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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Durham Bulls lose third straight to Gwinnett Braves: Please Mr. Postman

Posted By on Thu, Aug 13, 2009 at 5:00 AM

That ringing in your ears is the postman at the door, and the Bulls keep neglecting to answer. Actually, check that: the Bulls keep leaving the door open for the Gwinnett Braves, who respond each time by charging through it. For the second straight night, Durham took a one-run lead into the ninth inning; for the second straight night, their closer---Winston Abreu on Tuesday, Dale Thayer on Wednesday---let two runs score. Last night's version was a 2-1 loss. Thayer had Gwinnett down to its final strike before giving up a game-winning, two-run single to Brandon Jones, who had the game-winning...

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Durham Bulls lose to Gwinnett Braves: fundamentals

Posted By on Tue, Aug 11, 2009 at 5:00 AM

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="250" caption="Too bad the Bulls don't have this guy."][/caption]A rough loss for the Bulls after the ride down from Durham. Personally, I think that if I were a ballplayer I would rather have left Monday morning than overnight it on the team bus. Gwinnett's only about six hours away. But as Charlie Montoyo is fond of saying: No excuses. The Bulls didn't play especially well in last night's 6-3 loss to Gwinnett, especially when it came to two fundamentals: taking advantage of opportunities, and limiting same for the other team. They ran themselves into a pair of...

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Sunday, August 9, 2009

Durham Bulls drop second straight to Syracuse Chiefs: too late and too soon

Posted By on Sun, Aug 9, 2009 at 5:00 AM

DBAP/ DURHAM---It has turned into a rather dreary homestand for the Durham Bulls, who are a gloomy 3-4 and tied for the International League South Division lead with Gwinnett, which is somewhat comforting until you're reminded that the Bulls should probably be at least two games up. They just lost a pair of games they should have won. I was thinking, on the way to the park last night, that one reason for the Bulls' middling results was that they hadn't had a really good starting pitching performance during the homestand. The best was Andy Sonnanstine's three runs in six...

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Saturday, August 8, 2009

Durham Bulls lose a wild one to Syracuse Chiefs: Some kind of wonder-full

Posted By on Sat, Aug 8, 2009 at 5:00 AM

DBAP/ DURHAM---And by "wonder-full," I mean full of wondrous things. If you're one of those quick-and-dirty types who stops reading at the jump, let me dispense with the summary: The Bulls battled back from a 6-2, sixth-inning deficit. They scored three times in sixth inning and twice in the eighth inning and took a 7-6 lead into the ninth against Syracuse. Joe Nelson, the fifth Bulls pitcher, came in to save the game, but he put two men on with a single and a walk. With two outs and a full count on Justin Maxwell, he threw a fastball that...

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Friday, August 7, 2009

Durham Bulls beat Syracuse Chiefs, reclaim first place: Duck!

Posted By on Fri, Aug 7, 2009 at 5:00 AM

DBAP/ DURHAM---Here are a few sentences I shouldn't have written, but did anyway the other day, after the Bulls lost their second straight game to Indianapolis: "The Bulls lead the league in home runs but haven’t hit one in 19 innings. They’ll hit a bunch soon, I promise. Dale Thayer will reel off a few scoreless appearances in a row." The idea there was that, in order for the Bulls to start winning again, those things would have to happen. Well, the Bulls have won two in a row since then, and they've done it by hitting exactly one home...

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Thursday, August 6, 2009

Durham Bulls on the Move: Welcome Back, Winston Abreu

Posted By on Thu, Aug 6, 2009 at 3:49 PM

In what is surely the weirdest transaction we'll see this year, Winston Abreu has been re-signed by Tampa and will report to Durham on Friday. Abreu began the year in Durham and was, to put a fine point on it, awesome. He was the awesomest pitcher on the staff, in fact, posting a 1.41 ERA in 23 appearances. In 32 innings, he allowed just 14 hits and 10 walks (that's a stingy 0.75 WHIP and .128 opponents' batting average), and struck out a dazzling 49 hitters. The 32-year-old Dominican went 3-0 for the Bulls, with 10 saves. Abreu's return is...

