Spring Training Updates: Week Three

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2014 Triple-A Home Run Derby champion Allan Dykstra appears headed to begin the season with Durham, after his reassignment from big league camp earlier this week.

Entering Thursday, the Rays hold a 10-9-1 record through the first three weeks of the Grapefruit League season, and since our last Spring Training update the Bulls’ roster has begun to take shape.

Over the last week Mikie Mahtook, Enny Romero and Burch Smith have all been optioned to the minors, while Vince Belnome, Allan Dykstra and Taylor Motter were all reassigned to the minor league camp. With these “cuts,” all six players appear headed to begin the season with Durham, as each player except Motter was a Triple-A regular last season (Smith made just two starts with Triple-A El Paso before his season ended because of injury, but projected to spend the year at Triple-A or higher.)

It appears the three open spots in the Rays’ Opening Day rotation are now between Nathan Karns (13.1 IP, 3 ER), Matt Andriese (16.1 IP, 2 ER), Mike Montgomery (9.0 IP, 2 ER) and Everett Teaford (9.2 IP, 3 ER), with the odd man out out most likely beginning the year in the Bull City.

Offensively Nick Franklin suffered an oblique strain and will be out for Opening Day, leaving an infield spot open on the Tampa Bay roster. The spot will seemingly go to Tim Beckham, Jake ElmoreAlexi CasillaJuan Francisco or Eugenio Velez, with the other four players on their way to Durham (Francisco does have an April 5th opt-out clause if not on the big league roster.)

Players Optioned or Reassigned from MLB Camp (*indicates 40-man roster player):
3/12: Daniel Robertson, Boog Powell
3/15: Jose Dominguez*, Hak-Ju Lee*, Dylan Floro, Luke Maile, Robert Zarate
3/16: Ryan Brett*, Grayson Garvin*, Justin O’Conner*
3/19: Mikie Mahtook*, Enny Romero*, Vince Belnome
3/20: Burch Smith*
3/23: Allan Dykstra, Taylor Motter

For a full breakdown of Rays Spring Training statistics, click here.

All-DBAP Team: Relief Pitcher Finalists

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Only one position remains to fill out our All-DBAP Team (with managers coming next week), as we conclude the player portion of the squad with relief pitchers. This trio features three relievers who all amassed 35 saves or more in a Durham Bulls uniform.

After taking a glance at our finalists below, remember to vote for who you think is most-deserving of a spot on the All-DBAP Team by voting on the Bulls’ Facebook page. Simply leave a comment on Facebook with the name of your selection on the official finalist announcement post and you’re done!

Winston Abreu

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Winston Abreu struck out 159 batters in 106.1 innings with the Bulls over two seasons

By the time he made his Durham debut in 2009 he was already in his 16th professional season at the age of 32, but he was one of the best relievers in the IL that season, recording 15 saves in 37 appearances. That year he went 3-1 with a 1.94 ERA, while striking out 77 batters in 51.0 innings. He was flawless in the 2009 postseason, tossing 5.2 scoreless innings over six appearances to earn four saves and help the Bulls to their third Governors’ Cup title and first Triple-A National Championship title in franchise history. The following season he posted a 2.28 ERA, while ranking third on the circuit with 23 saves. He struck out 82 that season while walking just 21 in 55.1 innings, while surrendering just a single home run.

Career Numbers with Durham: 3-5, 2.12 ERA, 38 Saves, 106.1 IP, 159 K in 88 G (2009-2010)

MLB Career: 0-1, 7.31 ERA, 0 Saves, 44.1 IP, 38 K in 38 G (2006-2007, 2009)

Lee Gardner

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Lee Gardner, pictured with Tampa Bay, is the Bulls’ all-time Triple-A saves leader

Lee Gardner, the franchise’s all-time Triple-A leader in saves with 77, recorded 15 saves or more three times over his five season with Durham. In 2003 he set a Triple-A single-season franchise record with 30 saves, while also leading the league in that category. He saved 55 games between 2002 and 2003, the franchise’s first two Triple-A titles, while his ERA was never higher than 3.75 to finish a season with the Bulls. Over his final 150 games with Durham in 2002, 2003 and 2005, his appeared in 150 games, recording a save in 70 of them.

