Right-hander Wade Davis gave up 8 runs (5 earned) in only 2 innings as the Durham Bulls bowed out of the International League playoffs Friday night, falling three games to one to the Yankees’ Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre team.
While the previous three games were all decided in the final at-bat, the Bulls were beat handily on Friday. Following the game, right-handed pitchers Jeff Niemann and Mitch Talbot were called up to the Rays, along with outfielder Jonny Gomes and lefty phenom David Price.
The top overall pick in last year’s draft, Price compiled a 13-1 record and a 2.39 ERA in 21 starts for Vero, Montgomery and Durham, including two playoff outings with the Bulls. He last pitched Tuesday in Scranton, allowing four runs in six innings in the opener of the Governors’ Cup finals.
The initial plan is for the Rays to use all three pitchers–starters the entire season–out of the bullpen. But there is at least one spot start available, in the second game of the Sept. 23 doubleheader at Baltimore. Although Price would be an enticing choice as a spot starter, the club will remain cautious in putting too much pressure on the 22-year-old pitcher.
Gomes and Price joined the Rays in New York on Saturday (although Price was not used in the Rays doubleheader) and Talbot and Niemann are expected to join the team on Monday back in St. Petersburg.
Talbot and Niemann will each begin their second stint in the Major Leagues this season. Niemann posted a 1-1 record with a 5.79 ERA in two starts for the Rays and went 9-5 with a 3.59 ERA for Durham. Talbot did not get to pitch during an abbreviated one-day stint with the Rays and went 13-9 with a 3.86 ERA at Durham.
The quartet joins former Bulls teammates outfielder Fernando Perez, first baseman Dan Johnson and catchers John Jaso and Michael Hernandez as a length list of September call ups.
— Brittany Ghiroli
Top prospect David Price was chosen as USA TODAY’S Minor League Prospect of the Year on Wednesday, in a vote decided by the staff of USA TODAY and Sports Weekly as well as online voting for fans.
A powerful lefthander, Price went a combined 12-1 in three levels of the Rays Minor League system, with a 2.30 ERA and 109 strikeouts.
Tuesday night marked his final start with the Triple-A Bulls, as the team is currently in the best-of-five Governor’s Cup Finals. Price tossed six innings in the opening game, allowed four runs on seven hits while fanning nine. The Bulls rallied to take the lead with five runs in the 7th inning, but eventually lost, 8-7 to the Yankees Scranton/Wilkes Barre.
With the conclusion of Price’s season, the question remains as to when or if the Rays will call upon the touted lefty to help in their franchise-first pennant race. Although it was widely assumed that the 22-year-old Price would end his season in the Majors, Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman sounded more skeptical when speaking with ESPN’s Peter Gammons on Monday.
According to Gammon’s blog , Friedman wasn’t definite that Price would join the Rays heated American League East battle. “We don’t want people getting ahead of themselves,” Friedman told Gammons. “Anointing [Price] a savior and putting undo pressure on a kid in his first full professional season.”
Price’s teammate in Durham, right-hander Jeff Niemann, could get the nod to join the big league club after his start on Thursday. Niemann (1-0, 1.13) will take the hill against LHP Kei Igawa (1-0, 1.29) for Game 3 of the series, and is coming off an impressive start against Louisville in Round One, in which Niemann took a no-hitter into the eighth inning.
Friedman told Gammons he has been watching the International League playoffs closely and after seeing Niemann throw so well was sure the lanky right-hander would fit into the Rays bullpen sometime this month.
If the success of the last batch of call-ups from Durham is any indication, Tampa Bay will be greatly benefitted by dipping into their farm system again following the Governor’s Cup.
Although Friedman had originally planned to make only two waves of call-ups, early August injuries to Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria coupled with recent setbacks by centerfielder B.J. Upton (strained left quadriceps) and backup catcher Shawn Riggans (bursitis in his right knee) has made more frequent moves necessary.
Despite substantial roster thinning, Durham is making the adjustments and is set to play Game 2 vs. Scranton on Wednesday night with right-hander Mitch Talbot on the hill.
— Brittany Ghiroli
The Durham Bulls, the Rays’ Triple-A affiliate, defeated host Louisville (Reds), 3-0, in Game 1 of the International League playoffs on Wednesday night. Top prospect David Price tossed five shutout innings in the win with six strikeouts. Elliot Johnson, Dan Johnson and Chris Richard each homered.
But the Bulls couldn’t replicate the magic on Thursday, as Louisville handed Durham a resounding 19-3 defeat to even the best-of-five series. The Bulls trailed 17-0 after four innings and 19-0 after seven. Starter Mitch Talbot lasted a mere two innings, allowing seven runs off nine hits. But the brunt of Louisville’s offense was felt by reliever Chris Mason, who was tagged for 10 runs off nine hits in just 1 2/3 innings.
The series will shift to Durham on Friday for the final three games.
