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Tampa Bay Rays MiLB Recap: Jake Odorizzi Headlines Perfect Day

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Monday marked one of the best days in the Tampa Bay Rays system in a long time, and as usual, pitching led the way. Jake Odorizzi turned in a tremendous rehab start, Angel Yepez tossed 6 no-hit innings, Scott Diamond delivered 7.2 shutout frames, and others like Blake Snell and Spencer Moran had great games as well. Let’s get right into it.

Triple-A International League: Durham Bulls 2, Norfolk Tides (BAL) 0

It is Everett Teaford that has now been called up to the Rays twice, but Scott Diamond has pitched much better than him only to see the timing not work out. This game was the latest example as Diamond tossed 7.2 innings allowing no runs on 3 hits, striking out 5 while walking 2. He is now 9-3 with a 3.28 ERA in 17 starts and 96 innings pitched on the season. The lefty is striking out no one–just 4.9 batters per 9–but he also has a 1.3 BB/9, a 0.8 HR/9, and a groundball rate around 55%.

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Diamond’s big problem is that he is that he has a reverse split, allowing an .889 OPS versus left-handed batters compared to a nice .715 mark against righties. Since 2011, those numbers are closer together but also worse on the whole as lefties have an .824 OPS against him and righties have a .774 mark. In any event, if Diamond is going to return to the majors, it is going to be as a starter or a long man, and the fact that he can’t be a lefty specialist hurts him significantly. That being said, his 3.28 ERA this year is literally half of his 6.57 mark from last year, and the chances are increasing that he can return to the majors in a Cesar Ramos-type capacity, although the Rays may not be an option for that. He doesn’t turn 29 until the end of the month.

Preston Guilmet did a solid job finishing the game for the save, working around 2 hits with 2 strikeouts in 1.1 innings. He entered protecting a 1-run lead after Nick Franklin delivered an RBI single in the fourth inning, and Corey Brown then drilled a solo homer in the bottom of the eighth. Franklin finished the game 2 for 3 with a double, and once again, the Rays are hoping that he is starting to get back on track. John Jaso went 0 for 2 after starting in left field while Hak-Ju Lee double in 3 trips to the plate.

Double-A Southern League: Montgomery Biscuits 5, Biloxi Shuckers (MIL) 1

The Biscuits scored 2 runs in the bottom of the first inning on a Justin O’Conner RBI double and a balk, and the pitching didn’t need anything more. Blake Snell started and labored, throwing 89 pitches in 5 innings, but he was certainly effective. He allowed just 1 run on 3 hits, striking out 6 while walking 2 and forcing a 4-0 groundout to flyout ratio. Snell lowered his ERA to 1.70 on the season, and since walking 4 batters in 3 straight starts after his scoreless streak was broken, he now has a 19-6 strikeout to walk ratio in his last 16 innings. He has recovered quite nicely.

Mark Sappington followed Snell by working around 2 walks with 3 strikeouts in 2 hitless innings before Kyle McPherson finished the game with 2 more shutout frames. He allowed a hit and a walk, but he struck out 1 and forced a 3-1 groundout to flyout ratio. McPherson has made his way from the Gulf Coast League to Double-A as he continues his rehab from Tommy John Surgery, and we will have to see if and when the Tampa Bay Rays consider him a major league option. His two-year minor league contract will keep in the system through next season.

Aside from what happened in that first inning, Tyler Goeddel drove in a pair of runs, Juniel Querecuto went 2 for 3 with a run scored, Thomas Coyle went 1 for 2 with a walk, an RBI, and a run scored, and Jake Bauers went 1 for 3 with a walk and a run scored. Bauers has now recorded at least 1 hit in his last 4 games and also walked in his last 2 after enduring an 0-for-14 dry spell in his second through fifth Double-A games. It is nice to see him finding himself as such a young player in the upper minors.

