On the same day that the Tampa Bay Rays’ bullpen usage was interesting to say the least, relievers were key determinants of game outcomes for the team’s minor league affiliates. The Bulls’ relief arms almost blew their win, the Biscuits’ actually did, and the Stone Crabs’ pitched quite well to set up a walk-off win.
Triple-A International League: Durham Bulls 7, Lehigh Valley IronPigs (PHI) 4
Matt Buschmann delivered a great start for Durham, going 6 innings allowing 2 runs on 6 hits, striking out 6 while walking 2. After he put up a 2.97 ERA the last time we saw him in Durham in 2013, he has a 2.81 mark through four starts with the team. Buschmann hopes to keep pitching well and finally make his big league debut at some point this season. Andy Oliver, Bryce Stowell, and Jim Miller then allowed 8 baserunners in their 3 combined innings, but Lehigh Valley only managed 2 runs and that wasn’t enough after the Bulls’ offensive outburst.
Taylor Motter had a great game for Durham, going 2 for 4 with a double, 3 RBI, and a run scored, and fellow prospect Luke Maile delivered a 3-for-4 day with an RBI and a run scored. The veterans also made an impact as Joey Butler went 2 for 4 with a double, a walk, 2 RBI, and a run scored. Butler is off to an incredible start for Durham, hitting to a .333/.429/.530 line with 5 doubles, 2 homers, and 14 RBI in 18 games. He showed promise in spring training, and it is great to see that continuing to start the regular season.
Double-A Southern League: Jackson Generals (SEA) 5, Montgomery Biscuits 4
Before we even get to this game’s results, there is something important to monitor. Boog Powell left the game for the Biscuits prior to the seventh inning, with Tyler Goeddel replacing him in his first game in centerfield. Powell has a .306/.411/.355 line to begin 2015 and Rays fans certainly have to hope that he is OK.
In the actual contest, Jared Mortensen was incredible for Montgomery, going 7 innings allowing just an unearned run on 6 hits, striking out 5 while walking 1. His groundout to flyout ratio was 8-3. Mortensen turns 27 in June, but his 1.44 ERA and 25-5 strikeout to walk ratio in 25 IP to begin the year are outstanding and his path as a prospect isn’t exactly conventional. Mortensen appeared in his first professional game in Independent ball at age 25 before the Rays signed him. He deserves some patience.
Matt Lollis and Mark Sappington cost Mortensen his second win of the year as they allowed 2 runs each, but let’s move onto the offense. Johnny Field drilled a 2-run homer that gave Montgomery a short-lived 4-3 lead in the eighth, Tommy Coyle went 1 for 3 with a triple, a walk, and 2 RBI, Cameron Seitzer went 2 for 4 with a run scored, and Richie Shaffer went 1 for 2 with 2 walks and a run scored. Justin O’Conner also had a fascinating game, going 1 for 4 with three things that he rarely gets: a walk, a stolen base, and a runner picked off second base.
High-A Florida State League: Charlotte Stone Crabs 6, Bradenton Marauders (PIT) 5
Willy Adames is a player that we have mentioned surprisingly little in these minor league recaps. Firstly, we should expect that to change, and secondly, that doesn’t mean that he is playing poorly. Adames delivered a big game on Monday, going 2 for 4 with 2 doubles, a walk, 2 RBI, and 3 runs scored. His line on the season now stands at .266/.314/.422, which is a little short of where he wants to be but is certainly nothing to scoff at.
Adames is just 19 years old in a league where the average age is nearly 24. His inexperience has shown at times early on the season between some struggles with more advanced breaking pitches, a lack of plate discipline (22-5 strikeout to walk ratio), and a few too many misplays in the field, but he has the talent to make adjustments and overcome those flaws. It is crazy that Adames is already at High-A even though he has so much more room to grow as a baseball player, and he is a player with incredible upside.
Braxton Lee also had a nice game at the plate for the Stone Crabs, going 2 for 4 with a run scored, and Jake Bauers went 2 for 5 with a stolen base and an RBI. Don’t expect many more stolen bases from Bauers, but he has been one of the most impressive players in the system to begin 2015, hitting to a .276/.417/.500 line with more walks than strikeouts. We discussed him in more detail on Sunday.
Chris Kirsch had a rough outing for Charlotte, allowed 3 runs in 1.2 innings, but the team’s bullpen held things together remarkably well from there. Steve Ascher allowed 3 walks and 2 hits in 3.2 innings but allowed just an unearned run to get the Stone Crabs through 5.1 frames. Then Jeff Ames delivered his best outing in a long time–arguably since May 9th of last year–going 2 innings allowing no hits but an unearned run, striking out 3 while walking 1. The Rays certainly aren’t going to give up on the former supplemental first rounder yet.
Kyle McKenzie finished the job by tossing 1.2 hitless innings to finish the game, and he earned the win when the Stone Crabs walked off. Joey Rickard tied the game at 5 with a bases-loaded walk before Maxx Tissenbaum finished it in more climactic fashion, drilling a game-winning single.