Welcome to Durham Richie Shaffer

In his Triple-A debut Sunday at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, 3B Richie Shaffer made his presence known, blasting a pair of home runs while finishing 4-for-5 with four runs scored and three RBIs in Durham’s 13-10 win. So who is Richie Shaffer you ask? Well, let’s fill you in.

Originally selected 25th overall in the 2012 draft out of Clemson, Shaffer began the 2015 season with Montgomery, hitting .262-7-27 in 39 games for the Biscuits, and ranking fourth in the Southern League with seven home runs. His strong power numbers come on the heels of a 2014 campaign that saw the Charlotte, NC native hit 19 homers for Montgomery, leading Baseball America to name the 24-year-old the Best Power Hitter in the Tampa Bay minor league system.

Primarily a third baseman, he was named a 2013 MiLB.com Organization All-Star and a Florida State League Postseason All-Star after hitting .254-11-73 in 122 games for Advanced-A Charlotte. After hitting .325 with 30 home runs over a three-year career at Clemson, he joined Evan Longoria as just the second third baseman ever drafted by the Rays in the first round.

To check out his first career Triple-A blasts, just click here.

Here’s to staying on pace for 198 homers in Triple-A this year dude.

Early Season Themes

Today marks the Bulls’ first off day of the 2015 season, as after the first 25 games the team sits at a solid 14-11, 1.0 game behind Charlotte for the IL South Division lead. Durham opened the season 3-6, which incredibly, was the team’s worst nine-game start in the franchise’s 18-year Triple-A history. Since then the team has been one of the best in the IL though, going 11-5 over its last 16 games. Since we have no baseball to watch today, let’s take a look at some of the prevailing themes of the first month of the 2015 campaign.

Roster Moves

Thanks in large part to the Tampa Bay Rays putting a major-league leading 14 players on the disabled list so far this season, the Bulls have undergone 35 roster moves already this year. Durham has used 34 different players in just 25 games, and to put it in perspective, used 45 players in 2014 and 43 players in 2013. Seven of the 24 players on Durham’s active roster were not on the team’s roster on Opening Day, and eight players have already been promoted to the Rays this year.

Strong Pitching

Entering today, Durham ranks fourth in the IL with a 2.98 ERA. That number has received a boost over the team’s last 16 games, as the Bulls have held their opponents to three runs or fewer 13 times in that span. Of the four pitchers who have been in Durham’s rotation since the start of the season, three have a sub-3.00 ERA, led by southpaw Scott Diamond, who ranks 5th in the league with a 1.67 ERA to accompany his 3-0 record.


Despite posting just the 9th-best team batting average in the league (.253), the Bulls rank 5th in the IL with a .337 on-base percentage. Durham’s 101 walks at the plate are the 2nd-most on the circuit, trailing only Indianapolis (102), while Vince Belnome is tied for the minor league-lead with 22 walks drawn this season.

Road Warriors

The Bulls have played 15 road games so far this season, the 2nd-most of any International League team. After Durham’s three-game home series this week against Buffalo, the team hits the road for another six games, meaning 21 of its first 34 contests will come away from the DBAP. Still, over the Bulls are 9-6 in away games this season, highlighted by a 5-2 road trip this past week.

North and South

After opening the season with 18 straight contests against the South Division, the Bulls are in the midst of a 34-game stretch against North Division foes. Of the 41 games Durham will play against the IL North this season, 34 of those contests will be played over a 35-day span from April 27 to May 31st. So far, the Bulls are 9-9 against in-division rivals, and 5-2 against the North.

An Illustrated Guide to the 2015 Season

2015 Durham Bulls Season An Illustrated Guide

We suggest a new strategy, Artoo: let’s go FULL Star Wars uniform.

Durham Bulls Star Wars UniformsHow do you top a Star Wars theme jersey that raised nearly $20,000 for charity? You go FULL STAR WARS UNIFORM.

That’s right, when the Durham Bulls take the field for our annual Star Wars Night on May 16, they’ll do so sporting a complete uniform inspired by everyone’s favorite protocol droid, C-3PO. We obviously have a thing for droids.

A breakdown of the team’s head-to-toe Threepio look:

  • First, the jerseys. A recreation of restraining bolt-era C-3PO’s torso, these jerseys will again be available in auctions to raise money for our friends at the Autism Society of NC. There will be both an in-game silent auction, as well as an online auction that will accept bids via web, text or phone from anywhere.
  • The Bulls will sport custom gold & black hats for the occasion. These New Era lids will be available for purchase in the Ballpark Corner Store and our online shop.
  • Pants, too? Yup. Gold pants for the Bulls for that all-out C-3PO look.
  • And to round out the uniforms, sublimated socks with custom designs on front and back. And you know the Bulls always wear their socks up.

To sum it up, the possibility of having better Star Wars uniforms than us is approximately 3,720 to 1. Our favorite part about the unveiling though? It’s Autism Awareness Day. Having fun with this epic theme night is made that much better by raising money and awareness to fight a disorder that too many families face.

