Afternoon minor league baseball on the MLB Network? Looks like it's time for a Live Blog!
The Pawtucket Red Sox are in Durham to take on the Bulls, the AAA affiliate of the Rays. I haven't gotten a chance to watch much minor league ball this year, so this will be nice.
12:04: Darnell McDonald and Marco Scutaro, both on rehab assignment, are in the starting lineup for Pawtucket. Scutaro will likely be activated for tomorrows game (with Scott Atchison likely to be demoted), while McDonald will probably stay down for the rest of the week. In addition, Kevin Millwood is pitching for Pawtucket.
12:08: Single to CF by Scutaro off of Bulls starter Edgar Gonzalez. Diamondbacks fans will remember Gonzalez. He pitched in Arizona from 2003 to 2008. While he was considered a prospect and made it to the majors at age 20, he never really developed as Arizona hoped he would. His biggest problem was the long ball, giving up 56 career homers in 323 innings.
12:12: A timeout to work on the mound here in the first game, gives us a chance to know that Durham's ground crew head Scott Strickland was the Minor League Sports Turf manager of the year.
12:20: With the mound back to Gonzalez's liking, Darnell McDonald rips a double down the left field line, scoring Scutaro. McDonald is now 7 for 16 with two doubles and two homers on his rehab stint.
12:23: Lars Anderson follows up with a two run double, scoring McDonald and Josh Reddick. Every time we seem ready to write Anderson off as a prospect he seems to go on a hot streak. Being blocked by Adrian Gonzalez, his future is clearly with another organization, but the Red Sox certainly wouldn't object to his trade value going upward.
12:26: Luis Exposito reaches on catcher's interference by Jose Lobaton. Not a glancing blow, Exposito hit the glove straight off of Lobaton. It looks like he's going to stay in the game. Eventful first inning so far.
12:33 Leadoff single by top prospect Desmond Jennings off the foot of Kevin Millwood. After being bothered with shoulder trouble last year, Jennings has a .275/.379/.474 line so far. If BJ Upton is traded, a real possibility, Jennings is going to get the call.
12:35: Jose Iglesias starting the nice 6-4-3 double play with the glove toss. As good as he is with the glove, it's ok to at least start to be worried about the bat. While Iglesias is one of the younger players in AAA, he has only 1 extra base hit in 150 PA.
12:39: Double to left field by Scutaro on a "changeup." Looked more like the high straight ball to me. Gonzalez and Lobaton are having a discussion about something, but his stuff looks extremely hittable so far.
12:40: Sacrifice fly by Redick, PawSox take the 4-0 lead.
12:41: Another double for McDonald. This one was more of a chopper that took a big bounce over the 3rd baseman's head. Pawtucket leads 5-0. One difference between the majors and minors (and one reason minor league managers shouldn't necessarily be rated based on their W/L record) - in the bigs, someone would be getting ready in the bullpen. Here in Durham, the goal is to get everyone the appropriate amount of work and development.
12:47: A nice piece of hitting by Dan Johnson, driving an opposite field single off the left field wall. I think Johnson has earned "quad-A" deisgnation. In 2000 AAA plate appearances: .304/.417/.554; in 1513 major league PA: .235/.334/.404.
12:51: Speaking of Quadruple-A, Chris Carter strikes out against Millwood. Carter now has over 2500 AAA plate appearances. Finally getting a limited chance with the Mets last year, Carter failed to produce, delivering at a .263/.317/.389 clip. Fair or not, a middling prospect like Carter probably couldn't afford to punt on a chance like that. He's probably a AAA soldier from here on out.
1:04: Ray Olmedo with his second very nice play at SS, with a leap to deny LF Ronald Bermudez. Last inning, he made a glove flip to start a double play on a Jose Iglesias ground ball. Olmedo appeared with the Reds in parts of four seasons (2003-06), and in 2007 with the Blue Jays, but never really hit. The difference between Olmedo and some of the guys who end up having long careers as a defensive replacement is very fine, and often comes down to little more than luck. With Reid Brignac strugging mightily in the majors, Olmedo (.359 OBP so far this year) might get a call. He's not the answer long-term, but if Brignac doesn't turn it around soon, Tampa will start looking for options before falling too far behind New York and Boston.
1:12: Double to left-center by Jennings. That gives him 23 extra base hits so far this year. A little bit farther up, I mentioned that he could get the call in the event of a BJ Upton trade, but he may instead be in line to take Sam Fuld's job. Fuld has been a pretty big story this year, so I was surprised to see that he's hitting only .231/.284/.347. Jennings is better than that right now, and should be in the majors very soon.
