It was a mediocre day in the Tampa Bay Rays system, with one notable exception: hugs for Richie Shaffer as he was promoted to the major leagues for the first time. We will have not one, but two articles on Shaffer later today, but before we start, congratulations to him on achieving the lifelong dream that nearly all of us can only dream about: playing on baseball’s highest stage.
Triple-A International League: Gwinnett Braves 5, Durham Bulls 0
This game turned into a blowout after a late bullpen collapse, and things will only get worse for Durham as their best hitter heads elsewhere. On the other hand, minor league baseball is about a lot more than wins and losses.
Shaffer went 1 for 1 with a walk as the Bulls’ first baseman in what everyone is hoping is his last Triple-A game for quite a while. His singles was 1 of just two 2 hits for the Bulls all game (Luke Maile had the other). Shaffer finishes his Durham time (at least for now) with a .265/.359/.595 line with 11 doubles, 16 homers, and 32 RBI in 217 plate appearances. He currently ranks third in homers in the International League despite playing in barely half of the Bulls’ games. It was quite a run, and the Rays are hoping that he is just getting started.
Bradin Hagens gave the Bulls a good start, allowing 1 run on 2 hits in 5.1 innings. He managed to get past 4 walks with 4 strikeouts and a 7-3 groundout to flyout ratio. C.J. Riefenhauser then tossed a perfect inning with 2 strikeouts before Everett Teaford and Jose Dominguez had their issues. Hagens lowered his ERA to 2.88 since following the Shaffer path and moving up from Double-A to Triple-A.
Double-A Southern League: Mississippi Braves 5, Montgomery Biscuits 3
Other than Shaffer, Sunday stood out the most in the Tampa Bay Rays system for bullpen collapses. Thankfully the Rays didn’t have one of their own. Austin Pruitt started and looked good despite failing to miss bats, allowing 1 run on 5 hits in 6 innings. He struck out just 1 while walking 2, the first time he had struck out only 1 batter since June 30th of last year. Then Ryan Garton collapsed entirely, giving up 2 runs while he was in the game and leaving 2 inherited runners, both of whom also scored after Mark Sappington entered the contest.
Biscuits manager Brady Williams pulled a Joe Maddon and moved Justin O’Conner into the leadoff spot for this game. The result was a mediocre 1-for-4 afternoon that was most notable for the fact that he was picked off second base. At least O’Conner threw out the only runner that tried to steal against him. Tyler Goeddel and Patrick Leonard also kept their hot hitting going by each contributing a 2-for-4 game with a run scored. We discussed them yesterday in our Rule 5 piece.
Low-A Midwest League: Lansing Lugnuts (TOR) 4, Bowling Green Hot Rods 1
Listen to Jose Mujica‘s numbers in his worst start of 2015: 5 innings pitched allowing 3 runs on 6 hits, striking out 3 while walking 1. That is the best worst start I’ve heard of for a while. Mujica, who turned 19 on June 29th, is getting his prospect stock all the way back up by showing promise at Bowling Green after dominating at Princeton. Hyrum Formo was then solid in relief behind him, allowing 1 run on 4 hits in 3 innings, striking out 2. Edwin Fierro then finished the game with a perfect frame, forcing 2 groundouts.
The Hot Rods scored their lone run in the game without the benefit of a hit on 2 walks followed by 2 groundouts that advanced the runners. Hunter Lockwood, Alec Sole, and Cristian Toribio each went 1 for 3 in the loss, with Nick Ciuffo recording the only other hit.
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Short Season-A New York-Penn League: Auburn Doubledays (WSN) 8, Hudson Valley Renegades 5
Welcome back to the Rays’ losses from Friday and Saturday. The Renegades’ offense found its form only to watch the team’s defense and bullpen collapse. At the plate, Jake Cronenworth went 3 for 3 with a triple, 2 walks, and 2 runs scored, Cade Gotta went 2 for 4 with a walk, Joe McCarthy went 2 for 5 with a double, a steal, an RBI, and a run scored, Manny Sanchez went 2 for 5 with a triple and an RBI, and Angel Moreno went 1 for 3 with a double, a walk, and a run. One problem that the Renegades had that the Rays really didn’t was getting caught stealing–they went just 1 for 4 in stolen base attempts in this game.
On the mound, Cameron Varga tossed 5 innings allowing 5 runs, just 2 earned, on 8 hits. It’s nice to see that he struck out 6 while walking none after entering this game with an 11-7 strikeout to walk ratio, but we will worry about that for his future outings. Even beyond the errors, though, he also allowed 3 hits on groundballs–maybe this game will go down as a turning point despite the unearned runs. The Renegades pulled within 5-4, but Justin McCalvin allowed 3 more runs in his 3 relief innings to put the game out of reach.
Advanced Rookie Appalachian League: Pulaski Yankees 9, Princeton Rays 3
Not much in this game went right for Princeton. Brock Burke started and tossed 4 innings allowing 3 runs on 4 hits, striking out 4 while walking 3. At least his groundout to flyout ratio was a strong 4-0. Alexis Tapia, acquired in the Kevin Jepsen trade, followed with his Rays organization debut and tossed 2 hitless innings, striking out 1 while walking 1. Then Ian Gibaut was lit up for the first time as a professional, allowing 5 runs on 5 hits in 1.2 innings, and Ty Jackson did nothing to help as he walked 4 while retiring just 1 batter, allowing 2 inherited runners plus a runner of his own to score.
On the offensive side, Brett Sullivan continued his recent strong play with his fifth homer while David Olmedo-Barrera went 2 for 4 with an RBI. Sullivan has a .283/.309/.604 line with 3 doubles, 4 homers, and 7 RBI in his last 13 games while Olmedo-Barrera has a .360/.389/.440 line with a double, a homer, and 10 RBI in his last 13 contests. Sullivan entered pro ball needing to work on his plate approach, but Olmedo-Barrera really needed refinement all over because he needs to learn the outfield after being a primary DH and needs to change his swing to find more bat speed.