Some pitching prospects struggle and then find their way back. Few do so like Albert Suarez is doing right now.
Triple-A International League: Gwinnett Braves 5, Durham Bulls 2
Enny Romero was recently named the most disappointing player in the Rays organization by Baseball America, and he did certainly lived up to that billing in this game. Romero threw 90 pitches in just 3.2 innings as he allowed 4 runs on 7 hits. His ERA on the season stands at 5.62 as his control has been slightly better but his fastball command still has an extremely long way to go. Doug Mathis did finish the game in nice fashion for Durham, allowing an unearned run on 3 hits in 4.1 innings, striking out 4 while walking 1. The 31 year old right-hander has a 3.97 ERA in 45.1 innings for the Bulls this season.
There were a few offensive heroes for Durham. Wilson Betemit drilled a 9th inning home run, his 13th of the season, Jayson Nix went 2 for 4 with a double and the other RBI, and Jeremy Moore went 2 for 4. Moore is off to a nice start at Durham, hitting to a .331/.371/.515 line in 35 plate appearances, but unfortunately for him, the Rays have an outfield logjam already.
Double-A Southern League: Montgomery Biscuits 3, Mississippi Braves 1
Another Tampa Bay Rays affiliate versus Atlanta Braves affiliate in this one, but also quite different results. That was thanks to Albert Suarez, who went 6 innings in his 2014 Biscuits debut allowing just 1 run on 3 hits, striking out 1 while walking 1. It is certainly too soon to say that the 24 year old Suarez is reestablishing himself as a prospect, but he now has a 0.90 ERA and a 11-2 strikeout to walk ratio in three starts at Charlotte along with this first one in Montgomery. It was Suarez’s third game with the Biscuits overall after two last season, and he actually has a 1.46 ERA among the three games. Suarez’s stuff isn’t what it used to be after injuries, but he still has the ability to be an impact pitcher in the major leagues and he deserves a chance to get there. Nice job by the Rays getting Albert Suarez to come back on a minor league deal, and we will have to see how he progresses the rest of the year.
Behind Suarez, the Rays got a scoreless inning each from Santiago Garrido, Cory Burns, and Matt Ramsey to close out the game. Burns has allowed just 1 hit in 3 innings in his first two appearances in the organization, striking out 3 while walking none, while Ramsey lowered his ERA to 1.07 as he posted his 6th save of the season. There was not much offense for the Biscuits in this one–one run scored on an error and another on a wild pitch–but Jake Hager and Luke Maile did deliver back-to-back doubles to score a run in the third inning. Hager has 25 extra-base hits already in 2014 after 19 all of last season.
High-A Florida State League: Charlotte Stone Crabs 3, Fort Myers Miracle (MIN) 2
The Stone Crabs got their runs on a solo home run by Justin O’Conner, an RBI single by Marty Gantt, and an error, and a resurgent Stone Crabs pitching staff did the rest. Austin Pruitt has struggled mightily for Charlotte at times this season, but he is hitting his stride and continued to show that in this game. Pruitt went 6.1 innings allowing 2 runs on 7 hits, striking out 8 while walking just 1. Both runs scored after Kevin Brandt entered the game. Pruitt has an ugly 4.52 ERA on the year, but he has a 3.48 ERA, an 8.4 K/9, a 1.2 BB/9, and a 0.3 HR/9 in his last 9 starts and 51.2 innings pitched. It is certainly too early to count out this Rays 9th round pick.
Also rebounding from a rough stretch was Zach Cooper, who escaped the mess left by Brandt in the 8th inning by forcing a flyout. Nice to see something positive from Cooper after he had allowed a combined eight runs in his previous two appearances. Then Marcus Jensen came back from a sketchy outing on July 3rd by striking out 2 in a scoreless 9th for the save. How often do see three different pitchers overcoming struggles in one game?
Low-A Midwest League: Dayton Dragons (CIN) 10, Bowling Green Hot Rods 3
There were three of something else in this game, and I’m not talking about the Bowling Green runs. The Hot Rods somehow managed three interference calls against them–fielder’s interference on Kean Wong and two catcher’s interferences on Armando Araiza–to pave the way for this rough loss. Chris Kirsch was cost big-time by the errors as he allowed 4 runs but only 1 earned in 6 innings of work. Brad Schreiber at least finished the game strong for the Hot Rods, going 2.1 innings allowing just a hit while striking out 3. In terms of the offense, Daryl George did go 2 for 3 with a solo homer and Araiza did match his two interferences with 2 RBIs. Ty Young also went 2 for 4 for the Hot Rods to continue his recent hot streak. Young has a .364/.417/.576 line in his last 36 plate appearances.
Short Season-A New York-Penn League: Hudson Valley Renegades 4, Staten Island Yankees 3 (10 innings)
A bullpen collapse meant that the Renegades needed a Hunter Lockwood walk-off homer to win this one, but it was an outstanding game for them nonetheless. Lockwood had a double, a single, and a walk to go along with that blast, and his 3 hits were matched by Jace Conrad. Conrad went 3 for 5 with a double, 2 stolen bases, an RBI, and a run scored. Bralin Jackson also went 2 for 4 with a double, a stolen base, and a run scored. Then, on the pitching side, D.J. Slaton was outstanding for Hudson Valley, going 6 shutout innings allowing just 3 hits and no walks while striking out 7. Slaton also got 9 outs on the ground, meaning that 16 of his 18 outs came on either a strikeout or a groundout. Slaton now has a 0.82 ERA and a 20-6 strikeout to walk ratio in 22 innings pitched for the Renegades this season. He could emerge as the team’s ace, or he could be in Bowling Green before long.
Advanced Rookie Appalachian League: Johnson City Cardinals 3, Princeton Rays 1
This was a lackluster game all around for the P-Rays. Lefty Trevor Lubking got the start and allowed 3 runs on 6 hits in 4 innings, striking out 1 while walking none. Tomas Michelson and Kyle McKenzie did work around 5 baserunners to toss shutout ball for the last 3 innings, striking out 3 in the process. In terms of the offense, Patrick Grady went 2 for 4 with a double and the only run scored while Angel Moreno went 2 for 4 with a run scored. Moreno, still not 18 years old, has a .286 average and 6 stolen bases in 6 attempts despite being aggressively promoted to Princeton.
Rookie Gulf Coast League: GCL Orioles 2, GCL Rays 0
The GCL Rays got 2-hit in this game, and both Orioles runs came off of errors. That is a rough way to lose. Angel Yepez had a nice start for the Grays, allowing just those unearned runs on 3 hits, striking out 4 while walking 1. He also forced a 10-3 strikeout to walk ratio in the game. The 19 year old right-hander Yepez has a 2.57 ERA and a 12-2 strikeout to walk ratio in 14 innings since getting promoted from the VSL Rays. Mario Adames followed with 3 innings of 1-hit ball, striking out 3 while walking none. Then Nick Sawyer saw his control problems continue as he walked 3 in the 9th, but he did strike out 2 as he worked a scoreless inning. As we already mentioned, the Grays offense was nearly nonexistent in this one, but Oscar Sanay did have a double for one of the hits.