We can be negative after the way that the Tampa Bay Rays played last night, but on the positive side, two major league rehabbers both saw action, a struggling prospect found his form in a huge way, and bats across the system came alive.
Triple-A International League: Gwinnett Braves 8, Durham Bulls 4
It looked like Dylan Floro was getting past his rough patch, but it all came back in this game. After starting off with 3 shutout innings, Floro finished with 5.2 frames allowing 7 runs, 6 earned, on 7 hits, striking out 3 while walking 2. At least his groundout to flyout ratio was 11-2. Everett Teaford looked fine behind him, letting up just a walk while striking out 1 in 1.1 hitless innings, but then Jose Dominguez also struggled, allowing a hit, 3 walks, and a run in an inning of work. His ERA on the season now stands at 7.27 and he has dealt with shoulder troubles, so this is just about a worst-case scenario for his season.
Jim Miller did finish the game with perfect inning with 2 strikeouts, and then we have the offense. Desmond Jennings made his first rehab appearance and went 0 for 3 as the Bulls’ DH but did walk twice. Jennings will be at Durham for a while as he moves past his knee injury, but it’s nice to see his batting eye looking fine right from the start. Beyond him, Nick Franklin drilled a solo home run, Ryan Brett went 2 for 4 with a double, an RBI, and a run scored, Richie Shaffer had a 1-for-3 game with a double, a walk, an RBI, and a run scored, and Taylor Motter went 1 for 2 with a double, 2 walks, and a run.
In news that qualifies as half-noteworthy, Grady Sizemore played in this game, going 0 for 5, while J.P. Arencibia was not in action. That doesn’t make it certain that Arencibia will be the Tampa Bay Rays’ call-up, but it only increases the chances that were relatively high anyway given that Arencibia bats right-handed. In related news, Kevin Cash basically said that Shaffer won’t be coming up anytime soon, and Franklin would be another guy working his way towards a promotion other than the fact that he doesn’t fit well on the current roster. He would be more interesting if he was playing the outfield in Durham.
Double-A Southern League: Montgomery Biscuits 7, Tennessee SmokieS (CHC) 4
Jaime Schultz was electric to begin the year, putting up a 1.74 ERA and a 33-9 strikeout to walk ratio in his first 4 starts and 20.1 innings pitched. Since then has been a different story. Entering Friday, Schultz had pitched to just a 4.88 ERA and an 81-63 strikeout to walk ratio in his previous 16 starts and 75.2 innings. In his previous 7 outings, he had just a 6.67 ERA and a 33-30 K-BB in 29.2 innings. And in his last 3 starts, Schultz had walked seven batters twice and also failed to make it past 2 innings twice. Control has always been Schultz’s worst flaw as a pitcher, and it has certainly been dragging him down this season.
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But then a game like this comes along and we remember how good Schultz can be with even halfway-decent control. He tossed 6 no-hit innings allowing 3 walks but nothing else, striking out 9. Now the question is whether it means something. On June 8th, Schultz also had a great start out of nowhere, tossing 7 shutout innings allowing 3 hits, and he also struck out 9 while walking 3 in that game. Then he posted a 6.23 ERA in his 8 starts afterwards before this start. We see the flashes from Schultz, but the hope for the rest of the season is that we finally see a little more consistency. He will likely be a reliever, but he needs better control to harness his late-inning arsenal anyway.
The pitching after Schultz looked more like his previous outings as Kyle McPherson allowed 3 runs in an inning and Matt Lollis gave up another run in 1.2 innings, but Mark Sappington retired the only batter he faced for the save. Luckily the Biscuits scored enough runs that the bullpen collapse didn’t cost them the game. Cameron Seitzer went 2 for 4 with a triple, a double, 2 RBI, and a run scored, Joey Rickard went 2 for 3 with a double, a walk, an RBI, a run scored, and an outfield assist, Justin O’Conner slammed a 2-run triple, and Thomas Coyle went 2 for 3 with a steal and a run scored.
We also can’t say enough against Jake Bauers, who went 1 for 3 with a double, a walk, an RBI, and a run scored. At 19 years old, he is the youngest position player who has played at least 4 games in the Southern League this season, yet he is still hitting to a .317/.378/.433 line. We are still waiting for the power, but he has excellent plate discipline, contact skills, and defense, plus he can hit both righties and lefties. He certainly isn’t the highest-upside player, but it is pretty impressive that he has a chance to be an average big league first baseman by the time he is 21 years of age.
High-A Florida State League: Lakeland Flying Tigers (DET) 9, Charlotte Stone Crabs 7
It is easy to look at the line for Drew Smyly‘s rehab start and be discouraged. He allowed 5 runs on 9 hits in 3.1 innings, although he did strike out 4 while walking none. After Smyly also got hit hard for Triple-A Durham in his first rehab game, he now has a 14.29 ERA since coming back for his torn labrum. That is horrible–double as bad as Matt Moore–but then you see tweets like this from people who were at the game.
Even if the radar gun that Bailey was looking at was a little hot, that would still be fine. Smyly’s stuff is there, and now it is just a matter of getting his command of it back after a lengthy absence. Of course, we have seen Moore struggle mightily to do the exact same thing, but Smyly has a much better history of throwing strikes and he didn’t even walk anybody in this game. He may not three or four more rehab starts, but he remains on track to return this month.
Buddy Borden also struggled, allowing 4 runs, 3 earned, on 4 hits in 4.1 innings, striking out 4 while walking 6. Backup catcher Maxx Tissenbaum then came in to record the game’s final out. In terms of position players hitting, Andrew Velazquez went 2 for 4 with a stolen base and 3 RBI, Armando Araiza went 3 for 5 with an RBI and a run scored, Willy Adames went 2 for 3 with a double and 2 walks, and both Marty Gantt and Braxton Lee went 2 for 4. Velazquez isn’t hitting for much power, but we have to like his .325/.385/.398 line since returning from his fractured hamate bone.
Low-A Midwest League: Bowling Green Hot Rods 5, Lansing Lugnuts (TOR) 1
The Hot Rods exploded for 4 runs in the bottom of the eighth to win this one, with Grant Kay, Bralin Jackson, Hunter Lockwood, and Coty Blanchard all contributing RBI hits. Justin Williams also went 2 for 4 with a double, a stolen base, an RBI, and a run scored while Thomas Milone went 2 for 3 with a double and a run. Williams isn’t hitting .351 this year after posting exactly that batting average in his first two pro seasons, but he has increased his isolated power and continues to progress in his first year in the Rays system.
On the mound, Henry Centeno started and pitched well, giving up 1 run on 3 hits in 6 innings, striking out 6 while walking 3. Damion Carroll was then under control and pitched well, allowing a walk but nothing else in 2 innings while striking out 2, before Jordan Harrison got past a hit for a shutout ninth.