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Rays 2022 Minor League Baseball Road Trip—Game 2

Games 2: Durham Bulls versus Memphis Redbirds at Bulls Athletic Park April 26, 2022

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On Tuesday April 26 the Tampa Bay Rays triple-A team, the Durham Bulls, returned home for their second home stand of the 2022 season. That day, their record was 7W:11L and they were tied for 8th place in the East Division standings of the International League.

The Bulls faced off against the Memphis Redbirds (St. Louis Cardinals) in game 1 of a six game series. The Redbirds, who are a member of the West Division of the INT, entered the series with a 9W:9L record and tied for 6th place.

I attended that opening game of the series on Tuesday April 26th. The photo above shows the Durham Bulls on the field at Durham Bulls Athletic Park during the first inning of the game.

Bulls 2022 players that have made their Major League debut, but currently retain Rookie status.

In my prior Durham Bulls home game post, I introduced thirteen players that were members of the Bulls opening day roster that had already made their Major League debut. Here I will first look at the MLB eligibility criteria for a player to retain rookie status and then identify which of those thirteen players still qualify as rookies.

The Major League Baseball website identifies the criteria that a player needs to meet to retain rookie status. A field player loses his rookie stats when he reaches 130 at bats with Major League Clubs, while a pitcher loses rookie status when he has pitched 50 innings in the majors. However, there is a second criteria that can cause either a fielder or pitcher to no longer qualify as a rookie. That is, the number of days he has been an active member of the roster of Major League Clubs.

The number of active days at which both field players and pitcher loss rookie status is 45. However, days from when the MLB rosters are expanded on September 1st until the end of the regular season do not count towards that 45 day limit. Also, if while on an MLB Clubs roster, a player is on the Injured List those days also do not count toward the limit.

The table above shows that only five players that were members of the Durham Bulls roster this season, but already made their debut in the majors, and still qualify as a rookie. They are pitchers Ralph Garza Jr., Dusten Knight, and Tommy Romero and field players, catcher Joe Hudson and shortstop Vidal Bruján. A review of the table shows that four of them made their Major League debuts in earlier seasons and only two of them played their first MLB game in the Tampa Bay Rays uniform.

Up to this point in the 2022 season, Garza and Knight have served as members of Durham’s relief corps. On the other hand, Hudson and Bruján have only played briefly for the Bulls. Vidal Bruján was Durham’s starting third baseman and leadoff hitter in their 2022 opening day game, but after game 2 of the season was sidelined due to a sore knee. He just returned to the Bulls lineup on April 19th. That day he was their starting shortstop and again hit in the leadoff slot.

Tommy Romero was not a member of the group of 13 identified in the earlier article. The table shows that he made his MLB debut with the Rays this season. Romero was a member of the Bulls opening day roster and made one brief start for Durham prior to getting called up to the majors by Tampa on April 11, 2022.

He made his debut in the Rays uniform the next day, April 12th. That day, Tommy Romero was Tampa Bay’s starter in a home game versus the Oakland Athletics at Tropicana Field. Then, 5 days later Romero returned to the mound in a Tampa away game versus the Chicago White Sox. That day he appeared in relief and pitched the 8th and 9th innings. Tommy Romero was reassigned to the Durham Bulls on April 18th.

The benefits to a player retaining his status as a rookie are first that if he gets recalled to the majors and has an exceptional season he is eligible to be considered for that year’s Major League Baseball Rookie of the Year Awards. Also, he is eligible to be ranked as one of the Major League Clubs top 30 prospects on the MLB Pipeline prospect list. For instance, both Vidal Bruján and Tommy Romero are currently ranked in the top 30. They are the Rays #4 and #18 prospects, respectively.

So, when attending a Durham Bulls games Bull, Rays, and baseball fans in general are also likely to see some of the Tampa Bay Ray MLB Top 30 Prospects in action on the field.

Game Highlights

Right hander Robert Drugger was the Durham Bulls starter in the April 26th game versus the Memphis Redbirds. Drugger is one of the pitchers identified in my prior article that had already played in the majors. He made his Major League debut on August 5, 2019 with the Miami Marlins and again pitched in the majors with the Marlins in 2020 and the Seattle Mariners in 2021. Overall he has already pitched 70.2 innings with those two clubs. Therefore, he no longer qualifies as a rookie. Drugger entered the game with a 0W:1L record in four starts with Durham.

The Memphis Redbirds offence rallied quickly and often against Robert Drugger and the Durham Bulls relievers that followed him. Drugger pitched a 1, 2, 3 top of the first inning. But, in the top of the second, the Redbirds opened a 2 runs to 0 leaded. Their cleanup hitter, first baseman Juan Yepez led off and doubled. Yepez crossed the plate with run 1 of the inning on a one out double by #6 hitter, catcher Ivan Herrera. With two down, Herrera came home with run 3on an E6—an unearned run,.

Next Memphis put a solo run on the scoreboard in the top of the 3rd to extend their lead to 3-0. With one out, number 2 hitter Lars Nootbaar(DH) walked and came home on a RBI double by the next batter, second baseman Nolan Gorman. In the top of the fourth the Redbirds added two more runs to increase their lead to 5-0. Number 7 hitter, Conner Capel(RF) launched the rally with a 1 out double and he scored when the next batter Ben Deluzio(CF) drove Dugger’s 1 ball, 2 strike pitch over the left center field wall for a 2-run homer.

Robert Drugger departed after the fourth inning. His pitching line for the day was IP(4) R(5), ER(4), H(7), BB(3), and SO(3). At that point in the game, the Bulls wer losing 5 runs to 0. Right hander Adrian De Horta entered in relief and pitched a scoreless top of the 5th.

