Wednesday, November 29, 2006

New coaching staff

Found lots of news last night that (unfortunately) I couldn't share with you. wouldn't load on my home computer, so it had to wait until I got to the office.

Here's the biggest: The Biscuits will have an entirely new coaching staff next year. Here's the link to the story posted three hours ago.

Tampa Bay's coaching assignments ...

Durham -- manager Charlie Montoyo, pitching Xavier Hernandez, hitting Gary Gaetti, trainer Mark Vinson
Montgomery -- manager Billy Gardner Jr., pitching Neil Allen, hitting Hector Torres, trainer Jimmy Southard
Vero Beach -- manager Joe Szekely, pitching R.C. Lichtenstein, hitting Ben Ogilvie, trainer Joel Smith
Columbus (Ga.) -- manager Jim Morrison, pitching Bill Moloney, hitting Brady Williams, trainer Kris Russell
Hudson Valley -- manager Matt Quatraro, pitching Rafael Montalvo, hitting Ozzie Timmons, trainer TBA
Princeton -- manager Jamie Nelson, pitching Marty DeMerritt, hitting Rafael Deleon, trainer TBA

Roving instructors -- field coordinator Jim Hoff, outfield/baserunning Skeeter Barnes, hitting Steve Livesey, pitching Dick Bosman
Training and rehabilitation -- coordinator Nick Paparesta, assistant Chris Tomashoff, strength and conditioning Trung Cao

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Rays bid adieu to Waechter

The Devil Rays wished pitcher Doug Waechter a happy holiday season today ... and released him.

Waechter had passed through waivers and Tampa Bay excised him from its 40-man roster, then axed him from its payroll completely. Waechter struggled last year with the Rays, went to the minors and was horrid at Class AAA Durham: 1-12, 8.32 ERA in 17 games. He was also hurt and wouldn't have pitched -- at best -- until midseason next year.

Monday, November 20, 2006

40-man roster moves

The Devil Rays added three to their 40-man roster today, all three with ties to the Biscuits.

Second baseman Elliot Johnson and right-handed Mitch Talbot played for Montgomery this year, while surly center fielder Elijah Dukes was with the team in 2005.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Rays add Astros pitching coach

The Devil Rays hired Jim Hickey as their major-league pitching coach Saturday, a move that seemingly gives Biscuits coach Xavier Hernandez a good shot at moving up to Class AAA Durham.

Hickey was the major-league pitching coach of the Houston Astros, who fired him at the end of the season. Hickey replaces Mike Butcher, who will be the Los Angeles Angels' pitching coach. He replaces Bud Black, the new manager of the Padres.

Hernandez and manager Charlie Montoyo were already good bets to be promoted from Montgomery to Durham after the Biscuits won the Southern League championship and the Rays fired Durham's entire coaching staff. Hickey has been with the Houston organization for 16 years, so he and Hernandez should be familiar with each other.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Biscuits play for AFL title

The Biscuits have a stake in Saturday's Arizona Fall League championship game.

The Phoenix Desert Dogs take on the Grand Canyon Rafters and three of Desert Dogs pitchers are Biscuits: Jeremy Flanagan, Jeff Ridgway and Brian Henderson.

The Devil Rays have two other position players, though neither has played for Montgomery: Ben Zobrist and Fernando Perez. Perez is expected to be the Biscuits' center fielder next year. Former Auburn star Javon Moran, who's in Cincinnati's system, also plays for the Dogs.

The Biscuits are covered with the other team, too. Fernando Cortez, a Montgomery fan favorite who is now with the Kansas City Royals, plays for the Rafters.

Baseball America list

It took me a day to get back around to it, but here is the Baseball America List. Here's the full link -- -- but it's subscriber only, sorry.

1. Delmon Young -- this was automatic
2. Evan Longoria
3. Reid Brignac
4. Jeff Niemann -- so far, I'm 4-for-5
5. Jake McGee -- oops. I fully admit I don't know a lot about the lower-level guys. McGee was at low-A this year.

6. Elijah Dukes
7. Wade Davis
8. Matt Walker -- another oops
9. Jeremy Hellickson
10. Joel Guzman -- honestly, I discounted Guzman based on the .193 average he posted at Durham after coming over from the Dodgers. Baseball America lists him as a of/1b/3b, not that he's that great at any of the three.

