On the second straight night where the Tampa Bay Rays’ top relievers never made an appearance, another critical arm moved closer to a return. Jake McGee started for the Charlotte Stone Crabs in a rehab game and is now two or three appearances away from getting back to the Rays’ bullpen. Luckily for us, we have a lot more to talk about than one inning from McGee as Rays affiliates played a series of exciting games.
Triple-A International League: Durham Bulls 3, Lehigh Valley IronPigs (PHI) 1
Taylor Motter and Hak-Ju Lee began this game with two stolen bases on the season each. They finished with a lot more. Taylor Motter went 1 for 3 with a double, 2 walks, 3 steals, and a run scored while Lee went 1 for 4 but stole 2 bases anyway. We know about Motter doing the little things to help his team win, but once you get up to 3 steals, we’re probably talking about a “big thing.” For Lee, meanwhile, it is great to see him showing explosiveness as he moves away from knee surgery, and he needs to start looking like that more consistently.
The rest of the Bulls offense came from Corey Brown, who drilled a solo homer, Leonardo Reginatto, who went 2 for 4 with an RBI, and Mikie Mahtook, who delivered a 2-for-4 day with a walk. Reginatto hasn’t been fazed by moving up to Triple-A this far, hitting to a .333/.391/.333 line with 2 walks, 2 strikeouts, and 3 RBI in 6 games, while Mahtook has been the Bulls’ best hitter under 29, hitting to a .308/.400/.436 line.
On the pitching side, Scott Diamond looked excellent for Durham, going 7 innings allowing 1 run on 6 hits, striking out 4 while walking 1. His groundout to flyout ratio was an insane 13-2 as he lowered his ERA to 1.29 on the season. Diamond isn’t striking out anyone–just 4.3 batters per 9–but he has walked just 1 batter in 21 innings while forcing a groundball rate over 60%. His issue is that those stats don’t translate well to the majors. Jhan Marinez tossed a 1-2-3 relief inning with 2 strikeouts for the Bulls before Ronald Belisario worked around a walk in his shutout frame.
Double-A Southern League: Jackson Generals (SEA) 7, Montgomery Biscuits 6 (10 innings)
This game was downright bizarre, but the Biscuits probably didn’t deserve to win it anyway. Reinaldo Lopez pitched solidly, allowing 2 runs on 8 hits in 5 innings, striking out 3 while walking none. His groundout to flyout ratio was a strong 8-2. The bullpen behind him, however, was a disaster. Jordan Harrison allowed 3 runs in 2 innings, Zach Cooper allowed another run while recording three outs, and Colton Reavis made it 5 runs total allowed by the bullpen following his two frames. Yet one shocking swing allowed this game to go into extra innings.
Jake DePew is an organizational catcher who has hit to just a .217/.293/.266 line. His career-high OPS is just .592 and he hit exactly 1 home run each season from 2011 to 2014. Well, now he has his one home run from 2014. DePew somehow hit a game-tying grand slam in the bottom of the eighth inning off Matt Anderson that was not only his first homer of the year but also accounted for his first 4 RBI. Who would have thought?
In other news from this game, Daniel Robertson went 2 for 4 with a double and 2 walks, Cameron Seitzer went 2 for 3 with 2 walks, an RBI, and 2 runs scored, Tyler Goeddel went 2 for 4 with a walk and a run scored, and Richie Shaffer went 1 for 3 with 2 walks and a run scored. The Biscuits had a ton of baserunners, but couldn’t get enough of them home, going 2 for 14 with runners in scoring position. Goeddel is trying to get hot again after a couple of iffy games, but his line on the season is still .354/.432/.523.
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High-A Florida State League: Charlotte Stone Crabs 3, Bradenton Marauders (PIT) 1
Jake McGee had a smooth first rehab outing for the Stone Crabs, needing just nine pitches to toss a 1-2-3 frame with a pair of groundouts. It was a great start for him and the Rays will look forward to getting him back. Jacob Faria was next and went 5.2 innings allowing 1 run on 7 hits, striking out 3 while walking 2. Faria didn’t have his best stuff as he wasn’t overpowering and managed just a 7-5 groundout to flyout ratio, but he kept rolling nonetheless. Isaac Gil and Brad Schreiber then allowed just 1 hit in tossing the final 2.1 innings of the game.
The run support for Faria and company started with Marty Gantt, who had a dynamic game out of the leadoff spot. He went 2 for 3 with a homer, a double, a hit-by-pitch, and 2 runs scored. The homer came to begin the bottom of the first inning. Gantt has been excellent for Charlotte, hitting to a .333/.447/.538 line with 6 walks against 5 strikeouts, and it will be interesting to see if the Rays push him up to Montgomery given his age (25).
