Friday, July 29, 2016

The Armando Araiza Game, MLB'er to Rehab w/Biscuits


When catcher Armando Araiza came out of the tunnel on Thursday, it was apparent he was the starting catcher for the Biscuits that night.

The backstop had been with the team earlier in the season, mostly as a bullpen catcher. In May Armando was loaned out to a Mexican League team. He was there for a month or so, playing with the Tigres de Quintana Roos in Cancun.

Now back with the Rays affiliates, Araiza made his double-A debut behind the plate in the third game of the series against Pensacola.

Doing a nice job behind the dish, Armando handled top pitching prospect Brent Honeywell as the Biscuits matched the Wahoos in a pitchers duel. Honeywell was excellent, allowing just one run and striking out six.

After failing to reach base in his first two at bats, Armando singled in the seventh inning to right field for his first double-A hit. 

In a surprise attack, skipper Brady Williams gave the steal sign, sending the burly catcher barreling towards second base and catching the Wahoo infielders completely unawares.

In a brilliant piece of hitting, batter Pat Blair read the defense well and executed a perfect hit-and-run. Blair waited back on a slow offspeed pitch and slapped it behind the scrambling baserunner Ariaza and into right field. Ariaza easily took third, putting runners at the corners with one out in the inning.

If the hit-and-run with Ariaza stealing caught the Wahoos by surprise, Brady Williams took advantage of it and while the opponents were still reeling from the shock the Biscuits skipper put the squeeze play on.

Lee gets a bunt down
Braxton Lee dropped down a bunt, from third base Armando Ariaza raced towards the plate.

Bauers also had an RBI single
The Wahoos pitcher corralled the ball but the other defenders were caught spectating on the play, watching it unfold with their mouths open as all Biscuit runners reached their stations safely.

Kean Wong followed with an RBI single to extend the lead to 3-1 and chase the Pcola starter.


After not getting a single at bat for Montgomery thru July 27th, Araiza now was called on to bat in back-to-back innings. He came to bat in the bottom of the 8th and tapped a slow roller down the third base line.

The easy grounder was picked up quickly but the Wahoo third sacker delivered the throw well over the head of the first baseman and all the way down the line into the bullpen. Araiza had to kick into high gear, motoring all the way to third base on the errant throw.

He was erased on a fielders choice, likely happy to get a moment to catch his breath before catching the last frame.

Relievers Adam Kolarek, Kyle Winkler and Jaye Chapman did a fine job of shutting the door in the late innings to seal the 4-1 Biscuit victory.

The rumour is that the Tampa Rays will send pitcher Chase Whitley to rehab in Montgomery.

Whitley, working his way back from Tommy Juan surgery, should pitch on Saturday. Whitley has already made two appearances for the StoneCrabs and may be ready to move up.

Chase is an Alabama native, a former Troy University Trojan and broke into the major leagues with the New York Yankees in May of 2014. In May of the following year he had an injury that led to surgery, in November he was claimed from Waivers by Tampa.

It would be great to host another rehabbing major leaguer and I am sure fans of Troy University will want to see one of their own on the hill for the Biscuits!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Biscuits storm into first place

Biscuits feasted on Barons pitching, taking four of five contests and move into sole possession of first place in the North Division by outscoring the Brummies 34-11 during the series.

After a day off the Skitz now return to Riverwalk for a big ten-game homestand to face both first half division winners in back to back series. First up is a five game set against the Pensacola Blue Wahoos, the Reds double-A affiliate. The Wahoos are making their first trip to Biscuitville this year, they are the last team in the league Montgomery hasn't yet hosted.

The Jackson Generals, winners of the North Division in the first half, come to town for the tail end of the homestand.

The Blue Wahoos, winners of the South Division in the first half, are 15-15 in the second half which is good for third place. The Wahoos have won three straight series coming into the contests against Bradys Boys. When the Biscuits visited Pensacola back in June the Wahoos took three out of five games in spite of being outscored by the Skitz.

Led by slugging Brandon Dixon, the P'Colas offense blows hot and cold. Eight times this month the 'Hoos have won by scoring five or more runs, conversely they have just three wins this month when they post less than five runs.

Pitching is where the Wahoos get it done, leading the league in ERA (3.17) and WhIP (1.23) the Pensacola hurlers have kept opposing teams off the board often. The Pelican moundsmen have already tossed four shutouts in the second half.

Prospects abound on this squad and top 30 ranked players include: pitcher Nick Trevieso (DL), 2b Alex Blandino, pitcher Tyler Mahle, centerfielder Phil Ervin, pitcher Rookie Davis, 3b Eric Jagielo, pitcher Sal Romano, 3b Taylor Sparks, pitcher Zack Weiss (DL), shortstop Calton Daal, pitcher Jackson Stephens.


Pitcher Chih-Wei Hu is the Double-A leader in ERA. Not just the Southern League, that includes the Eastern and Texas Leagues as well. In spite of his great stats, Chih-Wei has just three wins for Montgomery.

