Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Bulls boast of 2 going in IL Hall of Fame

The Durham Bulls have their first International League Hall of Famers. Bill Evers, their manager from 1998-2004, and Dave Eiland, a former pitcher for parts of three seasons with Durham, are in this year's class. Eiland won 82 IL games with three clubs and is now Kansas City's pitching coach. Evers is now a minor league field coordinator for the Rays.

Durham's MVP sent off to Indians

Russ Canzler, the International League MVP last year who was designated for assignment last week by the Rays, has been shipped to Cleveland in exchange for cash. He moved off Tampa Bay's roster when the Rays signed infielder Jeff Keppinger.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

BA list has 5 to Biscuits, 7 to Crabs, 8 to Hot Rods

In another sign that spring grows near, I pulled the Baseball America Prospect Handbook out of my mailbox today. Of their top 31 Rays prospects, BA projects five with Montgomery come April's Opening Day. Here's their Rays people and projected Opening Day destinations ...

Tampa Bay
1. LHP Matt Moore
11. OF Brandon Guyer (if there's an opening)

3. RHP Chris Archer
6. LHP Alex Torres
7. SS Tim Beckham
22. C/OF/1B Stephen Vogt

2. SS Hak-Ju Lee
5. RHP Alex Colome
19: RHP Matt Bush (it says "could" be in MGM. I'd think he'll be at Durham)
29. 2B Tyler Bortnick
30. RHP Jake Thompson

8. LHP Enny Romero
10. OF Mikie Mahtook
13. SS Derek Dietrich
15. C Luke Bailey
17. RHP Albert Suarez (BA not specific)
21. LHP Braulio Lara
23. RHP Wilking Rodriguez

Bowling Green
9. OF Drew Vettleson
12. SS Jake Hager
14. 2B Ryan Brett
16. RHP Parker Markel
24. RHP Lenny Linsky
26. OF Kes Carter ("could" be in BWG)
28. LHP Felipe Rivero* (depends on spring performance)
31. 1B Jeff Malm

Hudson Valley
27. C Justin O'Conner (BA not specific)
28. Rivero*

4. RHP Taylor Guerrieri
18. 3B Tyler Goeddel
20. LHP Blake Snell
25. SS Brandon Martin

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Big leaguer-turned-BayBear suspended by minors

Daryle Ward, the 36-year-old major league veteran who finished last year with the Mobile BayBears, has drawn a drug-related suspension.

Ward will sit for 50 games, if he signs with a major league team, after testing positive for amphetamines.

I remember talking to him at Riverwalk and being impressed how friendly he was. With his big league credentials, he easily could have been dismissive, but he was quite cordial.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Valentine likes Rays' way, Matt Moore

Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said developing talent through a team's minor league system is "paramount" to major league success, which is the way Tampa Bay has done it. Of course, Boston's financial means dwarf the Rays, though the Sox have also been successful at player development.

"There's no way of ever competing on a consistent basis without having guys come through your own system, guys that start off at the major league level making the minimum salary rather than guys who have already played in the major leagues and acquiring them from free agency or trades, where eventually the cost becomes prohibitive," Valentine said. "There's also a lot of pride that people deal with of being part of an organization, coming up through an organization like they do."

Valentine and the Red Sox are division rivals of the Rays, whose latest minor league gem is Matt Moore. Moore started last season with the Biscuits, ended it in the AL playoffs and is expected to start this year in Tampa Bay's rotation.

"I'm not looking forward to facing him, but I'm sure we'll get him," Valentine said. "We play each other 18 times during the season, and unless we're real lucky, we're going to get him a few times. He's good."

Boston's Valentine on Spring, city, Biscuits

Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine, in town to speak at an Alabama Baseball Coaches Association fundraiser, shared a tidbit about a former Biscuit.

Catcher Matt Spring will go to big league camp with Boston this year.

Also, Valentine said he was impressed with the city and Riverwalk Stadium.

"To see the Biscuits' beautiful Double-A field and the passion people have about baseball here -- and football -- is very exciting," Valentine said.

I asked him about the Rays, so check back later. It's on a tape and I have to transcribe it, after the dinner.

Pena, Rays officially announce first baseman's return

The Rays and Carlos Pena have formally announced a one-year, $7.25 million contract, which firmly patches the team's first base needs for this season. Pena was with Tampa Bay from 2007-10 and is the team's all-time home run leader with 144.