High-A Florida State League: Charlotte Stone Crabs 4, Palm Beach Cardinals 0

Let’s just say that Jake Odorizzi is ready to come back. In his final rehab start, Odorizzi tossed 5.2 innings allowing just 2 hits, striking out 6 while walking 1. That is the way a healthy big leaguer is supposed to dominate in a rehab performance. Odorizzi got up to 73 pitches, so he will be at least somewhat limited in his next start for the Rays, but even with any limitations, he will be a big improvement over Alex Colome. We just heard that Chris Archer was named an All-Star, and Odorizzi could have joined him had injury not struck him down. Now he will hope to show that his earlier strong results are sustainable.

Chris Kirsch followed Odorizzi in relief and was electric in his own right, tossing 3.1 innings allowing just 1 hit while striking out 5. It was one of his shortest outings of the season, but he actually tied his second-highest strikeout output of the season. Kirsch will keep starting for now, but his lefty arm could fit well in relief in the future. Unlike Diamond, he does retire same-side hitters extremely well, holding them to a .487 OPS with a 15-4 K-BB ratio this season and a .583 OPS for his career.

While Odorizzi prepares to rejoin the Rays, Andrew Velazquez actually did return to the Stone Crabs in this game, going 1 for 4 as the team’s leadoff hitter and second baseman. He felt good enough to attempt a stolen base, although he was caught. Marty Gantt also drilled a 2-run double while Mike Marjama went 2 for 4 with a run scored, Jace Conrad turned in a plain 2-for-4, Granden Goetzman went 1 for 3 with a stolen base, and Braxton Lee went 1 for 3 with a run scored. Willy Adames also went 0 for 2 with a stolen base and 2 runs scored in the win.

Low-A Midwest League: Bowling Green Hot Rods 1, Dayton Dragons (CIN) 0

This win wasn’t as pretty as the prior three, but the Hot Rods found a way to make it work. A Carter Burgess single and a Bralin Jackson double gave Bowling Green 2 runners on in the bottom of the second, and Grant Kay got a run home on a groundout. That turned out to be enough by the slimmest of margins. Chris Pike was not great but kept Dayton off the board, going 4.2 innings 5 hits and 3 walks while striking out 3. He escaped a baserunner in each of his innings, including runners in scoring position in his last 2, before Damion Carroll stranded 3 of his runners in the fifth.

Carroll finished with an excellent outing, allowing just a walk while striking out 2 in 2.1 innings. Carroll’s fastball reaches triple-digits at its best, and he has been difficult enough to square up that he has a 4.04 ERA despite more walks than strikeouts on the season. Mike Franco was then helped out in an enormous way by his defense as he recorded his save. His final line–2 shutout innings allowing 2 hits while striking out–doesn’t tell the story at all.

In the eighth inning, Gavin LaValley singled off Franco to begin the inning before Paul Kronenfeld doubled to left field. LaValley tried to score, but Williams got the ball in quickly to Riley Unroe, who fired a rocket to Mac James to throw LaValley out. Kronenfeld ended up on third base, and when Garrett Boulware hit a line drive to left field, it looked like the Dragons may get the tying run nonetheless. However, Bralin Jackson made the catch with a full head of steam and unleashed another missile to James to get Kronenfeld at home. Franco was then perfect in the ninth to seal the victory.

Jackson finished his outstanding day at 2 for 3 with a double and a stolen base, and Hunter Lockwood went 2 for 3 with a double and a walk while Grant Kay went 1 for 3 with a stolen base and the lone RBI. Jackson continues to establish himself as a prospect as he has a .307/.362/.397 line on the season, including a .355/.413/.468 line in his last 155 plate appearances. Jackson hasn’t hit for a lot of power and needs work on his stolen base success rate, but he is an outstanding athlete whose plate approach has made huge strides and who may have the defensive chops to stick in center.

