Over the years, fans have seemed to get more and more infatuated with prospects. Whether they’re at Triple-A or Rookie ball, prospects fascinate us because they’re the future of our franchise and we want to say that we saw the next superstar when he was playing way down at A-ball. At the end of the day, though, each major league team’s minor league affiliates are meant to serve the parent club, and that’s never more the case than with rehab assignments. The Rays got to see David Price‘s progress from his triceps strain by letting him pitch at High-A Charlotte, and after seeing him dominate in game action, the Rays know that he’s good to go.
Triple-A International League: Durham Bulls 6, Lehigh Valley IronPigs (PHI) 5
When your starting pitcher gets off to a disastrous start, often that’s enough to lose you the ballgame. But if you can stop the bleeding as soon as possible, you can give yourself a chance to overcome it. Matt Buschmann had easily his worst start at Triple-A, but he retired the last 7 batters he faced to start a streak of 19 in a row retired by Bulls pitching to end the game as Durham came back to win 6-5. The IronPigs got to Buschmann for 5 runs in the first 3 innings, but Buschmann slammed the door from there, going 5 innings allowing just those 5 runs on 7 hits, striking out 5 while walking 2 and forcing a 7-1 groundout to flyout ratio. Even after his rough outing, Buschmann has a 2.93 in 6 appearances, 5 starts, for the Bulls, striking out 33 while walking 13 in 27.2 innings pitched. It doesn’t look like he’s ever going back to Double-A. Juan Sandoval and Josh Lueke followed Buschmann with perfect relief, combining for 4 perfect innings with 5 strikeouts. Bulls pitching didn’t allow a hit after the 3rd inning and that turned the tide of the entire game. In terms of the offense, five different Bulls had multi-hit games, with Shelley Duncan going 2 for 4 with a 2-run homer and an RBI single, Brandon Guyer going 4 for 5 with 2 doubles and a run scored, Ryan Roberts going 2 for 4 with 2 RBI, and Mike Fontenot and Cole Figueroa going 2 for 4 as well. Nice job by the Bulls pitching staff rebounding, but a strong offense certainly was key in making the frustration go away as well.
Double-A Southern League: Montgomery Biscuits 4, Chattanooga Lookouts 3
Enny Romero celebrated his naming to the Futures Game with a strong start and Riccio Torrez drilled a 3-run home run as the Biscuits held on to beat the Lookouts 4-3. Lately, Romero hasn’t been overpowering hitters but has pitched extremely effectively, and his start Wednesday followed that theme as well as he struck out just 2 while walking 1 in 6 innings but allowing just an unearned run on 6 hits. He did post a nice 9-3 groundout to flyout ratio, riding nice fastball command to overcome inconsistent secondary pitches. Braulio Lara followed with 2 shutout innings of relief before Erik Hamren had a tough 9th to make this one close. On the offensive side, Torrez continued his nice offensive of late, going 2 for 4 with his big 3-run homer in the 7th inning. Torrez is hitting just .233 on the season but .306 with 8 RBI in his last 10 games. Kevin Kiermaier also went 2 for 4 with a double while Cameron Seitzer went 2 for 4 with an RBI and a run scored. Seitzer is suddenly hot again, hitting .340 with 9 RBI in his last 11 games, but Kiermaier is just in another stratosphere, hitting .393 with 3 triples, 3 stolen bases, and 10 RBI in his last 15 games.
High-A Florida State League: Charlotte Stone Crabs 3, Bradenton Marauders (PIT) 2
Prior to the Rays’ game against the Blue Jays, Joe Maddon said that Price would pitch in this game and then the Rays would assess whether he’s ready to return. He’s ready. Price showed fastball velocity in the mid-90’s on the way to an overbearing outing, going 5 innings allowing no runs on 2 hits, striking out 8 while walking 1. His groundout to flyout ratio was also a great 5-1. He paired an excellent fastball with effective breaking pitches and strong command of everything as he dominated High-A hitters as he he should. And pending anything unexpected in the coming days, Price will be set to make his return to the Rays’ rotation against the Houston Astros in the series from Monday to to Wednesday of next week. The Rays couldn’t be getting any better news from this game and Price solidified the fact that he’s ready to come back.
