The Durham Bulls have lost three of their five Opening Day pitchers to the major leagues already, with J.P. Howell, Jason Hammel and Andy Sonnanstine joining the parent Devil Rays.
Two other Bulls made their case that they are ready in last night’s 7-4 victory against visiting Rochester. Starter Mitch Talbot went seven efficient innings and continues to improve the command of his fastball, which usually sits 89-91 mph but regularly touches 93. His slider/cutter has become a solid third offering, but when Talbot has needed to make a pitch in his last two starts, he has trusted his changeup. He retired the side in order four times in seven innings Monday night, but the Red Wings put up a pair of crooked numbers when Talbot missed up in the zone with his fastball.
Talbot may still need a bit more refinement but isn’t far away. Reliever Chad Orvella, who picked up his ninth save, continues to show that he’s ready for another shot at Tampa. Big league hitters have hammered Orvella the last two seasons for 54 hits in 32 innings, leading to an unsightly 9.19 ERA in that span. However, Tampa Bay starter James Shields recalled that Orvella used to crouch when in the stretch when he first blazed through the farm system, back in 2005, and reminded Orvella of that in his last big league stint. Orvella has returned to his crouching position and has dominated Triple-A in his return, giving up just nine hits and striking out 30 in 24 innings while posting a 1.88 ERA. He’s spotting a fastball that he can sink in the 89-90 mph range or hump up and throw past hitters at 95 while also using a solid slider.
While Red Wings righthander Matt Garza was regularly pumping 96 mph fastballs to go with a good, hard slider and show-me curveball, the Bulls made solid contact against him, with 10 hits (five for extra bases) and four runs in five innings. To his credit, Garza made some big pitches when he had to–the Bulls were just 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position until Justin Ruggiano’s 11th home run, a three-run shot, in the bottom of the fifth. Garza struck out Joel Guzman on a 98 mph fasball on his last pitch, successfully channeling his frustration to retire the Bulls’ hottest hitter in Guzman.
Garza had the best stuff of the night by a longshot, yet he also was hit harder than any pitcher, never retiring the side in order. Other than the trio of Wes Bankston, Guzman and Chris Richard (a combined 0-for-6 off him with four strikeouts), Garza wasn’t able to get outs with his fastball in fastball counts. That’s not because of lack of velocity, but more because he lacked control of the pitch, not to mention command. On a night when he didn’t walk a batter, control was still his problem; even Triple-A veterans like Jorge Velandia (a double and a triple) were able to hurt Garza when they knew his fastball was coming, whether it was 96 mph or not.
If Garza had true command–the ability to throw his pitch anywhere he wanted to–of the fastball, he’d be unhittable. Once he has better control–the ability to throw consistent strikes–he’ll be ready for a return trip to the majors.
Comments will be monitored prior to being added to the site. Comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be rejected. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed.
We have chosen to open up commenting to everyone, so comment away! We want to hear from each and every one of you! Leave a comment.
About This Blog
Syndicate This Blog
Search This Blog