So by now you know the Bulls have advanced to the 2014 Governors’ Cup Final (for the sixth time in eight years, no less), and they’ll be taking on the Wild Card winner Pawtucket Red Sox, who swept the Syracuse Chiefs in the first round. This year’s best-of-Five Final is a rematch of last season’s championship round, which Durham won 3-1 over the PawSox. To get you ready for this year’s showdown, we’ll break down the teams to tell you all you need to know about this year’s Governors’ Cup Final.
Durham’s starting pitching has all the talent in the world. On any given night, any pitcher can shut down the opposing team and nobody would be surprised. That being said, the starters have been inconsistent this season, posting stretches where they’re nearly unhittable, and stretches where the whole rotation has struggled. However, the rotation was strong in the First Round against Columbus, allowing just six earned runs over the final three games.
Pawtucket’s rotation is in flux, as the team has had a handful of starters plucked by the Red Sox over the past few weeks (IL Most Valuable Pitcher RHP Anthony Ranaudo, RHP Steven Wright). The PawSox will be relying on newcomer LHP Edwin Escobar and recent call-up and top prospect LHP Henry Owens to lead the charge against Durham’s offense.
Durham’s bullpen has been lights out all season, and recently has been superb. Led by a pair of southpaws in LHP Adam Liberatore and LHP C.J. Riefenhauser, and aided by 2014 IL All-Star Merrill Kelly, the unit struck out 16 and walked just three in the First Round against Columbus.
Similar to their rotation, Pawtucket’s bullpen has also been dealt setbacks as LHP Drake Britton and LHP Tommy Layne have been called up to Boston. The unit allowed just three earned runs against Syracuse in the first round, and will rely on 2014 PCL All-Star Heath Hembree, who was traded by the San Francisco Giants to the Red Sox in the Jake Peavy deal in July.
Behind the dish the Bulls feature Ali Solis and Luke Maile. Solis spent the season with the Bulls, save for a two-week period in early June that saw him get called up while Ryan Hanigan was on the DL. Maile on the other hand, just 23 years old, spent the whole season with Double-A Montgomery where he was a Midseason All-Star. He caught two games for Durham against Columbus, his first two appearances at the Triple-A level.
Pawtucket’s Blake Swihart (.262-1-9 in 18 G) and Ryan Lavarnway (.283-3-20 in 62 G) each had solid seasons for the PawSox. That carried into the First Round of the playoffs, as Swihart went 4-for-7 and drove in a run.
All season long Durham’s offense has held the team back, finishing last in the IL with a .248 team average in the regular season. The Durham infield has struggled at the dish this season, as the eight infielders on the roster for the postseason combined to hit just .239 in the regular season. However, Vince Belnome (.358), Mike Fontenot (.350) and Cole Figueroa (.371) all posted OBPs of .350 or higher, while All-Star Wilson Betemit led the team with 18 home runs.
Pawtucket’s infield, similarly to Durham, did not produce much over the course of the regular season. Against Syracuse though they produced at the dish, led by Travis Shaw (5-for-10, HR, 3 RBI) and former Bull Ryan Roberts (3-for-9, 3 RBI).
The combination of Mikie Mahtook, Jeremy Moore and Justin Christian has been strong for Durham, especially with the addition of Moore from Double-A Montgomery in late June. Mahtook, the Bulls’ 2014 MVP, was among lead leaders in doubles and extra-base hits while cracking a career-best 12 homers. Christian hit a solid .271 with 10 dingers, while Moore hit 12 homers in just 55 games since his promotion.
The PawSox lost top prospect Jackie Bradley Jr. to the Red Sox just a few days ago, but have replaced him with Rusney Castillo, a 27-year-old Cuban defector who signed a seven-year, $72.5 million deal with Boston a month ago. He went 5-for-15 for Double-A Portland in the playoffs, and will join an outfield corps that combined to hit 45 homers in the regular season.
Durham’s Charlie Montoyo is the man. Simple as that. Eight seasons in Durham, seven division titles, sixth Governors’ Cup Final berth, two Governors’ Cup titles and a Triple-A National Championship.
