Thursday, May 13, 2010

Looking At the Upper-Level Starting Rotations

Some recent moves by the Durham Bulls have me wondering about their starting rotation (and possibly the Montgomery Biscuits).

At the end of April Virgil Vasquez crashed his scooter, broke both wrists, was placed on the DL, was released, and was re-signed and sent to extended spring training. Allegedly. So that left the Bulls with the following rotation: Carlos Hernandez, Jeremy Hellickson, Heath Phillips, Jeff Bennett, Frank De Los Santos.

Then came word yesterday that the organization had released Jeff Bennett. It's on, so I should probably add another "allegedly". Assuming Bennett is gone and Vasquez is out for a while (the throwing hand was reportedly the less-serious of the breaks), where does this leave the Bulls rotation?

The options, most likely to least likely:

- Return Aneury Rodriguez to the rotation after one appearance out of the pen. Rodriguez has been solid this season for Durham and Montgomery with a 2.76 ERA overall. I haven't heard why he was removed from the rotation, but clearly putting him back in is the simplest solution.

- Heath Rollins has only made 1 start out of his 10 appearances, but he's been a starter throughout his career until late last season. However, his struggles so far this season make this option less likely. He has a 6.52 ERA over 19.1 innings, with 12 walks to 14 strikeouts.

- They could also call someone up from the Biscuits rotation of Alexander Torres, David Newmann, Jeremy Hall, Jake McGee, and Alex Cobb. The most likely choices would be Torres or Newmann. The problem with that is they are both lefties, and Durham already has 2 lefties in their rotation (Phillips and Hernandez). Of course, the Biscuits have three lefties in their rotation (with McGee). While I think a promotion at this point is the least likely option, if it did happen, Montgomery has solid replacements available in Darin Downs and Rayner Oliveros.

So my best guess is that you will see Aneury Rodriguez back in the Bulls rotation, possibly as soon as Saturday's game at the Columbus Clippers.

UPDATE: Chris at the great Watching Durham Bulls Baseball site has the details on the new Bulls rotation.


  1. It depends. Given the service time of Price, Niemann, Davis, and Shield's LT contract, Hellickson's status as the starter-in-waiting, Sonny's presence, and Alex Torres in AA it is unliekly Aneury would sniff the big leagues as a starter. I sense the conversion to the pen had more to do with his pro development more so than a demotion. Could be wrong. I feel the same way about Downs.

  2. See my most recent post.
    That is supposed to be the current rotation. That is, Rodriguez is in. On the other hand, Friedman is in town this week.

  3. Ooops. Should have added that that means Rodriguez should be up on Sunday, on four days rest from his 3 innings day before yesterday.

  4. And one more comment ...
    The two Heaths (Phillips and Rollins) are both, in my judgment, on the block. Neither is doing well this year ... yet.

  5. And one more...
    That links isn't working. Just go to the blog. Most recent entry.

  6. I wrote this in response to your earlier article this morning Chris. Nice to see for once I got something right (for now at least).

    I agree FreeZo that long term it doesn't look like Rodriguez has a spot in the Rays rotation. But no use turning a starter into a reliever unless you have to, especially when you have the spot open in Durham.

    1st, you never know with pitchers and injuries, doubtful we'd need him, but best to have the option available. 2nd, his trade value is much higher to other teams as a starter, not everyone has our depth at starter. This was my big beef with moving Rollins to the pen last year. Downs seems more of a numbers issue, but I'd start him over Jeremy Hall, and yes, I know that would make a 4 leftie rotation for the Biscuits.

  7. Sunday does make more sense, Chris. On the Heaths, I imagine they'll be on the block a long time. Right now, who would want either?

  8. My sense is that, for the Bulls at least, they are waiting for Jason Cromer (now up to 3 innings per outing in extended spring training), so Aneury is just holding a spot for Cromer. Rodriguez has been so erratic. Two great starts. Two not very good. Then a super relief appearance. As you know, overall numbers are still good. Pitching is the Bulls weakness this year (a posting coming on that some day). But can see us being a "test bed" for reliever/starter tryouts all year.

  9. I think Rollins conversion was performance based after struggling in AA last year. You are right about starters having more value, but if they were having thoughts on fast tracking Aneury they may as well see how he does out of the pen. Also no shame in 4 lefties in AA. You can never have enough.

    Downs is curious based on how well he pitched last year, and his strong early season performance this year. He's old for the league so maybe it was just time.

  10. Chris, I added a link to your article in case they don't read the comments.

    FreeZo, Downs is a little older, but the performance has been incredible the this year and last, and he's a leftie. I definitely would prefer him in the rotation over Hall. And speaking of age, Downs is a year and three months+ younger than Hall. So if anyone should be moved due to age, it's Hall.

  11. I would guess Friedman being in town has more to do with Blalock than Aneury, btw. I really have no opinion on that, release him, call him up and cut PtB, trade him, whatever. He's not going to help the Bulls much longer, and I don't see a huge role for him with the Rays. Whatever happens it was a good signing and he was great for the Bulls. I say we trade him stright up for Alex Gordon, he can play 3rd...