Taylor Guerrieri
Pitcher Taylor Guerrieri's ten wins tie him for tops in all of double-A. His strikeout rate is down a little from past totals but he has been great at getting ground balls for outs.

Hu and Taylor G may or may not be tossing Biscuits for Montgomery very much longer, both have proven their abilities and are likely ready for a new level. Their situations over the next few weeks and months are very much hinged on the Rays actions around the trade deadline. If the big club deals pitchers, the Biscuits could lose Hu and Guerrieri, through trade or promotion.

pitching coach RC Lichtenstein
Conversely, the Rays have little reason to rush the two prospects.

Hu struggled in his taste of triple-A earlier this year and Taylor is being eased back after surgery a few seasons ago.

 Even if they both remain in Montgomery, its also possible the two pitchers are shut down at some point late in the season. Both Hu and Guerrieri have just passed the 100 innings pitched mark, a full third of their career totals of around 300 innings.

SS Willy Adames
With 1B Casey Gillaspie's promotion, Biscuits shortstop Willy Adames is now the league leader in bases on balls with 51. Look for Willy to put up quality at bats and force pitchers to give him strikes to hit.

Montgomery leads the league in stolen bases, but not in caught stealing - that honor belongs to Chattanooga. Look for Biscuit baserunners to swipe a few bases, but not run wild. A well placed success is better than giving up a big inning trying for one extra bag.

The Wahoos Phil Ervin likes to run as well, look for him to seek his 30th stolen base of the year in the series.

Look for the Wahoos to swing and miss, Pensacola leads the league in the futile stat.

Look for the two teams to slug it out, both clubs are among the leaders in home runs. Although the Wahoo pitchers are the stingy in allowing runs, they are more likely to serve up the long ball than Biscuit tossers.

Look for Pat Blair to play all nine positions in one game. Maybe not in this ten game series, maybe not even this month, but it certainly could happen at some point. Already in his four pro seasons he has played every spot but center and right field, including three relief appearances.
Pat Blair makes his point
Hu vs Mahle

Guerrieri vs Davis

Honeywell vs Stephens

Kirsch vs Romano

Chirinos vs Astin?


Patrick Leonard
Increasingly frustrating is trying to figure out who is on the team.

With transactions made and not reported on the league or team website are compounded by retroactive changes. Fans are left guessing when new players are added who may have been deactivated to make room.

Along those lines we learned that both Pat Leonard and Mike Marjama were nursing injuries and hit the disabled list last week. Leonards ailment is a sore back and Marjama's malady is a quad injury.

For Montgomery that means losing the top two hitters in the lineup for an unknown amount of time.

Patrick Leonard, all he has done since he returned to the Biscuits is hit. Posting a team leading .309 batting average, scoring 30 runs and driving in 28 in just 41 games Patrick Leonard was on fire.  Leonard last played on July 13th, his DL trip backdated to the 19th.

Marjama gets a hug from Taylor Guerrieri
Marjama last played in Fridays contest at Bham on July 20th, but came out of the game after just one at bat.

Mike Marjama's value behind the dish while handling the pitching staff cannot be understated, not to mention he was second on the team with his stout .288 batting average. Fourth on the club in RBI's, Marj is a solid run producer while splitting catching time with Jake DePew.

Pat Blair

Super utility man Pat Blair was sent to Princeton on the 21st to make room for bullpen catcher Josh Rapacz to get activated for the Biscuits, then Blair was back on the roster by the 24th. 

Outfielder Justin Williams arrived on or about the 17th of July and was inserted immediately into the daily lineup.
Justin Williams
The Smokies released their 2017 schedule already, meaning it has been approved and finalized by the teams and league. The Biscuits usually release their promo schedule earlier than the game schedule, and with the team doing well there is less reason to jump ahead already. Nonetheless we should look for the next season game schedule to be made available in the next few weeks or so.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Grape Jelly Series Views and Notes

Did I see you this weekend? I feel like I saw everyone at one point or another. It was a very busy series and I enjoyed getting to see some of my fave folks and got to meet great new ones!

The Biscuits scooped up the Grape Jelly Series by taking the first three games fairly handily before dropping Sundays affair. The Skitz have been heating up and playing well, giving themselves a chance to win nearly every day. Be sure to come out and watch the team as it comes together, and don't leave early!

Taylor Guerrieri pitched seven strong innings and Mike Marjama's four hit night drove the Skitz to victory in the opening contest.

Tommy Coyle added two hits, a double and a triple, earning him two RBI's.

Catcher Mike Marjama
 The Biscuits opened up with both barrels on the Smokies, who were sending in position players to pitch by the end of the night.

Mike Marjama led the charge again, contributing three hits and three runs batted in. Braxton Lee also had three knocks as the team piled up a dozen Biscuit runs, winning 12-0.

SP Chih-Wei Hu
Chih-Wei Hu was the lucky recipient of the offensive outburst, allowing just two hits in his five innings.

