It was a day of the shortstops as we will talk about Asdrubal Cabrera, Nick Franklin, Willy Adames, Tim Beckham, and Adrian Rondon. Rondon is the farthest of them from the big leagues, but he just might be the one that you are most excited about by the time this ends.
Toronto Blue Jays 8, Tampa Bay Rays 5
Before I start this recap, I’ll just pose a question–feel free to respond in the comments. In my major league recaps, I always try to add at least a few insights that most people wouldn’t think of during the game. That being said, would you rather I just cover the game like I do with all of the minor league games below (i.e. focus on the notable individual performances and not go through the notable plays as much) and have more time to write feature pieces? Here is a taste what the alternate format would be like so you know before you vote.
The Rays needed sharp pitching to hold down the Blue Jays offense, and this game featured anything but that. Matt Andriese threw only 70 pitches in 5.1 innings, but he allowed 3 home runs on his way to allowing 4 runs on 5 hits. Ronald Belisario then had his first disaster outing with the team, allowing 3 runs on 3 hits, before Enny Romero showed flashes but also inconsistency as he allowed 1 run on 3 hits in his 2 frames, striking out 3 while walking 1. At least Steve Geltz extended his consecutive batters retired streak to 28 as he tossed a perfect ninth with a strikeout.
On the offensive side, the Rays pounded out 15 hits, drew 4 walks, and even stole 5 bases (4 on double steals), but they still managed only 5 runs. That would be a good enough offensive performance on most nights, but it certainly wasn’t in this game. Kevin Kiermaier, Joey Butler, Evan Longoria, Logan Forsythe, and Steven Souza Jr. all delivered multi-hit games for the Rays, with Forsythe drilling a solo homer and stealing 2 bases. The only lineup spot that didn’t finish with a hit was the seven-hole, where Asdrubal Cabrera started.
Cabrera got ejected after arguing balls and strikes in the fifth inning, and given that the struggling Nick Franklin was the only option to replace him at shortstop, that especially cost the Rays. Franklin went 0 for 2 with a pair of strikeouts, tantalizing everyone by working a good at-bat in the eighth only to fall short yet again. You know what I think of Franklin’s long-term potential, but Cabrera really has to keep his cool–and not get hurt–until Tim Beckham returns.
High-A Florida State League: Charlotte Stone Crabs 2, Bradenton Marauders (PIT) 0 (5 innings–rain)
This game ended after the top of the fifth, but it was quite interesting nonetheless. Taylor Guerrieri started and had another nice game, tossing 4 shutout innings allowing just a hit and a walk while striking out 2. His groundout to flyout ratio was a solid 7-3. Guerrieri has a 3.22 ERA and a 24-4 strikeout to walk ratio in 22.1 innings since joining the Stone Crabs from extended spring training. He has been as dominant as expected, and he is getting his development back on track.
The Stone Crabs’ run support came from Willy Adames, who drilled an RBI triple, and Jake Bauers, who followed with an RBI single. Also appearing in the game were Tim Beckham, who went 1 for 2 with a run scored in his first minor league rehab game, and Grady Sizemore, who went 0 for 2. Rays fans can’t wait for Beckham to be ready to return to the major leagues.
Short Season-A New York-Penn League: Lowell Spinners (BOS) 6, Hudson Valley Renegades 1
Raise your hand if you know who Travis Ott is. Unfortunately, not many of you raised your hands, but hopefully his name at least sounds familiar. Ott, a raw but high-upside lefty, was an extra piece in the Wil Myers-Steven Souza Jr. trade and started this game for Hudson Valley. He looked very good, tossing 5 innings allowing no runs on 4 hits, striking out 4 while walking 1. It is a little disconcerting that he is repeating Short Season-A, but he also has yet to turn 20 years of age.
The rest of the game was pitched by 2015 draftees, but after Benton Moss tossed a shutout frame, Tim Ingram, Reece Karalus, and Brandon Koch combined to allow all 6 runs. Koch allowed 3 runs, 2 earned, in his pro debut, although he did strike out 2. There wasn’t much more happening for the position players, although Hector Montes went 2 for 4 with a triple, a double, and a run scored while Jake Cronenworth went 1 for 3 with a double and a walk.
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Rookie Gulf Coast League: GCL Red Sox 10, GCL Rays 4
It was Opening Day for the Grays (as I like to call them), and the first professional game for Adrian Rondon, who the Tampa Bay Rays signed as the top prospect in the 2014 international free agent class. And what a debut it was. Rondon, who doesn’t even turn 17 until July, went 2 for 3 with a double, 2 walks, and 2 RBI. What other 16 year old would draw 2 walks without striking out against players three years or more older than him? Rondon was always described as an advanced prospect, and while this is only one game, it only validates that more. The Rays have made quite a few interesting draft picks, but you want the player most likely to change everything for the Rays system, it just might be Rondon.
We’ll leave scouting reports for another day, but outfielder Oscar Rojas went 3 for 5 with a solo homer and 2 runs scored for the GCL Rays, combining with Rondon to deliver 5 of the Grays’ 6 hits. On the pitching side, meanwhile, right-hander Orlando Romero, who was probably the Rays’ best international prospect from their 2013 class, also got into the game. He allowed 4 runs, 3 earned, on 7 hits in 4 innings, but he also struck out 3 while walking 1. Andrew Woeck struck out both batters he faced while Francisco Mena worked around a hit and a walk with 2 strikeouts in his scoreless frame.