In Our Back Yard

A few guys from our office made it out to Durham’s first series, as the Bulls took on the Syracuse Chiefs. The Chiefs brought power in the forms of outfielders Adam Lind and John-Ford Griffin, while Durham’s offense had just a few big innings–where are you Captain Cantu? But Andy Sonnanstine and Jeff Niemann were impressive on the mound for the Bulls.

Lind went 6-for-18 in the series with a double and two no-doubters over the center field wall.

He’s going to continue to feast on Triple-A pitching, but Syracuse manager Doug Davis said the two main things he’s working on with his players are defense and making regular contact. Solid in left field, Lind, 23, struck out seven times and didn’t walk once during the series. He clearly has some merit badges to earn before he gets another ticket to the bigs.

A bit of a lost prospect, Griffin, 27, battled a torn labrum and a fractured forearm last year. He offers a similar package to Lind–powerful hitter who will strike out a lot and is best suited as a designated hitter–so it’s hard to imagine the Florida native finding regular playing time for the Blue Jays.
There’s no doubt that Jeff Niemann stands much higher up the Devil Rays’ depth chart–all 6-foot-9 inches of him–than righty Andy Sonnanstine. But you may not have known it after watching them both pitch this weekend.

Sonnanstine exhibited masterful command on Sunday, striking out eight and walking just one. While he doesn’t have the stuff or approach to continue to get that many K’s, the 6-foot-3, 185-pounder pounds the zone with a low-90s fastball, impressive changeup and solid breaking ball. He may be the most polished pitching prospect in an organization that could have a rotation spot open up before the All-Star Break.

Niemann worked mainly in the low-90s during his five-inning, seven-strikeout performance. He did give up a RBI double to Lind and a home run to Griffin, but the friendly giant appears healthy and ready to join Phil Hughes and Homer Bailey in the best trio of power arms the International League has seen in a while.