Feb 26, 2014; Port Charolette, Fl, USA; Tampa Bay Rays catcher Curt Casali (63) poses for a portrait during photo day at Charlotte Sports Park. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Undercards: Curt Casali Unstoppable in Montgomery Win

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Curt Casali had an unbelievable run in 2013 after getting promoted to Double-A Montgomery, but he faced major questions as he hoped to prove it wasn’t fluke. So far, so good–after his incredible day on Wednesday, his OPS is actually higher that it was last season.

Triple-A International League: Charlotte Knights (CHW) 9, Durham Bulls 1

This season has been crazy for Nate Karns. He began with two terrible starts, rebounded with two great ones, and then got destroyed again in this game. Karns tossed just 2 innings allowing 8 runs, 6 earned, on 6 hits, striking out 3 while walking 2. It took Karns 61 pitches just to get through those 2 frames. Hopefully more consistency is on the way for the Rays’ highly-touted right-hander. Behind Karns, Doug Mathis helped save the bullpen, going 3 innings allowing 1 run on 3 hits, striking out 4 while walking 4. Then Juan Sandoval worked around a hit and 2 walks in 2 innings to toss shutout ball, striking out 2, before Adam Liberatore struck out 1 in a perfect 9th.

On offense, Kevin Kiermaier led off and went 3 for 4, raising his average to .303 on the season. Not everything is perfect for Kiermaier–he has struck out 13 times against just 5 walks, but he just continues to progress at the plate and it is exciting to see. Mike Fontenot went 2 for 3 with a double and a walk to provide another highlight, but it was a player who didn’t get a hit who may have been the biggest story for the Bulls. Hak-Ju Lee made his season debut, going 0 for 2 with the Bulls’ only run scored. It is great to see him back in action, and the Rays will give him all the time he needs to round himself back into form after his knee injury.

Double-A Southern League: Montgomery Biscuits 10, Mississippi Braves 7

This game could not have begun much worse for the Biscuits as Grayson Garvin exited the game after facing just 3 batters, striking out the first before hitting the next two with pitches. According to Stacy Long, his back tightened up near his left (throwing) shoulder, but it was not an arm injury. Garvin is expected to miss at least one start. Garvin has looked very good in his rehab from Tommy John Surgery, and hopefully this is the minor thing that it sounds like it will be.

Matt Neil entered for Garvin and allowed both of his runners to score before pitching solidly the rest of his outing, going 4.2 innings allowing 2 runs on 7 hits, striking out 6 while walking none and forcing a 6-0 groundout to flyout ratio. Jim Patterson and Santiago Garrido were then terribly inconsistent before Braulio Lara tossed 1.2 shutout frames for the save, but luckily the Montgomery offense was good enough to make up for it. That effort was led by Curt Casali, who was literally an impossible out for Mississippi in this game, going 3 for 3 with a homer, 2 doubles, 2 walks, 4 RBI, and a run scored. The 25 year old suddenly has his triple slash up to .370/.561/.545 on the year including 17 walks against just 10 strikeouts. Once again we have to ask: is Casali for real? Two of the other big hits for the Biscuits were Willie Argo‘s 2-run triple and Taylor Motter‘s 2-run double.

High-A Florida State League: Charlotte Stone Crabs 3, Bradenton Marauders (PIT) 2 (14 innings)

Justin O’Conner has a long road ahead to prove himself as a catching prospect for the Rays, but Wednesday is the type of game that can change that if we see it more often. O’Conner went 3 for 6 with a walk-off single in the 14th, also picking a runner off first base. O’Conner has a .261/.297/.442 line to begin 2014, hitting for power but striking out 16 times but walking just twice. Andrew Toles also went 2 for 6 for Charlotte while Leonardo Reginatto went 2 for 6 with 2 doubles and 2 runs scored.

In terms of the pitching, Bruedlin Suero made his second start of the season and had a big outing, going 5 innings allowing 2 runs, 1 earned, on 5 hits, striking out 5 while walking 1. The lefty has a 15-4 strikeout to walk ratio in 17.2 innings pitched this season. Then Marcus Jensen, Jose Molina, and Ryan Garton tossed 3 shutout innings each to take the Stone Crabs to victory. Charlotte pitching combined for 11 strikeouts and 21 groundouts among its 42 outs recorded in the game.

Low-A Midwest League: West Michigan Whitecaps (DET) 5, Bowling Green Hot Rods 4 (13 innings)

If any team deserves a break, it’s the Hot Rods, but they didn’t get it in this game. Jacob Faria had an up-and-down start, going 6 innings allowing 4 runs, 3 earned, on 6 hits, striking out 2 while walking 1. Then Colton Reavis was ridiculous for the next 4 innings allowing no hits and one walk while striking out 6. The ex-30th rounder hasn’t allowed a run in his 11 IP this season, striking out 13 although walking 8. Aaron Griffin followed him with a pair of shutout frames, but he allowed an unearned run in the 13th to allow the Whitecaps to walk off. The offensive highlight for Bowling Green was Oscar Hernandez, who went 2 for 6 with 2 RBI and a run scored. Hernandez is hitting just .108 to begin this season, but hopefully this is the game that starts his breakout.

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Tags: Colton Reavis Curt Casali Hak-Ju Lee Justin O'Conner Oscar Hernandez Tampa Bay Rays

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