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Short Season-A New York-Penn League: Hudson Valley Renegades 7, Staten Island Yankees 5

The Yankees scored the last 5 runs of this game as the wheels started to come off for the Renegades, but only after the game had began in exhilarating fashion. Angel Yepez started and tossed 6 no-hit innings, striking out 4 while walking 2. He also forced an outstanding 8-2 groundout to flyout ratio. Yepez entered the season best known for just one thing: a PED suspension in 2013 from when he was in the Venezuelan Summer League. Since then, however, he posted a 1.74 ERA at Rookie ball and now a 3.38 ERA and a 15-5 strikeout to walk ratio in 14.2 innings pitched in hudson Valley. No word on his stuff yet, but mark him down as a guy to watch nonetheless.

Let’s ignore the bullpen debacle and move onto the offense. Cade Gotta had a huge game, going 3 for 5 with a stolen base and 3 RBI. Gotta has a .345/.410/.455 line and a 3-6 K-BB ratio to begin the season, and though he turns 24 in August, the Rays love his athleticism. Alex Schmidt also went 2 for 5 with a double a run scored while Jake Cronenworth went 2 for 4 with a walk, an RBI, and a run scored. Most evaluators considered Cronenworth a better prospect on the mound, where he has an impressive fastball-spliter combination, but he does have a .275/.413/.412 line to start his pro career as a position player.

We still aren’t done recapping the notable offensive performances. Manny Sanchez went 2 for 4 with a walk and a run scored, Jose Paez had a 2-for-5 game with a double and a run, and Michael Russell went 1 for 3 with a double, a walk, a stolen base, and a run scored. Sanchez looks everything like a breakout prospect as a 19-year-old outfielder with huge power potential and a .319/.377/.511 line to begin the year. Russell, meanwhile, is doing what he can to make up for lost time after missing last season with a stress fracture in his back, hitting to a .261/.404/.435 line.

Advanced Rookie Appalachian League: Princeton Rays 5, Elizabethton Twins 4

The P-Rays found themselves behind 4-1 after Jose Alvarado exited after 2.2 innings allowing 4 runs on 3 hits, striking out 3 but walking 5. And then offense got back into the game while the pitching made sure that it mattered. Peter Maris went 3 for 4 with a walk, 2 RBI, and 2 runs scored, David Rodriguez went 2 for 4 with a walk, an RBI, and another runner picked off on the basepaths, Zac Law went 2 for 4, and Jonathan Popadics went 1 for 3 with a walk, 2 stolen bases, and 2 runs scored.

Spencer Moran took over for Alvarado and saw his outing get off to a rocky start as he gave up 2 doubles to allow 2 of the runners he inherited to score. However, he rolled from there, retiring 13 of the final 14 batters he faced. He finished with 4.1 innings allowing no runs of his own on 2 hits, striking out 6 while walking none. Moran, as projectable as pitchers come at 6’6″, 180, has a 2.45 ERA and a 13-1 strikeout to walk ratio in 11 innings at Princeton this year. We will have to see what his velocity is like, but we have to be encouraged by that.

Rookie Gulf Coast League: GCL Red Sox 2, GCL Rays 0

Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite a perfect day in the system because of this game, but it is hard to argue with a 6-1 record and so many highlights. After Edwin Fierro worked around a walk with a strikeout in his 1-inning rehab outing, Jeffry Done tossed 3.1 innings allowing 1 run on 1 hit, striking out 1 while walking 3. John Williams then allowed an unearned run in 2.2 innings before Ty Jackson finished the game in scoreless fashion.

Aside from an Adrian Rondon single, all of the GCL Rays’ hits came from the bottom third of their order. Samm Wiggins went 2 for 3 with 2 doubles, Miguel Hernandez went 2 for 3, and Jaime Ayende went 1 for 2 with a stolen base, but no one was able to come around to score. The catcher Wiggins also picked 2 runners off on the bases. Wiggins, a non-drafted free agent, is off to a great start between his defense and .357/.438/.500 line in his first 16 pro plate appearances.

Next: Tampa Bay Rays’ Chris Archer, Brad Boxberger Are All-Stars

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