Mudcats' Kinas to man mike at Durham

Patrick Kinas, the longtime voice of the Carolina Mudcats, is moving to the other side of the North Carolina triangle market. He's been hired by the Durham Bulls.

Kinas has been with the Mudcats for 12 seasons and is also the play-by-play voice for the N.C. State women's basketball team. In October 2001, he also set a world record with 34 hours and 23 minutes of consecutive bowling.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Hudson part of city-bound Braves group

Tim Hudson, the former Auburn All-American, will be part of the five-person contingent coming to Montgomery as part of the annual "Braves Country" Caravan.

The event is Jan. 29 and will be from noon-1:30 p.m. at the Academy Sports in Eastchase. The Braves have stops at Fort Benning, Ga., and Auburn that day, too. Hudson grew up in Phenix City and still has a ranch near Auburn. (The Auburn appearance runs 3-4:30 p.m.)

Catcher David Ross, first baseman Eric Hinske, shortstop Tyler Pastornicky and new advance scout/assistant hitting coach Scott Fletcher will also be there. Pastornicky started last year in Double-A (and faced the Biscuits) and finished in the majors.

If you're busy Jan. 29, there's always Feb. 2 at an Academy Sports near Birmingham. Pitchers Jair Jurrjens and Randall Delgado, general manager Frank Wren and bench coach Carlos Tosca will be there from 4-5:30 p.m.

Feliciano returns to Tampa Bay fold

Former Biscuits outfielder Jesus Feliciano is back with the Rays. He's one of four players who have signed minor league contracts with Tampa Bay and will go to major league spring training.

Feliciano has been with the Mets and reached the majors in 2010.

The other signees are infielder Will Rhymes and right-handed pitchers Romulo Sanchez and Matt Torra.
Rhymes was Detroit's Opening Day second baseman last season. Sanchez had a 4.96 ERA in the Japan Pacific League in 2011. Torra ended last year with Triple-A Durham, where he was 5-1 with a 3.67 ERA.

Memphis, Buffalo outsize new Biscuits scoreboard

Here are some other tidbits on the new Riverwalk scoreboard-to-be, after you read the story in today's paper, of course ...

a The new video board, at 1,080 square feet, may be the biggest in the Southern League, but it's far from the biggest in the minors. The Buffalo Bisons currently hold that designation with one that went in last year and goes 2,640 square feet. The Memphis Redbirds are taking this arms race up a notch this year at 3,600.

a The video board will have a line score, speed pitch and time of day functions that, of course, can be removed for some between-innings entertainment.

a Where the team had two cameras (and often one last year), it will now have four with one unmanned camera in center field and one wireless camera. The wireless means they'll be better able to feature fans in the stands.

a The new one will be able to easily provide updated statistics, another issue that troubled the old one.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Jameis Winston has former FSU star as advisor

Jameis Winston, in Montgomery today for the annual Mr. Football banquet, said he still hopes to play both football and baseball at Florida State -- though a hefty pro baseball offer could change that.

"If it's an amount that I think will set me up and make me happy, I'll take it," Winston said.

Winston is using Kenny Felder as his baseball draft advisor. Felder also advised former Biscuit and No. 1 overall pick Tim Beckham in 2008. Ironically, Felder is also a former two-sport player at Florida State. He was a quarterback and outfielder -- Winston's exact positions.

Here's a look at the new scoreboard

Here's a team-provided rendering of the new scoreboard and ribbon board (including an existing wall ad, right, and one to be added) ...

City back as scoreboard owner; team gives $500K

The city has retaken ownership rights to the Riverwalk Stadium scoreboard and the Biscuits are the ones "helping" buy the new one that is scheduled to be installed next month.

The entire scoreboard, ribbon board, closed-circuit TV system will cost a little more than $1 million. The Biscuits wired the city $500,000 in December, owner Sherrie Myers said, to cover half the expense.

The city will be the sole owner, though the current rent rates will remain.

City helps Biscuits with new scoreboard

The city, which gave up ownership right to the scoreboard in January 2009, has "helped" the team buy a new one, Mayor Todd Strange said.

No word yet if they renegotiated the renegotiated lease to give the city back some of the rent concessions made three years ago.

