Rounding the bases
A weekly look at local minor leagues and minor-leaguers:
As the transactions continue to add up for the Bulls, the clubhouse leader of this season’s version of the red-eye relays is outfielder Mikie Mahtook.
Mahtook had jumped from the Tampa Bay Rays to Durham three times prior to August, but his eventful back and forth last week summed up his season in a series of rushed flights.
Mahtook was called up July 31 and went 2 for 4 in the Rays’ loss that night in Boston. He was optioned down after the game, as Grady Sizemore took his place. When Steven Souza Jr. broke his hand on Aug. 1, Mahtook returned to the Rays roster the next day and on Aug. 3 he singled home the winning run in the ninth inning against the Chicago White Sox.
He homered during an 11-3 win Aug. 4, but was was optioned back to Durham on Thursday after Tampa Bay claimed switch-hitting outfielder Daniel Nava off waivers from Boston.
Mahtook hit a three-run homer in his first game back on Friday.
Pair of Rays rehab in Durham
Two Tampa Bay regulars who have missed more than three months are rehabbing in Durham with an eye toward rejoining the Rays for the final six weeks.
Outfielder Desmond Jennings produced two hits in his first 18 at-bats to begin his Triple-A rehabilitation from a knee injury, but Bulls manager Jared Sandberg is looking beyond the numbers while Jennings is in Durham.
“You see a guy who is motivated,” Sandberg said. “He just wants to get back to playing again.”
Pitcher Drew Smyly has worked his rehabilitation from a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder with Durham and Advanced-A Charlotte (Fla.). He pitched into the fifth inning Thursday against Indianapolis and threw 74 pitches, one shy of his pitch limit.
“He got into fifth inning, which is the biggest thing for him,” Sandberg said. “He was a little shaky, and I know he’d like to have a little more control of his stuff, but overall you have to be pleased.”
Smyly has given up at least four runs in each rehab outing, though his pitch count has increased. Sandberg said the organization would reassess his status before his next start, which could come next week when the Bulls host Norfolk for two games starting Monday.
Shaffer celebrates first MLB homer
Third baseman Richie Shaffer was called up to Tampa Bay on Aug. 3 to make his MLB debut, a culmination of a torrid power surge throughout for the 2011 first-round pick.
His first major league home run,which doubled as his first hit, created quite the stir. Not so much for the distance, but for his celebration.
As Shaffer returned to the dugout, his teammates, including Chris Archer and Evan Longoria, huddled. Shaffer, immediately recognizing the silent treatment, smiled and started giving air high-fives and hugs. As he passed Longoria, the All-Star grabbed him and brought him into the huddle.
“It just sort of happened in the moment,” Shaffer told the Chicago Tribune. “I came into the dugout and everyone was ignoring me, so I was trying to play it off as cool as I could.”
Shaffer said the invisible hugs were the best part.
“I sold out,” Shaffer said. “I went with it full bore, so I was giving high-fives and handshakes to everyone.”
Archer was impressed with the improv skills.
“I’ve seen that done before but not so emphatically,” Archer told the Chicago Tribune. “He knew what we were up to right away, and it shows how much he fits into the group.”
Shaffer’s promotion was created by the demotion of left-handed starting pitcher Matt Moore, who had struggled to effectively return from injury and posted an 8.78 ERA in six starts since his return from the disabled list. The Tampa Bay Times reported that the Rays plan to use a four-man starting pitching rotation until Aug. 21.
Moore dominated Louisville on Friday, holding the Bats to two hits in six innings. He struck out seven.