The Undercards: Andrew Velazquez Laces Walk-Off 1B
By Robbie Knopf
The Charlotte Stone Crabs may have the most interesting collection of prospects in the Tampa Bay Rays system, especially in their infield. It was that infield that led the way as the Stone Crabs overcame a rough debut by another promising minor leaguer on the mound to beat the Daytona Tortugas in walk-off fashion.
Triple-A International League: Charlotte Knights (CHW) 3, Durham Bulls 0
Lefty Scott Diamond had a nice first start for the Bulls, but not much else went well for this team aside from his performance. He went 5 shutout innings allowing 5 hits, striking out 2 while walking none. His groundout to flyout ratio was 7-2. This outing was typical Scott Diamond, and while he needs to be more than that to achieve success in the big leagues again, the Bulls will settle for him eating innings.
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Jim Patterson finished the game with 2 perfect innings for Durham, recording 3 strikeouts and 3 groundouts, but fellow lefty C.J. Riefenhauser had a rough appearance. He lasted just an inning allowing 3 runs, 2 earned, on 4 hits. He did force a 3-1 groundout to flyout ratio (or would have if not for a Taylor Motter error at third base), but he made some mistakes that were hit hard. For whatever reason, Riefenhauser’s command hasn’t come all the way back since his oblique injury last season.
On the offensive side, Curt Casali had a nice game, going 1 for 2 with 2 walks, and Eugenio Velez continued his hot start by going 1 for 3 with a walk. It was also nice to see Motter working on his versatility as he played third base, but it didn’t go well as he made a couple of errors. In fairness to Motter, he has always looked more comfortable at shortstop and second base than at third, and those are more difficult positions.
Double-A Southern League: Chattanooga Lookouts (MIN) 11, Montgomery Biscuits 5
The Montgomery offense made some things happen, but just one of their four pitchers found a way to stop that Lookouts’ impressive bats. Mikey O’Brien allowed 6 runs in just 2 innings, Matt Lollis allowed another run in his frame, and Jhan Marinez allowed 3 more in an inning of work.
At least Bradin Hagens looked good, going 5 innings allowing just 1 run on 4 hits, striking out 1 while walking none. His strikeouts from his season debut were gone, but the Biscuits’ bullpen could have been burned a lot worse than it was and Hagens’ efforts prevented that from happening. Ironically enough, Hagens allowed the only homer by the Lookouts, a solo shot from Travis Harrison.
We can talk for a while about the Montgomery lineup. Justin O’Conner drilled his first homer of the season, a two-run blast, Leonardo Reginatto went 1 for 3 with a double, a walk, and 2 RBI, and Tyler Goeddel went 1 for 3 with the other RBI, a walk, and a run scored. Tommy Coyle went 2 for 4 with a double and a stolen base, and Richie Shaffer also delivered a 1-for-3 day with 2 walks and a run scored.
The hottest start at the plate belongs to Coyle, who has a .429/.467/.643 line so far thanks to three multi-hit games in four tries. Shaffer is also playing extremely well, hitting to a .333/.455/.556 line. He has struck out 8 times in just 22 plate appearances, but has also earned 4 walks. Finally, O’Conner’s line is stuck at .250/.250/.438, and the Rays would love to see him adding some walks to his defense and power.
High-A Florida State League: Charlotte Stone Crabs 6, Daytona Tortugas (CIN) 5
German Marquez‘s debut for the Stone Crabs did not go as planned. He lasted 4 innings allowing 5 runs on 4 hits, striking out 1 while walking 2. His groundout to flyout ratio was just 2-8. For whatever reason, Marquez didn’t have it in this game, and he will hope to get on track for his next start. In the meantime, though, he can take solace in the fact that his bullpen and offense picked him up.
Marquez was followed by Brad Schreiber, who tossed 2 perfect innings with 3 strikeouts and 3 groundouts, and Buddy Borden, who worked around 2 hits with 3 strikeouts in 3 scoreless frames of his own. Borden has a 1.29 ERA and a 7-0 strikeout to walk ratio in 5.2 innings for Charlotte as his mid-90’s fastball has been electric in relief.
And now to what you’ve waiting for, our discussion of the offense. Andrew Velazquez had a big game, going 3 for 5, and he capped it with a walk-off single in the ninth inning. He’s hitting .429 to begin the year thanks to multi-hit performances in his last three contests. Jake Bauers provided the thump earlier in the game, going 1 for 3 with a walk and a 3-run homer, his first of the year. Bauers draws James Loney comps, but the Rays are hoping that he has more power left in the tank.
Other notables included Joey Rickard, who went 2 for 4 and Willy Adames, who delivered a 1-for-3 day with a double, a walk, a stolen base, an RBI, and a run scored. Kean Wong and Braxton Lee also stole a base each for the Stone Crabs. Adames has started off the year slowly, but he is now 3 for his last 7 and did a little bit of everything in this game. He will play the entire 2015 season at 19 years of age, but the Tampa Bay Rays are confident that he will be just fine at the High-A level.
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