Pawtucket’s Kevin Boles is in his first season as a Triple-A manager. To get your team this far in a rookie campaign is pretty good. But…
Wool E. Bull is the best mascot in Minor League Baseball, and probably all of sports. To read more about why Wool E. rules, click here. And honestly, we love Paws, we really do. But it’s sort of like the manager debate: no matter how good you are, you just simply won’t have the advantage.
So by now everybody knows that the Durham Bulls have won the 2014 International League South Division title. And frankly, you probably could’ve predicted that in February, seeing as how the Bulls have won the division in seven of the past eight seasons. And the common denominator of those eight seasons has been none other than manager Charlie Montoyo, the winningest manager in Durham Bulls franchise history.
So, you know the team won the title, but what you don’t know is how Montoyo spent his first couple minutes after exiting the dugout on August 25th, when the Bulls’ 4-2 victory over the Gwinnett Braves propelled Durham into the Governors’ Cup playoffs for the 13th time in the past 17 years.
Luckily, we have you covered. Follow Charlie from the field and into the clubhouse.
P.S. We hope you enjoy pitching coach Neil Allen’s celebration as much as we did.
You know how hitters use video to break down their swing? Well today, we’re going to use video and break down Wil Myers‘ massive grand slam in the Bulls’ 5-4 loss to Rochester on Monday. It may or may not be as technical as you’d get from a hitting coach.
Here’s the video, and below is our expert analysis.
Comment #1: Hanging curveball – that’s a really bad pitch
Comment #2: Took massive swing. If you’re Wil Myers, I guess that’s ok
Comment #3: Demolished baseball. If you’re Wil Myers, I guess that’s what happens
Comment #4: Wil seems happy with himself (:40 mark)
And there you have it. We’ve just broken down a Wil Myers’ grand slam. Join us next week, when we (potentially) break down Myers eating chicken fingers.
Last night the newest member of the Durham Bulls, INF Nick Franklin, scored the Bulls lone run in game one, before hitting a game-winning homer in game two of the doubleheader against the Buffalo Bisons. The switch-hitting middle-infielder joined the Bulls a week ago from the Seattle Mariners organization in the three-team deal that sent LHP David Price to the Detroit Tigers. Bulls broadcaster Patrick Kinas caught up with the 23-year-old earlier this week to talk about the trade, his family ties to the east coast and first impressions of the Durham Bulls.
With the Buffalo Bisons visiting Durham Bulls Athletic Park for the next four days, it means the return of Gary Allenson. Allenson, the first-year skipper of the Bisons, etched his name into ballpark history when, in 2011 as skipper of the Norfolk Tides, he climbed the centerfield wall to find a ball he thought was a home run. No description can do the scene justice, so we’ll just let the video do it for us. For quick results, fast-forward to the 3:30 mark.
With Minor League Baseball kicking off #MascotMania this week, it’s time to once again re-examine why Wool E. Bull is the not only the best mascot in the minors, but perhaps the world. So remember, #VoteWoolEBull, and vote often. You can vote an unlimited amount of times right here, and up to 25 times a day on Twitter by following @MiLB and using the two hashtags listed above.
1. Little known fact, the “E” in Wool E. Bull stands for “Education.” A Bull that walks exclusively on its hind legs that’s also a huge advocate of learning? Simply amazing.
2. No one can drive a go kart like Wool E. No one.
3. He comes in like a Wrecking Ball.
4. He has no problem giving the opponent a hard time.
5. Just like most people, he loves Rita’s (even if most people don’t scavenge for it).
6. Despite one of the biggest snow storms in recent history, he made sure to deliver people their Wool E. Grams while dressed to the nines.
7. He loves the Hot Dog Gun, and the Hot Dog Gun loves him. A match made in heaven.
8. Even umpires, who don’t like anybody, like Wool E. Bull. “I’m flying, Wool E!!!!”
9. He’s got heart. Despite losing every single base race, he still goes out there every day. He’s like the Cubs.
10. He’s the most popular guy in The Triangle.
One problem many fans face each July is whether they should root for the American League or National League in the MLB All-Star Game. Well at the Triple-A ranks, the All-Star Game pits the International League (9 AL affiliates, 5 NL) against the Pacific Coast League (6 AL, 10 NL), throwing AL and NL loyalties out the window. In order to help you decide which team to pledge your undying fandom for on July 16 at the DBAP, we’ve devised a nice little questionnaire which should clear things up about about which team to root for.
