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Friday, April 10, 2009

Bulls break three bats, score two runs, to win opener, 2-1

Posted by on Fri, Apr 10, 2009 at 12:55 AM

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DBAP/ DURHAM—Mitch Talbot gave up three hits, struck out four, gave out zero walks and, naturally, blanked the visiting Norfolk Tides in five innings before an opening night crowd of 8,287.

The final score was 2-1, and the Bulls scored both of theirs in workmanlike fashion in the second inning, behind a pair of no-out singles by John Jaso and Chris Nowak, who would proceed to score on a combination of an error and infield ground-outs. But two runs was all Talbot and five—five!—relievers needed.

Norfolk's Nolan Reimold led off the seventh by jacking a Julio DePaula pitch into the balcony of Diamond View II, but that was all for the Tides. Here's the box score.

Elsewhere, Norfolk's prize slugger, catcher Matt Wieters, distinguished himself on defense rather than at the plate. In the first inning, he threw out Reid Brignac, whom Wieters made to look as if he was running underwater on his way to second base.

 In the seventh, Wieters, a 6-foot-5 bruiser, made an out of John Jaso's tricky foul pop. At the plate, nothing special from the minors' No. 1 prospect: He struck out twice, but also drew a one-out walk with two batters on from a cautious Jason Childers in the sixth.

On this mild, clear evening, there was appreciative applause for such familiar faces as Brignac, Elliot Johnson and Justin Ruggiano. Of the nine in the batting order, only two were new to Durham: second baseman Adam Kennedy and right fielder Ray Sadler. The former seems rather overqualified to be in the Bull City, with nine years of major league service under his belt, including a key role on the 2002 Anaheim Angels World Series winners. However, the 33-year-old has a history of knee trouble that he's trying to surmount.

Sadler is a bit younger than Kennedy at 28, but he's been in the big leagues for a grand total of four days—he hit a home run in his first MLB hit with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2005 and was optioned back to Double-A Altoona the following day. Although Sadler went 0-3 at the plate tonight against Norfolk, he managed to break three bats—two in the same at-bat.

After the game, I went to the locker room with the intention of asking Sadler about this phenomenon, and whether something might be wrong with his bats. He looked at me as if I'd asked a really pointless question. Perhaps I had. Sadler shrugged off the significance of the broken bats. No big deal, he said as he toweled off his massive tattooed biceps, the sight of which helped me appreciate the brute strength he must bring to the plate.

What about the lost bats? Does it cost you anything when they break? Nope. "They're free," he said.

I left the stadium by the administrative entrance, where a couple dozen fans were gathered for glimpses of the players. Soon, David Price came out and the fans approached him—in an orderly and efficient manner, it must be said, for these were grown men, not teeny-boppers.

Price happened to be carrying a laptop—a silver 15-inch MacBook, I think—and a mess of cables was attached. The power light was still on. Price looked helplessly about before employing his only option: In order to free his hands, he had to set the laptop on the ground at his canvas sneaker-clad feet.

The men were mostly middle-aged and looked like serious memorabilia hunters. They politely got their autographs and Price gamely posed for a couple of photos (taking off his cap for them). After a few minutes, the labors of stardom were done and the pitcher gathered his laptop and cables and walked off. 

As he crossed Blackwell Street, he turned his cap backward. It was a Tampa Bay cap.

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