Career Numbers with Durham: 15-13, 3.06 ERA, 77 Saves, 259.0 IP, 206 K in 227 G (2000-2003, 2005)

MLB Career: 4-5, 3.01 ERA, 2 Saves, 101.2 IP, 68 K in 86 G (2002, 2005, 2007-2008)

Kirby Yates

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Kirby Yates recorded a save in 50% of the games he appeared in with Durham

Affectionately referred to as the “Pineapple Express” in his tenure in Durham (alluding to his Hawaiian roots), Kirby Yates was perhaps the International League’s most dominant closer from 2013 to June of 2014, when he received his first big league call up. In the Bulls’ 2013 Governors’ Cup title season he ranked 4th in the IL in saves (20), T-3rd in games (51), 4th in lowest batting average against (.175) and 2nd in K/9 (13.57). In that year’s postseason he was as dominant as ever, allowing just one hit over four shutout appearances to record four saves. In 2014 he returned even better, going a perfect 16-for-16 in save chances and posting a 0.36 ERA before his promotion to Tampa Bay. At the time of his promotion, he was holding opponents to a .118 average, while left-handers were just 2-for-40 against. In his career with the Bulls, he posted a 4/1 strikeout-to-walk ratio (128-to-32).

Career Numbers with Durham: 4-2, 1.45 ERA, 36 Saves, 86.2 IP, 128 K in 72 G (2013-2014)

MLB Career: 0-2, 3.75 ERA, 1 Saves 36.0 IP, 42 K in 37 G (2014)

You can cast your vote here.

Next Week: Manager

Hitteth Bull Winneth Steak on Game of Thrones Night

GOT-Article We promised you Game of Thrones jerseys and we are giving you Game of Thrones jerseys. On April 23, the Bulls of House Durham will wear theme jerseys as part of Game of Thrones Night. Now, these aren’t your typical run-of-the-mill Minor League theme jerseys. These jerseys are for those who enjoy details, like most Game of Thrones fans. Here are some particulars:

  • Rather than throw the Bulls into a jersey garnered with faux chain mail, this jersey is designed as a modern day, real-world version of how a prominent Game of Thrones family might dress should they find themselves playing baseball. We wanted it to be able to work as a legitimate alternate jersey for the Bulls.
  • Game of Thrones revolves around several major families vying for power. These “houses” all have lengthy histories and lineages, and most fun of all, they each have a family sigil (basically their logo), colors, and cool “house words” (their motto). On Game of Thrones Night, the Bulls of House Durham will don these jerseys emblazoned with their sigil (a bull, obvs) on the chest and their house words “Hitteth Bull Winneth Steak” on their sleeve:

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  • The Bull sigil itself not only represents the team’s moniker, but also the City of Durham…which is affectionately known as the “Bull City.” The seven stars below the bull mirror the seven stars on the the City of Durham’s flag. Seven is also a big number in Game of Thrones: Seven Kingdoms, the Faith of the Seven.

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  • The geometric background of the jersey is a simple pattern, but some see familiar faces of well-known GoT sigils. A Stark dire wolf? A Lannister lion? A Durham bull? Or just a bunch of home plates?

So, how do you get your hands on one? This is the best part…we get to raise some money while having fun with cool jerseys. During Game of Thrones Night, the team’s game-worn jerseys will be auctioned, with proceeds benefiting the Durham Bulls Youth Athletic League – a program funded by the Bulls to provide recreational baseball free-of-charge to over 500 youngsters in the City of Durham. Some jerseys will also be made available for purchase online and in the Ballpark Corner Store. You can purchase tickets HERE for the April 23rd game, presented by Hilton Durham.

Spring Training Updates: Week Two

After Wednesday’s game the Rays will be through two weeks of Spring Training games, and since we last brought you updates from Port Charlotte much has changed.

First and foremost, Tampa Bay made their first two rounds of spring cuts, optioning Hak-Ju Lee, Ryan Brett, Justin O’Conner, Grayson Garvin and Jose Dominguez to minor league camp, while reassigning Dylan Floro, Robert Zarate, Luke Maile, Daniel Robertson and Boog Powell.

Second, the Rays have been bit by the injury bug, as Alex Cobb is suffering from right-forearm tendinitis, Drew Smyly is suffering from left-shoulder tendinitis and Alex Colome has been sick with pneumonia. Cobb was announced earlier this spring as the Rays’ Opening Day starter, but that is now in jeopardy, while Smyly was slated as the No. 3 starter in the rotation and Colome was a No. 5 hopeful. Now, Nathan Karns, Matt Andriese, Burch Smith, Everett Teaford and Enny Romero seem to be in competition for at least two, and potentially three, open slots in the rotation come Opening Day.

