Bulls begin homestand today

STAFF WRITERMay 29, 2009 

The Durham Bulls begin an eight-game homestand today, taking on the Buffalo Bisons for four games at Durham Bulls Athletic Park followed by four games against the Toledo Mud Hens.

First, a look at the Bulls, the Triple-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Bulls beat Rochester 8-7 on Thursday to wrap up a 6-2 road trip, improving to 30-17, one game behind Norfolk in the International League's South Division.

Newcomer Brandon Chaves, a shortstop, has started out hot for the Bulls since joining the team. In three games, he is hitting .545 (6-for-11). Left fielder Matt Joyce is at .317 with four homers and 24 RBIs and second baseman Henry Mateo is hitting an even .300 in five games with the Bulls. Outfielder Chris Rifchard (.273) leads the Bulls in homers (11) and RBIs (36) and outfielder Justin Ruggiano (.244) has eight homers and 26 RBIs.

Bulls left-hander David Price, the top prospect in the Rays organization, has been promoted to the big leagues but Durham still has plenty of pitching. Starter Wade Davis is 5-1 with a 2.66 ERA and reliever Jason Childers is 5-1. Mith Talbot is 4-4 as a starter with a 4.77 ERA. Winston Abreu leads the team in saves with seven and is 2-0 with a 1.71 ERA out of the bullpen.

Now, a look at the two teams coming to the DBAP for the upcoming homestand.

Buffalo Bisons, Triple-A affiliate of the New York Mets: Buffalo is in last place in the North Division with a 13-32 record.

Top 20 prospects (organizational rankings by Baseball America):

No. 3 prospect, Jon Niese, left-handed pitcher: Niese, drafted out of high school in Defiance, Ohio in the seventh round in 2005, has a hard-breaking curveball and also throws a fastball that tops out at 93 mph. He posted a 34-26 record in his first four minor league seasons with a 3.74 ERA. He was also 1-1 in 2008 with the big-league Mets. He's off to a rough start this season, with an 0-4 record and a 7.96 ERA.

No. 10 prospect, Eddie Kunz, right-handed pitcher: The former Oregon State star, who was on the 2006 and '07 teams that defeated UNC in the College World Series finals, was a first-round supplemental pick in 2007. He made six big-league apearances in 2008, but had a 13.50 ERA. This season, he 3-2 with a 3.54 ERA out of the Bisons bullpen with no saves.

No. 17 prospect, Dillon Gee, right-handed pitcher: A 21st-round pick out of Texas-Arlington is 2007, Gee posted a 13-7 record in his first two pro seasons with a 2.79 ERA. This season, his first in Triple-A, he's 1-3 with a 4.10 ERA as a starter.

Local ties (players from ACC schools and North Carolina high schools and colleges): Kyle Snyder, right-handed pitcher. The former North Carolina star is 0-4 with a 3.77 ERA with three starts in 11 appearances. Cory Sullivan, outfielder. Former Wake Forest star is a former Carolina Mudcat who played 355 games with the Colorado Rockies, batting .279. He is hitting .244 with two homers and nine RBIs for the Bisons.

Notable: Former Carolina Mudcat standout Elmer Dessens, another player with big-league experience, is 3-1 with five saves and a 1.09 ERA out of the Bisons bullpen. Former major leaguer Willy Mo Pena, an outfielder, is batting .255 with two homers in 24 games with the Bisons.

Toledo Mud Hens, Triple-A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers:

Top 20 prospects (organizational rankings by Baseball America):

No. 6 prospect, Wilkin Ramirez, outfielder: Sigined in 2003 out of the Dominican Republic. Ramirez has speed, stealing 27 bases last year. This season, he's batting .295 with five homers and 17 stolen bases for the Mud Hens.

No. 9 prospect, Dusty Ryan, catcher: Call it a success story to this point. Ryan was drafted in the 48th round out of Merced (Calif.) Junior College in 2003. Last season was a breakthrough year for Ryan, who hit .315 in 20 games with the Mud Hens after starting the year in Double-A and hitting 15 homers for Erie. He got a September call-up to the Tigers and hit .318 in 15 game with a pair of homers. This year, his average is down at .230 but he does have four homers.

No. 11 prospect, Casey Fien, right-handed pitcher: Drafted in the 20th round out of Cal Poly in 2006, Fien has a nasty slider and loves to pound the strike zone. Has been used as a reliever in his first three pro seasons, compiling a 12-5 record with a 2.90 ERA and 20 saves. This season, he's 2-1 with three saves and slightly elevated ERA at 4.98 for the Hens.

No. 15 prospect, Freddy Dolsi, right-handed pitcher: Signed out of the Domincan Republic in 2003. A starter early in his pro career, Dolsi had worked out the bullpen in recent years and has 32 saves in the minors. He went 1-5 with two saves for the big-league Tigers in 2008 with a 3.97 ERA. This season, he's 1-2 with a 6.05 ERA and one save for the Mud Hens.

Local ties (players from ACC schools or North Carolina high schools or colleges): Chris Lambert, right-handed pitcher. Former Boston College standout is 1-5 with a 6.14 ERA for the Hens.

Notable: The Mud Hens currently have two players on major league rehab assignment -- pitcher Jeremy Bonderman and outfielder Marcus Thames. Bonderman has made one start with the Hens, getting a win with seven strong innings. He gave up six hits and two runs. Thames had played three games, batting just .165. Check the transactions to see if either is called back up to the majors before Toledo gets to town on Tuesday.

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service