Nate Karns spent Sunday on the Rays’ roster, and it says a lot that they did that despite his early-season struggles. The Rays have to hope their faith in him can restore his confidence and get him on track like they were able to do with Chris Archer in 2012. Karns has a long way to go, but his first outing was a big step in the right direction.
Triple-A International League: Syracuse Chiefs (WSN) 3, Durham Bulls 2
Before we get to Karns, we might as well talk about his batterymate, Curt Casali. For the second straight game to begin his Durham tenure, he went 2 for 3 with a double and a walk, giving him a .667/.750/.1000 line so far. He defense has been a little more debatable and he did make a throwing error on Tuesday, but he also picked off a runner at first and threw out 2 of 4 runners attempting to steal. If the first couple games mean anything (which they really don’t), Casali’s defense may be pushed harder than his offense at Triple-A, and we’ll have to see if he can pass the test. He did do a decent job in this game, and he did an even better job working with the struggling Nate Karns.
Karns went 6 innings allowing just 1 run on 5 hits, striking out 3 while walking 4. His groundout to flyout ratio was a solid 7-3. Karns was far from his best–despite his struggles, it was his first outing since his initial outing of 2014 where he walked more than he struck out. But he was able to attack the zone and force enough weak contact that he was able to succeed without being overpowering. Hopefully, we’ll see a few more of those electric 9-strikeout outings, but good pitchers have to be able to succeed without their best stuff, and Karns did that in this game.
Unfortunately, Juan Sandoval allowed 2 runs in the 7th to win the game for Syracuse, but their were a few other highlights. Wilson Betemit, who plenty of Rays are calling for after Logan Forsythe‘s ugly strikeout to end Tuesday’s Rays game, drilled a solo home run in a 1 for 4 day. Before you romanticize him, do recognize that his .250/.341/.490 line is not setting the world on fire, although his 7 home runs are nice. Hak-Ju Lee also went 1 for 2 with a walk. The hit was his 4th since returning to the Bulls, and he has just a .138 average so far. The Rays would love to see him get going.
Double-A Southern League: Jacksonville Suns (MIA) 6, Montgomery Biscuits 1
Miami Marlins top prospect (and ex-Rays draft pick) Andrew Heaney was excellent for Jacksonville allowing just 1 run on 3 hits in 6 strong innings. For Dylan Floro, meanwhile, it was another start of inconsistent results. On the one hand, he allowed 4 runs on 9 hits in 5.1 innings pitched, and on the other, he had a 3-1 strikeout to walk ratio and a 13-1 groundout to flyout ratio. Floro is getting hit hard despite a 22-5 strikeout to walk ratio, a 4.00-to-1 groundout to airout ratio, and not a single home run allowed. What do we make of this? Floro is doing fine on the whole, but when he has made mistakes, hitters have destroyed them, although not for home runs. The Rays have to hope that’s simply bad luck, but the longer Floro’s struggles last, the most evidence there is to the contrary. He now has a 5.92 ERA through 7 Double-A starts.
On the positive side, Richie Shaffer has been slumping but finally had a nice game, going 1 for 3 with a double, a walk, and an RBI. He has a .222/.300/.485 line at this point as his plate discipline has evaporated the past couple of weeks. The Rays have to hope the walk he had in this game is the start of him readjusting in his approach. Luke Bailey and Joey Rickard each went 2 for 4 from the bottom of the Biscuits’ order. Finally, Braulio Lara struck out 2 in a perfect 9th. He has been extremely hit-or-miss on the year, but his 18-8 strikeout to walk ratio and 1.69 groundout to airout ratio are hopefully signs that he is finally harnessing his big-time stuff.
High-A Florida State League: Charlotte Stone Crabs 9, St. Lucie Mets 5
Earlier in the season, both Shaffer and Tyler Goeddel were on fire, but Rays fans had wonder whether either third base prospect was for real. Sure enough, both fell into a slump before long. While Shaffer has continued to struggle, though, Goeddel has on fire once again. In this game, he went 2 for 3 with a homer, 2 walks, a stolen base, 3 RBI, and 2 runs scored. It does not get much better than that. He now has an insane .324/.413/.552 line in 121 plate appearances. He’s hitting for power (14 extra-base hits), stealing bases (6 in 8 attempts), and has shown incredible discipline (17-15 strikeout to walk ratio). It is time to believe in Tyler Goeddel.
Andrew Toles, who has been treated much rougher in High-A, also had a dynamic game, going 3 for 5 with 2 doubles, 2 stolen bases, an RBI, and 2 runs scored. Leonardo Reginatto and Jonathan Quinonez, meanwhile, both had 2 hits and an RBI. Reginatto has very little power, but it’s always nice to be a shortstop with a .365 OBP. We should also mention at least one pitcher in this game, but they pitched poorly enough that this talk of the bats should suffice.
Low-A Midwest League: Bowling Green Hot Rods 3, South Bend Silver Hawks (ARI) 2
Here you can get your fill of pitching. Jacob Faria started for Bowling Green and was great again, allowing just 1 hit in 5 innings, striking out 5 while walking 3. Not a bad way to follow his 7 innings of 1-hit ball in his previous start. Brad Schreiber followed with 2 more shutout innings, working around and a walk with 4 strikeouts, before Jorge Rodriguez allowed a run each in the 8th and 9th. Luckily, the Hot Rods offense had provided just enough run support. Yoel Araujo‘s surprise breakout continued as he went 2 for 4 with his third homer of the season, all in his last six games. Juniel Querecuto went 2 for 3 with a run scored while Ty Young and Pat Blair had the other 2 RBIs. After their horrific 2-13 start, the Hot Rods are somehow 14-17. That’s incredible.