The Undercards: Wes Bankston Slams 2 HRs, Victor Zambrano and Tim Corcoran Make Starts


Gotta give credit to some of these old Devil Rays. They just love the game of baseball so much that they still play Winter Ball every year even as their major league prospects have become long gone.

Arizona Fall League: Scottsdale Scorpions 6, Phoenix Desert Dogs 2

6 out of the 14 players the Desert Dogs used on Wednesday were Rays prospects, and unfortunately this time it did not work out. Brewers prospect Nick Bucci allowed 4 runs in the 4th and the Braves’ Ryan Buchter allowed a solo home run to the Giants’ Chris Dominguez in the 5th to give Scottsdale a 5-0 lead. Indians prospect T.J. House was excellent in his start for Scottsdale, going 4 shutout innings allowing just a hit and a walk while striking out 4. For the Rays prospects, Richie Shaffer went 1 for 4 with a double and a run scored starting at first base, Kevin Kiermaier went 1 for 4 from right field with the RBI single that drove in Shaffer, Tim Beckham went 1 for 5 at second base, and Hak-Ju Lee went 0 for 3 with a walk and a run scored playing shortstop. On the pitching side, C.J. Riefenhauser had a perfect inning including a strikeout while Lenny Linsky had a tough time once again, allowing a run on 3 hits in just a third of an inning. Could have been a big day for Rays prospects in the AFL, but unfortunately it did not go all that well and hopefully coming days will be better.

Dominican Winter League: Leones del Escogido 11, Aguilas Cibaenas 4

Omar Luna didn’t even get into the game for Cibaenas, but an ex-Ray did- right-hander Tim Corcoran, now 34, who pitched with the Devil Rays from 2005 to 2007, who was the Aguilas’ starter. Corcoran did actually strike out 6 while walking just 2 and posting a 5-0 groundout to flyout ratio, but his mistakes were hit hard as he allowed 4 runs on 4 hits in 4.1 innings. Still nice to see him back on a mound. Giants prospect Justin Fitzgerald had a great start for Escogido, going 5 innings allowing no runs on 4 hits, striking out 5 while walking 2, and Giants prospect Roger Kieschnick tripled and drove in 5 while Angels prospect Kole Calhoun homered and drove in 3. Escogido also had another ex-Ray, Julio Lugo, who went 1 for 3 with a run scored.

Mexican Pacific League: Naranjeros de Hermosillo 6, Algodoneros de Guasave 5 (10 innings)

Despite the relatively low-scoring game, this one was all about the longball as the two teams combined for 6 home runs including a walk-off home run by ex-Reds prospect Jesse Gutierrez. Not among the players who homered was ex-Ray Jorge Cantu, but he did go 1 for 4 with a walk and 2 RBI. Cantu now has an incredible .313/.455/.688 line for the Naranjeros with 2 homers, 7 RBI, and 5 each of walks and strikeouts in 6 games as he looks to get a big league job for 2013.

No stopping Wes Bankston right now. (Credit: Flickr user What’s Her Name)

Doubleheader Game 1: Aguilas de Mexicali 5, Mayos de Navojoa 1 (7 innings)

Game 2: Mayos de Navojoa 10, Aguilas de Mexicali 7 (10 innings)

You just can’t stop Wes Bankston right now. In Game 1, the Mayos got shut down for 6 innings by ex-big leaguer Jorge Campillo, who went 6 innings allowing just 1 run on 4 hits, striking out 2 while walking none, but Bankston had half the Mayos’ hits and drove in the only run on a solo shot. Then in Game 2, Bankston had another big game but finally got some help from his friends. He went 1 for 2 with a solo home run, a 2 walks (1 intentional), and a sac fly, but Steve Moss, who was a teammate of Scott Kazmir this season on the independent Sugar Land Skeeters, went 2 for 6 with 2 home runs and 6 RBI, including a walk-off 3-run shot to win Game 2 for Navojoa. Back to Bankston, he has been unbelievable for Navojoa, posting a .339/.429/.627 line with 2 doubles, 5 homers, 12 RBI, and 10 walks versus 8 strikeouts in 17 games, but in his last 10 games he has put up staggering numbers, managing a .471/.558/.794 line with 3 homers, 9 RBI, and 8 walks against 4 strikeouts. Bankston, a first baseman, is just 28 years old, and if he anywhere near keeps this up, major league teams will come calling, the Rays especially among them because of their need at first base.

Venezuelan Winter League: Tiburones de La Guaira 7, Leones de Caracas 6

A new way united with a member of the old guard in this one for Caracas, but they managed to completely blow this game, losing this one after leading 6-1 after 6 innings and 6-2 after 7. Victor Zambrano, who the Rays traded for Scott Kazmir back in 2007, is now 37 years old and hasn’t appeared in affiliated ball since 2010 but was solid matched up against ex-big leaguer Les Walrond. Zambrano went 3.1 innings allowing 1 run on 3 hits, striking out 2 and walking 2 as well, while Walrond went 4.1 innings allowing 2 runs on 7 hits, striking out 4 while walking 1. But the bullpen collapsed, first La Guaira and then Caracas, with Blue Jays prospect Ronald Uviedo allowed 3 runs in the 8th before Juan Gutierrez, who was in the minors for all of 2012 but saved 15 games for the Diamondbacks in 2010, allowed a pinch-hit 2-run walk-off home run to long-time independent baller Rafael Alvarez to seal the 7-6 win for La Guaira. Henry Wrigley went 0 for 4 for Caracas, but ex-Rays infielder Ray Olmedo entered as a pinch-hitter and wound up going 1 for 1 with a walk and 2 runs scored for La Guaira.

Navegantes de Magallanes 10, Tigres de Aragua 5

With an ex-big leaguer starting and their bats on fire, the Navegantes came away with an easy win on Wednesday. Gustavo Chacin went 5 innings of 1-run, 5-hit ball, striking out 3 while walking 1, Carlos Maldonado, who appeared briefly with the Nationals this season, set the tone with a first inning grand slam, and a pair of ex-Rays had great days as well, with Chris Nowak going 3 for 4 with a walk and a 2-run home run, and Erold Andrus going 1 for 2 with a triple, 3 walks, and 2 runs scored.