The matchup was one of a youngster with the weight of the 2015 Minor League Player of the Year award on his shoulders vs a veteran with 166 innings of MLB experience over the last 2 years.
Weather was an issue throughout, although Snell never showed any signs of it affecting his pitches. Always a bit more interesting when slick and windy conditions impact play and force players to adjust, and the Bulls did very well on this front.
Blake Snell (23)
Snell allowed a single to LF while facing his first hitter of 2016, but he managed to get out of the inning unscathed, thanks in part to a sharp throw to 2B by Maile who caught the speedy Anderson trying to steal.
Even with delays due to weather or long scoring inning, Snell remained sharp and only needed 38 pitches to get through 3 innings.
Just a few extra notes about his outing here:
- Needs to locate the breaking ball. When he leaves it in the middle of the plate, you can see hitters square it up.
- Wasted very few pitches throughout the game, showing to be economical in pitch use despite the weather and it being the first game of the season.
- Got slightly amped by non-calls in the 5th inning, particularly the high fastball. Not that it was a huge issue, we all like some emotion in the game, but he needs to check that to remain focused.
Scott Carroll (31)
Obviously not a great night for Carroll who struggled through this one. The Bulls lineup patiently waiting for pitches they could drive, and they took what he gave them without trying to do too much.
This one wasn't much of a dual, with Snell clearly managing the better outing. Although he wasn't getting many of the calls he should have - particularly with his big breaking pitches - he was definitely ready to roll and sharp throughout.
Lineups: Mike Mahtook led things off for the Bulls and was followed by Jaff Decker, Taylor Motter, and Richie Shaffer. That foursome provides an outstanding amount of power and speed combination for the Bulls and should set the table nicely in 2016. Nick Franklin followed, with Daniel Robertson, Cameron Seitzer, Patrick Leonard, and Luke Maile rounding things out.
The first hit of the season and game for the Bulls came from newcomer Jaff Decker who knocked a double off the right field wall. He also stole the first base of the season, taking 3rd after Shaffer earned a walk.
Positional Notes: Robertson played 3B for the 25th time of his career, something that will enhance his versatility if it continues. Patrick Leonard also showed some versatility by manning LF for the first time of his minors career (has 6 GP in RF).
You may wonder why Robertson manned 3B while Motter manned SS. It could be that the Rays want to make sure Motter - who is likely to be one of the first called up from the Bulls - is sharp at SS in case Brad Miller's performance doesn't hold up. After all, when we look at the Rays fielders, SS remains the biggest question mark.
Hitter of the game for Bulls:
Have to go with Patrick Leonard here who had an outstanding AAA debut. His approach at the plate was textbook and he hit the ball hard and often all night. Shaffer also had a great night with 3 RBI on 2 hits.
Still, every hitter had great AB in this one. As Mitch Lukevics talked about during the game, this is a high quality team and the hitters were swinging at the right pitches in this one while avoiding chasing bad pitches for the most part.
Every Bulls hitter got on base safely, and each has something to be happy about, something that should lead to a confident team heading into the next game. Here's their Boxscore:
Chris Volstad was forced to take over from Carroll in the 2nd inning and fared a lot better. Volstad did well for someone who undoubtedly never expected to be called upon in 2nd inning.
Andrew Bellatti closed out the game with a nice performance as well, throwing well and being very efficient.
Reliever of the game:
Dylan Floro took over from Snell and struck out the first two batters he faced on 8 pitches. His velocity looked strong, and now that he's no starting, he could become an intriguing RP for the Rays to call on if required. He did get into trouble in the 8th inning, allowing 2 on with no outs, but got himself out of the jam allowing only 1 ER in the inning.
He worked quickly, as usual, and was sharp overall.
Bulls Opening Day Final Thoughts
Overall, you have to be happy with the way the Bulls season began. The lineup hit well, the pitchers came out shucking accurate heat, and the team played a smart and mature game. Weather kept much of the crowd on their toes, but they were a cheery bunch who enjoyed a very entertaining game.
The Rays and their fans can rest assured that if the first game is an indication of the quality of depth the team has to work with, they are well covered all over the field and on the mound. This team has talent, and they showed it off on Opening night!