Zach Thompson delivering a pitch to a Durham Bulls batter.

On the other hand, the Memphis Redbirds starter Zach Thompson was shutting down the Durham Bulls offense. He began by throwing four no hit innings. However, he did walk one batter, Bulls #5 hitter, right fielder Ruben Cardenas in the bottom of the second.

So after four innings of play, Thompson was throwing a no hitter, but not a perfect game. In the bottom of the 5th, he retired the first batter he faced. But then, Durham’ #6 hitter, center fielder Ryan Boldt grounded his 0 ball, 1 strike pitch into right field for a single. Thompson retired the next batter to close out the inning; however, his no hitter was over. He pitched a 1, 2, 3 sixth inning. But, after retiring the first two batters he faced in the 7th, he was replaced by Zach McAllister. Zach Thompson had an outstanding outing. His stats for the day were 6.2 innings pitched, 0 runs, 1 hit, 1 base on ball, and 9 strikeouts.

Ben DeLuzio fourth inning home run swing.

Along the way, the Redbirds offense had added solo runs in the top of the 6th and 7th on home runs by Ben DeLuzio and Conner Capel, respectively. Therefore, when Thompson departed, Memphis was on top 7 runs to 0. DeLuzio was one of the Redbirds key offense leaders of the day. He had 3 hits in 5 trips to the plate; hit home runs in both the 4th or 6th innings, scored 3 runs, and lead the team with 3 runs batted in. The photo shows Ben DeLuzio’s swing on which he connecting with a pitch in the fourth inning for his first home run of the day.

After entering the game to replaced Zach Thompson with two outs in the bottom of the 7th inning, Zach McAllister gave up back to back singles to #5 batter, right fielder Ruben Cardenas and #6 hitter Ryan Boldt(CF) before recording the third out. Then in the eighth, he again allowed two singles—a leadoff single to #8 batter David Rodriguez(DH) and then with one out to #1 hitter Miles Mastrobuoni (LF). But again, McAllister shut down the potential rally to keep the Bulls scoreless.

Finally, in the top of the ninth inning, the Memphis Redbirds again mounted a run scoring rally. This time they scored 3 runs to extend their lead to 10-0. Then the Redbirds sent righty reliever Blake Parker to the mound in the bottom of the 9th. He had to face the middle of the Bulls, batting order, but retired them 1, 2, 3 while striking out the first two batters he faced. The Redbirds had recorded a dominating shutout victory and starter Zach Thompson got the win to make his record 1W:0L.

Here’s Ryan Boldt connecting with a pitch for a single that broke up the no-hitter in game 1.

Series Review

The Durham Bulls only won one of the games in their home series versus the Memphis Redbirds. That was game 3 of the series on Thursday, April 28th. So the Bulls were 1W:5L in the six game set. That made their overall record 8W:16L and dropped them into last place in the East Division of the International League. In game 3, Durham’s offense lit up and the pitching settled down. Here I will briefly review that Durham Bulls win.

Again, in game 3, the Bulls fell behind 2-0 in the top of the first inning. But the Bulls offenses led by leadoff hitter, shortstop Vidal Bruján, #3 batter, second baseman Jonathan Aranda, and cleanup hitter, left fielder Ryan Boldt fought back to build an 8-2 victory. They mounted run scoring rallies in the bottom of the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 7th innings to open that 6 run lead. Remember Ryan Boldt also got the hit that broke up the no hitter in game 1 of the series. The photo above shows Boldt’s swing on which he connected with Zach Thompson’s pitch to break up his no hitter.

One or more of those three players served a key role in each of the Bulls five game 3 rallies. However, Boldt really stands out. In the bottom of the first he singled to drive in Aranda with Durham’s first run of the game. Then in the third, he homered with Aranda on first to put the Bulls up 3-2. Bruján and Aranda played the key roles in Durham’s three run fourth inning rally that extended their lead to 6-2.

Vidal Bruján doubled home the first two runs and later in the inning Jonathan Aranda singled to drive in Bruján with run 3. Then in the fifth inning Boldt lead off and homered to make the Bulls lead 7 runs to 2. Overall on the day, Ryan Boldt had 4 hits in 4 trips to the plate, scored 3 runs, and drove in 5 runs. In fact, he hit a solo home run in the bottom of the 7th inning, which was his 3rd of the day.

Meanwhile, the Bulls starter, rehabbing left hander Ryan Yarbrough, gave up 2 unearned runs in the top of the first inning, and the three relievers that followed him, held Memphis scoreless the rest of the way for the 8 runs to 2 Durham Bulls victory. They limited Memphis to 5 more hits, while recording 8 of the 24 outs of innings 2 though 9 of the game via the strikeout. Chris Muller who pitched 1 and 1/3 perfect innings got the win to make his pitching record 2W:1L.

Relative to the overall six game series Vidal Bruján, Jonathan Aranda, and Ryan Boldt were the leaders of the Durham Bulls offense. Boldt, a potential power hitter for this Bulls lineup, lead all players on the team in hits (9-tied with Aranda), runs batted in (6), home runs (3), and batting average (.450). On the other hand, Bruján, who was their top of the order tablesetter, ranked #1 for the series in base on balls (3), triples (1), and on-base percentage (.500). Finally, Aranda ranked number one in runs scored (6), was tied with Boldt for number 1 in hits (9), and tied with one other player for #1 in doubles (2).

Walter Triebel is the author of “Road-Tripping the South Atlantic League: A Guide to the Teams, Ballparks and Cities” published by McFarland. It is available for purchase on their website as well as Amazon. Walter previously spent 15 years as an adjunct faculty member at Fairleigh Dickinson University, and has led an extensive career as a textbook and reference book author. You can follow him on twitter here.