Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Beckham stars for Stone Crabs

Tim Beckham tripled twice and had five RBIs in the Charlotte Stone Crabs' 6-3 home win over St. Lucie tonight. Beckham snapped an 0-for-18 slide Tuesday before his Wednesday breakout. He also threw a runner out at the plate.

Wednesday: Biscuits 6, Braves 3

Matt Fields scored three times and hit his fifth home run of the season, a two-run shot in the eighth inning, to help the Biscuits beat the Mississippi Braves 6-3 on Wednesday. Montgomery won four games in its five-game series with the Braves.

The Biscuits took the lead in the seventh on an Emeel Salem two-run triple. Fields hit an opposite-field, two-run homer to right in the eighth to make it 6-3.

Fields sparked two-out rallies in the second and fourth innings. He singled in the second and scored on a Cody Strait single. He doubled in the fourth and came home on a Greg Sexton single.

Another in-game marriage proposal

We have a ninth known marriage proposal in Riverwalk Stadium's history. All successful. This time, someone named Lindsey said she'll marry someone named Dustin. They played a fine television show's theme song after she accepted, too.

Royster to have surgery on back; McGee update

Outfielder Ryan Royster expects to have surgery Friday for a herniated disc in his back and will miss at least six weeks. He said it's something that started during Montgomery's series at Chattanooga, but he's also had back problems for a few years. No word on who will take his roster spot.

Pitcher Jake McGee took part in the staff's fielding practice today and looked OK. The Biscuits are going to push his next start back a few days. He won't pitch in this weekend's series at West Tenn and will be scheduled to pitch the series opener Tuesday at home against Jacksonville.

Say goodbye to the Mississippi Braves

Mississippi, a South Division rival of the Biscuits, plays its final regular-season game of the season at Riverwalk tonight.

Lineups ...
Emeel Salem cf
Drew Anderson ss
Chris Nowak 3b
Nevin Ashley c
Cody Cipriano 2b
Matt Fields 1b
Greg Sexton dh
Cody Strait rf
John Matulia lf
Jeremy Hall rhp

Alex Romero cf
Willie Cabrera rf
Donell Linares dh
Eric Duncan 3b
Mauro Gomez 1b
Cody Johnson lf
Orlando Mercado c
Luis Bolivar ss
Travis Jones 2b
Erik Cordier rhp

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Royster out with nerve irritation

Outfielder Ryan Royster isn't on the disabled list, but he missed a sixth straight game today with what manager Billy Gardner called "nerve irritation" in his back. The Biscuits are treating it and hoping to avoid putting Royster on the DL.

Tuesday: Biscuits 4, Braves 0

David Newmann’s 7 2/3 shutout innings helped push the Montgomery Biscuits to a 4-0 win over the Mississippi Braves on Tuesday. Newmann faced just three over the minimum and picked up his first Double-A victory.

He allowed four hits, walked one and struck out seven. A double play and two outfield assists assisted Newmann, who has pitched 14 2/3 shutout innings at Riverwalk Stadium this year.

Newmann and Matt Gorgen combined on a five-hitter. It was Montgomery’s fourth shutout of the year.

Greg Sexton hit a two-run double in the fifth inning for the Biscuits. John Matulia added an RBI triple in the seventh and Cody Cipriano an RBI single in the eighth.

Biscuits should fall one short of team record

The Biscuits have stranded 15 baserunners through eight innings, which is one short of the team record. Since they're up 4-0 on the Mississippi Braves, they hope to not threaten it again. Oh, they tried, but a double play to end the bottom of the eighth snuffed out their best shot.

Montgomery stranded 16 on May 5, 2006 in a 13-inning home loss to Mississippi, and on June 12-13, 2009 in a 14-inning home win over Chattanooga. The 2009 game ended at almost 1 a.m.

Umpire ejects self from game

Southern League umpire Booter West, after missing four straight days with a hamstring injury, returned today. But he's pulled himself out of the game in the middle of the fourth, apparently due to the same injury. They'll finish today with a two-man crew: Nick Bailey behind the plate and Chris Segal on the bases.

And Lobaton would make 42

A few days after the Biscuits had the first member of their 2009 team make his major-league debut, a player from the 2010 squad has been promoted to the major leagues.

The Rays called up catcher Jose Lobaton after regular catcher Dioner Navarro drew a two-game suspension.

Lobaton, who made his major-league debut last year with the Padres (at second base), will be the 42nd full-fledged Biscuit alum to rise to the majors when he plays in a game. The Rays host Oakland for two games starting tonight and Kansas City for four Thursday-Sunday.

All three catchers who were with the Biscuits for Tuesday night's game are present and accounted for before today's bright and early 10:35 a.m. game. Tardy lineups ...

Emeel Salem cf
Drew Anderson ss
Chris Nowak dh
Matt Fields 1b
Greg Sexton 3b
Cody Cipriano 2b
Cody Strait rf
Craig Albernaz c
John Matulia lf
David Newmann lhp

Alex Romero cf
Willie Cabrera rf
Donell Linares 3b
Eric Duncan 1b
Mauro Gomez dh
Cody Johnson lf
Luis Bolivar ss
Travis Jones 2b
Benji Johnson ss
Scott Diamond lhp

Monday, April 26, 2010

Monday: Biscuits 2, Braves 1

Darin Downs threw 5 2/3 shutout innings to help the Montgomery Biscuits beat the Mississippi Braves 2-1 on Monday.

Downs (2-0) gave up two hits over 5 2/3 innings before leaving after being hit in the leg by a comebacker. Dane De La Rosa worked 1 1/3 innings before Paul Phillips pitched the final two for a save.

The Biscuits scored in the first when Emeel Salem hit a leadoff double and came in on a Matt Fields groundball. In the fourth, Greg Sexton singled and scored on a John Matulia single.

Mississippi scored in the ninth. Orlando Mercado singled home Mauro Gomez, who reached out a hit batsman with two outs. With the potential tying run at third base, Concepcion Rodriguez struck out to end it.

Downs leaves after being hit on leg

Pitcher Darin Downs is coming out of tonight's game with two outs in the top of the sixth inning after being hit on the leg by a comebacker. Downs hasn't allowed a run, but there are two runners on with two outs as he leaves. Downs was hit on the left side of the head with a line drive last August.

8:44: Dane De La Rosa records the third out, so Downs pitched 6 2/3 shutout innings.

Downs did walk off the field with a noticeable limp after manager Billy Gardner, pitching coach Bill Moloney and trainer Lee Slagle visited the mound.

Jai Miller now with Royals

The Kansas City Royals claimed Selma native Jai Miller off waivers today and assigned him to Triple-A Omaha. The Royals are Miller's third organization of the month. The outfielder has gone from the Florida Marlins to the Oakland A's and now the Royals.

