Baz sharp in first rehab start

May 20th, 2022

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Baz sharp in first rehab start (May 20)
remains on track to return to the Rays in early June after beginning a rehab assignment at Triple-A Durham, where he logged 2 1/3 innings and struck out five of the eight batters he faced in the Bulls’ 6-3 loss to Jacksonville on Thursday. Baz, the club’s No. 1 prospect and the No. 11 overall prospect in baseball per MLB Pipeline, has been sidelined since undergoing arthroscopic surgery to remove bodies from his right elbow on March 21.

“Thrilled,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “He was 96 [mph], 99, got a bunch of punchouts. He threw strikes. His off-speed pitches looked well. I was more excited that he felt good [Friday].”

Baz is next slated to throw a bullpen session Sunday, Cash said, after which he will continue his Spring Training-style rampup in what will likely be several additional rehab starts. Baz is eligible to come off the 60-day injured list on June 6.

On Thursday, the 22-year-old threw 19 of 24 pitches for strikes, did not walk a batter and allowed one hit, a solo homer to Lewin Diaz. But the results were secondary to how Baz’s arm responded, the stuff he showed and how it compared to his electrifying debut down the stretch in 2021. The right-hander’s return could function like a high-end midseason pickup if he can get back to the Majors before the All-Star break, like the Rays hope. -- Joe Trezza

Lowe homers in second straight; Jones goes yard (May 10)
Back from a month-long stint in the Majors, Josh Lowe appears to be getting back on track. Baeball's No. 48 overall prospect homered for a second straight day and singled in Triple-A Durham's 8-4 loss to Gwinnett.

Lowe has gone deep three times and driven in eight runs in 25 at-bats since returning to the Bulls.

In Double-A, Greg Jones also cleared the fences as he continues to battle back after an uneven April. MLB's No. 88 overall prospect slugged a two-run homer, his third, in Montgomery's 8-4 loss to Tennessee. Jones has hit safely in 13 of his last 15 games and is slashing .224/.321/.408 with 12 extra-base hits and 12 RBIs. The 24-year-old has been successful on 15-of-17 stolen base attempts. -- Michael Avallone

No. 27 prospect hits two HRs for Durham (May 6)
After playing five games with the Major League club and going 3-for-15, René Pinto returned to Triple-A Durham in emphatic fashion with a two-homer game in the Bulls’ 5-4 loss to Buffalo.

The No. 27 prospect hadn’t hit a home run all year before his two long balls. He smacked a solo shot to left field off Bisons righty Shaun Anderson before launching a game-tying, two run dinger in the bottom of the ninth. It’s his first multihomer game since Aug. 27, 2016, and the 25-year-old is coming off a breakout year in terms of power – he hit 20 homers in 2021 after never hitting more than eight in a season. The catcher is batting .289/.396/.489 with five RBIs and eight walks in 13 Triple-A games.
-- Stephanie Sheehan

Boldt surprised by first three-homer game (April 28)
Ryan Boldt hadn't hit a home run since Sept. 12, 2021.

Donning a slick throwback jersey for Triple-A Durham, the left fielder hit the trifecta in a 4-for-4, five-RBI performance en route to the Bulls' 8-2 win over Memphis at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.

Boldt showed off his skills by smacking each homer to a different field -- right, left and center.

“It’s something I’ve never done in my life, so it’s pretty cool,” he said. “After I hit that third one, I was standing in the outfield and kind of smiling at myself and thinking like, ‘That’s unbelievable.’ I’ve never had anything like that in my life, and I’ve played baseball for a long time.” Full story »

Bruján smacks two-run 2B in three-hit day (April 28)
After an 0-for-3 outing for the Major League club on April 24, No. 4 prospect Vidal Bruján is back and swinging with Triple-A Durham. The 24-year-old recorded three hits for the second day in a row, smacking a two-run double and two singles in the Bulls’ 8-2 win. The switch-hitting utility man raised his average to .407 and his OPS to 1.056 through his first seven games. -- Stephanie Sheehan

Pinto homers in MLB debut (April 26)
René Pinto did what every youth encapsulated with playing baseball dreams of doing -- hit a home run in his Major League debut.

The 25-year-old Venezuelan saw game action for the first time in the bottom half of the fifth inning when Rays veteran backstop Mike Zunino was removed with left biceps soreness, and Pinto made the most of his opportunity.

In the home half of the seventh, Pinto, in his second MLB at-bat, crushed a two-run homer to right field for his first big league hit.