There will be a several jerseys available for auction at the DBAP the night of the event. The remainder of the game-worn jerseys (and a handful of non game-worn jerseys) will also be available in an online auction, where you can bid via text, web, or phone from anywhere in the world. As an added bonus, each players’ C-3PO inspired socks will be included with in the jersey package.

This year’s Star Wars Night is Saturday, May 16 (bummer, but we aren’t home on May 4th this season). Get tickets for the game, presented by Lane & Associates Family Dentistry, HERE. We’d do it quick, too…last year’s Star Wars Night generated the 4th biggest crowd in DBAP history.

Spring Training Update: Week Four

As Spring Training 2015 comes to a close, we look back at the final week of Grapefruit League play, updating you on all the roster moves that have taken place since last week’s update. Additionally, the Bulls’ 2015 Opening Day roster has become slightly clearer since our roster speculation a few days ago, as you’ll see below.

On Monday, the Rays reassigned eight players to the minor leagues in pitchers Brandon Gomes, Jhan Marinez, Jim Miller, Jordan Norberto and Everett Teaford; catcher Mayo Acosta and outfielders Corey Brown and Joey Butler. There’s a good chance each of these players begins the season in the Durham, with Teaford starting the year in the Bulls’ rotation.


Brandon Gomes has struck out more than a batter an inning during 2015 Spring Training

On Tuesday Tampa Bay made two moves that will affect the Bulls, as they released infielder Alexi Casilla, and then traded southpaw Mike Montgomery to the Mariners for pitcher Erasmo Ramirez, who will open the season with Tampa Bay. Knowing the big club only needs four starting pitchers for the season’s first nine days, this could mean Matt Andriese will open the season in Durham with Ramirez rounding out the Rays’ first four starters (Archer, Odorizzi, Karns, Ramirez). The release of Casilla now means that the backup infield spot will go to Tim Beckham, Jake Elmore or Juan Francisco, with the other two headed to the Bull City (Francisco has an April 5th opt-out clause if not on the Rays roster).


Matt Andriese’s Opening Day fate remains undecided with only days remaining in Spring Training

With three Grapefruit League games remaining, Gomes has turned in a superb spring, allowing one earned run in 12.1 innings, while striking out 16 and walking just one. Miller did not allow a run over six innings of work, while Teaford allowed just three earned runs in 13.1 frames. Offensively Brown and Butler each had productive springs, as Brown posted a .375 OBP in 20 games, with Butler hitting a pair of homers and driving in six RBIs.

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

Opening Day Roster Speculation

Well, it’s that time of year again. About a week from now we at the Bulls will announce the Opening Day roster, as the squad aims to win its eighth division title in the past nine seasons, while Jared Sandberg, the youngest manager in the Triple-A ranks, takes over for Charlie Montoyo as manager. That much we know is certain. Past that, there’s not much certain about the Bulls’ 2015 Opening Day roster. So to do our best to have an informed fan base, we try to lay out who you might see take the field for the Bulls on Opening Day.


Tampa Bay’s rotation has been ravaged by injury and sickness this spring. First off, Matt Moore is still out coming off Tommy John surgery, and isn’t expected back for at least a few months. Then this spring Alex Cobb and Drew Smyly each dealt with bouts of tendinitis in their throwing arms, pushing them off track for Opening Day. To exacerbate the problem Alex Colome, who was due to compete for the Rays’ 5th starter position, missed the first two weeks of camp because of visa issues, then missed an additional week with pneumonia upon arriving to camp. Moral of the story? Guys that were tabbed for Durham are now being thrust into the Rays’ rotation, as Nathan Karns has been announced as one of the starters for the team’s first series. Thanks to an off day on the season’s fourth day, Tampa Bay can use just four starters for the first nine days of the season, meaning they’ll most likely break camp with four men in the rotation. Matt Andriese appears to be the front-runner for that fourth slot, with Mike Montgomery and Burch Smith still in the hunt, though Smith has already been optioned to Minor League camp and Montgomery is converting to the bullpen.


Dylan Floro appears headed to Durham, after leading the Southern League with 178.2 innings pitched for Double-A Montgomery a season ago

So what does this all mean for Durham? Smith, Enny Romero, Everett Teaford and Dylan Floro have all be optioned or reassigned to the minors so far. However the injury bug caught Romero as well, and it appears he won’t be ready for Opening Day. You can count on Teaford and Floro beginning the year in the Durham rotation, with Smith in the mix as well if he doesn’t make the big league roster. Additionally, late Monday night it was reported Tampa Bay had signed southpaw Scott Diamond, who could begin the season with Durham after splitting 2014 between Rochester and Louisville, both in the IL. More possibilities could very well be either Cobb or Smyly in a rehab stint, or Grayson Garvin, who spent all of last season with Double-A Montgomery.