Karns has allowed 1 ER in 9.0 innings this spring over three starts, while Andriese has allowed just 1 ER in 7.2 innings of work in three outings (two starts). Teaford (four games) has been sharp, surrendering 1 ER in 6.2 innings, while Romero has gone 4.2 innings, allowing 2 ER in four relief outings.

Offensively Corey Brown has continued to hit well, batting .467-1-2 (7-for-15) in 9 games, while Eugenio Velez in 4-for-11 over his first seven games. Mikie Mahtook, who’s been struggling this spring, cracked his first homer of the Grapefruit League season Tuesday against the Phillies.

For a full breakdown of Rays spring training statistics, click here.

Rally the realm. Game of Thrones Night is coming.

GameofThrones-Twitter-Revised2We’ve made no secret that we’re into some things that people might consider nerdy (see Star Wars Night). Last season, we highlighted the stellar Twitter work of Bulls fan Mur Lafferty, who routinely tweets at games from the perspective of Game of Thrones character Sansa Stark.

We’re about to take it to a whole new level. On April 23, the Bulls of House Durham will host Game of Thrones Night. For the millions of fans of HBO’s mega-hit show and the readers of George R.R. Martin’s novels, this is your night. After all, the fantasy epic and baseball have a lot in common:

  • Good guys & bad guys: we’re playing the Charlotte Knights on 4/23…yes, we did that on purpose.
  • Awesome costumes: The Bulls will wear custom theme jerseys. We’re going to make you wait to see those (but trust us, they’ll be in more demand than dragon eggs).
  • Plot twists: Lots of inning breaks means lots of GoT-themed entertainment. Some things you might expect, some you won’t.
  • The Wall: Theirs is made of ice and keeps out the undead. Ours is made of blue-painted wood and keeps balls in play. Close enough.
  • MLB Advanced Media: Baseball’s internet arm will power the HBO NOW streaming service (which will launch in time for Game of Thrones’ season five premiere) and it powers DurhamBulls.com. We’re cousins in technology.
  • Lavish food & drink: Game of Thrones Night falls on a $1 concessions Thursday…you’ll feel as rich as a Lannister with all the $1 hot dogs you can buy. Plus, the DBAP’s selection of spirits rivals the finest outputs from the Arbor.
  • Spirit animals: The Starks have dire wolves, we’ve got Wool E. Bull.

The major difference is, unlike the show or books, no major characters will meet their untimely demise during our event. And of course, we’ve got big plans for #Sansaball. Get your tickets HERE for the April 23rd game, presented by Hilton Durham. It’ll surely be one of the most buzzed-about Minor League Baseball promotions of the season.

All-DBAP Team: Starting Pitcher Finalists

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You, the fans, have spoken, and all position players on the All-DBAP Team have been accounted for. All that’s left are starting pitcher, relief pitcher and manager, and this week we take a look at the three finalists for your favorite starting pitcher in DBAP history. Out of all the talented pitchers that have come through the DBAP the past 20 years, fans will be able to choose between a Cy Young winner, Rookie of the Year and the Bulls’ Triple-A single-season wins leader.

After taking a glance at our finalists below, remember to vote for who you think is most-deserving of a spot on the All-DBAP Team by voting on the Bulls’ Facebook page. Simply leave a comment on Facebook with the name of your selection on the official finalist announcement post and you’re done!

Jeremy Hellickson

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Jeremy Hellickson was the Baseball America and USA Today 2010 Minor League Player of the Year

In 2009 and 2010, Jeremy Hellickson put together perhaps the most dominating 30 starts in International League history. After he was promoted to Triple-A midway through the 2009 campaign the right-hander went on to go 6-1 with a 2.51 ERA, leading the squad to its first Governors’ Cup title since 2003. In the team’s first Triple-A National Championship Game Hellickson got the call and tossed five shutout innings, allowing just two hits in Durham’s 5-4, 11-inning victory. Then in 2010 he was dominant once more, earning IL Most Valuable Pitcher honors after going 12-3 with a 2.45 ERA, leading the league in ERA and K/9 (9.41), while ranking third in wins. That season he was named the Minor League Player of the Year by both Baseball America and USA Today, while earning Minor League Pitcher of the Year honors from The Sporting News. In 2011 he was named the American League Rookie of the Year after going 13-10 with a 2.95 ERA, and spent the first five years of his big league career with Tampa Bay before he was traded to Arizona this past offseason.