Game 3 lineups

Tonight is the third game of Montgomery's series with the Mississippi Braves -- the only scheduled series Mississippi plays at Riverwalk this year -- and here are the lineups ...

Emeel Salem cf
Chris De La Cruz ss
Chris Nowak dh
Matt Fields 1b
Nevin Ashley c
Greg Sexton 3b
Cody Cipriano 2b
Cody Strait rf
John Matulia lf
Darin Downs lhp

Alex Romero cf
Willie Cabrera rf
Donell Linares 3b
Eric Duncan 2b
Mauro Gomez 1b
Cody Johnson lf
Orlando Mercado c
Concepcion Rodriguez dh
Luis Bolivar ss
Kyle Cofield rhp

3 former Biscuits on All-Star ballot

The Biscuits have three full-fledged alumni on this year's major-league All-Star ballot. Rays third baseman Evan Longoria and center fielder B.J. Upton await your vote, along with Minnesota Twins outfielder Delmon Young. Florida Marlins infielder Jorge Cantu, who was with Montgomery only for a rehab assignment in 2006, is also listed. The voting booths are open at through July 1.

A-Rod pulls International award

Former Biscuit Aneury Rodriguez, by throwing 14 shutout innings in his first two starts with Triple-A Durham, won the International League's weekly pitcher's award today.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sunday, Game 2: Braves 7, Biscuits 3

Mauro Gomez knocked in three runs and hit his third home run of the season to help the Mississippi Braves beat the Biscuits 7-3 on Sunday in the second game of a doubleheader.

Eric Duncan scored twice and hit a two-run single for Mississippi Braves. Cody Johnson hit a solo homer and had two RBIs.

Biscuits starter Rayner Oliveros (0-1) allowed four runs on five hits in four innings. Ryan Reid gave up three runs on four hits in the fifth.

Montgomery’s Emeel Salem hit an infield single in the third and scored. He singled home Drew Anderson in the seventh.

A-Rod continues hot Durham start

Aneury Rodriguez matched his Durham debut with his second start Sunday, throwing seven shutout innings in the Bulls' 9-1 home win over Gwinnett. He allowed one hit, a Matt Young double to start the game, and retired 14 straight at one point.

Game 2 lineups

Emeel Salem cf
Chris De La Cruz ss
Chris Nowak 1b
Matt Fields 1b
Greg Sexton 3b
Cody Strait rf
Drew Anderson 2b
Craig Albernaz c
John Matulia lf
Rayner Oliveros rhp

Alex Romero cf
Willie Cabrera rf
Eric Duncan 3b
Mauro Gomez 1b
Orlando Mercado dh
Cody Johnson lf
Travis Jones 2b
Benji Johnson c
Randy Gress ss
Jacob Thompson rhp

Montgomery's Bass takes call from Pirates

Montgomery native Brian Bass joined the Pittsburgh Pirates today after the Pirates promoted him from Triple-A Indianapolis. The 28-year-old made his major-league debut with Minnesota in 2007 and pitched for Baltimore in 2008 and '09.

Sunday, Game 1: Biscuits 8, Braves 0

Alex Torres allowed two hits over six innings to lead the Biscuits in an 8-0 win over the Mississippi Braves in the first game of a doubleheader today.

Torres (2-1) gave up a leadoff single in the first and a leadoff double in the fifth. He walked four and struck out seven.

The left-hander worked out of trouble in the fifth inning. With Montgomery ahead 1-0, the Braves had two on and none out but Torres worked out of trouble.

The Biscuits answered with seven runs in the bottom of the inning, all with two outs. Nevin Ashley hit a two-run double and Greg Sexton a two-run single. After Cody Strait’s RBI single, John Matulia singled in the final two runs.

Matulia singled to lead off the inning and scored on Ashley’s hit. Matulia also scored in the third inning.

Braves starter Mike Minor (0-2) allowed seven runs -- none earned -- in 4 2/3 innings.

Hughes hits majors with Baltimore

Former Biscuit Rhyne Hughes made his major-league debut Saturday for the Baltimore Orioles. Hughes was 2-for-5 with an RBI in a loss at Boston. I have him as the 41st Biscuit to rise to the majors and the first from the 2009 team.

Durham's Vasquez fractures wrist

Richard De Los Santos returned to Durham so quickly because the Bulls are down a starter. Virgil Vasquez is out with a fractured wrist he suffered in a recent car accident, Rays farm director Mitch Lukevics said today. Vasquez is 2-0 in three starts for Durham.

The Mississippi Braves and the Biscuits finally start their series today with a doubleheader. The Game 1 lineups ...

Emeel Salem cf
Chris De La Cruz ss
Chris Nowak dh
Matt Fields 1b
Nevin Ashley c
Greg Sexton 3b
Cody Cipriano 2b
Cody Strait rf
John Matulia lf
Alex Torres lhp

Alex Romero cf
Willie Cabrera rf
Donell Linares 3b
Eric Duncan dh
Mauro Gomez 1b
Orlando Mercado c
Concepcion Rodriguez lf
Luis Bolivar ss
Travis Jones 2b
Mike Minor lhp

Saturday, April 24, 2010

McGee to miss Monday's scheduled start

Left-hander Jake McGee will miss his next scheduled start Monday due to the knee pain he experienced in his last outing.

McGee threw a bullpen session Saturday and felt good, but the Biscuits decided they want McGee to do a pitcher's fielding practice session to test the knee further. Darin Downs will start in McGee's place Monday.

"Everything went well in the pen, but we want to put him through a 'p.f.p.' just to make sure he can get off the mound and field the ball," manager Billy Gardner said. "He felt good and really wanted to pitch, but we think it's best to get him out there, move him around in a 'p.f.p.' session and make sure everything is all right."

McGee left a start Wednesday at Chattanooga after 2.1 innings. He said he felt pain in his left kneecap after one pitch and it flared whenever he bent his leg from there.

"I don't know what I did," McGee said. "It's kind of a mystery, somewhat."

McGee said he played catch Thursday and Friday and felt fine, though his knee hurt when he ran Friday.

Bobbleheads' captivity extended three months

The Evan Longoria bobbleheads will be given out July 23 when the Biscuits host the Carolina Mudcats for Tampa Bay Rays Night.

Bang: Doubleheader Sunday

Rainout. Doubleheader Sunday starting at 2:05.

Not looking good, but what of bobbleheads?

The tarp is out, the rain is lightly steady and the radar doesn't look too swell, so I'd say it would be a surprise if there's a game tonight. If there isn't, here's something to ponder: What will happen to the Evan Longoria bobbleheads that are scheduled to be given away tonight and currently yearn for their freedom?