Double-A Montgomery and Single-A Vero Beach both finished their seasons on Thursday night. Montgomery fell 7-6 to the Suns with catcher Matt Spring leading the offense in a 2-for-5 plate appearance with a home run and two RBI. Vero finished fifth in the Florida State League with a 54-81 record. RHP Heath Rollins ended the year with a 3.30 ERA and 115 strikeouts, fifth-most in the League.
— Brittany Ghiroli
Rays top prospect David Price picked up a no-decision on Monday night, and is still searching for his first win since being promoted to Triple-A Durham on August 9. The young lefty allowed three runs (two earned) off five hits, and exited with a 5-3 lead after five innings.
Price was the Rays top pick and the No. 1 overall selection in the 2007 First-Year Player draft. After going 11-0 in stints with the Rays Single-A and Double-A squads, he suffered his first professional loss against Norfolk on Aug. 13. He pitched just four innings, allowing three runs on seven hits, while walking none and striking out six.
“I felt good,” Price told The Herald-Sun of Durham, N.C. “They were hitting everything tonight. This is Triple-A — they were hitting good pitches and bad pitches. The hitters are just better, period. I feel good that I didn’t walk anybody. I threw strikes, just not enough strikes. At least I made them put the ball in play. You can’t have your best stuff every night.”
The Durham Bulls also dropped Tuesday’s game, 9-8, although the squad still maintains a 5 1/2 game lead in the division. Right-hander Mitch Talbot started and tossed six innings, allowing a pair of runs on six hits and three walks while striking out eight.
— Brittany Ghiroli
By signing second pick (No. 47 overall) LHP Kyle Lobstein on Friday afternoon, the Rays have inked 26 of their 28 selections in this year’s First-Year Player Draft. Only Brandon Meredith and Ryan Carpenter, the 15th- and 21st-round selections, did not sign. According to the Tampa Tribune’s Marc Lancaster, Lobstein will not pitch in a Minor League game this season, but is expected to report to rookie-level Princeton on Sunday.
Tidbits from the Farm..
— While much of the attention centered on top prospect David Price’s debut in Triple-A last week, RHP Heath Rollins quietly put together a solid performance of his own. The 23-year-old Rollins — who was promoted to Double-A to assume Price’s vacated spot — did not disappoint in his debut on Wednesday night. Rollins struck out nine batters and issued zero walks in seven innings of one-run ball. He gave up four hit totals, with his lone blemish a solo home run. Rollins retired the final 8 batters he faced.
. –Per the Montgomery Advertiser, James Houser has been activated for the Double-A Biscuits. The left-handed pitcher made his first start in a month on Friday night and was limited to 1 1/3 innings, walking three and giving up one hit and a run.
— Triple-A Durham’s Dan Johnson was 2-for-5 on Friday night and now leads the International League with a .969 OPS and .422 OBP.
— RHP Mitch Talbot tossed seven innings of shutout baseball on Thursday night to record his 26th win for Durham. In doing so, Talbot becomes the team’s second winningest pitcher.
— Brittany Ghiroli
In his 34th game since being drafted first overall by the Rays, Tim Beckham launched his first professional home run on Tuesday night.
The 18-year-old Beckham took an 0-2 pitch over the left center field fence in a Rookie-level Appalachian League game for the Princeton Rays.
“It felt great to get that first one off my chest,” Beckham told Baseball America, of the solo-shot in the game’s first inning. “Finally. I mean, it took forever. I was just worrying about squaring it up, making solid contact and hopefully it would fall somewhere, and it did.”
Beckham has struggled at the plate this season, and the article also talks to manager Joe Szekeley to help explain the Rays’ approach with the young shortstop. For a more in-depth scout’s view of Beckham, check out this Q&A from Baseball America with Szekeley.
Tim’s older brother, Jeremy, was also drafted by the Rays this June (17th round) but was promoted to short-season Hudson Valley in late July. Still the pair remain close, as Jeremy tells MILB.com while at the Fenway Futures games of how he hopes to set a positive example for Tim.
And the Award Goes To..
— Class-A Vero Beach LHP Carlos Hernandez was named the Florida State League Pitcher of the Week for the period ending August 10.
— Austin Hinkle notched Pitcher of the Week for the Southern Atlantic League. The right-hander is a member of the Class-A Columbus Catfish. Hinkle is the second straight Catfish to take a player of the week award after Greg Sexton was named Hitter of the Week last week.
— Double-A Montgomery swept the Rays Minor League honors for July, as pitcher David Price and third baseman Chris Nowak were named the Pitcher of the Month and Player of the Month, respectively. Price, who is slated to make his Triple-A debut on Wednesday night, was 4-0 with a 2.08 ERA for Montgomery. Nowak — who was also June’s winner — hit an organization-high 24 RBI in 26 games.
He said it..
“I guess I’m a little anxious. It’s like a kid getting ready for Christmas and you count down to Christmas Day. The anticipation is building up, but I’m enjoying myself.”
