The last minor league game of the season takes place Tuesday in Oklahoma City, as the champions of the International and Pacific Coast leagues meet in the Triple-A National Championship.
Durham (83-61 regular season), champion of the IL, sends righthander Jeremy Hellickson to the mound against Memphis (77-67), the PCL champion. While one source has lefthander Jaime Garcia slated to start for the Redbirds, the Bulls’ game notes and the Memphis Commercial-Appeal have righthander P.J. Walters scheduled. Durham advanced by winning a five-game first-round series with Louisville before sweeping Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to win the Governor’s Cup, while Memphis swept Albuquerque and then Sacramento to claim the PCL title.
While Garcia and Walters are solid options, Hellickson gives the Bulls a distinct advantage, as the 22-year-old Iowan has been one of Triple-A’s best pitchers in the second half of the season. He has 18 strikeouts in 12 1/3 playoff innings, after going 6-1, 2.51 in nine starts for the Bulls. That stretch included 70 strikeouts and just 15 walks in 57 1/3 innings pitched.
Garcia was outstanding for the Redbirds in the PCL playoffs, however, tossing 12 scoreless innings and fanning 13 to beat Albuquerque and then Sacramento in the opener of those two series. He’s coming off Tommy John surgery and appears to be hitting his stride. The 23-year-old lefty went 2-0, 3.86 in four starts with Memphis in the regular season. Should Walters be the choice, he made one playoff start and didn’t get past the fifth inning after going 8-10, 4.76 for the Redbirds this season, tying for the team lead in wins. Memphis’ bullpen also contributed heavily as the team gave up just six earned runs in six PCL playoff games.
The game, which will air on ESPN2, is scheduled to begin at 7:05 ET.