Starting pitching is always going to be the defining characteristic of the Rays organization. We are still a couple of months from spring training, but Saturday’s games gave us a chance to see a trio of current and former Rays deliver exactly the type of performances we are used to and give us the type of satisfaction we need to get through another day without Rays baseball.
Mexican Pacific League: Algodoneros de Guasave 5, Yaquis de Obregón 2 (14 innings)
This game ended long after he departed, but the Algodoneros would have never had a chance without the great start they got from Jeff Bennett. Bennett went 7 innings allowing just 2 runs, 1 earned, on 4 hits, striking out 4 while walking 1. He did an excellent job keeping the ball on the ground, forcing a 12-2 groundout to flyout ratio. Bennett’s ERA is still just 5.23 in his 7 appearances for Guasave and 20.2 innings pitched, but if he gets his sinker working like it did on Saturday a little more consistently, the Alogdoneros may have found themselves a dependable starting pitcher.
Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League: Congrejeros de Santurce 6, Gigantes de Carolina 4
Things got a little crazy at this end of this one as Robinson Cancel‘s pinch-hit 2-run home run with 2 outs in the 9th gave Carolina some life, but it was too little, too late for the Gigantes after Victor Mateo held them down. Mateo went 6 innings allowing 2 runs on 5 hits, striking out 4 while walking 1. It was his fifth straight start allowing 2 runs or less although just his first quality start of the winter, and he lowered his ERA to 3.46 in 39 innings pitched to go along with a 39-9 strikeout to walk ratio. Unlike a pitcher like Bennett, Mateo has not been very good at forcing groundballs, managing just a 0.66 groundout to airout ratio on the year, but his solid changeup is helping him miss bats and find his way to success. The Rays thought enough of Mateo to bring him back on a minor league deal, and hopefully he can continue pitching well for Santurce to enter 2014 with confidence. Jesus Feliciano went 2 for 4 with a run scored in the loss for Carolina.
Venezuelan Winter League: Aguilas del Zulia 5, Tigres de Aragua 0
Alex Torres‘ control has been pretty flaky this winter, but that has not affected his ability to perform. In this game, Torres allowed 4 hits and 4 walks in 5.2 innings pitched, but he was able to keep the Tigres off the board thanks to 8 strikeouts and a 4-0 groundout to flyout ratio. It was the fourth time in his last five starts that he walked at least 4 batters, but he also allowed more than one run just one time in that span. Torres is up to 132 innings pitched on the season and maybe he is starting to tire out, but it is nice to see him starting games to increase his versatility for next season, and becoming used to getting out of jams will help him as he continues finding his way to a bigger role in the Rays’ bullpen.