The Stone Crabs also received an RBI single from Maxx Tissenbaum and an RBI double from Jake Bauers. Tissenbaum finished 1 for 3 and threw out 1 of 2 attempted basestealers, putting him at a 50% caught stealing rate (2 for 4) to begin the year. Willy Adames also had another nice game, going 2 for 3 with a walk and a run scored. Suddenly his slash line on the season is getting close to his 2014 production– .284/.338/.433 compared to .271/.353/.429. He has gotten there thanks to a four-game hitting streak that has included three multi-hit games.
Low-A Midwest League: Bowling Green Hot Rods 1, Great Lakes Loons (LAD) 0
I am excited to announce that we at Rays Colored Glasses have a new writer joining us, Tyler Mansfield. Tyler is situated out of Bowling Green and will be providing updates on the Hot Rods both in these minor league recaps and in other pieces. Here’s what Tyler had to say about this game, and then I’ll add in a few comments of my own at the end.
The Bowling Green Hot Rods have had a pretty solid season so far. The team was 10-8 overall and in second place in the Midwest League entering yesterday’s new series opener. The team had just completed a nine-game homestand and began their road trip by traveling twelve hours to Midland, Michigan to take on the Great Lakes Loons. The Loons entered the contest with an 8-7 overall record on the stat sheet and the game would mark the first meeting of the two clubs this season.
Since the Hot Rods debuted as a Rays affiliate in 2009, they have trailed the all-time series against the Loons, but only by two total games. The Hot Rods looked to decrease that margin on Tuesday evening at Dow Diamond. The teams got things going at 5:05 PM CDT in Midland with BG center-fielder Thomas Milone leading off and GL pitcher Brock Stewart delivering the first pitch.
Milone started the ball game off with a grounder up the middle that was fielded by centerfielder Alex Verdugo, giving him a single. Milone then stole second base and moved up to third on Riley Unroe‘s groundout. That sent hot-hitting Jace Conrad to the plate, and Conrad extended his hitting streak to 10 with an infield single to second base, scoring Milone and giving BG an early 1-0 lead over the Loons.
I’m sorry I have to say it, but that is what the final score would be, as Great Lakes got just two hits as they were shut out by the Hot Rods the first game of the series. The Great Lakes pitching wasn’t too shabby either as the Hot Rods managed seven total hits and couldn’t capitalize to bring any more runs home.
Bowling Green pitcher Brent Honeywell was the MVP by all means in the game, and you couldn’t disagree after you took a look at his stat line. Honeywell pitched 6 total innings and allowed just 1 hit, no runs, and no walks while tallying 7 total strikeouts. That gave him a nice ERA of 0.82 following the game. Hunter Wood then tossed 3 more innings allowing just 1 hit, no runs, and no walks while striking out 5 to record his first save of the season.
Bowling Green (11-8) and Great Lakes (8-8) go at it again tomorrow afternoon at 5:05 PM CDT in Game 2 of the series. You can watch the game live online at MiLB.TV, or follow @HotRodsNation on Twitter and stay tuned that way.
Milone finished the game at 2 for 4 to continue his strong start to the season. He has a .279/.389/.393 line thus far, hitting for little power but managing an 11-9 strikeout to walk ratio and a perfect 5 for 5 in stolen base attempts. It can’t be a surprise, though, that we will spend more time talking about the two Bowling Green pitchers in the game.
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Honeywell’s stats on the season are getting ludicrous as Low-A hitters are showing almost no signs of resistance against him. Aside from that 0.82 ERA, he has a 11.9 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, and 0.4 HR/9 in 22 IP. My personal favorite stat is that he is allowing just 3.3 hits per 9 innings including two or less in his last three starts. The Rays want to be careful about promoting Honeywell too quickly because much of his success stems from his screwball, a pitch that higher-level hitters may begin to figure out. Even so, what does Honeywell have left to prove at Low-A?
Wood, on the other hand, has looked even better, and though he has been pitching in relief, he has tossed just 4 innings less than Honeywell. Overall, he has a 0.50 ERA, a 13.0 K/9, a 2.5 BB/9, and a 0.5 HR/9, allowing just 1.5 hits per 9. He now has four appearances this season where he has allowed 1 hit or less in 3 or more innings. Wood doesn’t have Honeywell’s stuff and the decision about whether to send him to Charlotte won’t be as agonizing, but we have to imagine that he will end up there before long if he continues to pitch well.