 line in 11 games.
Double-A Southern League: Montgomery Biscuits 9, Chattanooga Lookouts 0
The past few games for the Biscuits have prompted two “who knew”s for Rays prospect watchers: who knew that Marquis Fleming could be a starting pitcher and who knew that Curt Casali could be this good? Fleming entered 2013 having not started a game since 2008, but on Saturday he made his third start of the year and pitched extremely well, going 6 innings allowing no runs on 7 hits, striking out 6 while walking 1. He was extremely efficient, throwing just 74 pitches (47 strikes) and you have to wonder whether this could be the start of a more permanent conversion if he turns in more starts like this. But Casali was just an impressive in this game, going 3 for 5 with a homer, 5 RBI, and 2 runs scored. In 9 games for the Biscuits, Casali is hitting .429 with a homer and 11 RBI. Is Casali emerging as the Rays’ best catching option at the upper levels? Todd Glaesmann also slammed a 2-run homer in the Biscuits’ win.
High-A Florida State League: Charlotte Stone Crabs 3, Brevard County Manatees (MIL) 2
One annoying thing about rehab starts is that you assume they’re going to go well. The only time fans elicit a more impassioned reaction is when the pitcher re-injures himself. But even if it doesn’t get you riled up, it was great to see Cobb do fine in his start for Charlotte. Cobb went 4 innings allowing 1 run on 3 hits, striking out 3 while walking 2. Cobb’s command wasn’t that great as his groundout to flyout ratio was just 3-3, and he could very well need two more rehab starts, but it was a great first step and something for Cobb to build on. Jacob Partridge went the next 4.1 innings allowing just 1 run on 3 hits as well, striking out 3 while walking 1. Nate Garcia tossed the final 0.2 innings for the save. The Stone Crabs scored 3 runs in the 7th to come back from a 2-0 deficit and win the game, with Jeff Malm beginning the inning with a double, Kes Carter drilling an RBI triple, and Luke Bailey and Kes Carter coming through with RBI singles.