Mar 12, 2014; Dunedin, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Nathan Karns (51) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Florida Auto Exchange Park. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Durham Bulls: A Tampa Bay Rays Lifeline


During any season, major league players inevitably get injured or don’t perform well and need to be replaced. The first place that a team usually looks for reinforcements is its Triple-A farm team. The team controls these players–they are cheap, and in many cases are already on the 40-man roster. In addition, it gives the team a chance to look at top talent in a major league setting. With that in mind, let’s take a look at Durham Bulls that might make their way to the Rays in 2014.

Stating Pitchers: At the present time, the Bulls have six starters on the roster. They include Erik Bedard, Enny Romero, Nathan Karns, Matt Andriese, Mike Montgomery and Merrill Kelly. If the Rays are looking for a starter, Bedard or Karns might get the call. Bedard has lots of major league experience and was in the hunt for the Rays’ fifth starter spot in spring training. He is not on the 40-man roster–but the Rays have an open 40-man roster spot can easily make more room. Karns, meanwhile, is a top ten prospect with a fastball touching the mid-90′s and a sharp curveball. He is already on the 40-man roster and gives the Rays an excellent choices to fill in. In addition, Jake Odorizzi and Alex Colome could be back with the team by late June.

Relief Pitchers: For the first time in team history, the Bulls have a bullpen loaded with talented young relievers. They include Brad Boxberger, Steve Geltz, Adam Liberatore, C.J. Riefenhauser and Kirby Yates. Riefenhauser and Liberatore are the lefties in the group, with Riefenhauser already on the 40-man roster, as are Boxberger and Yates. Boxberger has major league experience and would probably get the first call, but if any of them have a hot hand they could find their way to the show. Another possibility is Mike Montgomery coming up in an Alex Torres-type move. Jeff Beliveau and Juan Sandoval are also on the team and Brandon Gomes may be back after Juan Carlos Oviedo is off the disabled list.

Catchers: As Butch Cassidy once said, “who are those guys?” Roman Ali Solis and Eddy Rodriguez are anything but prospects and we should all pray that nothing happens to either Rays catcher. Look for a signing of a catcher with some major league experience. Could it be former Ray Chris Gimenez, who has the option to decline his assignment to the Rangers’ Triple-A affiliate?

Infielders: Not many top prospects here but a few players who could help out in a pinch. Top prospect Hak-Ju Lee is out again with a leg injury and won’t be back until May. He will probably spend the year at Durham as he tries to round back into shape. Vince Belnome is available as a good hitter and on the 40-man roster, and he actually received a one day call-up this season when Sean Rodriguez was put on paternity leave. He hits from the left side and is adequate in the field at first and third. Wilson Betemit is a veteran switch-hitter who can play first and third and Mike Fontenot is available as a veteran middle infielder. Both have major league experience, but neither is on the 40-man roster. Cole Figueroa and Ray Olmedo are on the Bulls’ roster as well, but they are not real options at this point.

Outfielders: The Rays have a couple of outfielders at Durham who could be of help to the big club. Kevin Kiermaier is this year’s hot prospect, but I’m sure the Rays would like to see him get as many Triple-A at bats as possible. Nevetheless, he is on the 40-man roster, and if his bat is hot and the Rays need an outfielder, he could get the call. Jerry Sands is a former top prospect who had a hot spring training. He’s not on the 40-man roster, but if Guyer or Rodriguez get hurt, he could give the Rays another right-handed bench option. Mikie Mahtook is another prospect but he definitely needs a full season at Durham. James Darnell and Jeremy Moore also have some talent, but they have work to do before they are big league options.

Overall, it’s a nice group of players with a good mix of prospects and major league veterans. They do need a more advanced catcher on the roster, but for the most part, this group should keep the Rays from having to use the waiver wire to replace injured or underperforming players. It is always nice to have depth, and this Durham Bulls team can certainly provide that.

Tags: Brad Boxberger Erik Bedard Kevin Kiermaier Mike Montgomery Nathan Karns Tampa Bay Rays