1:21: Edgar Gonzalez strikes out Lars Anderson to lead off the 5th, giving Gonzalez three straight K's. He's settled down some, but his stuff doesn't appear all that sharp. Watching on TV, he doesn't look like he does a good job repeating his delivery - when he throws a fastball, he speeds up his delivery and reaches farther back, while he appears to guide his changeup and drop down to a sidearm delivery for his curve.
1:32: Just as Gonzalez looked like was putting it together, a single, two walks, then another single, and it's 7-1. Iglesias drove in the two runs on a grounder between shortstop and the third baseman. The RBIs are nice, but that's the third straight ground ball by Iglesias on a pitch he should've been able to drive.
1:36: In what will apparently be Scutaro's last at bat of the day, he grounds into a 6-4-3 double play. Scutaro finishes up 3 for 4 with two runs scored and a double.
1:45: Cory Wade relieves Gonzalez for Durham. Through 33 innings this year, Wade has a 1.09 ERA, 33 strikeouts and only 6 walks. Wade had an excellent 2008 for the Dodgers, but struggled in 2009, possibly a victim of overuse.
1:48: Easy 9 pitch 1-2-3 inning by Wade against Reddick/McDonald/Anderson. Not a hard thrower but he looks like he locates well.
1:59: Nice sliding catch by Chris Carter. He's not normally known for his defense (to put it kindly), but he showed off pretty solid range before going into the slide here.
2:00: Luis Exposito with an opposite field home run to make it 8-1. Exposito has been on base four times today. he reached on the catcher's interference in the first, had a hard single off the left field wall in the 3rd and walked in the 5th before this homer. Exposito has been slumping greatly this year
2:02: Millwood strikes out Olmedo to lead off the 7th. The Bulls have been free-swinging today, leading to Millwood being at only 58 pitches here in the 7th inning. There isn't much heat left on Millwood's fastball, but he's getting a good downward movement and location on it today. Not sure if his success today is more due to his good pitching or the lack of Bull patience, but the results have been excellent.
2:08: Millwood must be at his pitch limit, as Arnie Beyeler is out there to take him out with two outs in the seventh. So through 6.2 IP, Millwood gave up 5 hits, 1 ER (responsible for Brandon Guyer on third base), 0 BB, 4 K. According to the stadium gun, Millwood was reaching 89 in the 7th, and he threw only 62 pitches - again, possibly more attributable to the Bulls impatience than Millwood's dominance. Still, the Red Sox have to be very happy with this peformance. Clevelan Santeliz will replace Millwood.
2:11: Santeliz strikes out Russ Canzler to strand Guyer, closing the book on Millwood. Canzler and Guyer came to Tampa in the Matt Garza trade, and so far both have been excellent, with Guyer at .322/.390/.544 and Canzler at .297/.413/.500.
2:20: Clevelan Santeliz with the PawSox first walk of the day. Walks have been the problem over the years with Santeliz, with 5.5 per 9 innings over his minor league career.
2:22: Two-run homer to right field by Jose Lobaton. Lobaton had a very short stint on the 2009 Padres, but otherwise has been a career minor leaguer. With 18 walks and 14 extra base hits now in 136 PA, Lobaton may have a chance to crack the Tampa Bay roster.
2:26: More minor-league fun! Starting 2B Omar Luna is now pitching for Durham! And his brother Hector Luna is now playing 2B.
2:27: Che-hsuan Lin, who replaced Darnell McDonald in RF, leads off with a single. Lin has great plate discipline, great range in the outfield and an excellent arm, but has not shown any increased proclivity to hit for power as he's moved up the minor leagues. Until he develops the ability to put the ball into the gap, he can't project as anything more than a fourth outfielder.
2:33 RBI double for 2B Nate Spears. Although Spears had a nice 2010 at Portland, as a 25 year old with AAA experience, that needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Indeed, back into AAA this year, Spears has a .198/.320/.349 line.
2:35: After talking about Ray Olmedo's nice defense, he makes a tough error on a Luis Exposito grounder. Two runs score, making it 11-3.
2:44: Strange play. Hector Luna hit a Pop up to third baseman Brett Dlugach, which he appeared to lose in the sun, then find again. He came in, and appeared to make a basket catch and drop the ball on the transfer, but the umpire called it a dropped pop up. Of course, Ray Olmedo on first base had to hold up, so he was thrown out at second base. Net is the same (man on first base, two outs), just a more difficult way to get there.
2:48: Chris Carter fly ball to shallow left to end it. Pawtucket wins 11-3, and takes three of the four in the series from Durham. Millwood had a very impressive stat line, but as I said above, I'm not sure how much I'd read into. Durham was swinging at everything, and a veteran like Millwood is smart enough to handle that, even with his diminished stuff. Still, his velocity was up about four MPH from his previous Pawtucket start, so it is definitely a positive.