1. Fill in the blank: When I travel, I prefer to travel by _____________________.
C. Sometimes by plane, sometimes by driving. Depends where I’m going
D. I don’t travel.
2. Fill in the blank: Typically, I prefer to see a game feature ____________________.
A. Home Runs
B. A pitcher’s duel
C. A close finish, but low-scoring. Let’s say 4-3
D. More runs than 4-3. Let’s say 7-5.
3. Fill in the blank: For vacation, I usually like to travel to ____________________.
A. Either the desert or the mountains
B. Mid-sized cities with somewhat rich history
C. A nice city with a lot to do in the surrounding areas. Durham, NC perhaps?
D. All of those options are terrible
4. If you could either hit 35 home runs or steal 75 bases, which would you choose?
A. Hit 35 home runs
B. Steal 75 bases
C. How about I hit like, 14 homers and drive in 60 in only 75 games?
D. Why can’t I just be a pitcher?
5. If someone told you a player on your team was deaf, but you saw him constantly communicating with other teammates, would you actually think he’s deaf?
C. Ummm, what?
D. What kind of question is that?
6. True or False: You like winning one-game, winner-take-all scenarios.
C. Sometimes True, but sometimes I like making my opponent feel good. “Throw a dog a bone” if you will.
D. This is a dumb question. Everyone likes winning.
7. I don’t always party, but when I do…
A. I prefer to party in Omaha
B. I prefer to party in Gwinnett
C. I prefer to party at Tyler’s
D. It’s impossible to party at any of those places.
If most of your answers were “A” you should root for the PCL.
If most of your answers were “B” you should root for the IL.
If most of your answers were “C” you don’t really care which team wins, you just want to see your Bulls do well.
If most of your answers were “D” you’re no fun at all and you don’t deserve to have a rooting interest.
So the PCL followed the IL by announcing its All-Star roster today, and since we had so much fun ranking the IL All-Stars’ names, we figured we’d do it again with the PCL. Now before we dive into this, we’re just going to say that the PCL BROUGHT it in 2014, trumping the IL in the team category. We have no idea what will happen in two weeks time at the 2014 Cree Triple-A All-Star Game, but the battle of names has already been won. Advantage: PCL.
A review of the judging: Well, there’s not really a rubric. But we’ll be looking for some combination of fluidity (which ironically is not an easy word to say), originality and how pleasing it is to the ear.
30: Chris Taylor – Tacoma (.322-5-30): If Coach Taylor from Friday Night Lights (the show) had a son, he’d have probably named him Chris. Unfortunately, that gets you no points on this list.
29: Shane Peterson – Sacramento (.313-5-50): This name fits in well with ‘has-been golfer’ or ‘Little League World Series star’ categories. With the PCL competition though, it falls to 29 on our list.
28: Kyle Hendricks – Iowa (10-5, 3.58): A hard CK sound at the end of Hendricks does Kyle no favors. As evidenced in our IL list, that sound is a sure-fired way to find yourself near the bottom.
27: Nick Franklin – Tacoma (.302-9-37): Franklin’s a tough last name to have. There’s the sporting brand, the turtle; it’s hard to make Franklin your own. And with the first name Nick he’s put in a tough spot.
26: Mike Jacobs – Reno (.304-12-61): The CK to B transition can be difficult. Say it. MiKe JaCoBs. The poor O between the C and the B can get left out, and we’re all about inclusion of the vowels.
25: Ben Paulsen – Colorado Springs (.306-13-53): Paulsen is one of those names that’s not too common, but it’s also not UNcommon. The first name Ben also not very original. Solid name, but too tough of competition in the PCL.
24: Derek Eitel – Reno (5-1, 2.70): A nice short name, but Eitel can throw some people for a loop. On a quick glance it can also look like Eiffel, as in the Eiffel Tower. We’re sorry, but we thought this was ‘Merica.
23: Donovan Hand – Nashville (1-4, 5.40, 13 SV): Certainly a punny name (lend us a Hand). And not too many people go by the first name Donovan. The 23 slot just shows how strong a class the 2014 PCL All-Stars are.
