STARTING NODS

Jul. 16, 2014 @ 02:20 PM

The two Durham Bulls position players on the International League All-Star team will find their names in the starting lineup tonight.

For five innings, likely, their experience playing in the Triple-A All-Star Game at Durham Bulls Athletic Park will feel a lot like their other 72 home games for the Bulls.

Durham manager Charlie Montoyo, who is managing the IL team in the game tonight (7 p.m., MLB Network), has Wilson Betemit playing designated hitter while Mikie Mahtook is starting in left field.

He and Pacific Coast League manager Bob Mariano both said they plan to use the starting players for five innings before substituting to get as many players into the game as possible.

Mahtook said starting an all-star game in his home park is a neat experience. He should know because he did the same thing two years ago as a Florida State League all-star playing in Port Charlotte, Florida.

“Being a hometown guy playing in front of the hometown crowd is a cool dynamic,” said Mahtook, who is batting .304 with eight home runs this season. “It’s cool to have the crowd behind us and get the roar when we come to plate or the mound or whatever.”

Betemit is batting .228 for Durham, but he leads the Bulls with 14 home runs while also driving in 40 runs.

Two Durham Bulls starting pitchers, Mike Montgomery and Merrill Kelly, join Mahtook and Betemit on the IL roster. Liam Hendriks of Buffalo, who is 7-1 with a 2.19 ERA, will start on the mound for the IL team.

But Montoyo said Montgomery, along with Syracuse’s Aaron Laffey, are candidates to come in after Hendriks pitches two innings.

“We’ll hopefully use the starters first, like Montgomery and Laffey, and then go to the bullpen guys” Montoyo said. “Starters need more time to get loose so we’ll go with them first.”

Mahtook will be joined in the IL’s starting outfield by Toledo’s Ezequiel Carrera in centerfield and Syracuse’s Steven Souza in right field.

Carrera will bat lead-off for the IL team.

The PCL team is starting New Orleans right-hander Elih Villanueva, who is 8-6 with a 3.92 ERA for the Miami Marlins affiliate this season.

“He knows how to pitch,” Mariano said. “He knows how to hold runners. He pitches in and out, up and down. He is a veteran guy who has been around.”

Following him will be Kyle Hendricks, who is 10-5 with a 3.59 ERA for the Chicago Cubs team in Iowa.

Mariano, who manages San Francisco’s Triple-A team in Fresno, will have speedy Kansas City Royals farmhand Paulo Orlando from the Omaha Storm Chasers as his lead-off man. Orlando is batting .314 with 14 doubles, six triples, five home runs and 25 stolen bases.

Allan Dykstra of Las Vegas, Monday night’s Triple-A Home Run Derby champion, will play designated hitter and bat sixth for the PCL. A former Wake Forest player, Dykstra had a vocal cheering section of his own during the Home Run Derby.

Two of the PCL teammates that Dykstra beat on Monday night, Reno’s Mike Jacobs and Omaha’s Francisco Pena, will bat in front of him in the lineup. Jacobs will play first base and bat clean-up while Pena will catch and bat fifth.

Montgomery, of the Bulls, said he’s not really familiar with any of the PCL batters. Pitching in relief isn’t something he normally does either. But he did experience some of it in the Arizona Fall League last year.

“You just mentally get ready earlier like when you are starting and then go through (the starter’s inning),” Montgomery said. “Whenever they tell me to pitch, I’ll be ready. It’s a little adjustment but it’s not that big of an adjustment. I should be able to do it.”