Rays Winter Leagues Recap: Merrill Kelly Tosses 5 Shutout Innings
By Robbie Knopf
When a breakout year at Triple-A is not enough for you to get a 40-man roster spot, you’re obviously in a less-than-ideal situation. For Merrill Kelly, though, he can tell himself that the reason he didn’t make the Tampa Bay Rays’ roster was not due to any fatal flaw with him but simply because of the pitching depth the team has. He’ll find out the answer soon enough as he finds out whether a team will select him in the Rule 5 Draft.
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Australian Baseball League: Adelaide Bite 5, Brisbane Bandits 2 (Thursday)
Brisbane 7, Adelaide 2 (Friday)
This is another situation where two games happened in Australia over the course of a little bit over a day here. In any event, it’s always nice to have more games to discuss.
The first contest was relatively forgettable. Johnny Field went 1 for 4 for Brisbane with a double and a run scored, Thomas Coyle went 1 for 4 with a stolen base, and Granden Goetzman went 0 for 4 with an RBI.
The only player with a game he could truly be proud of was Maxx Tissenbaum. He went 1 for 4 with a run scored at the plate but truly shined defensively, throwing out 2 of 3 attempted basestealers. 2014 marked Tissenbaum’s first season as a catcher and his results were mixed as he had a 43% caught stealing rate but 17 passed balls in 36 games. However, he is continuing to improve with experience and that is exciting to see.
On Friday, Coyle had a big game, going 2 for 4 with his 6th stolen base of the season and an RBI. He now has a .339/.400/.581 line with 4 doubles, 3 homers, 12 RBI, and 6 stolen bases (in 7 attempts) in 70 plate appearances. He also has a 9-game hitting streak going. Coyle has looked extremely impressive for the Bandits and will hope to carry some portion of these results over into the 2015 regular season.
Granden Goetzman was also solid, going 1 for 3 with a walk and a run scored. He now has 2 walks in his last 3 games after just 1 in his first 13. Goetzman has always had the tools but lacked the plate discipline to harness them, and the Rays would deem even a minor breakthrough in that regard as a major success.
Johnny Field went 0 for 4 in the win for Brisbane. He has been outplayed by Coyle, but are we really going to complain about his .267/.361/.450 line?
Dominican Winter League: Gigantes del Cibao 3, Leones del Escogido 2
Merrill Kelly started for Escogido and was able to work around some control issues to deliver excellent results. He lasted 5 innings allowing no runs on 2 hits, striking out 5 while walking 5. His groundout to flyout ratio was a strong 7-1. For whatever reason, Kelly’s control has been lacking for the Leones–he has 14 walks versus 23 strikeouts in 22 IP–but he has pitched well in his last three outings and looks to be hitting his stride.
In other news from this game, Jordan Pacheco went 0 for 4 for Escogido while Freddy Guzman pinch-ran a stole a base. On the Cibao side, Wilson Betemit went 1 for 4 while Ramon Ramirez worked around a hit by striking out the side in the 9th for his 8th save.
Toros del Este 4, Tigres del Licey 3
We might as well say hi to recent Rays minor league signing Allan Dykstra (who we’ll hopefully have more about later today). In this game, he went 0 for 3 with a walk as the Este DH. Dykstra is 2 for 10 to begin his Toros tenure, although he has drawn a pair of walks.
Dystra is interesting because he is a former first round pick who has shown power both power and plate discipline for years now. The bad news is that issues with inside pitches and offspeed offerings slowed his journey through the minor leagues considerably. He didn’t make Triple-A until this season at age 27 and hasn’t been younger than his leagues’ average age since 2011.
Nevertheless, he put up strong numbers this season, hitting to a .280/.426/.504 line with 23 doubles, 16 homers, 74 RBI, and a 97-84 strikeout to walk ratio in 439 plate appearances. The Rays will give him a chance to prove that he has truly broken through. Dykstra obviously has his flaws, but maybe they are belying a little too much of the talent he still has.
In terms of the other Rays-related players from this game, Mayo Acosta also appeared for Este, going 1 for 4 with a double and a run scored and picking a runner off first base. For Licey, meanwhile, Jose Ruiz went 0 for 2 with 2 walks while Braulio Lara‘s first day since leaving the Rays organization was a disaster as he allowed a run on 2 hits without recording an out.
Mexican Pacific League: Aguilas de Mexicali 10, Charros de Jalisco 4
Edgar Gomez has been excellent for Mexicali, but this game was one of the rare examples of him struggling. Luckily for the Aguilas, it did not make a different in the game.
After Gomez worked around a double to toss a scoreless 8th, he was sent back out for the 9th with poor results. Brendan Harris singled to begin an inning before Gomez allowed another single and a Marquez Smith 3-run homer. Gomez did recover to force a popout and a groundout before he was replaced for the final out of the game.
Gomez still has plenty to learn as a pitcher and has nothing to be ashamed of now that his ERA is “up” to 2.49 in 21.2 innings pitched as a young player for his league.
Harris went 1 for 3 in the game while Humberto Cota homered in the win for Mexicali.