Moves: De Los Santos, O'Malley, Nowak, De La Rosa

The Biscuits are making a slew of moves today, though tonight's game is in doubt because of the weather.

r Pitcher Richard De Los Santos, who joined the Biscuits from Durham during their road trip that just ended, is headed back to Durham.

r Infielder Chris Nowak, who was with Durham but wasn't on the active roster, is coming to Montgomery.

r Shortstop Shawn O'Malley, featured in today's paper to kick off the Mississippi series, is going on the disabled list with a shoulder injury.

r Pitcher Dane De La Rosa is being promoted to Montgomery from high-Class A Charlotte. The 27-year-old right-hander had made two appearances for the Stone Crabs. He was on the disabled list from April 15-21.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Zobrist, Rays reach five-year deal

Ben Zobrist and the Rays have agreed to a five-year contract extension that could keep Zobrist with the team through 2015. The first three years are guaranteed, the Rays have options on the final two years, and the total package could be worth almost $30 million.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

McGee left game due to knee pain

Biscuits starter Jake McGee left Wednesday's game at Chattanooga after 2.1 innings because of pain in his left knee. His status for his scheduled start Monday is unknown. (Thanks go to Rays savant Marc Topkin of the St. Pete Times for, once again, his assistance.)

De Los Santos being demoted; Paxton being deactivated

Pitcher Richard De Los Santos is returning to the Biscuits, according to the team's Web site. Catcher Ian Paxton is being deactivated.

The Biscuits have not formally announced the transactions. (They've e-mailed transactions for their first six seasons).

Also, at the time of this post, Paxton remains on Montgomery's active roster and De Los Santos remains on Durham's.

A's take Miller off 40-man roster

The Oakland A's have designated outfielder Jai Miller for assignment. Miller, a Selma native, joined Oakland this month when the A's claimed him off waivers from the Florida Marlins. Florida had also DFA'd Miller.

Stunned by snub, Stoney making Senate run

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, currently a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, canceled a first-pitch appearance for Friday's Charlotte Stone Crabs game.

Crabs mnascot Stoney is fuming mad enough that he's thrown his hat in the Senate ring as an independent.

He'll kick off his campaign, not surprisingly, at a Crabs home game Friday.

“Four score and seven years ago, I don’t know what year it was,” Stoney said, according to a Crabs release. “But Friday, April 23 will be a night that will live in infamy.”

Tis thought Stoney will soon have competition for the independent banner. Crist may drop out of an apparently unwinnable Republican primary and run as an independent.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Stone Crabs just average ... at fan cost index

The Charlotte Stone Crabs released today that they are right at Minor League Baseball's average cost for a family of four.

A Crabs game runs $57, using the checklist found below under Durham's fan cost index. The MiLB average is $57.70 and a Durham game costs $54.

Charlotte does point out the number does not factor in its regular food-discount promotions.

Stone Crabs just average ... at fan cost index

The Charlotte Stone Crabs released today that they are right at Minor League Baseball's average cost for a family of four.

A Crabs game runs $57.70, using the checklist found below under Durham's fan cost index. The MiLB average is $58 and a Durham game costs $54.

Charlotte does point out the number does not factor in its regular food-discount promotions.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Hoodies welcomed back to MLB fold

Well, Major League Baseball has lifted its blanket ban on dugout personnel sporting hoodies. Rays manager Joe Maddon, after turning a cold shoulder to the ban last weekend, is snugly sitting in the dugout at Comiskey Park tonight. Feel free to add your own puns.

Bulls below average ... at fan cost index

The Durham Bulls are below the minor-league average when it comes to a family of four attending a game, according to a team release.

Using Team Marketing Report's Fan Cost Index formula, Minor League Baseball released its averages today -- $57.70 for its 160 teams with Triple-A averaging $67.77, Double-A $57.47 and Class A $57.44.

A family of four will need $54 for a Durham game. That includes two adult tickets, two child tickets, four hot dogs, two carbonated beverages, two beers, a program and parking.

The Biscuits are looking into what their number is and checking how Minor League Baseball compiled the survey. Minor League Baseball said it does not release the data on a team-by-team basis or even by league, but each team can release their number if they wish.

A-Rod wins Triple-A debut in Durham shutout

Aneury Rodriguez won his Triple-A debut, throwing seven innings in Durham's 11-0 win at Charlotte today.

Rodriguez gave up four hits, walked one and struck out six. He didn't allow a runner past second base.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Rays' sweep of Red Sox not a surprise

I thought ABC's FlashForward was purely a work of fiction, but one of the writers' premonitions came true today. The Rays beat Boston 8-2 to finish an April series sweep of the Red Sox, a happening foretold in the FlashForward series debut last September.

I'm no fan of the Los Angeles Lakers, but I hope Kobe Bryant doesn't blow out a knee, either.

A-Rod jumps to Bulls

Biscuits pitcher Aneury Rodriguez has been promoted to Triple-A Durham, according to (via reader Bubba36109).

Rodriguez spent all of last season with Montgomery and was 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA in two starts this year. The Biscuits currently have an open roster spot and Rayner Oliveros will take Rodriguez's scheduled start Tuesday at Chattanooga.

The Bulls made a spot by deactivating Jeff Bennett on Sunday. Bennett left his last start with arm tightness and will miss his next start, reports.

And Desmond Jennings made his season debut Sunday.

Hellickson wins IL award

Durham right-hander Jeremy Hellickson, who is 3-0 after three starts, including a 7.2-inning, four-hit performance Sunday, won the International League's Pitcher of the Week award today.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Ashley back with team

Catcher Nevin Ashley returned to the Biscuits either Friday or Saturday, team spokesman Joe Davis said. Ashley, who was away due to his father-in-law's death, is expected to be activated Monday.

Rays' Maddon 'hoodie-winking' MLB

I read the other day where Major League Baseball had said bench personnel could only display a jacket or official team pullover instead of a jersey, thus banning Rays manager Joe Maddon's preferred pullover.

Today, on TBS, I see Maddon and coach Dave Martinez wearing the jackets on a blustery day at Fenway Park.

I also see the tell-tale signs of a hoodie popping out the back of those jackets. (Martinez's is even white.) Nice.

Shoppach could be out through All-Star game

John Jaso could stay in the majors longer than first though because Kelly Shoppach's injury is worse than first thought.

Shoppach faces potential surgery and the recovery may keep him out through the All-Star break, according to the beat writers covering the major-league team.

Also, put Jose Veras back on the list. He cleared waivers and the Marlins sent him to Triple-A New Orleans.

Had to cover a faux football game Saturday, so this news is, of course, late. Amazingly, and not in a good way, an announced crowd of 91,000-plus came out for said faux game.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Biscuits, Bulls swap catchers

Jose Lobaton is headed to Triple-A Durham with Craig Albernaz dropping to the Biscuits in a swap of catchers.

