Rays Winter Leagues Recap: Doug Mathis Tosses 5.2 Shutout IP
By Robbie Knopf
On Tuesday night, two of the Durham Bulls’ swingmen from this season, Doug Mathis and Merrill Kelly, took the mound. Despite their similar roles, the perceptions of them in the system were vastly different. Mathis was a Triple-A veteran while people wondered whether Kelly has the ability to be a future piece for the Tampa Bay Rays. Tuesday’s games certainly don’t change that, but Mathis pitched well for Aragua while Kelly struggles for Escogido.
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Arizona Fall League: Peoria Javelinas 2, Mesa Solar Sox 1
Patrick Leonard was named to the AFL Rising Stars Game, and that happened to coincide with a recent stretch of better results from him. He went 1 for 4 with a double to extend his hitting streak to 3 games. Bizarrely, though, Leonard made his second error in the last three games at first base. Leonard should be a solid enough defender moving forward, but you never want to see a stretch like this from a first baseman.
Dominican Winter League: Toros del Este 6, Leones del Escogido 2
For the second straight start, Merrill Kelly looked sharp through 3 innings, allowing just a walk while striking out 2. However, just like in his last outing, Kelly came apart in the fourth inning, and this time, he could not even record an out.
Two walks sandwiched around a single loaded the bases, and that Kelly paid for that dearly. A groundball single scored one run, and a sac fly scored another–although the outfielder dropped the ball and couldn’t even record the easy out. The second single and the flyball were not Kelly’s fault, but his loss of control at the beginning of the inning was bizarre. After two straight fourth inning meltdowns, the question has to be asked: is Kelly experiencing Jake Odorizzi-esque struggles with the second time through opposing batting orders?
If that is truly was is happening, Kelly has the ability to get past it. With his fastball from 88-91 MPH, solid changeup, and decent breaking ball, he can be a solid pitcher for the Leones. But this is a good reminder nonetheless that Kelly is a decent prospect as opposed to a great one, and we can’t be expecting too much from him in the coming years.
Fellow Durham Bull Josh Lueke tossed 0.2 innings for Este allowing a hit but nothing else.
Mexican Pacific League: Naranjeros de Hermosillo 7, Aguilas de Mexicali 6
Edgar Gomez had a little bit of a rough appearances for the Aguilas, allowing a 2-run homer after an error in 1.1 innings pitched. The homer was his only mistake, but he has now allowed a run in his last two appearances. Hopefully this is just a bump in the road for Gomez, who has showed good promise for Mexicali so far.
Mike Jacobs went 1 for 5 with an RBI in the loss for the Aguilas.
Venados de Mazatlán 2, Caneros de los Mochis 0
Justin Christian (yet another Bull) has been struggling mightily to begin the MPL season, but he had a nice game in this one, going 2 for 4. Will this finally get him going? Olmo Rosario went 1 for 4 with a run scored for the Venados. He has a solid .259/.306/.414 line in 14 games for Mazatlán.
Venezuelan Winter League: Caribes de Anzoátegui 6, Bravos de Margarita 0
Brandon Allen and Taylor Motter had mediocre games for the Caribes and Bravos respectively, with Allen going 0 for 3 with a walk and Motter going 0 for 4. At least Omar Bencomo had a strong relief appearance for Margarita, going 1.2 shutout innings allowing just a hit while striking out 2. Bencome now has a 3.48 ERA in 10.1 innings for the Bravos, but just a 6-5 strikeout to walk ratio. They have to hope that this game is a sign that more K’s are on the way.
Tigres de Aragua 8, Tiburones de La Guaira 3 (10 innings)
Of course, he did not factor in the decision, but Doug Mathis looked outstanding for the Tigres. He went 5.2 shutout innings working around 7 hits, and while his strikeout to walk ratio was just 1-1, he forced a 9-0 groundout to flyout ratio. By the way, all seven singles were on groundballs too–with a little more luck, Mathis could have gone even deeper into this game. Mathis now has two strong starts in three tries this season (both against La Guaira) as he hopes for another minor league contract this offseason.
Five other former Rays minor leaguers appeared in this game in total. Ryan Reid took a hard-luck loss for La Guaira. After a perfect 9th with a strikeout, Reid departed in the 10th after allowing a single and forcing a popup. Of course, the two pitchers behind him collapsed entirely (that’s how you lose by 5 runs in extra innings), but it’s his name that gets the “L.” Aren’t wins and losses great?
On the position player side, Erold Andrus went 1 for 2, Cesar Suarez went 1 for 4, and Alex Cabrera went 1 for 5 for the Tiburones while Hector Gimenez went 0 for 4 with a run scored for Aragua.