BB&T BALLPARK/WINSTON-SALEM It’s the 16th edition of the California-Carolina League All-Star Game, so A-ball stars from both coasts are gathered for their annual battle.
Of course it’s the Carolina Mudcats’ first season in the Carolina League and the Zebulon club – which finished in last place in the Southern Division in the first half despite the fifth best record in the league – is well represented by designated hitter Jeremie Tice and right-hander Shawn Armstrong, the home team’s setup man tonight.
Former Winston-Salem manager Bill Slack, who spent two tours of duty as pitching coach of the Durham Bulls in their Carolina League days and is the league’s all-time winningest skipper, is the honorary manager of the home team.
The Cal League leads the all-time series 7-6-2 – yes, there have been two ties – and has won three straight. The game was first played at Rancho Cucamonga in 1996, ending in a wild 2-2 tie – before the 1997 contest was played in Durham and the West Coasters got their first win with an exciting 6-5 comeback. (The game was not contested in ’98 because of a comical scheduling snafu.)
The Carolina League takes command in the middle innings, scoring in the third through seventh to win in a 9-1 runaway.
FIVE COUNTY STADIUM/ZEBULON Checking in on the Carolina Mudcats, who are in last place and seven games out of first in the Southern Division of an unbalanced Carolina League.
Carolina will go for the series win tonight, sending southpaw Mike Rayl (3-5, 4.07) against Wilmington’s Sugar Ray Marimon (3-0, 2.13).
The Mudcats rally for five runs in the eighth inning to break a tie, prevailing 7-2 to take three wins in the four-game series.
FIVE COUNTY STADIUM/ZEBULON Checking in on the Carolina Mudcats, who are in the thick of the Carolina League’s Southern Division race.
The teams are coming off a doubleheader split from Tuesday night on a cloudy evening, and Will Roberts (1-1, 4.50) will take the hill for the Mudcats against Ryan Pressly (2-1, 7.13).
The Mudcats nearly come back from the dead in the ninth, but fall short in a 5-4 defeat.
FIVE COUNTY STADIUM/ZEBULON First chance to catch up with the Carolina Mudcats, in their inaugural season in the Class A Carolina League after this franchise played as the Kinston Indians for the previous 25 seasons.
Tonight’s opponent, the Wilmington (Del.) Blue Rocks, is the affiliate of the Kansas City Royals. Former Durham Bull Damon Hollins is the Wilmington hitting coach.
Opening Night starter Clayton Cook (1-0, 1.80) will go for the Mudcats against Tyler Sample (0-1, 5.79).
Cook gets through five with a no-hitter, and after the Blue Rocks tie the score in the sixth the Mudcats rally in the eighth to win 5-3.
FIVE COUNTY STADIUM/ZEBULON A whole new era officially begins for the Carolina Mudcats Friday night.
At 7:15 p.m. at Five County Stadium, the Mudcats – who had been members of the Double-A Southern League since arriving in Wake County in 1991 – will make their debut in the Class A-Advanced Carolina League against the Winston-Salem Dash.
The current Mudcats franchise played for the previous 25 seasons as the Kinston Indians, won five Mills Cup championships during the span and finished second in the league last season. In contrast, the Bulls did not win a single CL title during their final 28 seasons in the league before moving up to much greener pastures in Triple-A.
With the Cleveland affiliation continuing, manager Edwin Rodriguez – who was the Mudcats’ hitting coach in 2004 and was manager of the Florida Marlins for parts of the past two seasons – said there’s plenty of reason for optimism about a great year.
The Cleveland Indians are coming to Wake county.
Not permanently of course, but for an exhibition game against their new Carolina League affiliates, the Carolina Mudcats.
The game will be on April 3 at 2 p.m. at Five County Stadium, with all ticket packages including an additional ticket
In addition, the Indians and Mudcats agreed to an extension of the Player Development Contract that will keep the affiliation through the 2014 season.
“We couldn’t be more excited about our new affiliation with the Carolina Mudcats,” Ross Atkins, Indians vice-president for player development, said in a press release. “This will be an incredible addition to the Cleveland Indians player development system as we are adding a Triple-A caliber ballpark and facility in a major metropolitan area while remaining in what we feel is one of the best developmental leagues in professional baseball.”
Edwin Rodriguez is coming back to Zebulon.
Rodriguez, 51, was 78-85 over parts of two seasons with the Marlins from June 23, 2010 to June 18, 2011.
Before becoming the first Puerto Rican-born manager in Major League history, he was with the Mudcats club in 2004 that finished 73-66, later managing the rookie Gulf Coast League Marlins (2005-2006), Class A Greensboro Grasshoppers (2007-2008) and Triple-A New Orleans Zephyrs (2008-2010).
“We’re excited to start both a new era in the Carolina League and new partnership with the Cleveland Indians by welcoming back Edwin Rodriguez to Zebulon,” Mudcats owner Steve Bryant said. “Edwin has had a successful career as a manager in both the Minor Leagues and Major Leagues.”
FIVE COUNTY STADIUM/ZEBULON The Carolina Mudcats are playing their penultimate game in the Southern League tonight.
The SL’s mandate that the Mudcats go airborne for trips to Alabama and Mississippi was among the reasons Steve Bryant sold his Double-A franchise to an outfit that’s going to make them the Pensacola (Fla.) Blue Wahoos next season.
So next season the Mudcats will be in the Carolina League, as the old Kinston Indians will become the new Class-A Mudcats. And the Cincinnati Reds affiliation is traded in for the Cleveland Indians.
For this game, Pedro Villarreal (7-3, 4.20) will take on the Braves’ Aaron Shafer (2-2, 4.38). And we’re going to have the last fireworks show of the season when it’s over, in front of one of the biggest crowds of the year at 7,201.
The Mudcats trail by six runs going into the bottom of the eighth, but score five to make it close before falling 8-7.
FIVE COUNTY STADIUM/ZEBULON Checking in on the Carolina Mudcats, who are trying desperately to stave off elimination from playoff contention in their final season in the Southern League.
Tonight’s opponents, the Jacksonville Suns, are in even worse shape, 11 ½ games behind the runaway leader Mobile Bay Bears in the South. N.C. State alumnus Andy Barkett is the Suns’ skipper.
Josh Ravin (0-0, 7.62) will take the hill for Carolina against Jeff Allison (3-4, 6.50).
The Mudcats get off to a good start but not so good of a finish, as the Suns score the last six runs to win 8-4 and take the tragic number to five.
FIVE COUNTY STADIUM/ZEBULON The Carolina Mudcats are playing something close to sudden-death baseball as they play the finale of their five-game home series against the Montgomery Biscuits.
The Mudcats, the worst team in the Southern League in the first half, trail the first-place Chattanooga Lookouts by 6 ½ games in the North Division. And tomorrow will present the proverbial golden opportunity, as the Mudcats are preparing to leave for a five-game series with the Lookouts beginning Tuesday.
Montgomery is second to the in-state rival Mobile Bay Bears in the South Division, but the deficit is nine games with 21 to play.
The Mudcats hit hard early and hold on, winning 6-5 to take the set 3 games to 2 and move to within six games headed into the must-win series.