The Durham Bulls won the game, but the one player who the Tampa Bay Rays will need the most the remainder of the season didn’t play well once again. Is Drew Smyly making the progress that the Rays were hoping for since coming back from his torn labrum?
Triple-A International League: Durham Bulls 8, Indianapolis Indians (PIT) 5
The Bulls trailed this game 4-1 after 4 innings, but then their offense came alive, tying the contest against Pirates top pitching prospect Tyler Glasnow before going ahead against the Indianapolis bullpen. 8 of the 9 men in their lineup either drove in a run or scored a run, and 6 came away with stolen bases. Luke Maile drilled a 2-run homer, Corey Brown went 2 for 5 with a steal, 2 RBI, and a run scored, Jake Elmore also delivered a 2-for-5 performance with a stolen base and an RBI, Joey Rickard went 1 for 3 with 2 walks, a stolen base, and 2 runs scored, and Hak-Ju Lee went 1 for 1 with 2 walks, a hit-by-pitch, 2 stolen bases, an RBI, and a run.
All of that is great, and we can also talk about Scott Diamond, who finished this game with 4 innings allowing just an unearned run on 4 hits, striking out 2 while walking 1. However, Drew Smyly struggled again, going 4.1 innings allowing 4 runs on 6 hits. There is always good news–his velocity was in his normal range, 89 to 92 MPH, and he also struck out 5 while walking 2. On the other hand, he allowed 4 runs for his third time in as many rehab starts, and he also continued his streak of allowing a homer in each of his outings even as he goes up against minor leaguers.
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In his 5 rehab starts before returning to the Rays and struggling, Matt Moore had a 4.35 ERA, a 10.1 K/9, a 3.4 BB/9, and a 1.3 HR/9 in 21.1 innings. In his 3 rehab games, Smyly now has an 11.70 ERA, a 10.8 K/9, a 3.6 BB/9, and a 2.7 HR/9 in 10 innings. Smyly has looked similar to Moore but has allowed plenty of additional hard contact–he clearly doesn’t look like he is ready. Of course, his rehab is just getting started and he had months rather than over a year to recover. It makes sense that his return to the mound, even if he is completely healthy, would start off this poorly. However, before we count on Smyly to give the Rays anything the remainder of the season, we need to see at least 1 or 2 starts that are great without any excuses necessary.
Double-A Southern League: Mississippi Braves 7, Montgomery Biscuits 4
Jaime Schultz looked alright in his start for Montgomery, allowing 3 runs on 5 hits in 5 innings, striking out 7 while walking 2. Ryne Stanek was more intersesting. In his first appearance off the DL, Stanek appeared in relief for the first time as a professional and tossed shutout ball in 2 innings, getting past 2 hits with 3 strikeouts. Stanek didn’t pitch well in 8 Double-A starts, managing just a 4.57 ERA and a 32-24 strikeout to walk ratio in 45.1 innings, and the question is whether the Rays should give him more chances to keep starting.
It would be a little bit disappointing if Stanek ended up in relief after the Tampa Bay Rays made him the second of their two first round picks in 2013, but what does that really matter? The Rays have plenty of starting depth anyway, and even if Stanek does pan out, there are simply so many arms ahead of him on the depth chart. It may be worthwhile for Stanek to move to relief full-time, and if he does, we could see him taking on a big role in the Rays’ bullpen as soon as next season.
Kyle McPherson then blew up again, allowing 4 runs in a third of an inning, before Brad Schreiber retired both batters he faced. On the offensive side, meanwhile, Jake Bauers showed the power that we would like to see from him more often, drilling a 3-run home run to cap a 1-for-3 day with a walk. Cameron Seitzer also went 2 for 4 with a run while Patrick Leonard went 1 for 3 with a walk and a run scored and Johnny Field went 1 for 3 with a double and a walk.
Advanced Rookie Appalachian League: Princeton Rays 12, Danville Braves 1 (Ended after top of ninth–rain)
The hour is late, so I needed to skip a bunch of games, but I needed to discuss this one for a second. Alexis Tapia, just acquired by the Rays in the Kevin Jepsen deal, delivered an electrifying outing. He tossed 6 shutout innings allowing just 3 hits, striking out 8 while walking none. It’s always dangerous to read too much into a great game, but that is the type of performance that makes you wonder whether the Rays acquired Tapia seeing a flaw that they could immediately correct.
The offense was huge for Princeton in this game, and leading the way was Tapia’s batterymate, David Rodriguez. The young catcher went 3 for 6 with 5 RBI and a run scored. He has always been considered a good defender, and like basically every catcher ever, the question will be how much he hits. Zac Law, Landon Cray, and Brett Sullivan also had 3 hits each for the P-Rays, with Cray and Sullivan both driving in 2 runs.