In the bullpen there are spots to be had as well. With Jake McGee still working back from injury, you can safely assume the Rays will carry Grant Balfour, Jeff Beliveau, Brad Boxberger, Ernesto Frieri and Kevin Jepsen. Assuming they begin with a four-man rotation, that potentially leaves four more bullpen spots that could be filled by Steve Geltz, Mike Montgomery, CJ Riefenhauser and Kirby Yates, with the option of placing Smith in the bullpen as well. So per the Trickle Down Effect, expect the “budgeted” eight spots in the Durham bullpen to be filled by candidates from the list of Ronald Belisario, Andrew Bellatti, Jose Dominguez, Brandon GomesJhan Marinez, Jim Miller, Jordan Norberto, Jim Patterson, Bryce Stowell, Jake Thompson and Robert Zarate.


The Rays are more settled behind the dish than on the mound, as Rene Rivera will be the everyday catcher. The battle for the No. 2 backstop is still going though between Curt Casali and newcomer Bobby Wilson. Whoever doesn’t begin the season at the Trop will be tabbed for Durham, while youngster Luke Maile will most likely suit up in a Bulls uniform to begin the season as well.


Vince Belnome, Ryan Brett, Allan Dykstra, Hak-Ju Lee and Eugenio Velez have all already been optioned or reassigned to Minor League camp, which probably means they’re tabbed for the Bull City. Still fighting for a big league spot though are Tim Beckham, Alexi Casilla, Jake Elmore and Juan Francisco. You can anticipate only one of the four will make the Opening Day roster, seemingly sending three north to Durham (Juan Francisco does have an April 5th opt-out clause if not on the Major League roster.)


Fan-favorite Vince Belnome will begin the season in Durham for the third straight year


After he was optioned to minors camp a little more than a week ago, Mikie Mahtook – the team’s reigning MVP – will open 2015 in the DBAP’s outfield. In all likelihood he’ll be joined by veterans and newcomers Corey Brown and Joey Butler, with 25-year-old Taylor Motter rounding out the unit.

Despite being just nine days away from the season opener, there’s clearly still much to be decided. It will, as it typically does, come down to decisions from the big club. Even with the injuries in Tampa, Durham should still have a strong roster, and you can count on it getting stronger as the spring rolls on. As players return to health and rejoin the Rays, guys that have stepped up to fill spots will return to the minors, making the Bulls even more dangerous.

All-DBAP Team: Manager Finalists

After we rounded out the All-DBAP Team a week ago, we turn our attention to the final spot on this historic squad: manager. This trio features an International League Hall of Famer, the winningest manager in DBAP Single-A history, and the franchise’s all-time winningest manager at any level.

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!

Bill Evers


Bill Evers (left), with International League President Randy Mobley at his IL Hall of Fame induction on May 19, 2012. The Bulls retired Evers’ No. 20 jersey that same day.

The first Triple-A manager in Tampa Bay history, Bill Evers piloted the Bulls from 1998-2005. In that span he won a then-franchise record 613 games as the Bulls advanced to the postseason six times. Under Evers Durham won five division titles, while capturing the first two Governors’ Cups in franchise history in 2002 and 2003, posting a combined 12-1 playoff record those two seasons. From Durham he was promoted to Joe Maddon’s bench coach in 2006 and 2007, was a Rays’ professional scout in 2008 and 2009, and has been the Rays Minor League Field Coordinator since 2010. In 2012, the International League announced he had been inducted into its Hall of Fame, becoming the first Durham Bull to do so, and the franchise retired his No. 20 jersey later that year.

Career Record with Durham: 613-533 (.535) in eight seasons (1998-2005), six playoff berths, two Governors’ Cup championships

Randy Ingle


Ingle, shown here during his stint as manager of the Class A Rome Braves, is a member of the South Atlantic League Hall of Fame.

Of the three seasons the Bulls spent as a Single-A affiliate of the Atlanta Braves at the DBAP, Randy Ingle was the only manager to lead the squad to the postseason. In 1996 Durham finished 73-66, good for a berth in the Carolina League playoffs, where it fell to Kinston in the first round two games to one.

Career Record with Durham: 73-66 (.525) in one season (1996), one playoff berth

Charlie Montoyo


Charlie Montoyo (center, #25), celebrates the Bulls’ 2013 Governors’ Cup championship over the Pawtucket Red Sox in Rhode Island.

From 2007-2014 Charlie Montoyo won 633 games as Bulls’ manager, the most in franchise history. Over those eight seasons Durham captured seven division championships, won two Governors’ Cup titles (2009, 2013) and earned its lone Triple-A National Championship Game victory in 2009. The skipper advanced to six Governors’ Cup finals, the most in league history, while winning 80 games or more five times. In his tenure with the Bulls, he was named IL Manager of the Year twice (2010, 2013), Baseball America’s Minor League Manager of the Year (2009) and Minor League Baseball’s Mike Coolbaugh Award winner (2009), given annually to an individual for their outstanding mentoring of young players. He was promoted to the Tampa Bay Rays as third base coach this past offseason.

Career Record with Durham: 633-515 (.551) in eight seasons (2007-2014), seven playoff berths, two Governors’ Cup championships, one Triple-A National Championship

You can cast your vote here.

Spring Training Updates: Week Three


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


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

Abreu 2 Blog

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

Fleming April 2014 154344 (1) Blog

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:


  • 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.


  • 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.


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