Nate Karns‘ inconsistent outing was the biggest negative in the Tampa Bay Rays’ satisfying 7-5 win last night, but the team’s affiliates did their best to make up for it. Brent Honeywell and Matt Buschmann were among the pitchers that performed well, with Honeywell in particular delivering a special outing.
Triple-A International League: Charlotte Knights (CHW) 3, Durham Bulls 2
Matt Buschmann’s first two outings for the Bulls were inconsistent, but his third start was something out of his outstanding 2013 season with the team. Buschmann went 7 innings allowing 2 runs on 3 hits, striking out 7 while walking 2. His groundout to flyout ratio was also 8-3. All of these Bulls pitchers have a chance to earn a big league call-up at some point, and that especially important for the 31-year-old Buschmann, who is hoping to crack the pinnacle for the first time.
Jordan Norberto ended up taking the loss in the game after allowing a homer in the top of the ninth. He went 2 innings allowing a run on 2 hits, striking out 2 while walking none. He no longer has a perfect ERA, but his 1.17 ERA and 11-2 strikeout to walk ratio are still quite shiny. Norberto looked better than expected in the spring, and now will hope to prove that he should be the lefty in the Rays’ bullpen.
On the offensive side, J.P. Arencibia drilled his first homer in the Rays system and Hak-Ju Lee had a nice game, going 2 for 3 with a stolen base. The Rays would like to see a lot more of that from him. Alexi Casilla also went 2 for 3 with a walk and an RBI while Vince Belnome had a 1-for-2 day with a double and 2 walks.
Double-A Southern League: Mobile BayBears (ARI) 4, Montgomery Biscuits 3
Richie Shaffer homered for the second consecutive game, but the Biscuits were edged by Mobile. Shaffer went 2 for 4 with a double, a walk, and that blast as he improved his line to .283/.377/.522 on the season. The only problem is his strikeouts–18 in 53 plate appearances, or 34.0%. Shaffer retains the power and bat speed to be an impact big league player, but that will be meaningless if he can’t make more contact.
Tyler Goeddel‘s hitting streak ended at 10, and Johnny Field took advantage as he improved his batting average to .386 to top Goeddel’s .381. Field went 3 for 4 with a double, an RBI, and a run scored as being ticketed to Double-A after just 40 High-A games hasn’t affected him much if at all. Boog Powell was promoted after just 14 High-A games and has had more trouble, but he had a nice game in this one, going 2 for 3 with 2 walks and a stolen base.
Jared Mortensen allowed 3 runs in the third inning, and that was enough for him to take the loss. He allowed 5 hits in his 6 frames, striking out 7 while walking 2 and forcing a 5-2 groundout to flyout ratio. Colton Reavis allowed an insurance run that loomed large in the game, but Matt Lollis and Jhan Marinez were perfect to conclude the contest, with Marinez striking out 1.
High-A Florida State League: Bradenton Marauders (PIT) 7, Charlotte Stone Crabs 6
The Stone Crabs built up a 6-0 lead after 2 innings, but Christopher Kirsch and the Charlotte bullpen let it slip away. Kirsch allowed 4 runs, 3 earned, in 3.1 innings, striking out 3 while walking 2, before Jeff Ames allowed 2 runs in 3 innings and Brad Schreiber allowed another in 0.2 frames. I never like to dwell on the negatives, but the former supplemental first rounder Ames has particularly struggled, managing a 5.00 ERA and a 3-7 strikeout to walk ratio in 9 innings pitched.
In any event, let’s move onto the more exciting facet of this game. Willy Adames slammed his first High-A homer, a 3-run shot, while Jake Bauers slammed his third of the year. Bauers struck out in his other 4 at-bats in this game, but even after that, he still has a 10-8 strikeout to walk ratio on the year. He has certainly exceeding expectations in the early going by managing a .255/.364/.532 line with 3 homers in 55 plate appearances after he managed 8 in 467 PA’s in 2014.
Andrew Velazquez left the game after his first at-bat with a tweaked left shoulder, and hopefully he is alright. His replacement, Juniel Querecuto, did his best to fill the void as he drilled a 2-run double. Mike Marjama also had a nice game for Charlotte, going 2 for 3 with a hit-by-pitch and a run scored.
Low-A Midwest League Game 1: Bowling Green Hot Rods 8, Dayton Dragons (CIN) 0 (7 innings)
Brent Honeywell retired the first 11 batters he saw before a walk to Gavin LaValley in the fourth, and then he came back to retire the next six Dayton Hitters. Ty Washington‘s single ended Honeywell’s no-hit bid with two outs in the sixth, but he came back to force Narciso Crook to fly out and complete a spectacular outing. Honeywell went 6 shutout innings allowing just that hit and that walk while striking out 7.
Honeywell put up a 1.07 ERA in 33.2 innings at Princeton, and he has mirrored that with a 1.12 ERA in his first three starts at full-season ball. Maybe he isn’t quite this good, but his 22-6 strikeout to walk ratio in 16 innings certainly reminds us that it is far from a fluke. Honeywell took no time to establish himself as one of the best pitching prospects in the system, and though the Tampa Bay Rays usually develop their pitching prospects slowly, it seems like Honeywell will force his way to High-A this year.
In other news from this game, Jace Conrad slammed his first homer of the season, Bralin Jackson went 3 for 3 with an RBI and a run scored, and both Coty Blanchard and Grant Kay went 2 for 3 with a double and 2 RBI, with Blanchard scoring twice and Kay once. Conrad’s first homer was a nice addition to his .333 average and 6 stolen bases without being caught after the conclusion of this first game. He remains one of the system’s sleepers.
Game 2: Bowling Green 1, Dayton 0 (7 innings)
Greg Harris‘ no-hit bid ended with one out in the first inning, but he looked great in his own right. He lasted 6 innings allowing no runs on 4 hits, striking out 5 while walking none. He is repeating Low-A, but he has experienced nothing but success so far, pitching to a 2.12 ERA and a 16-2 strikeout to walk ratio in 17 innings. Unless Harris’ secondary pitches are so raw that the Rays need to leave him in Bowling Green, we have to imagine that he will end up in Charlotte soon.
Damion Carroll managed to close out the Hot Rods’ 1-0 win, but only after making things far too interesting. He allowed a leadoff walk and then a stolen base and a wild pitch with one out as the tying run for Dayton was just 90 feet away. He then issued another walk, and that baserunner stole second base. However, he struck out the last two batters of the game to escape the peril unscathed. Carroll has an electric arm, but his 5-7 strikeout to walk ratio in 4 innings aren’t a good sign.
The Hot Rods offense scored its only run in the top of the first, and the pitchers made it stick. Three of Bowling Green’s five hits came from Riley Unroe, who went 3 for 3 with the only run scored, while Jace Conrad went 1 for 2 with a hit-by-pitch and Coty Blanchard went 1 for 3 with the lone RBI. Blanchard hasn’t hit much to begin the year, but the Rays have to love that he could play shortstop in the first game of the doubleheader and left field in the second.