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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Durham Bulls rally for four in ninth, stun Indianapolis: the comeback comes back

Posted By on Wed, Aug 5, 2009 at 5:00 AM

DBAP/ DURHAM---There was a stretch of games earlier this season---it seems a long time ago now---when it felt like the Bulls were rallying for wins nearly every night. They almost appeared to be deliberately waiting until the late innings to go to work. They'd go into the ninth down three runs and tie the game with late extra-base hits before winning in extras; or they'd scratch the runs out by exploiting errors and hit batters; and then, of course, there was the game when Chris Richard hit two grand slams. Bulls' fans almost grew to expect late-night heroics from their...

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Sunday, August 2, 2009

Durham Bulls Beat Indianapolis Indians: "Best team of the year so far."

Posted By on Sun, Aug 2, 2009 at 5:00 AM

DBAP/ DURHAM---The quotation above came from Charlie Montoyo after the Bulls blanked Indianapolis, 2-0---the team's first shutout since mid-May---and we asked him about the latest swath of changes to cut through the Durham clubhouse (about which more later). There wasn't much else for Montoyo to say after we prompted him, almost forcibly, and few managers will ever express anything but unequivocal enthusiasm for their team anyway, regardless of its construction; but anyone looking at the current roster would almost surely agree that the Bulls are looking better than they have all year---on paper, at least. It's August, which on the...

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Saturday, August 1, 2009

Durham Bulls beat Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees, take three of four (ALSO: big Bulls-on-the-Move news)

Posted By on Sat, Aug 1, 2009 at 4:00 AM

Some late-breaking news first. Two significant additions to the Bulls' roster: Desmond Jennings (pictured, right), who is one of the top prospects in the Rays' organization, has been promoted to Durham from Double-A Montgomery. The 22-year-old Jennings was hitting .316 for the Biscuits with a .395 OBP and an .881 SLG. He had 25 doubles, eight triples, eight homers and 37 steals there, with 48 walks and 52 strikeouts. No word yet on a corresponding move off of the roster. One thing is almost certain, though: Jennings will make the Bulls better. From the other direction, veteran reliever Joe Nelson...

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Friday, July 31, 2009

Durham Bulls split doubleheader with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre

Posted By on Fri, Jul 31, 2009 at 5:00 AM

In one chapter of Word Freak, Stefan Fatsis's absorbing account of his foray deep into the world of competitive Scrabble, Fatsis narrates the history of the game and its painstaking design by an obsessive tinkerer named Alfred Butts. Butts spent years fussing with the board layout, the premium-square arrangement, and the calibration and distribution of points and tiles. Fatsis concludes: Perfection isn't arrived at overnight, and the more I play, the more Alfred's game seems perfect. I think he was like Alexander Cartwright's Knickerbocker Base Ball Club laying the bases ninety feet apart or James Naismith setting the height of...

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Durham Bulls rained out at Scranton; doubleheader Thursday (and some rainy-day musing)

Posted By on Thu, Jul 30, 2009 at 5:30 AM

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="400" caption="The Bulls were rained out at Scranton on Tuesday"][/caption]The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees, who play in none of the three places implied by their name, have had 12 games postponed this year. Some of those postponements came on sunny days: the drainage system at PNC Park in Moosic, PA is superannuated and ineffective; after wet weather passes, the field is sometimes still too wet to play on. A lot of people have been pretty mad about it. On Wednesday night, though, rain was the culprit. The folks in Scranton, along with help from the New York Yankees, have...

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Durham Bulls beat Norfolk Tides again: close up

Posted By on Tue, Jul 28, 2009 at 5:00 AM

DBAP/DURHAM---I am in the general habit of watching the first few innings of each game at the DBAP from the press box, and then moving down behind the plate to get a closer look at the pitchers and hitters. I did that last night and found myself sitting in front of Norfolk Tides' pitcher Troy Patton (you can read an interesting piece about him here). Patton started Sunday's game for the Tides and was charting pitches and working the radar gun for Monday's pitchers. This is common practice, by the way: Jason Cromer of the Bulls (well, technically of the...

