Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Glimpse at the Future: Durham Bulls win Triple-A Championship

Can you identify these guys? (Wendy Eagan/

I got the rare opportunity last night to watch the Durham Bulls plays some baseball.  The Bulls beat the Memphis Red Birds 5-4 in the Triple-A National Championship game. The game was televised on ESPN 2. As someone who mostly focuses on the Rays, it was a good  chance to get a glimpse at the Rays' future. All I can say is that I'm excited about that glimpse!

Minor league pitcher of the year Jeremy Hellickson took the mound to start the game for the Bulls. The 22-year-old looked impressive only allowing 2 hits in 5 innings. He has good control and command. I could easily see this guy throwing for the Rays real soon. I was impressed with his mound presence and the way he was able to get outs in a workman like way. He was voted the game's MVP for shutting down a hot Memphis Redbirds lineup. I"m not sure why Bulls manager Charlie Montoya took him out, but either way I enjoyed watching him.

I also came away real impressed with outfielder Desmond Jennings. This guy would look real good in Rays gear, tearing up the base paths and patrolling the outfield.  Jennings got the first RBI of the game. He knocked Raimer Olmeda in on a double. What I really like was how he hustled to stretch what should've been a single into a double. Later in the game he won a foot race with the Memphis pitcher to the first base bag, allowing another run to score. I will tell you now that Jennings give the Rays options in the outfield in the upcoming months.

And then there's Sean Rodriguez or S-Rod as he's known in some circles. As many of you know, I'm not the biggest fan of the Scott Kazmir trade. But, S-Rod could make me forget real easily.  He led of the 4th with a solo homer, showing off his nice swing and his ability to come up big.  He played 2nd last night, but I'm not sure what position the Rays are projecting him for in the majors. ESPN 2 interviewed S-Rod after the game and he's a real well-spoken guy. Maybe he can help lessen the pain from the Kazmir trade.

All in all, it was an interesting experience watching the Bulls play on TV last night. Besides Hellickson, Jennings, and A-Rod, I also got to see our old buddies Joe Dillionaire and The Greatness that is Michel Hernandez. In fact, Hernandez lead of the bottom of the 11th with a double that turned out to be the winning run.  I also got to see Matt Joyce and Justin Ruggiano in the outfield. I'd really like to see Joyce step it up in the off-season to earn a roster spot next year.

As the big team winds down it's season, it's good to know that there are some bright spots in the Rays future. I look forward to seeing many of these guys next spring as they battle it out for a roster spot in the show.

(Wendy Eagan/

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