The Undercards: Alex Torres Continues Dominance with 14 K’s… And Loses
By Robbie Knopf
There is no stopping Alex Torres right now. Wait… he lost Saturday. But as Rays fans know all too well, wins and losses are not everything for pitchers. Hitters were miserable again against the lefty Torres on Saturday, and it doesn’t look like that’s going to change anytime soon.
Arizona Fall League: Phoenix Desert Dogs 8, Scottsdale Scorpions 8 (10 innings)
What is with all the ties in the Arizona Fall League? Whatever, let’s just worry about the Rays prospects. C.J. Riefenhauser started for Phoenix and Kirby Yates came in as a reliever later in the game, and they combined to toss 3.1 hitless innings- but with 4 strikeouts and 4 walks to go along with a 1-3 groundout to flyout ratio. The real star of the game was Hak-Ju Lee, actually the DH in the game, who went 3 for 5 with a walk, an RBI, and a run scored, raising his AFL average to .289. Lee is now on an 8-game hitting streak as the Rays’ top position prospect is really heating up. Between Lee and Tim Beckham, the Rays have a couple of middle infield prospects to be awfully excited about as they watch them this fall.
Venezuelan Winter League: Bravos de Margarita 2, Aguilas de Zulia 1
Alex Torres isn’t quite this good. But it’s impossible to deny that something has definitely clicked, and in a span of two months, Torres has gone from hopeless to having a real chance of making the Rays’ 2013 Opening Day roster. Torres was matched up against ex-Marlins prospect Luis Chirinos and both pitchers were fabulous, but in completely different ways. Torres completely blew by hitters, going 5.1 innings allowing just 2 runs on 3 hits, striking out an unbelievable 14, accounting for all but two of his outs including all 12 of his outs from the 2nd inning to the 5th, while walking just 2. Unbelievable. In the 6th, Torres allowed a double and a walk to begin the inning before a sacrifice bunt ended his streak of strikeouts for 12 straight outs. Then ex-Ray Sean Burroughs blooped an RBI single to make it 1-0 Margarita, and Torres departed after a hit batsman. An inherited runner from Torres scored later in the inning with Vidal Nuno in the game to make it 2-0 Bravos. Chirinos, meanwhile, went 6 innings allowing no runs on 6 hits, striking 3 while walking none and posting a 10-2 groundout to flyout ratio. The Aguilas pushed just one run across against the Margarita bullpen as the Bravos won the game 2-1. Torres dropped to just 1-2 on the season despite a 1.50 ERA and an almost unfathomable 33 strikeouts, 16.50 per 9 innings (!!), against just 5 walks in 18 innings pitched.
Navegantes de Magallanes 6, Tigres de Aragua 5 (10 innings)
An extra-inning game that wasn’t a tie? When was the last time we had one of those here on our Rays Minor League Recap? In any event, Rays prospect Robinson Chirinos along with ex-Rays Erold Andrus and Chris Nowak. It was a 4-4 game in the 9th when for some deluded reason, the Magallanes decided to bring in catcher Carlos Maldonado in for leadoff man and second baseman Francisco Martinez after Martinez had been pinch-hit for, necessitating Chirinos to move from catcher to second base. Chirinos was once a middle infielder, but of course he made a throwing error that allowed the go-ahead run to score. But yet another catcher, Eliezer Alfonzo, slammed a game-tying homer in the 9th, and then in the 10th, Maldonado hit a walk-off blast as the Navegantes won 6-5. That has to be one of the craziest finishes you’ll find. Chirinos went 1 for 4 with a walk and a run scored in the game while Andrus, playing the corner outfield spots, went 2 for 4 with a double, a walk, and an RBI, and Nowak, playing the corner infield spots, went 1 for 5. The Navegantes must be the Rays of the Venezuelan Winter League between all their Rays connections and the fact that five of their nine starts in Saturday’s game played multiple positions by the time the game was through.
Cardelanes de Lara 4, Leones Del Caracas 2
It’s always strange to face your teammates in Winter Ball. The Arizona Fall League rectifies the problem by putting each team’s prospect on the same team, but here there was the awkward situation of Henry Wrigley facing off against Romulo Sanchez, his teammate this season with the Durham Bulls. Wrigley singled and actually had a nice game, going 3 for 4 with 2 RBI to raise his VWL batting average to .288. He is now 6 for last 12 to help rebound from a disastrous start. Yet another ex-Rays prospect Jose Angel Mejias started for Caracas and lasted just 1.1 innings allowing a run. Great to see Wrigley heating up, and it will be interesting to see what he can do for the Rays next season.
Dominican Winter League: Aguilas Cibaenas 3, Toros Del Este 2
It was another matchup of Rays prospects in this one, although you have to go back to 2010 with both the Montgomery Biscuits and Durham Bulls than Omar Luna and Aneury Rodriguez, now of the Astros, were teammates. Luna went 1 for 2 off his ex-teammate and 1 for 4 with a run scored in the game while Rodriguez took the loss for Este, allowing 2 runs on 3 hits in 4 innings, striking out 3 while walking 1. Former White Sox hurler Lorenzo Barcelo earned the win for Cibaenas with 6 innings of 1-run ball, striking out 5 while walking none.
Gigantes de Cibao 6, Tigres del Licey 1
A pair of ex-Rays first base prospects, Rhyne Hughes and Juan Miranda, went a combined 0 for 5. Jhonny Nunez also tossed a scoreless 9th with a strikeout. Those are our excuses to talk about this fun game. It was a matchup of ex-Yankees prospects in this one as the lefty Chase Wright took the mound for Cibao against current Pirates right-hander Daniel McCuthchen for Licey. Remember Wright? He was the Yankees pitcher who was a solid prospect for a while before allowing four consecutive home runs to the Boston Red Sox and watching his career completely fall apart after that. Now 29 years old, Wright is still around, and he actually earned the win in this game, going 5 innings allowing 1 run on 5 hits, striking out 3 while walking 2. McCutchen got plastered, lasting just 2 innings allowing 4 runs, all in the second inning, on an RBI single by yet another ex-Yankees prospect, Jimmy Paredes, a wild pitch, an RBI triple by the Rangers’ Leury Garcia, and an RBI single by Jean Segura, now of the Brewers after being a part of the Zach Greinke trade back in July. Other players of note included Dodgers shortstop Dee Gordon, who stole three bases for Licey, and Rangers prospects Mike Olt and Leonys Martin also on Licey, with Olt playing against his Frisco teammate Garcia.
Mexican Pacific League: Naranjeros de Hermosillo 4, Mayos de Navojoa 3
Wes Bankston‘s insane 9 for 12 streak came to an end on Friday, but he got back on track on Saturday, going 1 for 3 with a walk for Navojoa. Unfortunately for Bankston, the Mayos blew a 3-0 lead after 7 innings, allowing a 2-run single to Jose Amador in the 8th, another run to score on an error, and a go-ahead solo home run by ex-big leaguer Karim Garcia as the Naranjeros won 4-3. The bullpen collapse wasted a great outing by Hector Velazquez, who has never appeared in affiliated baseball but is just 23 years old, as Velazquez went 6 innings allowing no runs on 6 hits, striking out 5 while walking 2 and posting an 8-3 groundout to flyout ratio.