Opening Series Preview
Well, it’s finally here. Today is the day #BullsReborn takes full effect, as the newly renovated DBAP will shine on Opening Day 2014. You’ve heard about the changes to the ballpark and we’ve previewed the Bulls roster for you. But now it’s time to talk some baseball and examine the pitching matchups in this four-game series with Gwinnett.
The Bulls kick off the season by sending RHP Nathan Karns to the mound in what will be his first career start outside the Washington organization. Acquired in a February trade for Jose Lobaton, Felipe Rivero and Drew Vettleson, the Texas native has been superb over his first three career seasons, compiling a record of 24-12 to accompany a 2.66 ERA. The Texas Tech product – who spent one season at NC State – made his ML debut a season ago for the Nationals, making three starts.
Going for the Braves is RHP Gavin Floyd, named the Opening Day starter as he’s on a rehab assignment. Floyd made just five starts last season for the White Sox (all in April), before undergoing Tommy John surgery in early May. In those five starts the 10-year Major League veteran struggled, going 0-4 with a 5.18 ERA.
Game two of the set pits young Rays prospect LHP Enny Romero against MLB veteran RHP Ervin Santana. Romero, the No. 4 prospect in the Rays system according to Baseball America, will make just his fourth career appearance above the Double-A level. A season ago, the Dominican native went 11-7 with a 2.76 ERA for Montgomery before appearing in two games for the Bulls (one regular season, one postseason), and making one start for the Rays in late September.
Santana, signed by the Braves as a free agent less than a month ago on March 12th, begins the season with Triple-A Gwinnett in order to give him enough time to prepare for the MLB season. A nine-year big league veteran, Santana spent the first eight seasons of his career with the Angels before playing for the Royals in 2013, posting a career MLB record of 105-90.
On Saturday RHP Matt Andriese makes his debut in the Rays organization after he was acquired in a trade with San Diego in January. The 24-year-old enters just his fourth season of pro baseball, but has already amassed a 26-16 record with a 3.18 ERA over his career, reaching as high as Triple-A in 2013 for half a season.
Opposing the righty will be LHP Daniel Rodriguez who returns to Gwinnett for his third straight season. After he was signed in August of 2012 out of the Mexican League, the southpaw appeared in two games that season before going 3-3 with a 5.77 ERA in 12 start last season.
Closing the series in Sunay’s matinee will be LHP Mike Montgomery for the Bulls and RHP Mitch Atkins for the G-Braves. Montgomery makes his second go-around in Durham after going 7-8 with a 4.72 ERA in 20 games (19 starts) last year. The left-hander joined the organization in the deal that sent James Shields and Wade Davis to Kansas City, and was at one point the top prospect in the Royals’ system.
Atkins, 28, was signed by Atlanta last June and assigned to Double-A Mississippi after opening the season with the Independent Somerset Patriots. The former big leaguer, who appeared in 10 games between the Cubs and Orioles from 2009-2011, will pitch in a Triple-A game for the first time since 2012 when he split the year between Norfolk and Syracuse.
In 2013, Durham owned its South Division rivals, winning 15 of the 21 matchups, including 9 of 10 games played at the DBAP, while Gwinnett posted the worst record in the IL (60-84, .417; -1.0 GB TOL, 61-83, .424). Over the course of the season Durham outscored Gwinnett 88-59, and the Bulls won 3 or more straight games against the Braves 4 times, while Gwinnett managed the feat just once. In the 2011 & 2012 seasons, the teams went 21-21 against each other, with Durham going 11-10 in 2011 and 10-11 in 2012.
After the series with Gwinnett concludes, the Bulls host inter-state rival Charlotte for four games, starting Monday, April 7th and ending Thursday, April 10th.