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Rays Prospects

The Undercards: Buddy Borden Tosses No-Hitter

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A Tampa Bay Rays move that makes a lot more sense now than it did a few months ago was the team trading AWAY Sean Rodriguez while keeping Logan Forsythe. To strengthen that point a little bit more, the prospect that the Rays acquired for Rodriguez has pitched well and never looked better than on Wednesday afternoon. For the second day in a row, a Rays affiliate had a doubleheader that people will be talking about for a while, and Buddy Borden led the way.

Triple-A International League: Durham Bulls 1, Buffalo Bisons (TOR) 0

The only run in this game game in the sixth inning. Taylor Motter drew a one-out walk and stole second base, and after Nick Franklin walked as well, the pair executed a double steal. The move had the desired effect as Motter was able to score from third on a Mikie Mahtook groundball to give the Bulls the lead. Durham managed just two hits–the other was from Curt Casali–along with a walk each from Franklin, Casali, and Jake Elmore, but the Bulls’ pitchers did enough to make the one run they received stand up.

Matt Buschmann received the start and went 6 innings allowing no runs on 5 hits, striking out 2 while walking 1. Jake McGee followed with another rehab outing and pitched fine, allowing a hit but forcing 2 groundouts in his scoreless frame, before Grant Balfour worked around a hit and a walk with 2 strikeouts as he continued to keep Buffalo off the board. Ronald Belisario then finished the deal with a perfect ninth with a strikeout. McGee, Balfour, and Belisario would have been a fine late-innings trio in 2012 and are apparently still good enough to handle Triple-A.

McGee could return to the Tampa Bay Rays any day now after 6 rehab appearances, and the team will look forward to having him back. He may not be quite at 100% yet, but 90% of McGee is better than most relievers in baseball, and the Rays would love to have him as a fireman in the middle innings of games. Brad Boxberger has settled in as the Rays’ closer and is unlikely to be removed, but we know that non-closing relievers can be more valuable at times and that could certainly hold true for McGee.

Belisario, meanwhile, has a 1.42 ERA in 12 appearances for Durham, but he isn’t pushing for a big league call-up as his strikeout to walk ratio is just 6-5. We know that Belisario has had some success in the majors, but especially given that he is coming off a fracture of his non-throwing shoulder, he needs to show more than that to have a chance. Balfour has actually looked a little better, racking up an 8-2 strikeout to walk ratio in 4 innings, although he also has a 4.50 ERA and 5 hits allowed.

High-A Florida State League Game 1: Charlotte Stone Crabs 5, Clearwater Threshers 0 (7 innings)

Buddy Borden held the Clearwater incredibly off-balance this entire game, and in the one inning where he struggled, his defense was there to back him up. After a Willy Adames error and a walk quickly gave the Threshers their second and third baserunners of the game, Adames quickly redeemed himself. He snared a Dylan Cozens line drive, stepped on second base, and threw to Mike Marjama at first to complete a triple play. Borden rolled from there, retiring the last nine hitters he saw to end the game, with Cozens popping up for the final out.

Borden went 7 innings allowing no runs or hits, striking out 3 while walking 2. He certainly didn’t look like Corey Kluber, but the Adames line drive was the only liner he allowed all game as he was able to serve up plenty of soft contact. Borden said that he found so much success because the Threshers were being aggressive early in the count and getting themselves out on his fastball. The hope is that Borden will improve his secondary pitches sufficiently that his next no-hitter will feature a few more strikeouts.

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Borden, 23, has a good pitcher’s build at 6’3″, 210 and the type of fastball he will need. It usually ranges from 90-93 MPH when he is starting, and it can hit the mid-90’s more often when he relieves. His other pitches are a curveball and a changeup, with both pitches needing work but his curveball the better offering right now. Borden has used that arsenal to start the season 4-1 with a 2.54 ERA and a 24-7 strikeout to walk ratio in 6 relief appearances, 2 starts, and 28.1 innings pitched. He took over Blake Snell‘s rotation spot, and apparently some good luck comes with that.