“First off, glory to God,” Pinto said. “It was so cool. It feels almost like I was flying. It was such a great feeling.”

While members of Pinto’s family were not in attendance, he said there’s a good chance they were watching back home on television and should expect a gift in the mail soon.

“I’m going to save [the home run ball] and send it to my parents,” he said.

“It’s incredible,” said Tampa Bay second baseman Brandon Lowe. “Especially for him to be able to come in and not only debut and make this day special, but come in, get your first hit, get your first homer, get your first RBI. It was really, really fun to watch, honestly.

“To kind of watch the first at-bat go by and him kind of just calculate things. … He made those adjustments and understood what he needed to do. The second at-bat he had, he looked like he’d been a pro for 10 years.”

Pinto was singed by the Rays as a free agent on Oct. 1, 2013. Last year between Double-A Montgomery and Triple-A Durham, he hit .274 with 20 home runs and 60 RBIs in 93 games. -- CJ Haddad

Zombro receives well-deserved ovation in return (April 24)
As Tyler Zombro scaled the mound at Harbor Park in Norfolk, Va., players and coaches from the Durham Bulls and Norfolk Tides poured out of both dugouts and made their way onto the field. They stood and cheered, all for the same reason -- celebrating the mere fact that Zombro was about to pitch.

Last June 3, Zombro was pitching for Triple-A Durham against the same Norfolk team when he was struck on the right side of his head, just above his ear, by a 104 mph line drive. He underwent emergency brain surgery that night at Duke University Hospital, a 2 1/2-hour procedure that left him with 16 plates and 36 screws stabilizing his skull.

Now, Zombro is back, his full-circle comeback complete. The 27-year-old right-hander worked around a leadoff double in a scoreless second inning for the Bulls, his first regular-season appearance since the terrifying incident that unfolded last summer. Full story »

Bradley keeps dominating with scoreless outing (April 21)
Taj Bradley has been firing on all cylinders to start the season, and his performance in Double-A Montgomery’s 7-0 loss to Pensacola was no exception. The No. 3 prospect struck out five across five scoreless innings, allowing just two hits and no walks while lowering his ERA to 1.29.

The 21-year-old hurler retired the first six batters he faced before surrendering a leadoff single to Luis Aviles Jr. to start the third. He advanced to second on a balk, but Bradley wasn’t fazed. He got a foul pop-out before picking off Aviles. trying to steal third and inducing a groundout to keep the Blue Wahoos off the board. He struck out back-to-back batters in the fourth and worked around a one-out single in the fifth, capping off his outing with a whiff of Aviles.

Bradley tossed 42 of his 58 pitches for strikes and all of his K's came on swings-and-misses as he continues to dominate in the young season. The righty has yet to walk a batter in 2022 and has racked up 18 strikeouts in 14 innings while holding opposing batters to a .200 average.
-- Stephanie Sheehan

Zombro set to join Triple-A Durham (April 19)
Right-hander Tyler Zombro will be reinstated from the Minor League injured list and join the Triple-A Durham club on Wednesday. Zombro has been healthy all spring, but he needed some additional time to rebuild his arm strength after receiving clearance to resume throwing late in the offseason.

When Zombro makes his season debut, it will be his first official regular-season outing since June 3, 2021, when he was struck in the head by a 104 mph line drive while pitching for Durham.

Zombro underwent emergency brain surgery at Duke University Hospital that night, with 16 plates and 36 screws put in place to stabilize his skull. He was fully cleared to participate in Minor League Spring Training camp, now pitching with a protective Kevlar insert inside his cap, and appeared in a Grapefruit League game for the Rays on March 26. -- Adam Berry

Bradley dominates in Montgomery (April 14)
After a season debut in which he allowed a run on four hits across four innings of work, No. 3 prospect Taj Bradley put together another strong performance against Tennessee, again allowing a run on four hits while racking up eight strikeouts.

It's been an encouraging start for the 21-year-old, who made the jump to Double-A after being near-unhittable in 2021, holding opponents to a .181 batting average, all the while posting a 1.83 ERA and striking out 123 batters in 103 1/3 innings.

Mead making mark with Montgomery (April 13)
After a standout showing in the Arizona Fall League last year, infielder Curtis Mead has carried that moment into his first taste of Double-A action with Montgomery. Mead ripped his first homer of the year against Tennessee, an opposite-field shot in the fifth.