Career Numbers with Durham: 19-8, 2.93 ERA, 193.1 IP, 209 K in 35 GS (2009-2010, rehab in 2014)

MLB Career: 40-36, 3.78 ERA, 640 IP, 463 K in 115 G, 108 GS (2010-2014)

J.D. Martin

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With his Triple-A franchise-record 16 wins, JD Martin was the 2013 IL Most Valuable Pitcher

Signed as a minor league free agent prior to the 2013 season, J.D. Martin went on to have a historic year for the Bulls, going 16-4 with a 2.75 ERA en route to IL Most Valuable Pitcher honors. At age 30, Martin led the IL and set the Bulls single-season Triple-A record for wins, while ranking Top-5 on the circuit in starts (27), innings pitched (160.1), and fewest BB/9 (1.46). Over his final 11 regular season starts he went 7-0 with a 2.07 ERA to lead the Bulls to the division crown, before going 1-0 with a 1.93 ERA in two postseason starts to help the club capture its fourth Governors’ Cup title.

Career Numbers with Durham: 16-4, 2.75 ERA, 160.1 IP, 116 K in 27 GS (2013)

MLB Career: 6-9, 4.32 ERA, 125 IP, 68 K in 24 GS (2009-2010)

David Price

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David Price made 12 starts for Durham before becoming a four-time AL All-Star with Tampa Bay

Similar to our 3rd base winner Evan Longoria, southpaw David Price makes our list of finalists more because of what he’s accomplished at the Major League level rather than his time in Durham. With the Bulls, Price appeared in just 12 games between 2008 and 2009, accruing a 4.13 ERA. With the Rays however, he established himself as one of baseball’s best pitchers, as he’s been an AL All-Star four times, while finishing in the Top-6 of the Cy Young voting on three occasions, including 2012 when he won the award behind a 20-5 campaign. When he was traded to Detroit at the trade deadline in 2014, he ranked first all-time in Rays history in ERA (3.18) and second in wins (82), strikeouts (1,065), starts (170), winning percentage (.636) and complete games (10).

Career Numbers with Durham: 2-5, 4.13 ERA, 52.1 IP, 52 K in 12 GS (2008-2009)

MLB Career: 86-51, 3.21 ERA, 1,143.2 IP, 1,065 K in 175 G, 170 GS (2008-2014)

You can cast your vote here.

Next Week: Relief Pitcher

Spring Training Updates: Week One

With one week of Rays Spring Training in the books, we take a look at how the team is doing, and how potential Bulls have been faring over the team’s first eight games.

As a squad the Rays have are off to a rough start, opening the Grapefruit League with a 2-5-1 record through the first week (the team played two games on Tuesday as part of a split-squad). The offense has struggled early, hitting just .207 as a unit and plating only 21 runs, with 19 of those 21 runs coming from the 6th inning or later. On the flip side the pitching has been dominant with an MLB-best 2.15 ERA, while walking just 25 batters in 71.0 innings of work.

Offensively Corey Brown (5-for-11, HR, 2 RBI, 2 2B in 6 G) and Joey Butler (4-for-13, HR, 2 RBI, 2B in 5 G) have been off to strong starts. Each player was signed this offseason as a minor league free agent, and projects to begin the year in Durham.

On the mound Matt Andriese (4.2 IP, 3 R, 1 ER in 2 G, 1 GS), Nathan Karns (5.0 IP, 2 R, 1 ER in 2 GS) and Burch Smith (4.0 IP, 1 R, 1 ER in 2 G, 1 GS) have started the spring strong in the competition for the 5th spot in the Rays rotation until Matt Moore is fully recovered from Tommy John surgery. Alex Colome, who is out of options and is also competing for the final spot in the rotation, reported to Port Charlotte earlier this week after dealing with visa issues through the beginning part of camp.

In relief southpaws CJ Riefenhauser (2.1 IP, 1 R, 0 ER in 2 G) and Mike Montgomery (3.1 IP, 0 R in 2 G) are off to nice starts. Both 40-man players will be competing for a spot in the Rays bullpen, as Tampa Bay is trying out Montgomery in relief this spring. Non-roster invites and Durham probables Brandon Gomes (2.0 IP, 0 R in 2 G) and Andrew Bellatti (2.2 IP, 0 R in 3 G) have each impressed as well.