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Durham Bulls split doubleheader with Norfolk Tides: filling in the blanks

Posted By on Sun, Jul 26, 2009 at 5:00 AM

DBAP/ DURHAM---"Technically, it's not a doubleheader," someone said in the press box during the first game of what was unquestionably a doubleheader on Saturday. The argument there was that a day-night twinbill is really just two separate games that happen to be played on the same day. In an official minor-league doubleheader, the two games are played consecutively, and are shortened to seven innings each. Try putting that sophistry over on the Durham Bulls and the Norfolk Tides, who got about two hours of "rest" (i.e., stuffing their faces, checking their Facebook accounts, peeling off their uniforms and putting on...

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Durham Bulls lose at Indianapolis: sliding into home

Posted By on Fri, Jul 24, 2009 at 3:30 PM

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="The Bulls finally come home tonight"][/caption]A laggard post about the Bulls' trip-ending, 10-inning, 4-3 loss last night at Indianapolis. The delay owes at least a little to the fatigue that comes from trying to cover a team that hasn't played a home game in two weeks: you just lose focus a bit. It would be easy to pin last night's loss on a key player move: closer Dale Thayer was promoted to Tampa (more on that below), for whom he promptly pitched a fine inning of scoreless relief. Too bad nobody gave a rat's a**. Without...

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

It's a good thing the Durham Bulls read this blog, Vol. 3: they beat Indianapolis Indians, snap losing streak

Posted By on Thu, Jul 23, 2009 at 5:00 AM

They didn't exactly round up the Indians, but the Bulls hitters went 3-8 with runners in scoring position and made the most of the opportunities they had in beating Indianapolis on Wednesday afternoon, 3-1. If you want to be a buzzkill, you could argue that Chris Richard went 2-3 with RISP and the rest of the team was an unimpressive 1-5; but that's acting like Richard isn't really part of the team. In terms of productivity if not batting average, Richard is probably the second-best Bull with men on base. He knocked in the go-ahead run yesterday in the top...

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Durham Bulls Lose to Indianapolis Indians: Depleted

Posted By on Tue, Jul 21, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Durham Bulls' broadcaster Neil Solondz must have used the word "depleted" at least eight times last night to describe the current state of the Durham bullpen. After the team played 29 innings of baseball over the last two nights, there were only three marginally rested relievers available to manager Charlie Montoyo in the first game of the Bulls' lone visit to the Indianapolis Indians this season. Unfortunately, the Bulls' starter came into the game already depleted. The Tampa Bay Rays' front office has decided that the left arm of Carlos Hernandez, who is just a couple of years off of...

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Durham Bulls End Slide, Beat Norfolk: The Balancing Act

Posted By on Mon, Jul 13, 2009 at 12:39 AM

Even though I am psychic, I was half-kidding when I ended my last post with a borderline prediction that the Bulls and their bricolage of relievers would end their four-game losing streak and beat Norfolk on Sunday. Sure enough, Durham rolled, 9-2. I was half-kidding not only because Julio DePaula + Calvin Medlock {not =} Andy Sonnastine, but also because the Bulls have suffered a big losing streak before and could easily have another one. But I was half-not-kidding for a few reasons: one, the Bulls hadn't played terribly during the skid, as they had during the Horrible Homestand of...

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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Durham Bulls nearly pull off a miracle, but it all ends up in tears

Posted By on Thu, Jul 9, 2009 at 11:47 PM

DBAP/DURHAM It's the finale of the short three-game homestand between the Durham Bulls and the Gwinnett Braves, and since each has won one it's the "rubber game" of the series. It's my last night in a three-game callup to pinch-hit for Adam. The Bulls lead the International League's South Division by a scant one game over the second-place Norfolk Tides, and a Norfolk win plus a Durham loss would put the league's only Virginia team in first place by percentage points. Good news for Bulls reliever Dale Thayer (pictured), who has been selected to the IL roster for the Triple-A...

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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

It's another goofy night at DBAP, and this time Gwinnett edges the Durham Bulls

Posted By on Wed, Jul 8, 2009 at 11:29 PM

DBAP/DURHAM Game 2 of the Durham Bulls' short three-game homestand, all against the Gwinnett Braves, and again I'm back at my old stomping grounds pinch-hitting for Adam for a second night. The Bulls are on a pretty good roll, and could actually take first place in the entire International League with a victory tonight. Former Bull Antonio Perez (pictured), who is not swinging the bat well at .179, is in the ninth spot in the order for Gwinnett. But you can't tell he's been struggling tonight, as he goes on to get four hits in a 7-6 Braves win. The...