Ranked as Tampa Bay’s No. 6 prospect, Mead also added an RBI double during the Biscuits’ win. Through five contests, the native of Australia has slashed .278/.409/.556 with just one strikeout in 22 plate appearances.

True to the Rays’ mantra, Mead has focused on his defensive flexibility early in the year. The 21-year-old has already made starts at first, second and third base, as well as in the designated hitter slot. -- Jesse Borek

Dream set to come true for right-hander Romero (April 11)
Tommy Romero
will not make his next scheduled start for Triple-A Durham. That's because Bulls manager Brady Williams announced to the club after the last game that the 24-year-old was headed to The Show, making a start for the Rays against the A's on Tuesday night at Tropicana Field.

“It's a dream come true,” Romero said in front of a locker with his No. 52 jersey inside. “It's something I've been waiting for my whole life.”

Romero, the Rays’ No. 18 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, was added to the taxi squad before Monday’s game. He will be promoted to the active roster on Tuesday, temporarily filling a spot in Tampa Bay’s rotation that opened up when the Rays placed left-hander Ryan Yarbrough -- who had been scheduled to start on Tuesday -- on the 10-day injured list due to left groin tightness. Full story »

Relief prospect White undergoes Tommy John surgery (April 6)
Right-hander Colby White, the Rays’ No. 25 prospect, underwent Tommy John surgery on April 4 and will not pitch this season. It’s an extremely tough blow for the 23-year-old relief prospect, who dominated at every level as he soared from Class-A to Triple-A last season and figured to be a midseason call-up option for Tampa Bay’s bullpen this year.

White, whose surgery was performed by Dr. Koco Eaton, shared the news on his Instagram account and wrote, “Although I didn’t want my season to be ended by Tommy John Surgery, I’m extremely thankful for second chances. I’m also thankful for God’s plan in my life and for this valley that will help me get on the mountain one day. I’ll be back.” -- Adam Berry

Josh Lowe cracks the Opening Day roster, after all (April 5)
Four days after he was optioned to Minor League camp, and only minutes after the Triple-A Durham Bulls' flight landed in Nashville for their season opener, Josh Lowe learned he would be breaking camp in the big leagues.The Rays informed their No. 2 prospect he'd be part of their Opening Day roster on Monday night, when they cleared a spot by trading Austin Meadows to the Tigers, and they officially recalled Lowe from Durham on Tuesday morning. He was expected to join the team at Tropicana Field for Wednesday's Spring Training finale, then be available for Friday's season opener against the Orioles. -- Adam Berry

Spikes comes through in first big league spring game (March 30)
This time a year ago, Rays prospect Ryan Spikes figured, he was probably playing a game with his Parkview High School team in Lilburn, Ga. Maybe he was practicing. He definitely had homework, too. On Wednesday afternoon, Spikes put on a Major League Spring Training uniform with his name and No. 9 on it and pulled an RBI double to left field on the first pitch he saw in the eighth inning of the Rays’ 7-6 loss to the Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium.

Spikes, who turned 19 on March 13, was the Rays’ third-round pick in last year’s Draft. He performed well in his professional debut last summer, slashing .250/.362/.400 with four steals in 11 games for the Rookie-level Florida Complex League Rays. After playing on back fields all month, he was thrilled to get the news Tuesday night that he’d be playing in a big league game and called his parents and girlfriend to say, “Hey, big day tomorrow.” He was equally excited to watch and learn from his older teammates on Wednesday and admitted it felt “great” to contribute the way he did. Especially considering where he was this time last year.

“Pretty good year,” Spikes said. “Crazy how one year, [what a] difference it can make.” -- Adam Berry

Heriberto goes deep late to key Rays’ win (March 27)
Outfielder Heriberto Hernandez, the Rays’ No. 16 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, delivered the game-winning home run in Tampa Bay’s 4-1 win over Atlanta on Sunday afternoon at Charlotte Sports Park. Highly regarded for his hitting ability and immense power at the plate, the 22-year-old Hernandez clubbed a three-run homer out to right field with two outs in the eighth inning to break a 1-1 tie.

Hernandez replaced Austin Meadows in left field in the sixth inning of Sunday’s game, taking the field at the same time Osleivis Basabe -- the Rays’ No. 28 prospect, acquired from the Rangers for Nate Lowe in the same trade that brought Hernandez to the Rays -- lined up at shortstop.

“He was pumped,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said of Hernandez. “That was pretty cool coming into the dugout." -- Adam Berry