22: Spencer Patton – Omaha (4-3, 4.54, 14 SV): General Patton. An American hero, so brownie points for that hook up. Spencer on the other hand is original, but the SP combination can be dangerous. SPit flying everywhere if you’re not careful.
21: Jonathan Galvez – El Paso (.298-6-24): This is a smooth name. Imagine you’re a broadcaster. “Jonathan Galvez fields and throws to first… in time.” It’s like the James Bond of broadcasting routine ground outs.
20: Brennan Boesch – Salt Lake (.335-12-46): The name Brennan. Are we talking about this Brennan or Step Brothers? Either way it’s awesome. But Boesch is a KILLER. Crazy vowel-to-consonant transition. Tough for those who don’t already know how it’s pronounced.
19: Jared Hoying – Round Rock (.260-15-48): It’s not an easy last name to say. However, it’s intriguing. We might take some flack for this being ranked above some others, but honestly, we’re over it.
18: Max Stassi – Oklahoma City (.237-6-32): An X in either your first or last name is very important. However, the X in Max can run into the S in Stassi, creating a “Maxstassi” effect unless you’re super careful about differentiating between the two.
17: Stephen Piscotty - Memphis (.306-5-45): A lot of characters, but a lot of fun. Piscotty is enjoyable to say, and the last four letters are the same as the last four letters of potty. And we’re not immature, you were thinking the same thing.
16: Heath Hembree – Fresno (1-2, 4.05, 15 SV): A good southern name, and no surprise since he’s from Spartanburg, S.C. This is the name of the guy who lives next door to you and always shows up when you’re grilling, even though he’s never invited.
15: Logan Kensing – Tacoma (2-0, 1.70, 2 SV): Similar to Liam Hendriks in the IL, no reason why Kensing comes in at 15. And that’s all we have to say about that.
14: Elih Villanueva – New Orleans (8-5, 3.13): A tricky first name, but Villanueva is a lot of fun to say. It just keeps going and going, like a Phish concert (or song, for that matter).
13: Jimmy Nelson – Nashville (10-2, 1.56): His last name is Nelson and he plays in Nashville. Is anybody else paging Willie?
12: Chaz Roe – New Orleans (3-3, 3.61, 9 SV): If Chaz Roe isn’t the name of someone who would be a member of the Cobra Kai then we don’t know who would be. Wax on…
11: Nick Tropeano – Oklahoma City (6-4, 2.38): We’re pretty sure Nick Tropeano was the name of a character in an episode of The Sopranos. An authentic Italian name, no?
10: Tsuyoshi Wada – Iowa (9-4, 2.55): The T is silent, so it’s pronounced sih-yo-SHEE. And if knowing that you disagree with his ranking on this list, then we (disrespectfully) disagree with you.
9: Joc Pederson – Albuquerque (.319-17-42): How many people do you know that are named Joc? Big originality points right there. Pederson does him no favors, but this is a baseball name if we ever heard one.
8: Gregorio Petit – Oklahoma City (.301-9-38): If your first name is Gregorio you are going to be a top-1o pick, no questions. Petit holds him back ever so slightly. It’s the small things that separate the good from the great.
7: Andrew Susac – Fresno (.261-7-25): Susac. Say it again. Susac. It’s a last name that goes well in a coffee house at a poetry reading. *Bongos* Now welcome, Andrew Susac *snaps fingers*.
6: Allan Dykstra – Las Vegas (.283-12-56): Not sure if we’ve heard of anybody named Allan since Boy Meets World went off the air. Score one for originality. Plus his last name is Dykstra. Consonants left and right but he makes it work.
5: Gabriel Noriega – Tacoma (.328-1-23): Paired with Noriega, it’s tough to find a bad first name. But pairing Noriega with Gabriel?! Baller combination. Drops mic.
3: Blake Parker - Iowa (0-0, 1.44, 18 SV): Some may not be happy with this ranking, but Blake Parker is a true baseball name. And that’s not negotiable.
2: Paulo Orlando – Omaha (.318-5-37): This is name is yoga for the ears. Truly serene, and once you’re done saying it you feel like a new person.
1: Arismendy Alcantara – Iowa (.310-10-40): In a strong field, there was never really any doubt who would take top billing. A nice balance of vowels and consonants, his name is like a poem comprised of flowers and puppies. Arismendy Alcantara, we salute you.
