Bulls lose opener to rain, will try once again at Norfolk tonight
The Durham Bulls experienced a rare summer without a playoff berth in 2012.
From the looks of the star-studded roster the team has for Friday night’s rain-postponed season-opening game at Norfolk, the Bulls appear primed for a return to postseason play this season.
Thursday night's scheduled opener was postponed because of rain and will be made up as part of a doubleheader Saturday at 5:05 p.m. in Norfolk.
Friday night's game will begin at 7:05 p.m.
Winners of five consecutive International League South Division championships prior to finishing last season at 66-78, the Bulls feature five of Tampa Bay’s top 10 prospects in the Baseball Prospectus rankings.
Three of those players, Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi and Alex Colome, will pitch in Durham’s starting rotation.
Two others, right fielder Wil Myers and shortstop Hak-Ju Lee, will be in the Bulls starting lineup.
That gives seventh-year Durham manager Charlie Montoyo a hungry, talented club.
“As long as people are good people and they are easy to work with,” Montoyo said, “it doesn’t matter if they are old or young. But of course it’s fun to work with young people. They have a chance to go some place.”
Myers, a power-hitter from Thomasville, and Odorizzi, a right-hander, came to the Tampa Bay organization in a December trade with Kansas City. The Rays shipped starting pitcher James Shields to Kansas City.
The Rays also received left-handed pitcher Mike Montgomery, who joins Archer, Odorizzi and Colome in the Durham rotation.
Durham’s Baseball America magazine did its organizational rankings in November, prior to the trade. Baseball America had Archer as Tampa Bay’s No. 1 prospect with Lee No.3, Colome No. 4 and infielder Tim Beckham at No. 8.
Baseball America listed Myers as the Royals’ top prospect with Odorizzi No. 5. The magazine’s staff said Montgomery had the best changeup in the Royals chain.
The starting rotation of Archer, Odorizzi, Colome, Montgomery and Alex Torres gives Montoyo and the Bulls a clear strength.
“I’m looking forward to seeing all five guys throw,” Montoyo said. “They all have a chance to be good. Archer is already good, so we’ll see.”
Behind them, Durham has strength defensively up the middle with Lee and Beckham. Able to play shortstop or second base, Beckham will play mostly second base for the Bulls this season with Lee at shortstop.
Lee batted .261 at Double-A Montgomery last season, stealing 37 bases. His season ended on Aug. 11 when he suffered an oblique strain.
“Lee, it’s his first year in Triple-A,” Montoyo said. “Hopefully he’ll get it going and hopefully be a future shortstop for the big league club.”
Durham’s outfield should be able to run down most fly balls that don’t clear the fences this season.
Myers has played centerfield in the past, but will focus on right field this season. Brandon Guyer has taken big-league at bats with Tampa Bay in each of the last two seasons. After hitting .312 with 14 home runs with Durham in 2011, he missed most of last season with a torn labrum.
Healthy again, he’ll see time in center or left field.
Also in the mix for playing time are Rich Thompson, minor-league baseball’s current active stolen base leader (446) and Jason Bourgeois, who has 51 career stolen bases during five major league seasons.
The middle of Durham’s lineup will have Myers batting No. 3 with first baseman/designated hitter Leslie Anderson batting cleanup. Anderson batted .309 with 14 home runs for the Bulls last season and was named Tampa Bay’s Most Outstanding Rookie in this year’s spring training.
Chris Gimenez, who nearly made the Rays roster this spring, returns to Durham as a veteran catcher to handle the pitching staff.
Brandon Gomes anchors Durham’s bullpen with other familiar faces Josh Lueke and Jim Paduch. All three pitched for Durham last season. Left hander Frank De Los Santos had a sterling 2.18 ERA in 27 appearances with the Bulls last summer.
“Our lineup and our staff seems stacked,” Guyer said. “On paper, we look great. We have to go out and play as a team, which I have full confidence we are going to do. When you look at the players we got in the (Shields) trade and the players we already had here, it’s going to be fun. I look forward to it.”
After playing a four-game series in Norfolk to open the season, Durham plays its home opener on Monday night at 6:05 p.m. against Gwinnett.
|Managers & Coaches|
|25||Charlie Montoyo||Manager||R||R||5' 10"||170||10-17-1965||Active|
|31||Dave Myers||Batting Coach||R||R||6' 4"||190||08-08-1959||Active|
|17||Neil Allen||Pitching Coach||R||R||6' 2"||190||01-24-1958||Active|