For a full breakdown of Rays Spring Training statistics, click here.

All-DBAP Team: Outfield Finalists

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With all infield positions taken care of, this week we turn our attention to the outfield. 10 players make our list of finalists for the outfield, and this week fans can vote for up to three players for a spot on the All-DBAP Team.

After taking a glance at our finalists below, remember to vote for who you think is most-deserving of a spot on the All-DBAP Team by voting on the Bulls’ Facebook page. Simply leave a comment on Facebook with the names (you can vote for three this time around) of your selections on the official finalist announcement post and you’re done!

Leslie Anderson

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Leslie Anderson, a Cuban defector, didn’t join the Bulls until he was 28-years-old in 2010, but put together four memorable seasons with Durham. Twice he led the team in RBIs, while appearing in 115 games or more three times. He was named the MVP of the 2013 Governors’ Cup championship team, hitting .292-14-74, and was also the Team MVP in 2012 when he hit .309-14-56.

Career Numbers with Durham: .295-43-208, 175 R in 386 games (2010-2013)

Rocco Baldelli

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Rocco Baldelli, the new 1st Base Coach for the Tampa Bay Rays, had a brief tenure in Durham, appearing in 23 games for the Bulls in 2002 before returning on rehab stints in 2006 and 2007. His final tour with the Bulls game in 2010, when he suited up for 11 games in what proved to be the final year of his career. His 2002 campaign was important though, as a late-season call-up to Durham he hit .292-3-7. In the playoffs he was arguably the team’s most important player, leading the squad to its first Governors’ Cup title. Of his seven-year MLB career, six came with Tampa Bay, appearing in 62 games for Boston in 2009.

Career Numbers with Durham: .308-6-20, 29 R in 48 games (2002, 2010, rehab in 2006, 2007)

MLB Career: .278-60-262, 281 R in 519 games (2003-2004, 2006-2010)

Russ Canzler

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Although he played just one season in Durham (when he played 68 games in the OF, 40 at 3B and 17 at 1B), Russ Canzler had a large impact on the squad, winning the International League MVP award in 2011. That year, he ranked 4th in the league in average (.314), 5th in RBI (83), 3rd in hits (149), 1st in doubles (40), 2nd in OBP (.401), 1st in SLG (.530), 1st in extra-base hits (62), 2nd in runs (78), 2nd in total bases (251) and 5th in walks (67). Since that 2011 season, he’s appeared in the IL each of the last three years between Columbus, Norfolk, Indianapolis, Scranton/WB and Lehigh Valley.

Career Numbers with Durham: .314-18-83, 78 R in 131 games (2011)

MLB Career: .271-3-12, 9 R in 29 games (2011-2012)

Carl Crawford

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The speedy outfielder Carl Crawford spent less than one season in the Bull City, appearing in 85 games in 2002 before his call-up to Tampa Bay. In those 85 games the outfielder was superb, hitting .297, tallying 105 hits and stealing 26 bases en route to earning the league’s Rookie of the Year award. He spent the first nine years of his Major League career with Tampa Bay, before joining the Red Sox (2011-2012) and the Dodgers (2013-present).

Career Number with Durham: .297-7-52, 59 R in 85 games (2002)

MLB Career: .292-132-744, 971 R in 1,617 games (2002-2014)

Johnny Gomes

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Jonny Gomes played parts of five years with the Bulls, accruing a successful campaign each time. In 2004 he put up his best powers numbers in Durham, cracking 26 homers and driving in 78, while in 2005 in just 45 games he batted .321 with 14 dingers. He played for the Rays for parts of six seasons from 2003-2008, and since then he has played for Cincinnati, Washington, Oakland and Boston.

Career Numbers with Durham: .275-43-146, 134 R in 203 games (2003-2005, 2007-2008)

MLB Career: .244-155-500, 466 R in 1,108 games (2003-2014)

Desmond Jennings

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Over parts of three seasons with Durham, Desmond Jennings was a consistent player who patrolled the outfield. In 2009 and 2010 he combined to hit six homers, but 2011 saw his power improve when he cracked 12 homers in 89 games. Over his tenure in the Bull City, he swiped 69 bags while he was only caught seven times. He has spent parts of five years in the majors, each coming with Tampa Bay.