In terms of Borden’s run support, Pat Blair went 2 for 3 with a homer, a double, 2 RBI, and 2 runs scored while Juniel Querecuto also drilled a 2-run home run. Willy Adames had the other RBI on a single as he went 1 for 3 with a stolen base, and Mike Marjama also went 2 for 3. Blair began the season at extended spring training, but his power has allowed him to get off to a solid start with his new team. He is hitting just .227, but he has 2 home runs in 25 plate appearances after just 3 in 391 PA’s for the Hot Rods in 2014.

Game 2: Stone Crabs 1, Threshers 0 (7 innings)

Everyone knows that unwritten rule in baseball that you’re not supposed to bunt to break up a no-hitter, but that is exactly what Clearwater’s Aaron Brown did in this game. In fairness, it was the second inning and the Threshers did want to finally nail down their first hit of the day. Maybe it was their just desserts, though, that the Stone Crabs held them hitless after that. No-hitters for both ends of a doubleheader would have been legendary, but one hit across two games is quite a feat as well.

Jordan Harrison started for Charlotte and allowed that bunt single and a walk in 3 scoreless innings. Kyle McKenzie followed with 3 innings allowing just a walk while striking out 1. Then Brad Schreiber finished the deal by working around a hit batsman in a hitless ninth. Once again, Stone Crabs pitchers were far from overpowering, but the strategy of letting their defense make plays for them worked extremely well. There were no triple plays in this one, but the Stone Crabs did receive a double play each in the second and ninth innings to help lock down this win.

Getting a run was more sketchy for the Stone Crabs. They were no-hit through 3 innings, and thanks to a pickoff of Querecuto, Clearwater starter Yacksel Rios faced the minimum 15 in his 5 innings of work. They managed to get a single and a hit batsman in the sixth against reliever Edubray Ramos, but Ramos was able to get a strikeout and a groundout to escape a second-and-third, no-out jam. In the seventh and final inning, however, Marty Gantt singled and stole second base before hustling home on a J.P. Crawford throwing error on a groundball to give his team the lead.

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Low-A Midwest League: West Michigan Whitecaps (DET) 10, Bowling Green Hot Rods 2

I guess somebody needed to have a rough game in this system. Casey Gillaspie drove in the only two Hot Rods runs on a two-out RBI single in the seventh inning, but Bowling Green had plenty of missed opportunities elsewhere in the game as they went just 2 for 14 with runners in scoring position. They received 2-hit games from Thomas Milone, Jace Conrad, Justin Williams, and Coty Blanchard, but only Conrad factored in the scoring as he went home as Gillaspie’s hit. He also had his 13th steal of the season in 14th attempts.

Conrad continues to put up big numbers, hitting to a .333/.373/.510 line with 4 homers to go along with his speed. Blanchard, meanwhile, is hitting an empty .356 as he has managed just a .380 OBP and a .414 SLG, but we can’t complain all that much about those numbers. Finally, Williams has been scorching hot of late to get his numbers up to respectability, hitting to a .345/.361/.517 line with 4 doubles, 2 homers, and 5 RBI in his last 15 games and 61 plate appearances.

We will quickly go over the pitching stats because nothing was pretty. Hyrum Formo failed to strike out a batter as he allowing 6 runs on 10 hits in 4 innings. Damion Carroll‘s control continues to be a train wreck as he walked 4 as he allowed 2 runs in 1.2 innings. Even Brian Miller couldn’t settle things down too much as he allowed 2 runs, 1 earned, in the final 2.1 innings. He did force a 5-0 groundout to flyout ratio and did look a little bit better than those numbers would indicate. Miller still has a 2.40 ERA in 10 appearances and 15 IP on the season.

This minor league recap is kind of ending on a downer, but remember that three wins easily outweigh one loss, especially when all of the wins are shutouts plus one of them is a no-hitter and another is one-hitter. The Hot Rods would like a mulligan on their game, but obviously the Tampa Bay Rays system had a great day and will hope for more special occurrences like no-hitters and triple plays in the coming weeks.

Next: Tampa Bay Rays Game 35: Deja Vu Night in St. Pete

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