In case you missed it earlier today, the International League announced its All-Stars for the 2014 Cree Triple-A All-Star Game, hosted by your Durham Bulls. So, naturally, we have decided to rank all the players by quality of name. Except the Bulls. They don’t count in the rankings because it’s our blog and we want to list them first so we’re going to.
So, how are these names going to be ranked you ask. Well, there’s not really a rubric. But we’ll be looking for some combination of fluidity (which ironically is not an easy word to say), originality and how pleasing it is to the ear. And don’t worry, we’ll also include some information on every player because that does carry some importance.
We’ll begin with the Bulls (in alphabetical order):
Wilson Betemit (.227-12-35): It is pronounced ‘BAY-tuh-mee.’ Over the years it has been pronounced every which way, and he’s never bothered to correct anyone. But in our mind, that’s a smooth-sounding last name, with a hint of originality with the first name Wilson.
Merrill Kelly (6-2, 3.16): A solid name. Two R’s and four L’s. Not ideal for those who struggle saying their Rs (like the writer of this post once did), but an easy name to cheer.
Mikie Mahtook (.316-7-47): Pronounced (MIKE-ee), you have to respect a guy that maintains his name from when he was little. Mahtook (MAH-took) can throw some people, which can be annoying when trying to broadcast one of his many extra-base hits (a league-leading 37, in case you were wondering).
Mike Montgomery (8-1, 3.28): Pretty straight up. No curveballs, no changeups, just steady. The only downside is the character count, which can get annoying for us here at the Bulls when we try to Tweet “another win for Montgomery, etc, etc.” You know, since he has eight of them.
RANKING THE REMAINING 26 PLAYERS:
26: AJ Achter – Rochester (2-2, 1.60): ACK! That’s what we think of when we pronounce this last name. It’s not a friend of the throat, creating a harsh ‘CK’ sound in the back of your throat.
25: Casey Sadler – Indianapolis (8-1, 2.10): Casey Sadler. There’s nothing wrong with this name, but there’s nothing great about it either. It’s simply just there, but it’s a name that’ll probably get thrown around in the Most Valuable Pitcher discussion when the time comes, too.
24: Phil Gosselin – Gwinnett (.320-3-21): Whenever you share the same last name as John and Kate Plus 8, you’re unfortunately handicapped. There’s nothing you can do. Now, if the last name had instead been shared with a certain movie star, let’s just say his status would’ve been bumped WAY up. Crazy, Stupid, Love anyone?
23: Chris Dickerson – Indianapolis (.315-6-27): Easy to say, but perhaps a little too standard for this list. A crazy middle name would’ve helped, but alas, it’s only Charles.
22: Bobby Korecky – Buffalo (4-1, 0.60, 10 SV): Again with the harsh ‘CK’ sound. It just isn’t great for the ears. Bobby is a solid first name though. Saved him a few slots on the list.
21: Luis Garcia – Lehigh Valley (2-0, 0.35, 15 SV): Very basic, but also pretty fun to say. A lot of vowels, but they’re well-spaced out so we’ll allow it.
20: Liam Hendriks – Buffalo (6-1, 2.13): We really don’t have any comment on this name. No rhyme or reason it is ranked where it is. Moving on…
19: Andy Oliver – Indianapolis (1-1, 2.08, 8 SV): Whenever we hear the named ‘Andy’ we think of Toy Story. And who doesn’t like Toy Story? But whenever we hear the name ‘Oliver’ we think of Oliver Twist. And who likes Oliver Twist? Conundrum.
18: Mike Hessman – Toledo (.258-15-33): Hess Trucks are awesome, therefore the last name ‘Hessman’ is awesome. The first name ‘Mike’ is made better because of the last name ‘Hessman.’
17: Dan Johnson – Buffalo (.253-16-50): Really not much in this name, but he’s a former Bull who won the league MVP award as a Bull in 2010 so he gets bumped way up.
16: Tyler Saladino - Charlotte (.304-9-37): His last name makes us think of salad, and we hate salad. It may be good for you, but it’s not good. Unless you’re talking about chicken Caesar salad. That stuff is baller.
