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

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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:


  • 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.

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 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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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)

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Next Week: Starting Pitcher


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