Travel arrangements were easy enough with Montgomery playing a series at the Carolina Mudcats, whose stadium is about 40 miles from Durham. The Bulls also played their home opener Thursday.

Moving Lobaton up also could be a sign that John Jaso will stay in the majors longer than first thought. Jaso went up Tuesday when the Rays put Kelly Shoppach on the disabled list.

Lobaton is on the 40-man roster, so the Rays wouldn't want him sitting on Durham's bench behind Jaso (or vice versa).

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Barnese stars, Beckham debuts with Crabs

Nick Barnese threw seven shutout innings for the Charlotte Stone Crabs in a 7-0 win over Fort Myers tonight. Tim Beckham also debuted after a spring wrist injury and was 1-for-4 with an RBI single and two strikeouts.

Matulia ties career high with four RBIs

Biscuits outfielder John Matulia knocked in four runs tonight in Montgomery's 8-4 win at Carolina to tie a career high. He last had four RBIs in his first professional season, 2005, for the Rookie-level Princeton Rays. He did it twice: June 26 at Pulaski and July 5 at Burlington.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Veras dropped by Marlins

We've yet to start diligently searching for former Biscuits, but you can cross one off the list for the moment. Pitcher Jose Veras has been designated for assignment by the Florida Marlins.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

With Shoppach on DL, Jaso takes call

Former Biscuits catcher John Jasohas been promoted to the Rays after Kelly Shoppach went on the disabled list. Jaso made his major-league debut in 2008 but did not play in the majors last year.

Cuban resolves visa issues, reporting to Rays

Cuban outfielder/first baseman Leslie Anderson is headed to Tampa Bay's extended spring training program after his visa issues were resolved. The Rays formally announced the 27-year-old's signing today, though the sides agreed to a deal earlier this year.

Hot Rods' Colome has Biscuit-like start

Bowling Green's Alex Colome did a passable impression of a Biscuits starter today.

Colome threw six shutout innings and did not factor in the decision in the Hot Rods' 3-1 win over Dayton.

He allowed one baserunner, on a fourth-inning double.

Monday, April 12, 2010

What would Tiffany say about this game?

Let's see, it was 8:54 p.m. in the middle of the eighth inning. That's 1 hour and 47 minutes after it started. Such a promising night went awry with each team scoring twice in the ninth. Sure a 2:29 game is something to behold, but it could've been so much more.

could've been so beautiful
could've been so right
could've been a two-hour game
but then they went to the ninth

Monday: Biscuits 3, BayBears 2

John Matulia’s bases-loaded single with two outs in the ninth gave the Montgomery Biscuits a 3-2 win over the Mobile BayBears on Monday. For a second straight day, the Biscuits scored twice in the ninth to win after Mobile had rallied in the top of the ninth to take the lead. Biscuits starter Jeremy Hall had an exemplary Double-A debut, just like teammate David Newmann on Sunday. Both pitched seven shutout innings and didn’t factor in the decision.

Phillips dons team Masters pool crown

Pitcher Paul Phillips won the Biscuits' clubhouse pool over the Masters with his five players shooting a final-round 20 under to leave Phillips at 37 under.

Phillips had champion Phil Mickelson (16 under), Anthony Kim (12), Tiger Woods (11), Ernie Els (1) and Steve Stricker (3 over) on his card.

It was good for a two-shot win over catcher Ian Paxton. Pitcher Justin Garcia, who led by eight shots after Saturday's third round, was third at 34 under.

The participants picked five players in the tournament. If a picked player missed the cut, their second-round score was used in the third and fourth round for purposes of the pool.

To run down the other participants: second baseman Cody Cipriano was at 28 under, pitching coach Bill Moloney 21 under, pitcher Jeremy Hell at 9 under and pitcher Darin Downs 3 under.

Trainer Lee Slagle, anchored by Vijay Singh's missed-cut 10 over, limped home at 4 over. Singh shot a 78 Friday, which meant Slagle carried a 78 on both Saturday and Sunday.

Monday, series finale lineups

The Biscuits finish off their season-opening series with Mobile today before heading on a 10-game roadtrip that takes them to Carolina and Chattanooga.

Lineups ...
Emeel Salem cf
Chris De La Cruz ss
Greg Sexton 3b
Matt Fields 1b
Cody Cipriano 2b
Cody Strait rf
Jose Lobaton c
Ryan Royster lf
John Matulia dh
Jeremy Hall rhp

Evan Frey cf
Ollie Linton lf
Collin Cowgill rf
Konrad Schmidt c
Bryan Byrne 1b
Taylor Harbin 2b
Cyle Hankerd dh
Ed Easley 3b
Jake Wald ss
Barry Enright rhp

The BayBears added infielder Gerson Montilla to their roster today and put outfielder Pete Clifford back on the DL.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sunday: Biscuits 5, BayBears 4

Emeel Salem scored on a two-out error to cap a two-run ninth inning and give the Montgomery Biscuits a 5-4 win over the Mobile BayBears on Sunday. Biscuits starter David Newmann was exemplary in his Double-A debut. Newmann threw seven shutout innings, allowed five singles and faced just two batters over the minimum. The left-hander threw 46 of his 65 pitches for strikes.

Sunday lineups

The BayBears had some roster changes before today's fourth game of their series with Montgomery. Catcher Sean Coughlin has been promoted to Triple-A Reno, infielder Ricardo Sosa went on the disabled list and outfielder Pete Clifford came off the DL.

Click here for the story on Saturday's game and here for the notebook.

Lineups ...
Shawn O'Malley ss
Emeel Salem cf
Cody Strait dh
Matt Fields 1b
Cody Cipriano 2b
Ryan Royster lf
Chris De La Cruz 3b
Ian Paxton c
John Matulia rf
David Newmann lhp

Evan Frey cf
Collin Cowgill rf
Bryan Byrne 1b
Konrad Schmidt c
Cyle Hankerd dh
Taylor Harbin 3b
Jake Elmore 2b
Jake Wald ss
Ollie Linton lf
Bryan Shaw rhp

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Saturday: Biscuits 1, BayBears 0

Jake McGee and two relievers combined on a five-hitter in the Montgomery Biscuits’ 1-0 win over the Mobile BayBears on Saturday. McGee allowed three hits in five innings, while Justin Garcia (1-0) and Paul Phillips followed with two innings each. MORE

McGee with 5 shutout in Riverwalk return

Jake McGee threw five shutout innings in his first game at Riverwalk Stadium since suffering an elbow injury here in June 2008. He allowed three hits, walked two and struck out three. Of 70 pitches, 42 went for strikes. He touched 94 mph and was sitting at 91.

