Rays Winter Ball Recap: Jake Thompson Tosses 4 No-Hit IP
By Robbie Knopf
For the most part, what happens in Winter Ball will not have too much of an impact on the Rays’ 2015 roster. Jake Thompson, though, is striving to be among the exceptions. A solid season at Durham will net him an invite to big league spring training, and he hopes to enter it with a shot at winning a bullpen role after a strong winter.
Arizona Fall League: Peoria Javelinas 4, Scottsdale Scorpions 3 (11 innings)
Kes Carter has always had interesting tools, particularly his power and his speed, but he simply couldn’t perform for any extended period of time. Then, this season, the Rays promoted him to Double-A Montgomery just to fill a spot, and he showed something, managing a .716 OPS. The Rays sent him to the AFL, and the flashes have continued. In this game for Peoria, he went 2 for 4 with a double, a game-tying homer in the ninth inning, and 2 runs scored. Carter is just getting started trying to create a future for himself in the big leagues, but at least this former supplemental first rounder won’t go down without a fight.
Matt Lollis also appeared for the Javelinas in the contest, going 2 innings allowing 1 run on 3 hits, striking out 1, and there was also an ex-Rays prospect on the other side. Angel Sanchez, who passed through Tampa Bay on his four-organization tour this season, went 2 innings allowing 1 hit, striking out 1 and getting 4 more outs on the ground. Sanchez’s stuff has aways been impressive, but he isn’t particularly young and has been known for attitude problems. Will anyone be able to get him on track?
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Dominican Winter League: Toros del Este 7, Aguilas Cibaenas 4
A lot of former Rays in this one, although no one had anything near a banner day. For Cibaenas, Manny Ramirez went 0 for 4, Cesar Cabral allowed 2 runs in 0.2 IP, Juan Sandoval allowed 1 run in 0.2 IP, and Santiago Garrido allowed another run in a third of an inning. Mayo Acosta went 0 for 3 with a walk in the win for Este.
Gigantes del Cibao 3, Tigres del Licey 0
It’s pretty unbelievable that Jesus Colome is still pitching. His nephew, Alex Colome, is becoming an increasingly important pitcher for the Rays, but the 36 year old Jesus hasn’t had enough of baseball either. In this game, the elder Colome struck out the only batter he faced for Licey. Braulio Lara also faced one batter for the Tigres, but he allowed a hit that eventually came around to score.
A pair of former Durham Bulls also appeared in relief for Cibao, with Jhonny Nunez working around a hit and a walk to toss a scoreless inning and Ramon Ramirez striking out 1 in a perfect frame.
Estrellas de Oriente 4, Leones del Escogido 1
We were talking about Matt Fields‘ power the other day, and he showed a little bit more of it in this game. The former Rays 44th round pick went 2 for 4 with a triple, a double, and an RBI in the win for Oriente. Chris Rearick, who the Rays traded to the San Diego Padres for Vince Belnome, also got into the contest for the Estrellas, allowing a hit in a third of an inning of work.
For the Leones, Jordan Pacheco started at first base and went 2 for 3 with a hit-by-pitch. Why are we mentioning Jordan Pacheco? He has never played for any Rays affiliate, but he taught Matt Moore his breaking ball. That has to count for something.
Mexican Pacific League: Mayos de Navojoa 10, Yaquis de Obregón 5
Another big day for the Navojoa offense, and while Jon Weber didn’t slam one of their three homers, he was still quite involved with the offense nonetheless. He went 2 for 4 with 2 doubles, a walk, and 3 runs scored, and he now has a .321/.367/.643 line on the young season.
For Obregón, Armando Araiza got into the game defensively and they have to be a little appreciative of what Ariel Gracia did. The left-hander, who spent last season in the Dominican Summer League, entered the game with the Yaquis down 8-0 and tossed 2 respectable innings, allowing 2 runs on 3 hits with 2 strikeouts and 2 walks. He entered the game having recorded just 2 outs in 3 appearances, but Obregón trusted him to provide a little more length and he showed something. Obviously a 9.00 ERA in a game can’t be considered a success, but this can be a confidence booster for Gracia nonetheless.
Venezuelan Winter League: Bravos de Margarita 3, Aguilas del Zulia 2
Taylor Motter had a rare bad game, going 0 for 4 with a run scored, but there were a couple of other guys to talk about. We haven’t yet mentioned Yorman Mayora, who went 0.1 innings for Zulia allowing a run on 3 hits. Mayora’s one-year stint in the system in 2010 was notable for the fact that he may the only Rays minor leaguer to split a season between the Venezuelan Summer League and Bowling Green.
Heading back to the Bravos, Omar Bencomo got the start after a pair of relief appearances and did OK, allowing 2 runs on 4 hits in 4 innings of work. He struck out just 1 while walking 2 but forced a 6-2 groundout to flyout ratio. Bencomo missed being Mayora’s teammate in the Rays system by one year as he made it Bowling Green in 2011.
Tiburones de La Guaira 6, Leones del Caracas 4
And the title of funnest game of Saturday goes to this contest. The pitching matchup actually consisted of a pair of Rays minor leaguers from this season (and former solid prospects), Jake Thompson and Albert Suarez. Thompson made just his second start of 2014 after making 26 in 2013, and he was incredible, going 4 no-hit innings allowing just a walk while striking out 4. He threw just 44 pitches and forced a 5-2 groundout to flyout ratio. Thompson’s future appears to be in relief, but dominance is dominance no matter which role it comes in, and the Rays have to like what they saw here.
Suarez wasn’t quite as sharp but still delivered a solid outing. He went 3.1 innings allowing 2 runs on 5 hits, striking out 4 while walking 1. His groundout to flyout ratio was 6-0. Suarez has done a nice job rebounding from his recent injury problems, and it will be interesting to see whether the Rays bring him back for next season.
By the way, there were also five other former Rays minor leaguers in this game. For La Guaira, Erold Andrus went 1 for 2, Cesar Suarez went 1 for 4, and Alex Cabrera went 1 for 5 with a double. On the Leones side, meanwhile, Henry Rodriguez went 2 for 4 with a double, an RBI, and a run scored while Daniel Mayora went 0 for 3 with a walk.