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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Skipper Charlie returns after Alex's successful surgery; Durham Bulls win in bonehead contest

Posted By on Tue, Jul 7, 2009 at 11:21 PM

DBAP/DURHAM At the end of a 50-mile drive from Zebulon, I get to the place where I worked for 14 ½ seasons before being shown the door by The Incredible Shrinking Herald-Sun. The Durham Bulls are back in town for a three-game set against the Gwinnett Braves after winning four of five in their two-city Independence Day weekend series with the Charlotte Knights. I'm still having a hard time wrapping my head around the whole "Gwinnett Braves" concept, having seen Atlanta prospects and reserves from Tommie Aaron to Dale Murphy play at old Parker Field during my high school years...

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Friday, July 3, 2009

Durham Bulls win 6th straight: Home is anywhere I hit my home run (or, The Hat Rack is the Bat Rack)

Posted By on Fri, Jul 3, 2009 at 5:30 AM

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="216" caption="Earl Weaver: "I'll tell you what you can do with your small ball!""][/caption]DBAP/ DURHAM---Adepts of that scrappy, hustley, one-base-at-a-time stratagem called Small Ball are able to make a case for it because it looks sportier: Guys stealing bases, laying down sacrifice bunts, putting on the hit-and-run, dirtying their uniforms, and so on. There are certainly occasional moments when Small Ball is a good idea, but the vast majority of the time it isn't. You can read endless articles about the war between the Small Ballers and the Big Ballers (I'd better stop before this starts to...

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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Durham Bulls on the Move: Sonnanstine Demoted; Abreu... Delayed?

Posted By on Sat, Jun 27, 2009 at 10:09 AM

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="298" caption="Andy Sonnanstine, seen here practicing for the DBAP's "Sumo Challenge" contest, will join the Durham Bulls"][/caption]Basically, with the readmission of Chad Bradford and Scott Kazmir to the Tampa clubhouse, the Rays looked around at their starters and their starters' stats, and sent the worst one down to Durham. Yes, it's much more complicated than that, with the usual "options" arcana coming into play; but ultimately Andy Sonnanstine, who has started 69 games for Tampa since 2007, would be staying put at the Trop if he wasn't struggling so badly. The folks at DRaysBay have more and...

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Friday, June 26, 2009

Durham Bulls on the Move: Bradford, Eldridge, Richard

Posted By on Fri, Jun 26, 2009 at 3:52 PM

Good news for Bulls fans: Chris Richard has been activated after his second stint on the disabled list with hamstring tightness. Despite having missed 30 of the team's 74 games, most of them in the last month, the 35-year-old Richard still leads the team with 11 home runs, and his 37 RBIs are just one behind Ray Sadler's team-leading 38. Richard's .855 OPS is also tops on the team except for the very-small-sample-sized Rhyne Hughes's .978. Speaking of Hughes, I had suggested more than once that he would be sent back down to Montgomery once Richard was activated, but as...

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Bonus babies, past and future

Posted By on Wed, Jun 24, 2009 at 7:25 PM

NATIONAL TRAINING COMPLEX/CARY Today I'm at USA Baseball's "Tournament of Stars," an 18U event that matches all-star teams from most of the major national youth baseball organizations. It's certainly a showcase, but another key reason for it is to identify players for the 18U National Team, which will play in something called the COPABE Pan Am "AAA" (18U) Championships in late September in Barquisimeto, Venezuela. The most certain pick of all is Bryce Harper, who was MVP of the 16U National Team last year. Harper, who won't turn 17 until the day before I turn 54 in October (think...

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Durham Bulls Fall to Toledo in 13

Posted By on Wed, Jun 24, 2009 at 1:29 AM

I arrived home last night around 11:00 expecting to check the box score and game summary and post a few thoughts about whatever outcome I found there---but what I found was that the Bulls were still playing baseball in Toledo. They were in the 12th inning and fifth hour of action at Fifth Third Field, yet another new-old retro park that is named for a bank but reminds me a little of Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, as if the Toledo stadium's awkward moniker had something to do with a compromised and fussy legal ruling. In any case, I tuned into the...

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