— Price on reaching the Major Leagues. Excerpted from the Tennessean; the rest of the article can be found here.
The Rays have just announced a promotion for Price, who will make his next scheduled start with the Bulls on Wednesday.
— Brittany Ghiroli
How long before David Price is a member of the Rays?
The answer could be soon, as last year’s No. 1 Overall Pick continues to dominate the Minor Leagues.
Price tossed five shutout innings Thursday night, to improve to 7-0 with Double-A Montgomery. He only gave up three hits while striking out seven, but he did walk four.
Overall, Price’s record is a perfect 11-0 with a 1.87 ERA in 15 starts. He has thrown just over 91 2/3 innings this season and feels he is ready to help the Rays in their quest for a franchise-first playoff bid.
If the 22-year-old Price does get the much-anticipated promotion, it is unclear where the Rays will slot the powerful lefty.
With all five of the Rays current starters performing well, the club would have to decide to either bump an arm into the bullpen or to pitch Price in relief.
The two last rotation spots –owned by Andy Sonnanstine and Edwin Jackson — would figure to be the one’s in question, however both young right-handers have tossed well.
According to Friday morning’s St. Petersburg Times, Sonnanstine would be more likely to lose his spot, as the paper speculates Price would be inserted into the Rays rotation.
Marc Topkin writes: “If Sonnanstine is headed to the bullpen — as could be the case if phenom David Price, who on Thursday improved to 11-0 in the minors, is soon promoted — he is making sure it’s not an easy decision.”
In other Minor League news, top prospect Reid Brignac was placed on the placed on the disabled list after being struck by a pitch on his left wrist on Wednesday.
The 22-year-old infielder is one of the Rays top prospects in Triple-A and was believed to be one of the team’s “untouchable” trading chips at this year’s Trade Deadline. An X-ray taken on Thursday confirmed a wrist fracture and it is uncertain how long Brignac will be shelved.
Prior to the injury, the infielder was hitting .250 with nine home runs and 43 RBI.
To take Brignac’s place, the Bulls promoted shortstop Ronnie Merrill from Double-A Montgomery. Merrill was hitting .263 with six stolen bases in Double-A.
Gomes Watch: Since being reassigned to Durham prior to Tuesday’s Rays game, Jonny Gomes has gone 4-for-9 at the plate, including two doubles and a home run. While the outfielder struggled with limited playing time with the Rays, a string of successful at-bat’s could help the 27-year-old regain his power stroke.
— Brittany Ghiroli
While Rays fans continue to drool over last year’s top pick, David Price, they certainly aren’t the only ones who’ve noticed.
The powerful lefty was named the Southern League Pitcher of the Week for the period from July 29-August 3. In two starts with Double-A Montgomery, Price went 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA while allowing six hits, no walks and 17 strikeouts.
Meanwhile, Ben Zobrist — who showcased some power for the Rays when Jason Bartlett was hurt — has taken his hot bat to Triple-A Durham.
The infielder was named the International League Batter of the Week for the period from July 28-August 3. Zobrist batted .583 with 6 RBI and a .833 slugging percentage, including 2 home runs.
In less fortunate news, Cesar Guillen and Victor Henriquez have each received 50-game suspensions for testing positive for performance-enhancing substances. Both players are with the Rays’ Dominican Summer League team.
Guillen, an outfielder, tested positive for Ephedrine while Henriquez, an infielder, tested positive for metabolites of Stanozolol.
In 51 games, Guillen was hitting .340 with two home runs, a .457 slugging percentage and 34 RBI. Henriquez had a .250 average and 17 RBI in 44 games.
— Brittany Ghiroli
David Price will not get a promotion to Triple-A Durham as the Rays have signed lefty Heath Phillips, a free agent formerly in the Yankees Minor League system.
Phillips will assume the spot vacated by Jeremy Cummings, who was selected to the 2008 Olympic squad.
Price, the No. 1 Overall Pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, is 9-0 in 13 professional starts and is 5-0 since his promotion to Double-A Montgomery last month.
Just 22-years-old, Price could the missing arm the Rays need to reach the postseason, as the young southpaw has generated buzz nationwide.
But Price isn’t the only Minor Leaguer who is hoping to don the Rays blue this season.
Third-year skipper Joe Maddon said on Monday there is a lot of optimism about a possible return to the Rays by Rocco Baldelli.
The Biscuits are slated to face three left-handers in a row starting on Tuesday, and the Rays are trying to revise Baldelli’s schedule to take advantage of that prospect.
Sidelined since Spring Training and currently on the 60-day disabled list, the Rays have been cautiously optimistic that Baldelli could provide the right-handed power bat the team needs.
Baldelli didn’t start on Monday night but came off the bench in the sixth inning. He went 1-for-2 and did not have any chances in right field. He is now 8-for-17 in his last six games, and the Rays will continue to seek slow, steady progress.
— Brittany Ghiroli