The Undercards: Nate Karns, 2 Homers Lift Durham Bulls
Nate Karns lowered his ERA below 6.00 with a decent start on Sunday. He has a lot more work to do, but it is something, and the Rays have to hope that more consistency is on the way.
Triple-A International League: Durham Bulls 7, Norfolk Tides (BAL) 5
Nate Karns allowed 2 runs each in the third inning plus another each in the fourth and fifth, but the Bulls offense gave him seven runs of support to keep the pressure off of him. Overall, Karns went 5.2 innings allowing 4 runs, 3 earned, on 6 hits, striking out 5 while walking 2. He has now allowed three earned runs or less in two of his last three starts–although the 8 runs he allowed in the start in between certainly has to dampen your enthusiasm. The good news is that Karns is healthy and his stuff remains electric, and the Rays are confident he can work through his command issues. Behind Karns, C.J. Riefenhauser worked around 2 hits to toss a scoreless inning before Steve Geltz struck out 2 in 1.1 perfect frames. Riefenhauser has dealt with major control issues since coming back from his oblique strain, managing just a 16-12 strikeout to walk ratio in 23 innings pitched, but he has battled to post a 2.35 ERA nonetheless.
In terms of that run support for Karns, it was a trio of the Bulls’ more veteran players coming up big. Wilson Betemit went 2 for 3 with a walk, his 14th homer, 2 RBI, and 2 runs scored. His batting average and on-base percentage are both unimpressive (.237 and .318), but he has drilled 14 homers and 13 doubles on his way to a .441 slugging percentage and has looked very good against right-handed pitching. He could be worth another look for the Rays or another big league team at some point this season. Jeremy Moore, on the other hand, went 1 for 4 with a 2-run blast to continue his hot start at Durham. Moore is not all that old at 27, and while the Rays have a ton of outfield depth, it would be nice to keep Moore in the organization beyond the season if he keeps playing well. We have already seen one late-twenties former top prospect–Brandon Guyer–come up big for the Rays, and Moore has a chance to be the second. Finally, Jayson Nix went 2 for 4 with a double, 2 RBI, and a run scored. It would be unsurprising if he eventually leaves the team for another major league opportunity.
Among the younger players, Robby Price had a nice game, going 1 for 3 with a double, a walk, and an RBI. Getting playing time because of promotions and injuries, Price has a .253/.351/.329 line in 173 plate appearances. He doesn’t have much power, but the 26 year old has a strong 19-20 strikeout to walk ratio while playing second base, third base, both corner outfield spots, and even pitcher. Price is not a prospect, but it is nice to see him getting a chance and holding his own.
Double-A Southern League: Mississippi Braves 6, Montgomery Biscuits 3
The good news from this game was that Grayson Garvin got up to 4.2 innings pitched as he continues to build up arm strength after missing time with a back injury. Unfortunately, Garvin also allowed 4 runs on 8 hits, and that was enough to lose the Biscuits this game. Overall, 2014 has been disappointing for Garvin, but with a 31-6 strikeout to walk ratio in 32.1 innings pitched, we can remain optimistic that he will change the way we look at this season by the time it ends. Andrew Bellatti worked around 3 hits to toss 3 shutout relief innings for Montgomery.
On the offensive side, the bottom third of the Biscuits order had a great game. Alejandro Segovia drilled an 8th inning homer, Kes Carter went 1 for 3 with a double, a walk, and a run scored, and Willie Argo went 2 for 3 with a walk and a run scored of his own. Carter is hitting just .167 since coming up to Montgomery, but nice to see him doing positive things in this contest.
High-A Florida State League: Fort Myers Miracle (MIN) 10, Charlotte Stone Crabs 5
Tommy Coyle led off this game with a solo homer for the Stone Crabs, but everything basically went downhill from there. Reinaldo Lopez allowed 7 runs in 4.1 innings of work, and the only Charlotte pitcher that actually has a good outing was Zach Cooper, who struck out the only batter he faced. There were some offensive fireworks, though. Maxx Tissenbaum had a 2-run single, Patrick Leonard and Leonardo Reginatto both went 2 for 5, and Julian Ridings went 3 for 4 with a triple. Everything continues to come together for Leonard this season as he has a .421/.532/.658 line in his last 10 games to raise his line to .296/.383/.512 on the season.
Low-A Midwest League: Dayton Dragons (CIN) 8, Bowling Green Hot Rods 3
German Marquez made his first start off the DL in this game and allowed 2 runs on 2 hits in 2.2 innings pitched. It certainly wasn’t his best outing, but it is exciting to see the budding pitching prospect back on the hill. Behind him, a couple of disaster outings made sure that the Hot Rods could not come back, but Stone Speer and Colton Reavis both had very good outings. Speer went 2.2 innings allowing just a hit while striking out 3 while Reavis tossed a perfect 9th with 2 strikeouts. On the season, Reavis has a 2.83 ERA and a 52-20 strikeout to walk ratio in 24 appearances and 41.1 innings pitched. You can never know about relievers at Low-A, but what Reavis has done is impressive nonetheless.
On the offensive side, the two stars for Bowling Green were Johnny Field and Ty Young. Field went 3 for 4 with a triple, a walk, 2 stolen bases while Young had a 2-for-3 day with a walk, a stolen base, an RBI, and a run scored. Field has been impressive as the Hot Rods’ starting centerfielder this season, hitting to a .282/.362/.440 line with 18 stolen bases. The Rays drafted him as a second baseman in the 5th round of the 2013 MLB Draft, but if Field has the defensive chops for center and can also handle the keystone, that would raise his prospect profile significantly.
Short Season-A New York-Penn League: Hudson Valley Renegades 7, Staten Island Yankees 6
Thanks to some excellent offense, the Renegades won this game despite the fact that none of their three pitchers managed an ERA below 4.50. Chris Pike got the start and went 4 innings allowing 2 runs on 4 hits, striking out 4 while walking 2. Darren Fischer and Eli Echarry then allowed 4 runs in the final 5 innings. Speaking of that offense, Casey Gillaspie went 1 for 3 with 2 walks and 2 RBI while Jace Conrad continues his stolen base tear with a 1-for-3 day with 2 walks, 2 stolen bases, and 2 runs scored. The 2 walks are especially notable because he entered the game with just 1 on the season. The stolen bases, though, are nothing new–he has 8 (in 9 attempts) in 13 games and has stolen 2 in back-to-back games. Braxton Lee and Alec Sole also had multi-hit games for the Renegades, who improve to a ridiculous 16-5 on the New York-Penn League season.
Advanced Rookie Appalachian League: Princeton Rays 6, Danville Braves 4
What a turnaround the P-Rays had in this game as they scored 6 runs in the bottom of the 8th to overcome a 4-0 deficit. Jose Alonzo allowed 3 runs, 2 earned, on 8 hits in 4.2 innings, but Mario Fernandez and Justin McCalvin tossed a combined 3.1 shutout innings of relief to give Princeton the opportunity to come back. That 8th inning saw an RBI triple by Manny Sanchez plus 2-run singles by Angel Moreno and Carter Burgess. Sanchez had a huge game, going 2 for 3 with that triple, a walk, an RBI, a run scored, and an outfield assist while Moreno and Burgess both went 2 for 4. Sanchez, just 18, is off to a rough start in his first season in the US, but a performance like this could be what gets him going.