Career Numbers with Durham: .282-18-92, 174 R in 233 games (2009-2011, rehab in 2012)

MLB Career: .248-47-164, 280 R in 474 games (2010-2014)

Andruw Jones

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The first finalist at any position from the Atlanta Braves’ affiliation, Andruw Jones’ 1996 season was one Bulls fans won’t forget. As a 19-year-old in the Advanced-A Carolina League, Jones hit .313-17-43 while scoring 65 runs and stealing 16 bases in just 66 games. After tearing through Double-A and Triple-A as the summer progressed, he joined Atlanta that season and helped lead them to the National League pennant. Over a 17-year big league career, Jones went on to win 10 Gold Gloves and was a five-time All-Star.

Career Number with Durham: .313-17-43, 65 R in 66 games (1996)

MLB Career: .254-434-1289, 1204 R in 2,196 games (1996-2012)

Wil Myers

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A heralded prospect entering the 2013 season, Wil Myers, a Thomasville, NC native, appeared in 64 games for the Bulls that year and proved quickly he was among the league’s best players. At the time he was promoted in mid-June, he ranked 1st in  the league in RBIs (55) and 4th in the league in home runs (13) before going on to win American League Rookie of the Year honors. He returned to the Bull City in 2014 on a rehab stint and promptly hit a pair of home runs, including this moon shot in Rochester. He spent his first two big league seasons with the Rays before he was traded to San Diego this offseason.

Career Numbers with Durham: .283-16-63, 47 R in 71 games (2013-2014)

MLB Career: .258-19-88, 87 R in 175 games (2013-2014)

Justin Ruggiano

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One of the most familiar faces in the Bulls’ history, Justin Ruggiano played 476 games in Durham over parts of five seasons. He’s the franchise’s Triple-A all-time leader in runs scored (304) and hits (531), while batting .300 or better three times. He totaled double-digit homers in four of his five seasons, while also swiping 20-plus bases on four occasions. In the 2009 playoffs he batted a team-high .290 to lead Durham to its lone Triple-A National Championship title.

Career Numbers with Durham: .289-68-300, 304 R in 476 games (2007-2011)

MLB Career: .257-43-137, 138 R in 398 games (2007-2008, 2011-2014)

Jon Weber

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A fan-favorite in Durham, Jon Weber spent parts of three years with the Bulls from 2007-2009. In his final year with the squad the veteran produced his best season, hitting .302 with 14 homers and 69 RBIs. His average was good for 9th-best in the IL, while he led the circuit with 46 doubles and ranked 3rd with 60 extra-base hits and 224 total bases.

Career Numbers with Durham: .282-30-141, 141 R in 264 games (2007-2009)

You can cast your vote here.

Next Week: Starting Pitcher

All-DBAP Team: Shortstop Finalists

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After Evan Longoria took home All-DBAP Team honors at the Hot Corner last week, we’re down to our final infield position this week at shortstop. Of the three finalists, two spent considerable time in a Rays uniform, while the other is attempting to join the Big League club this spring.

After taking a glance at our finalists below, remember to vote for who you think is most-deserving of a spot on the All-DBAP Team by voting on the Bulls’ Facebook page. Simply leave a comment on Facebook with the name of your selection on the official finalist announcement post and you’re done!

Tim Beckham

Tim Beckham was the everyday shortstop for the 2013 Governors Cup champions

Tim Beckham, the first overall pick in the 2008 draft, has spent time with the Bulls in each of the past four seasons, despite entering this season at age 25. Since his promotion to Durham towards the end of the 2011 campaign, he’s appeared in 233 games for the Bulls, including 122 back in 2013 when he set a career-high with a .276 batting average. That season, he was the everyday shortstop for the Governors’ Cup champion team, while also swiping 17 bases. As a September call up that season, he appeared in five games for Tampa Bay, the only five games of his Major League career. His 2014 season was shortened considerably, after tearing his ACL prior to the start of the season.