Saturday lineups

It's Jake McGee's return game at Riverwalk. Here's Montgomery's lineup.

Emeel Salem cf
Chris De La Cruz ss
Greg Sexton 3b
Matt Fields 1b
Jose Lobaton c
Cody Strait rf
Cody Cipriano dh
Drew Anderson 2b
John Matulia lf
Jake McGee lhp

Evan Frey cf
Jake Wald ss
Collin Cowgill rf
Konrad Schmidt c
Sean Coughlin 1b
Taylor Harbin 3b
Cyle Hankerd lf
Ed Easley dh
Jake Elmore 2b
Matt Torra rhp

Coming soon to a blog near you.

5:02 update: As you would expect, the Biscuits did openly cheer when the Rays broke up C.C. Sabathia's no-hitter with two outs in the eighth inning.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Friday: BayBears 9, Biscuits 4 (13)

Sean Coughlin’s RBI double broke a 13th-inning tie for the Mobile BayBears in a 9-4 victory over the Montgomery Biscuits on Friday. The BayBears sent 11 batters to the plate in the 13th inning and had seven hits.

Your time of game: 4 hours, 12 minutes.

They're going long at Riverwalk

With tonight's game going to the 13th, let's review all the 13-inning games in Biscuits history.

June 27, 2004: at Birmingham, W 2-1
May 5, 2006: Mississippi, L 8-7
July 3, 2007: Birmingham, L 7-6
Sept. 3, 2007: at Jacksonville, W 7-3
June 13, 2008: Mobile, W 1-0
April 13, 2009: West Tenn, L 6-5
June 12-13, 2009: Chattanooga, W 5-4 in 14 innings (game ended at 12:53 a.m.)

Game 2 lineups

Today's starters for the second game of Montgomery's season-opening series with Mobile.

Shawn O'Malley ss
Emeel Salem cf
Greg Sexton 3b
Matt Fields 1b
Jose Lobaton c
Cody Strait rf
Cody Cipriano 2b
Ryan Royster dh
John Matulia lf
Aneury Rodriguez rhp

Evan Frey cf
Collin Cowgill rf
Bryan Byrne 1b
Konrad Schmidt dh
Sean Coughlin c
Taylor Harbin 3b
Jake Elmore 2b
Jake Wald ss
Ollie Linton lf
Tom Layne lhp

Ashley's father-in-law's funeral Monday

Catcher Nevin Ashley is unlikely to return to the Biscuits for this series against Mobile. His father-in-law's funeral will be Monday in Vincennes, Ind. Neil A. Long was 65 when he died Wednesday.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

BayBears 3, Biscuits 2 (10)

Bryan Byrne’s bloop single in the 10th inning brought home the go-ahead run in the Mobile BayBears’ 3-2 season-opening victory over the Montgomery Biscuits on Thursday. MORE HERE.

Blankenship an improvement on mayor for first pitch

Ken Blankenship, the executive director of the Central Alabama Sports Commission, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Though he threw from the lip of the grass and was just a bit outside, Blankenship outperformed Mayor Todd Strange's 2009 first pitch.

Opening Day lineup

Here's the lineup the Biscuits will use for tonight's season opener against the Mobile BayBears. Mobile's coming when available.

Shawn O'Malley ss
Emeel Salem cf
Greg Sexton 3b
Matt Fields 1b
Jose Lobaton c
Cody Strait rf
Cody Cipriano 2b
Ryan Royster dh
John Matulia lf
Alex Torres lhp

Evan Frey cf
Collin Cowgill rf
Bryan Byrne 1b
Konrad Schmidt c
Sean Coughlin dh
Taylor Harbin 2b
Ricardo Sosa 3b
Jake Wald ss
Ollie Linton lf
Wes Roemer rhp

Jai Miller goes to Oakland

The Oakland A's have claimed Selma native Jai Miller off waivers and assigned the outfielder to Triple-A Sacramento. The Florida Marlins designated Miller for assignment at the end of spring training.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Preliminary defensive alignment

Biscuits manager Billy Gardner has an idea who will be in his lineup for Thursday's season opener, but he's not sure in what order quite yet.

Thursday's probable defensive alignment ...
Torres lhp, Lobaton c, Fields 1b, Cipriano 2b, Sexton 3b, O'Malley ss, Matulia lf, Salem cf, Strait rf, Royster dh

To (once again) show how little I'll know, I'll guess a batting order ...
Salem cf, O'Malley ss, Lobaton c, Fields 1b, Sexton 3b, Royster dh, Cipriano 2b, Matulia lf, Strait rf

Ashley mourns death in family

Biscuits catcher Nevin Ashley has suffered a death in his family and will not be in uniform for Thursday's season opener.

Check out Biscuits video, pictures

Our multitalented, multidimensional, multimedia crew was out at Riverwalk Stadium on Tuesday for the Biscuits' first workout.

Here's the video and here's the photo gallery.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Biscuits set rotation; Downs in bullpen

Left-hander Darin Downs is in the bullpen for the start of Montgomery's season. That answers the question we had when it seemed like there were six starters with the Biscuits. Downs was 12-4 with a Florida State League-leading 2.00 ERA last year before making two starts for the Biscuits.

Lefty Alex Torres throws Thursday's season opener, followed by righty Aneury Rodriguez, lefty Jake McGee, lefty David Newmann and righty Jeremy Hall.

The Biscuits also latched onto their favorite numbers today, at least their favorite numbers that were on a jersey that would fit them.

2 John Matulia, outfield
4 Shawn O’Malley, infield
7 Cody Strait, outfield
8 Chris De La Cruz, infield
9 Drew Anderson, infield
10 Emeel Salem, outfield
11 Cody Cipriano, infield
12 Jose Lobaton, catcher
15 Jeremy Hall, pitcher
17 Justin Garcia, pitcher
18 Paul Phillips, pitcher
19 Alex Torres, pitcher
20 Darin Downs, pitcher
21 Jake McGee, pitcher
22 Ryan Royster, outfield
23 Matt Gorgen, pitcher
25 David Newmann, pitcher
29 Ian Paxton, catcher
33 Ryan Reid, pitcher
35 Rayner Oliveros, pitcher
38 Greg Sexton, infield
45 Aneury Rodriguez, pitcher
47 Eduardo Morlan, pitcher
48 Matt Fields, infield
tba Nevin Ashley, catcher

Ashley away on emergency

Biscuits catcher Nevin Ashley has left the team because of a family emergency. It's unknown whether he'll be back for Thursday's season opener.

