You never know where a turnaround can begin. Even when it happens, it’s only weeks, months, or even years later that you can truly grasp if and when a turning point occurred. At the same time, though, you have to start somewhere. Mike Montgomery was locked in for the first time in way too long, and the Rays have to hope it’s a sign of things to come.
Arizona Fall League: Salt River Rafters 3, Surprise Saguaros 2
With just a one-run lead in a highly-contested game, the Salt River Rafters handed the ball to Mike Montgomery. Considering how much Montgomery has struggled, it was far from the safest proposition. But when he took the mound, Montgomery gave the Rafters exactly what they were looking for. Montgomery began the inning by allowing a hard-hit ball to Tony Wolters, but it landed in the glove of centerfielder Kenny Wilson and Montgomery was dominant after that, striking out Joe Wendle before forcing Dariel Alvarez to ground out. Overall, Montgomery threw strikes on 14 of his 19 pitches as he labored but at the end of it all had his first easy inning in way too long. Great to see Montgomery dealing, and hopefully he can keep it going next time out.
The only other Rays prospect in the game was Ryan Brett, who went 0 for 4 to drop to 0 for 9 on the season. However, Brett did draw a walk and he actually has 4 walks versus just one strikeout on the season. Brett is showing good discipline and making contact, and he’s actually hitting the ball hard. In this game, he hit a pair of rockets to the outfield, but one was turned into a double play by centerfielder Tyler Naquin while the other was hit right at right fielder Dariel Alvarez. Brett has gotten off to a tough start. But he’s doing everything right and his luck will turn around.
Mexican Pacific League: Aguilas de Mexicali 3, Yaquis de Obregon 2 (13 innings)
A lot of these games from the Caribbean Leagues feature just one ex-Ray or two, but this was not one of those games. The Yaquis gave starting catcher and ex-Rays minor leaguer Iker Franco the day off, but to replace him, of course they had to use a current Rays minor leaguer: Armando Araiza, who spent 2013 at Advanced Rookie Princeton. Araiza understandably had trouble against the older competition, but another P-Ray ended up playing a big role in the game. Obregon took a 2-1 lead in the 4th inning on a Carlos Valencia 2-run single, the only hit the Yaquis got in the first 10 innings of the game. Marco Duarte allowed just 1 hit in 5.2 innings for Mexicali, and while he walked 3 batters while striking out 3, he forced a strong 11-3 groundout to flyout ratio. However, two huge errors behind him in that 4th inning caused him to depart in line for the loss.
Marco Carrillo had a huge start for Obregon, going 7 innings allowing just one run on a Kevin Kouzmanoff solo home run. But in the 9th, Kouzmanoff came up big again against Mark Lamm, tying the game on a sac fly to send the game into extra innings. Then in the 13th, the Aguilas capped their comeback on a Chris Roberson walk-off home run. Who got the win? None other than Araiza’s teammate this season, Edgar Gomez, who worked around a hit in the 13th to toss a scoreless inning before Roberson won the game. Cesar Carrillo (the other Cesar the Padres drafted in the first round in 2005 aside from Cesar Ramos), tossed a perfect inning along the way for the Yaquis. Iker Franco also struck out pinch-hitting for Araiza while Mike Jacobs went 0 for 4 with a walk. Overall, two current Rays, one former Ray, a former draft pick, plus Carrillo. Between the exciting game and the multitude of ex-Rays, this was a fun game to watch.