The Tampa Bay Rays have won five straight games–an entire turn through their rotation–but their starting five is about to improve even more. Alex Colome was, at one point, supposed to be ready for his 2015 debut for the Rays before Drew Smyly, but while Smyly will make two MLB starts before Colome makes his first, the Rays believe that Colome will be worth the wait.
Triple-A International League Game 1: Durham Bulls 4, Gwinnett Braves 2 (7 innings)
Rehab starts are more about the pitcher on the DL building up his pitch count and feeling good on the mound than him delivering dominance. Of course, outstanding results are nice too, and that’s exactly what Alex Colome delivered on Sunday. He went 6 innings allowing 1 run on 4 hits, striking out 6 while walking 1. He was almost too efficient, tossing just 63 pitches, few enough that he may a little limited in his first big league outing. There was little that the Rays could do between a long bottom of the sixth inning and cold weather.
The visa issues and pneumonia that delayed Colome are finally in the past. The pitch count issue is annoying, but unlike the indefinite waiting periods that Colome had to endure in the recent past, this will be just a one-start thing. The Tampa Bay Rays endured the same thing with Smyly, and they’ll have their bullpen ready in case of a short first outing from Colome. We will never know whether Colome would have beaten out Karns for the fifth starter job in spring training, but Colome seemed to be the more qualified candidate and is ready to start demonstrating why.
Two prospects, a veteran, and one player in between all had nice games for the Bulls. Mikie Mahtook went 2 for 3 with a double and 2 RBI, Luke Maile went 1 for 2 with a walk, Alexi Casilla delivered a 3-for-4 day with 2 doubles, 2 RBI, and 2 runs scored, and Vince Belnome went 1 for 3 with a walk. Corey Brown went 0 for 2 with a run scored but did steal a base and contribute an outfield assist.
Game 2: Gwinnett 3, Durham 1
Lefty Jimmy Patterson had a nice spot-start for the Bulls, going 3.1 innings allowing just a hit while striking out 2. His groundout to flyout ratio was 5-2. However, it was actually Kirby Yates, who could return to the big leagues any time now, who fell apart in his appearance, allowing 3 runs in 0.2 innings. If the Rays think that Yates is a deserving big league pitcher, this shouldn’t change that, but this game is a little disconcerting nonetheless.
Jordan Norberto also had a sketchy outing, going 1.1 shutout innings but allowing 2 hits and 2 walks while striking out 1. As he hopes to return to the majors, Norberto needs to get out of the rut he has been in of late. Jhan Marinez, straight up from Montgomery, was dominant to close out the game, tossing 1.1 perfect innings with 2 strikeouts. The story remains the same for him: he can be overpowering when he throws strikes.
Durham pitchers weren’t helped out by Casali’s rough day behind the plate as he went 0 for 3 throwing out attempted basestealers and also committed a throwing error. At least he picked off a runner at second base and went 1 for 2 with a walk in the batter’s box. Leonardo Reginatto went 1 for 3 with the only Bulls RBI while J.P. Arencibia went 1 for 3 with a double and the only run scored.
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Double-A Southern League: Montgomery Biscuits 3, Jackson Generals (SEA) 2
This game got sketchy at the end as the Generals scored a run each in the eighth and ninth inning, but luckily the Biscuits were able to hold on. Austin Pruitt was incredible again, going 8 innings allowing 1 run on 6 hits, striking out 6 while walking 1 and forcing a 12-3 groundout to flyout ratio. On the season, he now has a 1.01 ERA, an 8.8 K/9, a 1.7 BB/9, and no homers allowed in 26.2 innings pitched. Pruitt is already 25 years old, and it may be worthwhile for the Rays to send him to Triple-A and find out exactly what he can give them.
In support of Pruitt, Richie Shaffer drilled his fourth homer of the season, Tommy Coyle went 1 for 2 with a walk, 2 stolen bases, and a run scored, and Johnny Field had a sac fly and an outfield assist. Shaffer went 1 for 4 with his blast, but at least he didn’t strike out. He has done that plenty this season–29.6% of his plate appearances–but his .274/.366/.516 line does look quite good. Wil the Rays soon promote him to Durham as well?
High-A Florida State League: Bradenton Marauders (PIT) 5, Charlotte Stone Crabs 4
In this game, Charlotte received back-to-back homers from an extremely unlikely pairing. In his first game for the Stone Crabs after a stint in extended spring training, Pat Blair drilled a solo homer in the second inning. Armando Araiza followed with a solo shot of his own. Blair’s career slugging percentage in the minors is .336. Araiza is a touch better at .340–but just .311 at full-season ball. We are talking about two players with very little power who hit home runs one after the other. It’s kind of sad that the Stone Crabs lost despite that.
The loss had little to do with Ryne Stanek, who went 5 innings allowing just 3 hits, striking out 2 while walking 1. He has just a 5.9 K/9 in his 4 starts to begin the season, although his 2.29 ERA and 2.3 BB/9 are both good signs. Buddy Borden was the player who lost this game for the Stone Crabs as his 1.80 ERA before the game finished at 5.11 after he allowed 5 runs in 2.1 innings. On the other hand, Borden still has a 14-2 strikeout to walk ratio in 12.1 innings on the year, and his current ERA belies how talented he is.
Other notables for Charlotte included Brad Schreiber, who went 1.2 relief innings allowing just a hit. He did allow an inherited runner from Borden to score, but he also forced a 4-0 groundout to flyout ratio. Joey Rickard also had a 1-for-3 performance with a double, a walk, and a stolen base.
Low-A Midwest League: Lansing Lugnuts (TOR) 6, Bowling Green Hot Rods 2
We can honestly say that the Tampa Bay Rays’ minor league bullpens pitched poorly in each of these games. In the first Durham game, they had a 9.00 ERA, while in the second, they managed just a 7.36 ERA. Parker Markel allowed a triple and an unearned run that nearly negated Austin Pruitt’s gem, and the Stone Crabs put up an 11.25 ERA. And in this contest, it was a 7.20 bullpen ERA that did the Hot Rods in.
Enderson Franco started for Bowling Green, and he wasn’t that bad but he managed to get just one batter into the fifth inning. He finished with 4+ innings allowing 2 runs on 8 hits, striking out 5 while walking none. Brian Miller allowed the runner he inherited from Franco to score, but he was dominant after that, tossing 3 innings allowing just a hit while striking out 1. His groundout to flyout ratio was a crazy 8-0. Miller is simply too advanced for these Low-A hitters, and it’s about time to see how High-A will treat him.
We can quibble about Miller’s inherited runner scoring until we get into Edgar Gomez, who allowed 3 runs in an inning of work, and Mike Franco, who allowed Lansing’s sixth run in his inning. At least there were positives on the offensive side as Justin Williams went 1 for 2 with a double, a walk, an RBI, and a run scored, Grant Kay went 2 for 4 with a stolen base, and Cristian Toribio went 1 for 2 with a walk and a hit-by-pitch.