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The Undercards: Casey Gillaspie Drills First Low-A Homer

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It was a little controversial when the Tampa Bay Rays decided to send 2014 first round pick Casey Gillaspie to Low-A Bowling Green rather than High-A Charlotte. Even if the assignment was not as aggressive as we would have liked, though, the logic is simple. The Rays want Gillaspie to build confidence with a strong stint with the Hot Rods and give him the best chance to succeed in Charlotte, the place where Mikie Mahtook and Richie Shaffer failed to meet expectations.

Gillaspie’s confidence building is now off to a good start. Bowling Green was unable to come away with a victory on Sunday, but Gillaspie came away with his first home run at full-season ball.

Triple-A International League: Gwinnett Braves 6, Durham Bulls 3

Andrew Bellatti‘s first start since 2012 was reasonably successful, but shoddy defense and relief work caused the Bulls to settle for a split in their four-game series with Gwinnett. Bellatti went 4.1 innings allowing 3 runs, 2 earned, on 2 hits, striking out 3 while walking 1. His groundout to flyout ratio was 5-2. Moving back to the rotation so late in his development put Bellatti in a tough situation, but he certainly didn’t embarrass himself in this start.

Unfortunately, after Bryce Stowell tossed 1.2 shutout innings working around 3 hits and a walk, Brandon Gomes and Jose Dominguez allowed 3 runs, just 1 earned, to allow Gwinnett to pull away. The Braves scored all of those runs in the eighth inning in a rally punctuated by a Hak-Ju Lee error with two outs. Lee did at least manage his first hit of the season in the game.

Elsewhere in the lineup, Vince Belnome had a huge game that somehow didn’t get him involved in the scoring, going 2 for 3 with a triple and 2 walks. Alexi Casilla went 2 for 4 with an RBI while Jake Elmore drove in the other two runs. Taylor Motter also delivered a 1-for-3 day with a double, a stolen base, and an RBI.

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Double-A Southern League: Chattanooga Lookouts (MIN) 6, Montgomery Biscuits 0

The Biscuits had a rough game on the whole, but that doesn’t reflect upon Reinaldo Lopez. Lopez had a huge season debut, going 6 shutout innings allowing just 3 hits and no walks while striking out 7. He also forced 5 groundouts against just 1 flyout. Lopez has never found the stuff to be more than a marginal prospect for the Rays, but a performance like this certainly catches our eyes and makes us wonder if more exciting things are in store for him.

The bullpen was a disaster and the offense couldn’t score any runs, but Johnny Field did go 2 for 4 with a double while Tommy Coyle went 2 for 4. Coyle is off to a nice start and what will be a make-or-break season for him, going 4 for his first 10.

High-A Florida State League: Charlotte Stone Crabs 4, Fort Myers Miracle (MIN) 0

Jacob Faria is coming off a big season for the Bowling Green Hot Rods, managing a 3.46 ERA and a 107-32 strikeout to walk ratio in 119.2 innings pitched. His debut for the Stone Crabs featured more of the same. Faria went 6 shutout innings allowing just 4 hits, striking out 7 while walking 1. His groundout to flyout ratio was just 3-5 and he will need to continue working on his command, but it was great to see him start off 2015 with another spectacular outing.

Behind Faria, Charlotte actually received some nice bullpen work, with Jeff Ames tossing 2 shutout innings working around a walk while Nick Sawyer tossed a perfect frame with a strikeout. The Rays are still hoping that Ames, one of their 2011 supplemental first round picks, and Sawyer, a 40th round pick who immediately burst onto the scene in his pro debut in 2012, can figure into their future big league bullpen.

On the offensive side, Willy Adames and Jake Bauers finally got themselves going at the plate, with Adames going 2 for 4 with a double while Bauers went 1 for 3 with a double, a walk, an RBI, and a run scored. Mike Marjama also had a good Rays system debut, going 2 for 3 with a run scored, and both Andrew Velazquez and Joey Rickard went 2 for 4 with an RBI.

Low-A Midwest League: Lake County Captains (CLE) 2, Bowling Green Hot Rods 1

There wasn’t much offense in this game, but there may be many more runs scored coming for the Hot Rods as Casey Gillaspie gets going at the plate. Gillaspie delivered 2 of Bowling Green’s 5 hits including his first home run at the Low-A level to account for the team’s entire offensive output. Gillaspie is advanced enough that Low-A should not be a problem, and it is nice to see him starting to demonstrate that after a rough beginning.

Henry Centeno led the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in ERA at 1.50 in 54 innings. The Tampa Bay Rays saw enough to call him up to Bowling Green, and after one start, his ERA stands at that same 1.50. Centeno went 6 innings allowing just 1 hit, a solo home run, striking out 3 while walking 2. His groundout to flyout ratio was 8-4. Centeno turns 21 in August, so it made sense for the Rays to push him to Low-A, and it will be interesting to see how he performs at the level.

Next: Tampa Bay Rays Game 6: Offense, Nate Karns Take Rays To .500

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