Twenty four hours ago at this very moment, the Durham Bulls held a 2-1 lead in the best of five International League championship series and looked poised to win their first IL title since 2003 under Bill Evers. The team needed to win just one of two games in a double-header in Richmond against the Braves, necessitated by a rainout of Game 4 on Friday, to wrap up IL "glory". At the end of Saturday, they had fallen far short of that. Richmond swept the Bulls in both games of their double-header at The Diamond on Saturday, winning the IL title for themselves. The R-Braves dropped Durham 6-2 in Game 4, and proceeded to knock out Bulls starter Mitch Talbot early later on in Game 5 to win 7-2 in the final game. The Bulls played in the wake of personal tragedy, the death of relief pitcher Shawn Camp's mother before the game, and that might have played a role in their having lost both games of the twin bill.
Two Durham pitchers, LHs Jeff Ridgway and J.P. Howell, were recalled to the major league Rays after the losses. They appear to be the final products of the expansion of the 40 man roster, pending the end of the Southern League championship series tomorrow night. Ridgway will presumably make his major league debut over the next two weeks; he pitched a full season in Durham this year and racked up a 3.06 ERA in 54 appearances. Concerns about his strikeout to walk ratio were raised in the beginning part of the season, but his control gradually improved over the course of the season. It improved apparently so much so to convince the Rays to give him a short tryout at the end of this season, with an eye towards him possibly being in the major league bullpen this season.
J.P. Howell meanwhile is nothing new to Rays fans. Having been perhaps the most frequent patron of the Raleigh-Durham/Tampa shuttle over the past season and a half, he gets the call to the bullpen as the Rays try to decide where exactly his role is with the ballclub. The losing "sixth starter" after camp ended, he began this season with the Bulls and had success from the start, posting very impressive numbers in 21 starts for the Bulls. However upon being recalled he struggled mightily, posting a 7.36 ERA over eight starts after a mixed bag of results last year. Though the Rays can't expect to see anything substantial from either over the final two weeks, the both should initially add some flexibility for manager Joe Maddon as the two lefties give him three total out of the pen. Howell will probably pitch in relief to start, though there is always the possibility that he will make a spot start or two before the season is done.
Lastly, the Montgomery Biscuits failed to win the Southern League title in Game 4 of the championship series last night, losing 4-1 to the Huntsville Stars. The Stars, Montgomery's opponent in the championship series last year as well, will host the decisive Game 5 of the series tonight starting at 7:05 ET.