Bulls host Knights, Clippers

The Durham Bulls begin an eight-game homestand tonight at 7:05, starting with the first of two games against the Charlotte Knights. The Columbus Clippers come to Durham Bulls Athletic Park for four games starting on Thursday, and the homestand concludes with two more games against Charlotte.

Here’s a look at the homestand:

First, an update on the Bulls’ season to date: Durham is off to a good start at 11-6, and is one-half game behind Norfolk in the International League’s South Division. The Bulls’ pitching has been outstanding. Durham is second in the league in team ERA at 2.61, trailing Norfolk (2.30).

Mitch Talbot is off to a 2-1 start for the Bulls with a 3.38 ERA. Top prospect David Price is 1-2 with a 3.71 ERA. Reliever Jason Childers is 4-0 with a 2.77 ERA. Former N.C. State star Chad Orvella has given up just one run in seven appearances (0.87 ERA) and has walked one while striking out 10 in 10 1/3 innings. Dale Thayer leads the club with three saves. Offensively, outfielder Jon Weber leads the team in batting with a .300 average and RBIs with eight. Outfielder Matt Joyce is at .293. Reid Brignac and Chris Richard are tied for second in RBIs with seven each. Second baseman Adam Kennedy leads the team in homers with three.

A look at the visiting teams:

Charlotte Knights, Triple-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox: The Knights are third in the South Division with a 6-11 record.

Top prospects (organizational rankings by Baseball America): No. 12 prospect, catcher Cole Armstrong. Selected in the 16th round out of Chipola (Fla.) Junior College in 2003, A left-handed hitter, Armstrong has good power and hit .275 in 35 games with the Knights last season. He’s off to a slow start, hitting just .143 with no homers and is splitting time with Donny Lucy.

No. 20 prospect, right-hander Jeff Marquez. Selected in the first round in 2004 out of Sacramento Community College, Marquez has a career 3.60 ERA. He’s off to a horrible start, with an 0-3 record at 13.06 ERA.

No. 22 prospect, right-hander Jon Link. A 20th-round pick out of high school in Bluefield, Va., in 2005, the reliever had 35 saves last year for Double-A Birmingham. Not a flamethrower, but has a low-90s fastball, a hard slider and a good changeup. He has two saves this season for the Knights, with a 3.19 ERA. In 8 2/3 innings, he has walked three and struck out an impressive 14.

No. 25 prospect, right-hander Carlos Torres. Selected in the 15th round out of Kansas State in 2004, Torres has a fastball that can reach 94 mph and a cutter with good movement. A likely reliever in the majors, he’s starting for the Knights this season and is 1-1 with a 1.06 ERA. In three starts totaling 17 innings, he’s given up just two runs and struck out 19.

No. 27 prospect, right-hander Adam Russell. A sixth-round pick out of Ohio University in 2004, Russell made it to the majors last season. He went 4-0 with a 5.19 ERA in 22 relief appearances with the White Sox. This season, he’s 0-1 out of the bullpen with two saves and a 3.97 ERA.

Local ties: No ACC players or North Carolina college or high school connections on the Knights’ active roster.

Columbus Clippers, Triple-A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians. Columbus is third in the West Division with an8-11 record:

Top prospects (organizational ratings by Baseball America):

No. 2 prospect, outfielder Matt LaPorta. A first-rounder out of Florida in 2007, LaPorta hit 34 homers in his first two minor league seasons and drove in 105 runs. He also played for Team USA in the Beijing Olympics. He’s tearing up the International League this season with a .381 average, five homers and 14 RBIs in his first 18 games. Looks like a future big league star.

No. 8 prospect, left-hander David Huff. A first-round pick out of UCLA in 2006, Huff bounced back from a 2007 season that was shortened by elbow soreness last year to go 11-5 between Double-A Akron and Triple-A Buffalo. He had a career ERA of 2.70 entering this season. He’s4-0 with a 4.09 ERA this season, but has surrendered four homers in four starts while striking out 19 in 22 innings.

No. 9 prospect, outfielder Michael Brantley. Selected in the seventh round out of high school in Fort Pierce, Fla., in 2005. The speedster had 103 stolen bases in his first four minor league seasons, with 28 last year at Double-A Huntsville. He’s hitting just .200 this season for the Clippers, but has seven walks for an on-base percentage of .297 and has five stolen bases.

No. 12 prospect, third baseman Wes Hodges. The former Georgia Tech star was picked in the second round in 2006. He had a .289 batting average and 33 homers in his two pro seasons coming into 2009. He’s hitting .261 this season with seven RBIs and no homers in his first 17 games this season.

No. 18 prospect, right-hander John Meloan. A fifth-round draft pick from the University of Arizona by the Dodgers in 2005. He went 27-2 in his last two seasons for Arizona, but he’s been used as both a starter and reliever by the Dodgers and Indians, who got him in a trade last July. Meloan has no decisions this season is seven relief appearances, with a 5.68 ERA.

No. 25 prospect, first baseman Jordan Brown. Another Arizona product, Brown was selected in the fourth round in 2005. He posted a .300 batting average with 36 homers in his fist four professional seasons. Brown is batting .302 with two homers and seven RBIs for the Clippers this year.

Local ties (players from the ACC or North Carolina colleges and high schools):

Wyatt Toregas, catcher: Former Virginia Tech star, batting .261 with two homers for Clippers this season.

Notes: The Clippers have several former major leaguers on this roster, including left-hander Jeremy Sowers, a first-rounder from Vanderbilt, Kirk Saarloos and Tomo Ohka, all pitchers. Outfielder David Dellucci is on a rehab assignment with the Clippers after going on the DL with a sore hamstring. He’s swinging a healthy bat for the Clips, with a .458 average in his first six games on rehab.