Monday, April 05, 2010

After failing Nats' physical, Ridgway joins Blue Crabs

Former Biscuits pitcher Jeff Ridgway had signed with the Washington Nationals, but he failed a pre-camp physical and was released. He's signed with the independent Southern Maryland Blue Crabs for this year, the Peninsula Daily News reports.

Biscuits' rotation open; Colome has honors for Hot Rods

First, Alex Colome is scheduled to start the opener for the low-A Bowling Green Hot Rods, but here's your rotation question surrounding the Biscuits.

Who's left out?

It's Alex Torres in the opener with Jake McGee also known to be part of the rotation. That leaves four other pitchers who I would have thought would be in the rotation. Which one is going to the bullpen?

Darin Downs
Jeremy Hall
David Newmann
Aneury Rodriguez

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Torres takes call for season opener

Left-hander Alex Torres is scheduled to start Thursday's season opener, he said.

Jeremy Hellickson is down for such duty at Triple-A Durham.

I don't know the Class A guys, so who would you pick? I'll take Matt Moore and Alex Colome.

Rays hit their 25-man limit

Tampa Bay reached its 25-man major-league roster limit by announcing today that pitcher Joaquin Benoit and Hank Blalock and Elliot Johnson are going to the minors. Johnson cleared waivers and was outrighted to Durham.

Adios, Port Charlotte; I'm out

The players have been gone about an hour, so that's plenty of time for them to weed out any law enforcement on the way, right?

My story and notebook for Monday's paper have been sent. Therefore, I bid adieu to Port Charlotte.

J. Beckham, 2 others not in Rays' 2010 plans

Infielder Jeremy Beckham, the older brother of one of Tampa Bay's top prospects, was one of three players released Sunday.

Outfielder Jason Corder and right-handed pitcher Austin Hinkle joined Beckham, a 17th round pick in 2008, which was 16 rounds after kid brother Tim. Tim was the No. 1 overall pick.

Jeremy Beckham hit .231 over two professional seasons.

Corder was a seventh-round draft pick in 2008 out of Long Beach State. After hitting .306 that year with short-season Hudson Valley, Corder had a .229 average last year at low-Class A Bowling Green, where he was a teammate of the Beckhams.

Hinkle had a 2.81 ERA in 153 2/3 professional innings, going 2-6 with a 3.53 ERA last year at high-Class A Charlotte.

Left behind: extended spring, rehab list

Most of these guys get a few days off and then it's back to the same routine of the last month: morning workouts and afternoon games. The rehab guys are below and it's a safe bet that Desmond Jennings won't be taking a few days off while nursing his left wrist.

Wilmer Almonte
Kyle Ayers
Andrew Bellatti
Omar Bencomo
Matt Bush
Kevin Chavez
Joey Dettrich
Aaron Dott
Bradley Furdal
James Hill
Kevin James
Marcus Jensen
Jacob Partridge
Zachary Rosscup
Trevor Shull
Albert Suarez
Matthew Swilley
Devin Fuller
Miguel Sierra
Shawn Smith

Luke Bailey
Travis Simas
Alejandro Torres
David Wendt

Juan Cuello
Bennett Davis
Eugene Glynn
Felix Gonzalez
Jeff Malm
Luis Marchena
Elias Otero
Burt Reynolds
Cristian Vasquez

Brian Bryles
Gabe Cohen
Ruben Contreras
Alex Diaz
Todd Glaesmann
Brett Patton
Cody Rogers

RHP Alex Cobb (oblique)
LHP Jason Cromer (elbow)
RHP Woods Fines
IF J.J. Furminiak
CF Desmond Jennings (wrist)
RHP Will Kline (labrum)
LHP R.J. Swindle

Your 2010 Bowling Green Hot Rods

Former Auburn pitcher Scott Shuman was at Rookie-level Princeton last year. Jumping to Bowling Green isn't a surprise because he was overaged in the Appalachian League.

Alex Colome
Jairo De La Rosa
Shane Dyer
Alex Koronis
Kyle Lobstein
Deivis Mavarez
Jason McEachern
Wilking Rodriguez
Scott Shuman
Matt Stabelfield
Jake Sullivan
Kirby Yates

Mayobanex Acosta
Tomas Francisco
Mark Thomas

Tyler Bortnick
Julio Cedeno
Robi Estrada
Diogenes Luis
Eli Sonoqui
Kyle Spraker
Ryan Wiegand

Dustin Biell
Ty Morrison
Chris Murrill
Brett Nommensen

Your 2010 Durham Bulls

You may already know this one since the Bulls faced the Rays on Saturday.

Now that Hank Blalock has accepted a Durham assignment he's in there.
Winston Abreu
Brian Baker
Joe Bateman
Jeff Bennett
Joaquin Benoit
Richard De Los Santos
Jeremy Hellickson
Carlos Hernandez
Heath Phillips
Heath Rollins
R.J. Swindle
Dale Thayer

Craig Albernaz
Alvin Colina
John Jaso

Hank Blalock
Angel Chavez
Joe Dillon
Dan Johnson
Elliot Johnson
Chris Nowak
Chris Richard
Ryan Shealy

Rashad Eldridge
Fernando Perez
Justin Ruggiano

Your 2010 Charlotte Stone Crabs

Catcher Matt Spring is being bumped back to high-Class A after spending the last two years with the Biscuits. Third baseman Matt Sweeney is a surprise to stay at high-A. He played at the level all last year with the Anaheim Angels before being traded to the Rays. Tampa Bay feels confident enough with Tim Beckham's wrist that he is breaking camp, though he won't play Opening Day.

Chris Andujar
Nick Barnese
Joseph Cruz
Dane De La Rosa
Frank De Los Santos
Marquis Fleming
Michael Jarman
Matt Moore
Tommy Rafferty
Zach Quate
Josh Satow
Neil Schenk

Jake Jefferies
Matt Spring
Stephen Vogt

Tim Beckham
Matt Hall
Omar Luna
Michael Sheridan
Matt Sweeney
Shawn Williams
Henry Wrigley

Reid Fronk
Kyeong Kang
Anthony Scelfo
Isaias Velasquez (moved to OF this spring)

Your 2010 Montgomery Biscuits

Darin Downs
Justin Garcia
Matt Gorgen
Jeremy Hall
Jake McGee
Eduardo Morlan
David Newmann
Rayner Oliveros
Paul Phillips
Ryan Reid
Aneury Rodriguez
Alexander Torres

Nevin Ashley
Jose Lobaton
Ian Paxton

Drew Anderson
Cody Cipriano
Chris De La Cruz
Matt Fields
Shawn O'Malley
Greg Sexton

John Matulia
Ryan Royster
Emeel Salem
Cody Strait

Last day of spring; head north this afternoon

The players have intrasquad games starting in about an hour and won't be too picky over what pitches warrant a swing. These are mainly to keep the pitchers on a regular routine, while the players are all eager to leave.

