The Undercards: Nate Karns Makes Case for Big League Rotation Spot


The Tampa Bay Rays gave veteran lefty Erik Bedard a start on Friday night, but after Bedard allowed 4 runs on 6 hits in 3.2 innings, there is no guarantee that he will get the ball again. That is especially the case after how well the starter for the Durham Bulls, Nate Karns, did in his start.

Triple-A International League: Durham Bulls 3, Norfolk Tides (BAL) 0

Nate Karns’ 2013, got off to a terrible start, but that is firmly in the past now. Karns dominated for the second straight outing, going 7 shutout innings allowing just 2 hits and a walk while striking out 9. He needed just 95 pitches, 63 strikes, to go that long, and his groundout to flyout ratio was even a stout 6-1. The big leagues certainly won’t be as easy for Karns, but he is looking as ready as he will ever be, and the Rays have to call up before long. As inexperienced as Karns is at Triple-A, could he really be any worse than Bedard or Cesar Ramos?

Behind Karns, lefties Adam Liberatore and Jeff Beliveau finished off a 3-hit shutout by allowing just a hit while striking out 4. It’s only a matter of time before Beliveau returns to the majors, and Liberatore has to pitch himself onto the big league team as well. On the offensive side, Jerry Sands went 3 for 4 with a run scored to raise his average to .352, Mike Fontenot drilled a solo homer, and Roman Ali Solis went 2 for 4. Kevin Kiermaier also had a stolen base, which is significant because that has been a a focal point for him since the start of the season. The going has not always been easy–Kiermaier got picked off on Thursday–but he is now 3 for 4 in stolen bases on the season. If Kiermaier adds stolen bases to his game, that and his defense will make him into an incredible backup. Then if his bat comes around, the Rays may have themselves quite the starting centerfielder.

Double-A Southern League: Montgomery Biscuits 3, Pensacola Blue Wahoos (CIN) 1

The Rays have been extremely careful with lefty Grayson Garvin to begin 2013 as he has thrown just 3 innings in his first three starts. That seems especially puzzling given that he went more than that in all 6 of his starts in the Arizona Fall League, topping 4 innings in all but one and reaching 5 innings twice. It is nice to limit a pitcher’s innings, especially when he’s coming off Tommy John Surgery, but why are the Rays doing that now? The reason: the Rays want Garvin to have innings left to throw when they call him up in September.

In this game, Garvin did allow 4 hits in his 3 innings, but he stranded all four baserunners with the help of 6 strikeouts. In his 9 innings, he has allowed just 1 run on 6 hits, striking out 13 while walking just 2. Garvin has to build up his arm strength, and his results will not mean much until he is throwing 5 or 6 innings. But Garvin’s polish means that he has the ability to move quickly, and if he keeps pitching well in longer stints, the Rays may have to find room for him in Durham before too long.

Behind Garvin, recent signee Matt O’Neil earned the win in the game after allowing 1 run on 5 hits in 2.2 innings, striking out 2 while walking none. More on him later today at Rays Colored Glasses. Andrew Bellatti then worked around a couple of walks in his scoreless inning before Braulio Lara looked especially good to the end contest, allowing just 1 hit in 2.1 innings to go along with a pair of strikeouts to nail down his first save of the season. Lara may finally be harnessing his big-time stuff, striking out 13 while walking just 4 in his 10 innings this season. In terms of the run support, Ryan Brett, Curt Casali, Taylor Motter, and Jake Hager all had multi-hit games, with Motter raising his average to .327 on the year. Also worth noting is that Willie Argo stole his 8th base of the year without getting caught. Argo has a nice 4th outfielder profile, and stealing bases at will certainly gives him a boost. Joey Rickard and Cameron Seitzer each had an RBI for the Biscuits, who improve to 9-6 on the year.

High-A Florida State League: Palm Beach Cardinals 8, Charlotte Stone Crabs 3

The Stone Crabs looked at lot like the New York Yankees in their loss to the Rays on Friday night, allowing 6 runs in the 7th and 8th innings on their way to an 8-3 loss. Austin Pruitt started for Charlotte and pitched well, allowing 3 runs on 6 hits in 6.1 innings, striking out 3 while walking none. One of the runs scored with D.J. Slaton in the game as Slaton had a day to forget. Other than Pruitt’s run, he allowed 5 other runs, 4 earned, in just an inning of work. At least Nick Sawyer tossed 0.2 perfect innings to end the game. In terms of the bats, a trio of struggling ex-first rounders had encouraging games as Tyler Goeddel went 3 for 4 with a 2-run homer, Justin O’Conner went 2 for 4 with a double and a run scored, and Josh Sale went 1 for 2 with a double, 2 walks, an RBI, and a run scored. At least the Stone Crabs have their performances to be excited about after a rough night.

Low-A Midwest League: Clinton LumberKings (SEA) 7, Bowling Green Hot Rods 1

If you thought the Rays were off to a tough start to begin the year, just look at the Hot Rods, who have started just 2-12. In this game, Christopher Kirsch allowed 6 runs on 9 hits in just 5 innings, striking out 3 while walking none. Luis Cabrera did allow just a walk in the following 2 innings, striking out 2, before Colton Reavis allowed an unearned run in the 8th. Not all of the hitters had bad days as Juniel Querecuto went 2 for 5 with a double and an RBI, Granden Goetzman went 2 for 4 with a double, a stolen base, and a run scored, and Johnny Field went 1 for 3 with a double, a walk, and a stolen base. If only the Hot Rods could string some of those hits together!