Career Numbers with Durham: .266-15-96, 131 R in 233 games (2011-2014)

MLB Career: .429-0-1, 1 R in 5 games (2013)

B.J. Upton

BJ Upton was one of the IL's best players in 2005, hitting .303-18-74 with 44 steals

BJ Upton was one of the IL’s best players in 2005, hitting .303-18-74 with 44 steals

BJ Upton (who in case you missed it now goes by Melvin) spent parts of three seasons in the Bull City from 2004-2006. Over that span he was a dangerous combination of power and speed, cracking 38 homers and swiping 107 bases. In 2005 he totaled the third-most hits in a single season in Durham’s Triple-A history (165), the fourth-most runs (98) and the third-most stolen bases (44). He spent the first eight seasons of his big league career with Tampa Bay, before signing with Atlanta as a free agent prior to the 2013 season.

Career Numbers with Durham: .294-38-152, 236 R in 316 games (2004-2006, rehab in 2007)

MLB Career: .243-139-508, 636 R in 1,233 games (2004, 2006-2014)

Ben Zobrist

A quiet, consistent player, Ben Zobrist tallied 109 hits in 99 games in his Durham career

A quiet, consistent player, Ben Zobrist tallied 109 hits in 99 games in his Durham career

After he was traded by the Astros to the Rays for Aubrey Huff during the 2006 season, Ben Zobrist was the Ben Zobrist Rays fans came to love, as he was a productive, consistent, underrated player over parts of three seasons in Durham. Though he totaled fewer than 100 games with the Bulls he accumulated 109 hits, with 34 going for extra bases. Before he was traded to the A’s this offseason, “Zorilla” was a two-time All-Star with the Rays, while playing 150 games or more five times in in six full seasons at the major league level.

Career Numbers with Durham: .301-11-41, 69 R in 99 games (2006-2008)

MLB Career: .264-114-511, 565 R in 1,064 games (2006-2014)

Cast your vote here.

Next Week: Outfield

All-DBAP Team: Third Base Finalists

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With three positions in the books, we make our way to the Hot Corner, where an IL Rookie of the Year, perennial MLB All-Star and one of the best power hitters in Bulls history square off for a spot on the All-DBAP Team.

After taking a glance at our finalists below, remember to vote for who you think is most-deserving of a spot on the All-DBAP Team by voting on the Bulls’ Facebook page. Simply leave a comment on Facebook with the name of your selection on the official finalist announcement post and you’re done!

Aubrey Huff

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Aubrey Huff was named the 2000 International League Rookie of the Year

Aubrey Huff spent parts of three seasons in Durham in the early 2000s, appearing in 157 games from 2000 to 2002. However, 108 of those appearances came in 2000, when he was named International League Rookie of the Year after hitting .316-20-76 while also ranking fourth on the circuit with 36 doubles. In the big leagues, Huff enjoyed a successful career, hitting 20 homers or more seven times, and winning World Series rings with the San Francisco Giants in 2010 and 2012.

Career Numbers with Durham: .315-26-106, 105 R in 157 games (2000-2002)

Major League Career: .278-242-904, 806 R in 1,681 games (2000-2012)

Evan Longoria

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Evan Longoria has been a staple at third base for the Rays after his time in Durham

Admittedly, Evan Longoria’s time in Durham was short-lived. In 2007 he made a brief stop in the Bull City, appearing in 31 games, batting .269-5-19. The next season he opened the year with the Bulls, but was promoted after just seven games, and has played just 10 games for the Bulls since, all on rehab. It’s what Longoria’s done at the next level that earns him a spot on this list, as in his seven-year MLB career, he’s finished in the Top 10 of the MVP race three times, been named an All-Star three times, won the 2008 Rookie of the Year and won a pair of Gold Gloves.

Career Numbers with Durham: .245-5-23, 21 R in 48 games (2007-2008, 2012)

Major League Career: .271-184-635, 554 R in 959 games (2008-2014)

Scott McClain

Scott McClain

Scott McClain, pictured here in Spring Training in 1998, hit 62 homers in a Durham uniform

Scott McClain was a regular in the Bulls’ lineup in their first two seasons at the Triple-A level (1998, 1999), providing some of the best power numbers in back-to-back seasons in Bulls history. In 1998 he ranked second in the league in both HR (34) and RBIs (109), while in 1999 he ranked third (28) and fifth (105), respectively. Despite batting .275 and hitting 252 homers over 11 years at the Triple-A level, he appeared in just 44 games over four different seasons in the majors.

Career Numbers with Durham: .274-62-213, 197 R in 263 games (1998-1999)

Major League Career: .192-2-8, 11 R in 44 games (1998, 2005, 2007-2008)

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