Travel rosters will be out today and everyone not assigned to high-Class A Charlotte or extended spring will act like a certain cartoon character. Heck, some of those guys will probably do the same with a few off days upcoming.

The Biscuits are completely off Monday and will have their first workout at Riverwalk Stadium on Tuesday afternoon. There's Wednesday's Meet the Team event at Eastdale Mall before Thursday's season opener.

Feel free to peruse my story today on Darin Downs and the notebook.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Jai Miller DFA'd by Marlins

Jai Miller, a Selma native who also grew up in Montgomery, has been designated for assignment by the Florida Marlins. That removes him from the team's 40-man roster. The Marlins have 10 days to trade him, release him or run him through waivers.

Rays drop Bulls in Durham donnybrook

Kelly Shoppach hit a grand slam in a six-run second inning to lead Tampa Bay in a 9-6 win over the Durham Bulls today in Durham, N.C. Bulls starter Jeremy Hellickson worked just two innings, allowing six runs (three earned) on five hits and two walks. Brian Baker relieved Hellickson and allowed two runs on two hits in three innings.

Elliot Johnson clears; Beckham will miss opener

The Tampa Bay Rays are expected to announce Sunday that former Biscuits second baseman Elliot Johnson has cleared waivers, according to the St. Petersburg Times.

Also, Charlotte-bound shortstop Tim Beckham now won't be ready to go Opening Day, the Times reports. He had said he would be available.

Neal Frontz among at least three releases

Reliever Neal Frontz was one of at least three releases by the Rays today.

Frontz spent the last two seasons with Montgomery and was expected to return for a third. He had offseason elbow surgery after going 2-0 with one save and a 5.29 ERA in 43 appearances last year. Frontz had seven saves and a 2.82 ERA in 18 games in '08.

The other known releases were pitcher Joseph Callender and catcher Tyler Hauschild.

Game info

Info on whatever notable stuff seen in today's intrasquad game.

1st: Michael Sheridan with a bases-loaded single off Jeremy Hall in the upper game.

Lower game: Eli Sonoqui brings in a run against Kevin James.

Wilking Rodriguez and Chris Andujar are the other starting pitchers.

Upper: Jake Jefferies' infield single up the middle scores Drew Anderson from second. Andujar made a mental mistake, cut off the throw home and was wild on the relay, putting two runners into scoring position. Cody Cipriano follows with a two-run double.

Lower: Tomas Francisco RBI groundout. Third baseman Eugene Glynn with a strong play to end the inning. Backhanded at the bag.

Lower: W-Rod with a sweeping slider that almost hit Eli Otero's back foot as Otero swung and missed.

Upper: Reid Fronk with a long out off Andujuar. Matt Spring follows with a double down the third-base line.

Upper: Stephen Vogt with a grand slam.

11:30 CDT update, Upper: Spring with a two-out RBI double.

12:20: Greg Sexton with a long homer in the upper game. Michael Jarman hit Matt Fields with the next pitch. Jake Jefferies doubled in Fields. In the lower game, the low-A team beat the extended spring team 2-1.

12:30: The inning continues. Cody Strait with a two-run double, with Cody Cipriano motoring home from first. Strait steals third.

1:02: Triple-A (for the day) won the other game 14-5.

1:11: Fields, by the way, was hit on the ankle and wasn't allowed to take first. He followed with a double. "I'll take that any day of the week," he said.

Saturday intrasquad

Games starting at 11 Eastern and these are usually fast-paced affairs.

With today's exhibition in Durham, there are like a dozen extra minor-league players there, so don't take these lineups to heart.

Today's story on Jeremy Hellickson and a notebook that includes some goodness from Fernando Perez await for your reading pleasure.

Lineups ...
TRIPLE-A (for the day)
Anderson ss, Velasquez cf, Sexton 3b, Fields 1b, Jefferies dh, Cipriano 2b, Strait rf, Fronk lf, Spring c (Lobaton), Williams dh

Morrison dh, Scelfo lf, Kang rf, Wrigley 3b, Sheridan 1b, Bortnick 2b, Vogt c (Paxton), Biell cf, Estrada ss, Davis dh

Murrill cf, Luis 2b, Nommensen lf (Contreras), Sonoqui 1b, Bailey dh, Spraker 3b, Reynolds rf, Francisco c (Acosta), Cuello ss (Gonzalez), Bryles dh

Other Class A not available.

FYI, Matt Fields hit 12 home runs during batting practice. He's a likely Biscuit.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Tim Beckham has wrist injury, too

Shortstop Tim Beckham has a left wrist injury like Desmond Jennings and didn't play today. He's also staying in Florida ... to play for the Stone Crabs. He said he'll be ready for Opening Day.

Friday game stuff

Aneury Rodriguez is starting the Triple-A game with Darin Downs climbing the hill in Double-A.

Double-A, 2nd: Thanks to an outfield error, Downs faced a two-out situation with runners on second and third. A lineout to short ended the threat.

2:24 update: Technical issues had prevented updates. Apologies. Downs threw five shutout innings and Rodriguez allowed one run in five. Downs' wife and mom were here, too. Talked to them for a Sunday story and didn't focus on the games.

2:54: Rays win 5-3 in the Triple-A game. The Double-A game ended 0-0. I was up at the clubhouse talking to Downs and missed out.

Jennings steps up swinging program

Desmond Jennings said he wouldn't rush himself rehabbing his wrist injury, but he's still being aggressive. Jennings was excited after hitting soft toss today and was headed out to do some bunting off a pitching machine.

D.J. Jones retires, leaves minor-league camp

Outfielder D.J. Jones retired from the Tampa Bay organization Thursday. Jones, a Gulf Shores native, hit .221 in two seasons, both with short-season teams.

The 22-year-old was expected to play for low-Class A Bowling Green this year. He was an 11th-round draft pick in 2007. The Rays wooed him away from his Auburn commitment and signed him at the August deadline. He didn't debut until 2008.

The latest minor-league roster has three names missing from the previous version, which was dated March 27. It hasn't been updated with Jones yet.

Luis Bautista
David Genoa
Hunter Pace

Lineups adjust for Triple-A absences

With many of the Triple-A guys already gone for Saturday's exhibition against the Rays, the lineups have major adjustments for today's games against the Boston Red Sox. Upper-level games in Port Charlotte. Planned substitutions in parentheses and in the sixth inning, unless noted.