Jimmy Patterson followed Price with 4 strikeouts in 3 innings of work, although he allowed 2 runs on 3 hits, before Shay Crawford worked around 2 walks with a strikeout in pitching a scoreless 9th for the save. On the offensive side, there was bad news right from the start as Ryan Brett, who just returned from a shoulder injury, left the game after singling and scoring in his first at-bat with neck stiffness. Brett has been excellent in his limited playing time this season, but he has to find a way to stay on the field. Hopefully this injury will only sideline him for a couple of days. Jake Hager had a nice game for the Stone Crabs, going 2 for 4 with a double and a run scored, while Jeff Malm went 1 for 3 with a double and Willie Argo went 1 for 2 with a walk, his 17th steal, and a run scored. Great to see everything work out for Price and watch Charlotte come away with a nice win.
Low-A Midwest League: Bowling Green Hot Rods 12, South Bend Silver Hawks (ARI) 2
The Hot Rods only scored 1 run in the final 8 innings of this game. The good news: they scored 11 runs in the first inning, sending 16 batters to the plate. Sean Bierman got the start for Bowling Green and overcame any jetlag from his offense to have a solid start, going 5 innings allowing 2 runs on 7 hits, striking out 5 while walking 1 and forcing a 7-2 groundout to flyout ratio. Then Jose Molina followed with a career game, throwing 4 innings, the most he’s thrown since 2011, allowing just 2 hits while striking out 3. The bizarre thing: despite entering with a 10-run lead, Molina was given a save because any pitcher who throws the last 4 innings of a game automatically gets a save. That doesn’t really make any sense. In any event, let’s talk about the offense. Tommy Coyle had an incredible game, going 4 for 5 with a homer, 5 RBI, and 2 runs scored. I thought Kiermaier was hitting out of his mind before, but Coyle has been impossible to get out, hitting .538 with 2 homers, 2 doubles, and 10 RBI in his last 7 games. Tyler Goeddel broke his recent slump with a great game, going 3 for 5 with a double, a walk, a stolen base (before the game got out of hand), 2 RBI, and 2 runs scored. Goeddel has been extremely streaky this year, but hopefully this can start a good run for him. Leonardo Reginatto also went 3 for 5 with a double, 2 RBI, and a run scored.
Short Season-A New York-Penn League: Staten Island Yankees 7, Hudson Valley Renegades 3 (10 innings)
The Rays’ 9th rounder in 2013, Austin Pruitt, was incredible in his second professional start, but the Renegades bullpen completely imploded as they lost to the Yankees 7-3. Pruitt went 5 innings allowing just 2 hits, striking out 5 while walking none. Pruitt is a polished college right-hander owning Short Season-A as he should, but he was especially good against Staten Island. But Corey MacDonald allowed 2 runs in the 6th before Derek Loera allowed the tying run in the 7th (although he rebounded to toss 2 shutout innings), and Andrew Hanse allowed 4 in the 10th to seal the deal. On the offensive side, 5th rounder Johnny Field drilled his first professional home run, Pat Blair went 1 for 3 with a double and an RBI, and Darryl George went 1 for 2 with 2 walks and an RBI.
Advanced Rookie Appalachian League: Elizabethton Twins 5, Princeton Rays 4
A late rally was not enough for the P-Rays as rallying from a 5-1 deficit after 6 innings proved to be just too much to ask for. Jorge Rodriguez was lucky to only allow 3 runs in his 4 innings as he allowed 9 hits including a home run, although he did strike out 2 while walking none. Geisel De La Cruz had a tough relief appearance before Luis Cabrera worked around 3 hits and a walk to toss 3 shutout frames to end the game. Elias Torres made this game interesting for the P-Rays with his clutch 2-out, 3-run double in the 7th, Hunter Lockwood went 2 for 4 with a double and an RBI, and Yoel Araujo went 1 for 3 with a walk, a stolen base, and a run scored. Lockwood and Araujo both stood out on defense as well, gunning down runners for outfield assists.