15: Felix Perez - Louisville (.302-10-48): The first name Felix is awesome. A lot of fun to say, and anything with an X in it makes it even better. Some points off for the last name since it’s popular.
14: Steven Souza Jr. – Syracuse (.358-13-49): Not many guys go by Steven, respect. Souza is fun, too. Three different vowels and a Z in there? We like it.
13: Matt Hague – Indianapolis (.271-12-56): His last name sounds like it could just go on forever. Say it. Haaaaaagggggguuuueee. It never really ends, it just fades out like a Counting Crows song.
12: Ivan De Jesus – Norfolk (.304-3-22): A strong first name. Ivan the Great, perhaps? Plus, De Jesus rolls off the tongue.
11: Roberto Perez – Columbus (.321-8-40): The name Roberto is the best, especially if you decide to roll your R like it’s intended. Any name that begins with a rolled R and ends in a Z is OK in our book.
10: Anthony Ranaudo - Pawtucket (9-4, 2.35): An authentic Italian name, and no surprise since he hails from just about a half hour from the Jersey Shore. It’s an intriguing last name, but the number of characters holds it back from higher on the list.
9: Christian Vazquez – Pawtucket (.275-3-19): Two Zs in one name? Automatic top-10 pick. But, like his battery mate (Ranaudo), too many characters keeps it from an even higher ranking.
8: Jhonatan Solano – Syracuse (.268-9-40): True originality. The H after the J, ending in TAN rather than THAN. Plus, Solano is an extremely relaxing name. Serenity now.
7: Taylor Hill – Syracuse (9-2, 1.92): This name is made because of his position as a pitcher. SO many puns (King of the Hill, etc). If he was a shortstop, he’d be slotted way lower.
6: Jose Pirela – Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (.315-7-34): Pirela. Reminds us of the word Parade. And parades are fun.
5: Aaron Laffey – Syracuse (10-3, 2.93): Laffey is simply fun. The word ‘laugh’ is buried in there, and everybody likes to laugh. I mean, like Hill, puns are aplenty with Aaron (Laffey Taffy, etc).
4: Ruben Gotay – Louisville (.278-14-49): The Reuben is a delicious sandwich. Ruben is a delicious first name. Creeped out yet?
3: Jesus Aguilar – Columbus (.278-12-41): All you need to do to understand why he’s ranked third on this list is say his name out loud. Enough said.
2: Juan Jaime – Gwinnett (1-0, 2.30, 13 SV): An alliterative name that’s smooth as silk. It sounds like this could either be the super good looking good guy/bad guy in a soap opera. Especially if you whisper it.
1: Ezequiel Carrera – Toledo (.307-4-27): Every once in a while, a name hits your ears that sends your auditory senses into ecstasy. And Ezequiel Carrera does that. It’s unique, pleasing to the ear and despite the amount of characters is extremely fluid. There’s not much more to say.
So Major League Baseball announced its captains and new format for the 2014 MLB Home Run Derby on July 14 at Target Field in Minnesota. The layout involves brackets and byes and head-to-head matchups. Troy Tulowitzki will head up the NL squad, while Jose Bautista leads the AL unit.
Now, here’s a few reasons why you should DVR the MLB HR Derby, and come out to the DBAP for the Triple-A HR Derby the same night.
First, we have the Snorting Bull, the most iconic target in baseball: a giant Bull that snorts, wags its tail and shoots freaking smoke out of its nose with every home run hit.
Second, every time the Snorting Bull gets hit a lucky fan will win a $100 gift card to the legendary Angus Steak Barn.
Third, if the Snorting Bull is hit 15 times a lucky fan wins $15,000. Straight up.
Fourth, the Long Haul Bombers kick-off the event before the Triple-A sluggers get after it. If you haven’t seen them, simply watch the video below. These guys mash.
Fifth, we’re going to have dogs. That’s right, dogs. The Olate Dogs to be precise. The former winners of America’s Got Talent are taking their talents to Durham for the All-Star festivities. Say what you want about competition shows, but these dogs do indeed have talent.
Sixth, remember when Josh Hamilton hit 147 home runs in the 2008 HR Derby at Yankee Stadium? Yeah? Well Clay Council, who threw to Hamilton that unforgettable night in The Bronx, will be throwing to our two finalists.
Seventh, *Drops mic*