The last two days have made it extremely tough to be a Rays fan- and that holds true at the minor league level as well. While the Rays have lost twice to the Red Sox, their minor league affiliates have gone just 1-7, with only the Hot Rods securing a win. But what’s the point of being a fan if not for stretches like this? It’s the rough stretches that make you wonder why in the world you follow baseball that makes your team’s success mean even more. You’ll find four losses below, but let’s dwell on the positives knowing that the Rays and all their affiliates will find a way to get back on the winning track.
Triple-A International League: Charlotte Knights (CHW) 5, Durham Bulls 2 (11 innings)
Since the start of September, Alex Torres has been on a mission. And since then, nothing has been able to stop him. Torres was incredible once again for the Bulls in this game, going 6 shutout innings allowing just 2 hits, striking out 8 while walking none. 62 of his 89 pitches were strikes and his groundout to flyout ratio was an impressive 6-2. Torres, acquired by the Rays back in the Scott Kazmir trade, always had a little too much in common with the pitcher he was traded for. His repertoire was overbearing at best, but he hasdserious issues throwing strikes and had always been extremely enigmatic. But late last season, the Rays simplified his delivery, eliminating deception but helping him maintain his arm slot and stay around the zone, and lately hitters haven’t stood a chance. Armed with a low-90’s fastball with great late action, a devastating slider, and a strong changeup as well, Torres has looked as good as ever for a while now. Torres won’t quite keep this caliber of performance up, but we’ll see him in the big leagues by the end of this year. Whether as a starter or reliever, he has a chance to be a major contributor for the Rays over the next several seasons.
After Torres, the Bulls’ pitching fell apart, with Josh Phegley slamming a walk-off 3-run homer off Jim Paduch to end it. But on the offensive side, there were several more players to be excited about. Hak-Ju Lee has been on fire of late and was perfect in this game, going 2 for 2 with 2 doubles, 2 walks, and a run scored. It’s only 1o games and 41 plate appearances, but Lee could not have started off the year any better, managing a .412/.512/.647 line with 3 doubles, 1 triple, 1 homer, 6 RBI, 5 of 6 stolen bases, and a 9-7 strikeout to walk ratio. If he keeps this up and Yunel Escobar continues to struggle, suddenly there will be calls for Lee to be the Rays’ major league shortstop (although a full year at Triple-A would be best for his development). Leslie Anderson also went 3 for 5 while Brandon Guyer went 1 for 3 with a walk and two stolen bases. Could either of them be a call-up candidate as well?
Double-A International League: Jackson Generals (SEA) 7, Montgomery Biscuits 1
The Biscuits pushed a run across in the 1st inning of this game on a Cameron Seitzer double and a Todd Glaesmann single, but other than that, this game was a little reminiscent of the Rays game from Sunday as the Biscuits collected 3 hits as a team, one double. Victor Mateo was pretty bad (5 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 5 BB, 3 K) and the offense was only worse. Seitzer and Ty Morrison both went 1 for 3 with a walk while Glaesmann had his RBI hit, but that was it.
High-A Florida State League: Fort Myers Miracle (MIN) 5, Charlotte Stone Crabs 2
Combine the Montgomery game with this one and you get most of the Rays’ game. In this case, it was a 4-run inning that proved to be the difference and put this one out of reach. Ryan Carpenter pitched really well for Charlotte, going 6 innings allowing 1 run on 5 hits, striking out 6 while walking 1, and he has gotten off to a great start to the season, managing a 0.75 ERA with 14 strikeouts against 1 walk in 12 innings. Other than Carpenter, the highlights included Jake Hager, who went 2 for 5 with a triple and a run scored, Richie Shaffer, who went 1 for 4 with a double, a stolen base, and a run scored, and Luke Bailey who went 1 for 3 with an RBI.
Low-A Midwest League: West Michigan Whitecaps (DET) 10, Bowling Green Hot Rods 7
It isn’t even fair to have Taylor Guerrieri taking on these Low-A hitters, but the Hot Rods bullpen imploded spectacularly behind him as the Hot Rods wound up losing in a slugfest. Guerrieri, on a strict pitch count of 50 pitches, wasn’t overpowering but the Whitecaps couldn’t dream of doing anything against him as he went 4 innings of 1-hit ball, striking out just 1 and walking 1 as well but forcing a 9-0 groundout to flyout ratio. Once Guerrieri builds up arm strength, no one would be surprised if he quickly got bumped up to Charlotte because his control and command is far to advanced for the Midwest League and it will be against more advanced hitters than his secondary pitches will be put to the test. You certainly don’t want to hear about the Hot Rods’ pitching behind Guerrieri, but the bats did generate some fireworks. Andrew Toles went 3 for 5 with 2 doubles, 4 RBI, and a run scored, Joey Rickard went 2 for 4 with a double and 2 runs scored, Justin O’Conner went 2 for 5 with a run scored, and Tyler Goeddel went 1 for 4 with a double, a walk, and 2 runs scored.