New scoreboard comes with ribbon board, closed-circuit TV

The new scoreboard to be installed at Riverwalk will have a video board covering the entire dimensions of the old scoreboard.

It measures 30 feet high and 36 across. The old/current video board is 12-by-21.6 feet.

The stadium will also have a ribbon board in the left-field wall that measures 8 feet high and 100 across.

Four cameras will also be installed and the stadium will feature a closed-circuit television system. The closed-circuit telecast will be available in all suites, the retail store and the stadium's Club Car Bar.

Ashley clears waivers, sent to minors

Former Biscuits catcher Nevin Ashley sailed through waivers unscathed and the Rays outrighted him to the minors.

Alabama State to be part of MLB event

Alabama State will play in a Major League Baseball-sponsored event in Houston, with one of the Hornets' three games in a major league stadium. The 2012 Urban Invitational runs Feb. 17-19.

ASU, after playing Cal Irvine on Feb. 17, takes on Grambling State at 11 a.m. Feb. 18 in the Houston Astros' Minute Maid Park. The Hornets finish against Southern University on Feb. 19.

The Hornets were to open the season with a three-game home series against Grambling on Feb. 18-19.

Feb. 17: vs. Cal Irvine, 2:30 p.m. at Astros' MLB Urban Youth Academy
Feb. 18: vs. Grambling State, 11 a.m. at Minute Maid Park
Feb. 19: vs. Southern U., 2:30 p.m. at Astros' MLB Urban Youth Academy

Bass signs with Korean team

Montgomery native Brian Bass, who spent last year at Triple-A Lehigh Valley in the Philadelphia organization, is headed to South Korea. The right-handed pitcher has signed with the Hanwha Eagles, according to reports.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Braves (again) staking claim to area

The Atlanta Braves, since the Montgomery area is in "Braves country," are again going to make the city part of their annual preseason caravan. (There are Biscuits fans who take umbrage to the Braves' position in favor of Tampa Bay.)

The specific participants will be announced later, but the Braves will appear at Academy Sports in Eastchase from noon-1:30 p.m. Jan. 29. They'll also be at the Academy Sports in Auburn from 3-4:30 p.m. that day.

Price, Upton among 4 to reach deals; Niemann still TBA

The Rays and four arbitration-eligible players will avoid a hearing after agreeing to one-year contracts. Outfielder B.J. Upton will earn $7 million, pitcher David Price $4.35 million and pitchers J.P. Howell and Burke Badenhop $1.35 million each.

Pitcher Jeff Niemann was the only arbitration-eligible Tampa Bay player who has not had a deal announced. The sides are due to exchange figures today. Most teams continue negotiations until the hearing, but the Rays cut off talks after swapping numbers.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Ashley off Tampa Bay's 40-man

Former Biscuits catcher Nevin Ashley has been designated for assignment by the Rays. That means he's off Tampa Bay's 40-man major league roster.

The Rays had five catchers on their 40-man at the end of last season, which is too many. They have to run Ashley through waivers, where any team could claim him and add him to their 40-man. If nobody does, the Rays can trade him, outright him to the minors or release him.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Biscuits put scoreboard on public agenda

The public is invited next week when the Biscuits make what they call "a big announcement. Presumably, they'll trumpet the new scoreboard scheduled to debut this year. It's scheduled for 5 p.m. Wednesday at Riverwalk Stadium and will include complimentary drinks and popcorn. (Enter through the right-field gate.)

Rays add Luke Scott to 1B mix

Luke Scott and the Rays have formally announced a one-year contract with a club option for 2013. Scott, who will mostly be a first baseman and DH for Tampa Bay, was with Baltimore from 2008-11 and played in Houston from 2005-07.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Seddon finds new Tribe

Former Biscuits pitcher Chris Seddon, who has been with Seattle the last three years, has signed a minor league contract with the Cleveland Indians that includes an invitation to major league spring training.

Larkin in Hall of Fame; 2 Rebels fall short

Former Cincinnati Reds shortstop Barry Larkin was the only player elected to the Hall of Fame this year. Former Montgomery Rebels pitcher Jack Morris and shortstop Alan Trammell fell short, again.