Anderson ss, Velasquez 2b, Sexton 3b, Lobaton c (Spring), Strait rf, Fields 1b, Cipriano 2b, Fronk lf, Corder dh, Paxton dh

Scelfo lf, Estrada ss, Sheridan 1b, Wrigley 3b, Jefferies c (Vogt), Williams 2b (Luis), Morrison dh, Kang rf, Davis dh, Biell cf

Murrill cf, Nommensen dh, Bortnick 2b (Cuello), Sonoqui 1b, Cedeno 3b, Acosta c (Francisco in 8th), Bailey dh, Reynolds rf, Gonzalez ss, Bryles lf (Contreras)

Vasquez ss, Glaesmann cf, Thomas c (Torres), Wiegand 1b (Malm), Cohen lf, Spraker 3b (Glynn), Otero 2b (Marchena), J. Beckham dh (Simas), Patton rf (Diaz), Wendt dh (Hauschild)

With majors out, minors continue on

The major-league Rays have gone north, leaving Port Charlotte to just the minor leaguers. Some of the minor-league players are gone, too, with Triple-A Durham hosting the Rays on Saturday for an exhibition game.

If you're curious, here's today's full story on Evan Longoria, plus the daily notebook.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Jaso: Broken finger was a lucky break

Catcher John Jaso is counting some blessings for the broken ring finger on his left hand. The break was on the tip of the finger and not in a joint.

It happened in an intrasquad game last week and he has two more weeks until it fully heals. While batting, he backed away from an inside pitch but didn't get his hands out of the way.

"I'm surprised it was just one of my fingers," said Jaso, who played in exhibition games Wednesday and Thursday. "I'm wearing padding to protect it, so it should be OK."

Elliot Johnson won't make Rays' roster

Elliot Johnson has been told he won't make Tampa Bay's 25-man Opening Day roster. For the Rays to send him to Triple-A Durham, he has to clear waivers. Any team could claim him, but he'd have to go on that team's active major-league roster, too.

It spares Johnson from another few days of wondering while the Rays play an exhibition game Friday at Tropicana Field and another Saturday in Durham.

"It's nice for them to go ahead and take care of this now," Johnson said.

He was 0-for-1 Thursday to drop his spring average to .267.

"I didn't play really all that great" this spring, Johnson said. "I know I can play better. It was a stressful spring."

Jennings to miss start of season

Center fielder Desmond Jennings, Tampa Bay's No. 1 prospect, will have the start of his season delayed because of his spring wrist injury.

Jennings hit off a tee Wednesday and is scheduled to hit off a tee again Friday, but he won't be ready when Triple-A Durham opens its season next week. His possible return is unknown, he said.

"It shouldn't be too long because I'm feeling good, but I'm not trying to rush it," Jennings said. "I'll be back and ready to go soon."

Belated arrival

And just in time to find out the games started at noon Eastern.

Triple-A ahead late. Double-A trails 4-3 in the 7th.

Triple-A final: Rays win 7-1. Fernando Perez 3-for-3 with a walk. David Newmann allowed one run over five innings.

Nick Barnese started the Double-A game.

Double-A final: Rays win 6-5. Barnese allowed two runs on five hits over four innings and Emeel Salem homered. Salem is a former U. Alabama star.

Longoria happy with video game

Running late to today's games in Sarasota, but I'll share this now.

Rays third baseman Evan Longoria, on the cover of the MLB 2K10 video game this year, admits he's not very accomplished at it.

Longoria is more into Rock Band and Guitar Hero. He professes expert status. What's his best song?

"I'm good at all of them," he said.

Kline pitching, but headed to extended spring

Pitcher Will Kline pitched two innings Wednesday in a minor-league spring game, his first on-the-mound game action since September 2007. But he's staying for Tampa Bay's extended spring training to build up his arm strength, he said.

The right-hander was a second-round draft pick in 2007 from Ole Miss, but he hasn't pitched the last two years after suffering a torn labrum.

"It's been a really rough road, to say the least," Kline said.

Kline said he recently learned he was headed to extended spring and "it was not unexpected," but he'd hoped to break camp with a full-season team. He made his pro debut in 2007 and was 0-4 in nine starts at low-Class A Columbus (Ga.).

He said there is no target date for when he might report to a team.

"It would be good to have an idea, something to work toward, but it could bring some bad luck, too," he said. "If I had mid-June in mind and I was struggling in late May, it would be disappointing."

Kline, 25, said he pitched on the side some last year, but "I struggled with being able to come back the next day and pick my arm up." His two innings Wednesday in a Class A game went well, he said.

"I've come a long ways," Kline said Thursday. "I'm a little sore; I can't deny that and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't. It's going to take time and extended is the first step."

Thursday's minor-league lineups

Minor-league lineups for today's games against the Orioles. Triple- and Double-A in Sarasota (along with me) and the Class A games in Port Charlotte. Planned substitutions in parentheses and in the sixth inning, unless noted.

Perez cf, Chavez 2b, Ruggiano rf, D. Johnson 3b, Shealy 1b, Richard dh, Colina dh, Jaso c, Nowak lf, De La Cruz ss

not available

Scelfo dh (2b), Velasquez cf, Kang lf (Luna), Wrigley 1b, Sweeney 3b (Williams), Jefferies c (Hauschild in 8th), Williams dh (T. Beckham ss), Fronk rf (dh), Corder dh (rf), Hall 2b (dh)

Nommensen rf, Biell cf (Jones), Bortnick ss (Estrada), Thomas c (Acosta), Wiegand 1b, Cedeno dh, Sonoqui dh, Otero 2b, Spraker 3b, Morrison lf

Elliot Johnson left in limbo

Former Biscuits second baseman Elliot Johnson could be in his last days with the Tampa Bay Rays. He's out of minor-league options, so he can't be sent to Durham without passing through waivers, and could end up completely out of Tampa Bay's organization.

"It's a little frustrating because you'd like to know so you can make plans accordingly," Johnson said. "They're going to do what they want to do. At the same time, I'm grateful for the opportunities they've given me."

Johnson admits he was pressing early in spring training and has a .271 average in 26 games entering today. He said the Rays told him to relax, but that took some time. It happened just in the last week.

"I haven't played great yet, but I'm playing better," Johnson said. "I haven't played up to my capabilities. But they see what I can do, they know what I can do and they know what I can't do."

Niemann admits he felt like he was cheating

Rays pitcher Jeff Niemann admits some offseason desperation led him to take a shortcut measure and find some success.

"It felt like cheating ...," Niemann said.

Before your thoughts venture of baseball training impropriety, Niemann was talking about his offseason hunting prowess.

Niemann took up bow hunting this year -- Wade Davis did the same last year -- and found himself 0-fer when the final day of hunting season dawned. So, he pulled out his gun, went to the woods and bagged a *hefty* spike.

"I shot a deer the last day so I could say I got one," Niemann said. "It felt like cheating with a gun instead of a bow."

With that, here's today's full story on Niemann, plus the notebook.