The three I ranked that didn't land on BA's top 10 were Mitch Talbot, Juan Salas and Shawn Riggans. I had Talbot second, Salas ninth and Riggans 10th.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Top prospects guess

Baseball America will release its opinion of Tampa Bay's top 10 prospects Wednesday. Here's my list, admittedly without much thought and even less expertise. Mine will be top heavy -- more from the high levels of the organization -- because those are the players I'm more familiar with.

1. RF Delmon Young -- He didn't lose his rookie status, so he'll be on BA's list, and he's an early favorite for 2007 AL Rookie of the Year. He's been the top talent in the minors for two straight years.

2. RHP Mitch Talbot -- He simply dominated after joining the Biscuits in a midseason trade with the Astros. Talbot was electrifying in the playoffs: two five-hit shutouts.

3. SS Reid Brignac -- I'll be honest, after seeing Brignac for a few weeks, I wondered if he had the arm strength to stay at shortstop. Every throw just didn't look terribly impressive, though he got the out. Two or three plays later made me reconsider that. I've realized he was fooling me. He has the bat, though he didn't show 20-home run power once he arrived here.

4. RHP Jeff Niemann -- Niemann stayed healthy this year with the Biscuits and didn't miss a start after joining the team at midseason. He piles up pitches quickly, which keeps him from working deep into games. Niemann missed his last few appearances in the Arizona Fall League after some shoulder tightness.

5. 3B Evan Longoria -- Longoria took the minors by storm after being picked in the first round of the June draft. He's scheduled to be back in Montgomery to start next year, but don't expect him to stay long if he keeps raking.

6. RHP Jeremy Hellickson -- He has put up good numbers every year, but he's also yet to reach a full-season league. The Rays have been terribly careful with this kid.

7. RHP Wade Davis -- He put up good numbers in the hitter haven that is the California League.

8. OF Elijah Dukes -- Dukes could easily be second on this list if only his baseball talents were judged. Unfortunately, that's not the case. Immensely talented, but his conduct remains a question. One of the better moves the Rays made this year -- and they made plenty of good moves -- was in January. They extended their player development contract with the Durham Bulls through 2008. Had they waited, Tampa Bay would have been searching for a new Class AAA affiliate because of the 2006 team. It was mainly Dukes, some Delmon and a little B.J. Upton that caused problems.

9. RHP Juan Salas -- Salas made his big-league debut late this season, barely two years after first taking the mound. I'm still curious about his age -- he's either 27 or 29, depending on where you look.

10. C Shawn Riggans -- Riggans also reached the big leagues this year. He's answered injury questions the last two seasons.

11. RHP Andy Sonnanstine -- He may not highly valued around baseball because his radar readings aren't eye-popping. Sonnanstine does one thing: win. A Niemann-Sonnanstine-Talbot rotation was quite effective with the Biscuits.

12. RHP Jason Hammel -- I'm probably undervalueing Hammel because he was 0-6 with a 7.77 ERA in nine starts with the Rays this year. He still counts as a rookie because he threw only 44 innings.

13. 1B Wes Bankston -- It wasn't a good year for Bankston. First, the Rays tried to make him a third baseman and sent him to Montgomery. He could have been a first baseman at Durham to start the year. Second, he suffered an oblique injury that cost him 40 games. Third, he had an ankle injury that ended his time in the Arizona Fall League.

I'll stop at 13 because I'm tired. Here are the others that I was considering (in no particular order).

LHP Jeff Ridgway
2B Elliot Johnson
RF Justin Ruggiano
LHP Brian Henderson
RF Shaun Cumberland
C John Jaso
LHP James Houser
RHP Chris Mason
LHP Mike Wlodarczyk
LHP Jake McGee

I'm sure I'm missing somebody.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Mako, Machi, Magrane

Three members of this year's Biscuits won't be back next season.

Jean Machi has signed with the Toronto Blue Jays, who placed the right-handed pitcher on their 40-man protected roster.

Jim Magrane signed a minor-league contract with the Washington Nationals. Outfielder Darnell McDonald, who was with Durham last year, and Jacksonville Suns pitchers T.J. Nall and Joel Hanrahan also signed with the Nationals.

Mako Oliveras has been hired by the New York Mets as a roving instructor. Oliveras is currently in Puerto Rico managing the Caguas Criollos.