Larkin drew 86 percent of the vote by the Baseball Writers Association of America -- and you need 75 percent to be inducted. Morris was second at 67 percent in his 13th time (of a possible 15) on the ballot. Trammell drew 37 percent and has a possible four years remaining on the ballot.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Rays list winter development roster

Right-handed pitcher Alex Colome is the only Biscuit among the 28 players headed to Tampa Bay's winter development program. The three-day clinic starts Monday and includes workouts, media training and community appearances.

Right-handed pitchers (10) -- Jeff Ames, Alex Colome, Jake Floethe, Taylor Guerrieri, Jesse Hahn, Lenny Linsky, Parker Markel, Wilking Rodriguez, Albert Suarez, Jake Thompson
Left-handed pitchers (2) -- Enny Romero, Blake Snell
Catchers (2) -- Luke Bailey, Justin O'Conner
Second basemen (1) -- Ryan Brett
Shortstops (4) -- Derek Dietrich, Johnny Eierman, Jake Hager, Brandon Martin
Third basemen (1) -- Tyler Goeddel
Outfielders (8) -- Kes Carter, Granden Goetzman, James Harris, Mikie Mahtook, Ty Morrison, Cody Rogers, Josh Sale, Drew Vettleson

Colome is a repeat from last year, along with Bailey, O'Conner, Dietrich, Morrison, Rogers, Sale, Vettleson, Thompson and Wilking Rodriguez.

Heck, Colome and Bailey are going to be three-timers. They were part of the inaugural program in 2010.

Lichtenstein to be Biscuits' pitching coach

R.C. Lichtenstein will be the Biscuits' pitching coach this year, marking the only change on the team's coaching staff.

Lichtenstein spent the last three years at low-Class A Bowling Green and has been in the Tampa Bay system the last seven seasons. He was at high-A Vero Beach from 2007-08 and low-A Southwest Michigan in 2005-06.

Bill Moloney, who was Montgomery's pitching coach the last two years, moves to Bowling Green.

Billy Gardner will be back for his sixth season as manager and Ozzie Timmons his fourth as hitting coach. Kris Russell, who was at high-Class A Charlotte last year, will be the trainer.

Durham: manager Charlie Montoyo, pitching coach Neil Allen, hitting coach Dave Myers, trainer Mike Sandoval.
Charlotte: manager Jim Morrison, pitching coach Steve Watson, hitting coach Scott Thurston, trainer Scott Thurston.
Bowling Green: manager Brady Williams, pitching coach Bill Moloney, hitting coach Manny Castillo, trainer Jeremy Spencer.
Hudson Valley: manager Jared Sandberg, pitching coach Kyle Snyder, hitting coach Dan DeMent, trainer Brian Newman.
Princeton: manager Michael Johns, pitching coach Darwin Peguero, hitting coach Reinaldo Ruiz, trainer Nick Flynn.
GCL Rays: manager Paul Hoover, pitching coach Marty DeMerritt, hitting coaches Wuammer Rincones and Hector Torres, trainer Chris Tomashoff.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Fernando Rodney signs with Rays

Relief pitcher Fernando Rodney, who had a 4.50 ERA in 39 games for the Los Angeles Angels last year, has signed a one-year contract with the Rays. Rodney, 34, held hitters to a .224 average but was also limited by injuries. He spent much of June and July on the DL with an upper back strain and appeared in just two of the Angels' final 29 games. The right-hander has spent nine years in the majors.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Jai Miller traded to Baltimore

Selma native Jai Miller is headed to the Baltimore Orioles. The outfielder was traded Tuesday from the Oakland A's in exchange for cash considerations. Miller was designated for assignment by Oakland last month and will go on Baltimore's 40-man roster.

Almost forgot my annual New Year's tradition

Feliz Ano Neuvo, everyone, albeit a late one. I almost forgot my annual self-pat-on-the-back story and blog count.

Using our computerized library at the office, my name appeared in 637 documents from Jan. 1, 2011-Jan. 1, 2012. That would not include this blog, which featured 1,173 posts since last year's self-pat. There were also 101 Alabama blog posts for the three months of the year that I was doing that.

1,173 Biscuits blog posts (799 in 2010, 744 in 2009, 561 in 2008)
637 stories/briefs/times my name appeared in print and/or at montgomeryadvertiser.com (513 in 2010, 518 in 2009, 464 in 2008)
101 Alabama blog posts, January-March (339 from August-December 2010)