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
Strong starting pitching and timely hitting? Sound familiar?
The Rays’ Triple-A Affilliate, the Durham Bulls, did their big league club proud on Saturday night with a 3-2 victory over the Louisville Bats. The win secures Durham a chance to clinch the best-of-5 International League semifinal series Sunday night.
Jeff Niemann shut down the same Bats that stomped on the Bulls in Game 2 to the tune of 19 runs and 24 hits. Saturday night Niemann never let Louisville’s offense take off, as the former top pick fanned 11 and took a no-hitter into the eighth inning. Niemann allowed just two baserunners prior to Craig Tatum’s double to lead off the eighth.
“Jeff was throwing everything for strikes,” Bulls manager Charlie Montoya said in Sunday’s The News & Observer. “No one could look for anything from him because he was throwing everything for strikes. It was getting to the point where he had the no-hitter and I was going to have to take him out. He was getting to that pitch count. He made a lot of big pitches.”
On the other side of the plate, Jonny Gomes worked a lot of pitches. The outfielder and Major League veteran, Gomes took the 12th pitch of his first at-bat over the fence for a two-run homer. Jon Weber also went 2-for-4 with two runs scored for Durham.
The Bulls did all this despite a 19 minute power outtage at the stadium, something Niemann told MILB.com he had never seen in the middle of a game.
Juding from Saturday’s results the Bulls wouldn’t mind another brief power outtage on Sunday. They enter the game –also in Durham– with a shot to clinch a spot in the Governors’ Cup Finals. Right-hander Wade Davis will take the mound in the 5:05 p.m. contest.
With the trade deadline looming near, the Rays Minor League system continues to hold an enviable stock of high-end prospects.
Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman and the rest of the Rays staff would prefer to solve the team’s current holes — a right-handed power hitter and another reliever — in house, instead of trading for a rental player.
Rocco Baldelli — who has been sidelined since Spring Training with a rare mitochondrial disorder that causes muscle fatigue — could be the powerful right-handed bat the Rays need to upgrade a languishing lineup.
Currently on rehab assignment with Double-A Montgomery, Baldelli has progressed to playing the outfield, and the Rays are cautiously optimistic that the 26-year-old Baldelli can be of service in the Majors.
“It’s possible,” Maddon told the St. Petersburg Times on Thursday. The Rays skipper also told the paper that he had a positive talk with Head Athletic Trainer Ron Porterfield about Baldelli’s health following his three innings in the field on Wednesday.
Baldelli — who went 1-for-3 as the team’s DH on Thursday — is scheduled to play in the Biscuits’ outfield again on Saturday.
In four Major League seasons, Baldelli has a .282 career average with 48 home runs and 221 RBIs.
Another player in the Minors that the team will monitor closely — as they make what would be a franchise-first playoff bid — will be lefty David Price.
The No. 1 Overall Pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, Price is also in Montgomery but the 22-year-old could receive a promotion relatively soon.
With Triple-A Durham losing right-hander Jeremy Cummings to the Olympics, the Bulls will have a rotation spot to fill.
Price — who is 4-0 with a 2.19 ERA in six games — would be the logical choice, as the young lefty has quickly moved up the Rays system after a left elbow strain caused him to miss the season’s initial month.
Top pitching prospects Wade Davis and Jeremy Hellickson are also options to help the overextended Rays bullpen down the stretch, and are believed to be untradeable pieces within the Rays system.
Davis — who was promoted to Durham last week — tossed seven-innings of scoreless baseball in his Triple-A debut on July 20, after going 9-6 with a 3.85 ERA with Montgomery.
Hellickson has split time between Class-A Vero Beach and Montgomery, and, as of Friday, is a combined 8-4 with a 2.95 ERA in the Minors.
— Brittany Ghiroli