The Tampa Bay Rays are still a young franchise. With 2013 being just their 16th season, the majority of their devoted fans and every player to ever don their uniform is older than the team. But at the very least, 16 years means that the amount of players still active who have passed through the Rays organization is about the same as every other team in baseball, especially when accounting for minor leaguers. It’s nice for the Rays to be a part of the club just like everyone else, and it’s fun for everyone to see current and former Rays abound in Winter Ball.
Arizona Fall League: Surprise Saguaros 9, Salt River Rafters 2
An utter collapse by Kraig Sitton gave the Saguaros the bulk of their scoring in the 6th inning, but it was Matt Ramsey in relief of Sitton who gave the Rafters one of their few highlights. Ramsey got a lineout to escape the 6th then was dominant in the 7th inning, striking out a batter and forcing two groundouts. Ramsey continues to gets stronger with Tommy John Surgery moving farther into his past, and with a fastball touching the mid-90’s and a good curveball, he has a stuff to be a quick-moving relief arm who could be in Tampa Bay before we know it if he can make strides in the Arizona Fall League. Aside from Ramsey, Ryan Brett finally had his first AFL hit after starting 0 for 11 and he made it count, drilling a triple and scoring a run. Brett finished the game just 1 for 5, but hopefully this can be where it starts. Richie Shaffer and Todd Glaesmann had rough days, with Shaffer going 0 for 3 with 3 strikeouts and an error at first base and Glaesmann going 0 for 4. Nice to see Ramsey doing well and Brett finally notching a hit, but Shaffer and Ramsey have to find a way to turn themselves around.
Venezuelan Winter League: Navegantes del Magallanes 7, Aguilas del Zulia 4
The game from yesterday’s Winter Ball Recap was fun, but this one is a game to star. Virgil Vasquez started for Zulia and pitched like a former Rays minor leaguer should, going 7 innings allowing just 1 run on 4 hits, striking out 7 while walking 1. His groundout to flyout ratio was an incredible 13-0. The only run? A solo homer by 2013 Durham Bull Jesus Flores, who wound up 1 for 3 with a walk and 2 runs scored on the day. Vasquez has looked great in his first two appearances, managing a 2.45 ERA with 12 strikeouts against 2 walks in 11 innings pitched. Vasquez caught on with the Twins organization in 2013 after two years in Independent Ball and the former big leaguer for the Tigers and PIrates seems primed for another contract with a big league team this offseason. Starting against Vasquez was ex-Blue Jay Gustavo Chacin, but relieving Chacin was Erik Hamren, who spent 2013 at Double-A Montgomery. Hamren tossed a perfect inning of relief, forcing a pair of groundouts. Hamren pitched well for the Biscuits, and we should see him in a relief role for Montgomery or Durham again this season. But we still are not finished talking about the Rays in this game. Vasquez’s catcher was another 2013 Durham Bull, Juan Apodaca, who had a big game at the plate as well, going 2 for 4 with a double, an RBI, and a run scored. One question: how did the Navegantes come back to win this game after how good Vasquez was for Zulia? Well, former Royals prospect Mario Lisson drilled a 3-run homer in the 8th inning, but it was one last former Ray who came up huge in the 9th for Magallanes. With 2 outs and the bases loaded, the Navegantes sent Erold Andrus up to pinch-hit for Lew Ford. The move worked to perfection as Andrus drilled a go-ahead 3-run triple, providing the margin for victory in Magallanes’ 7-4 win. So in total, five current and former Rays in this game, and each played well and made an impact. Not too shabby.
Caribes de Anzoategui 6, Leones del Caracas 5
Remember when it was a big deal that the Rays used 9 pitchers in ALDS Game 4? The Leones used 10 pitchers, and their starter went 5 innings! Who knows. But one thing we do know is that Daniel Mayora is on fire. The former Durham Bull began the season on the Leones’ bench, but he hit his way into the lineup and had his best game yet on Tuesday night, going 3 for 4 with a 3-run home run and a double. Mayora has a long way to go from here, but if he can hit enough, his defensive versatility could get a team like the Rays to give him a look for an invite to big league camp. Danny Dorn also went 1 for 4 with an RBI and a run scored for Caracas, but their parade of pitchers proved to be insufficient as they fell to Anzoategui.