Reliable relievers Steve Ascher and Jared Mortensen combined for four scoreless innings to complete the shutout.

Mgr Brady Williams

 Saturday afternoon I had the chance to take batting practice on the field with the Biscuits coaching staff, a brand new perk offered to season ticket holders.

It was very fun, a great experience. I managed a couple would-be base hits to left field and a solid double over the third base bag. It certainly reminded me just how hard it is to use a round bat to hit a round ball squarely.

Manager Brady Williams was my BP pitcher, he made sure to buzz me up and inside! haha

Later in the evening Jake Bauers provided a walkoff home run in the bottom of the tenth inning to send the team to victory and spark massive postgame fireworks.
Jake Bauers blasts a walk-off homer on Saturday Night

The series wraps up with game five on Monday. It is a day game at noon, bring the sunscreen!

Rainbow over Sundays contest
Roster moves have been a theme, lets try to get together on whats happening!
Goetzman, Lee and Gotta chat in the outfield on Sunday

RHP Mark Sappington
Mark Sappington and Adam Kolarek were sent from Durham to bolster the Biscuits bullpen and their own confidence.

Mark Sappington was a key member of last years 2nd Half North Division Champion bullpen and one of the best guys ever in the history of best guys ever. He and Kolarek will both be trying to get back on track after being roughed up in triple-A.

Kean Wong returned Sunday
Kean Wong returned to the lineup Sunday after missing more than a week of games.

Patrick Leonard has been out of the lineup due to a sore back. There is no word yet on when he will return, or if a DL trip will be needed.

Tough news if you were trying to get all the Biscuits combined No-Hitter pitchers to sign a ball...
Steve Ascher was sent back to Port Charlotte. Nice reward for a no-hitter, right? Speculation is that the Rays may transition him into a starter after seeing nice results from him in Montgomery's rotation.

Reliever Jordan Harrison was/is/will be put on the temporary inactive list. He was also one of the four pitchers involved in the July 11th NoNo versus the Jackson Generals. No reason is known beyond the fact that the Rays have a surplus of players at the upper levels of the chain, including Montgomery. There just aren't enough roster spots to go around right now. 

Bullpen Catcher Rapacz
Be sure you know who you are talking to when speaking to someone in catching gear, new bullpen catcher Josh Rapacz looks more than a little like regular backstop Mike Marjama. However the easy-going Rap takes it in stride when someone gets them crossed up, like I did on Saturday!

Having Rap around seems like nothing much to the average fan, but not having a bullpen catcher means a lot to the team. Now the second catcher really gets a day off from catching and the team doesn't have to risk a position player getting injured while trying to warm up a reliever in a game.

Also, Rap is just one injury from gaining a roster spot, as the Rays have learned having an extra catcher around is pretty handy.

Outfielder Justin Williams was promoted from the Stone Crabs. This means another spot on the roster will have to be cleared, be it someone to the DL, promotion, demotion, release, trade or temporary inactive list.

The Rays #2 prospect Brent Honeywell tossed his first game at Riverwalk and had no problems with the Smokies lineup. He featured his impressive heater and offset it with the screwball effectively, mixing in a nice curve and decent changeup.

More than that he seemed poised on the hill and his only hiccup was getting excited on an infield popup, cutting in front of first baseman Jake Bauers to grab the ball for the out.
Jake be like...

Rhp Brent Honeywell
Brent pitched into the 7th inning, striking out six and walking just one and looking poised and in full control all evening.

The bullpen let the Smokies spoil the W, but Brent seemed to enjoy the home cooking at Riverwalk. He signed many autographs, posed for pictures and did everything short of kissing babies for the fans who were raving about his arrival.

Honeywell should strengthen an already strong starting rotation and provide a lift to the Skitz pennant hopes.

Honeywell and Adames

Friday, July 15, 2016

Team Notes vs Smokies

Bauers give Gotta rabbit ears before the game
The nets are coming. Rumors are again going around that next year will bring extended nets to Riverwalk. The feeling is that it will cover the fans behind the dugout, but not the dreaded foul pole to foul pole screen that some parks have installed.

Pokemon go comes to riverwalk on sunday.
If there weren't enough ways to distract fans from flying objects leaving the playing field, we can now add this one to the pile. Hopefully it is a between innings promotion!

Gillaspie, Adames, Wong perpare for a June tilt
Casey Gillaspie was promoted to Durham, the first base position will be handled by Jake Bauers and possibly Patrick Leonard. Casey is all over the Southern League leaderboard and likely deserved to move up.

Jaye Chapman warms on Thursday
Brady Williams may have his new closer in Jaye Chapman, who shut the door for his first Biscuits save on Thursday. Fans noted that Chapman is similar to craig kimbrel's delivery.

The upcoming season ticketholder BP is byob, bring your own bat - a couple aluminum bats will be available, but if you want wood you bring it!

I was told the bham clubhouse is great, the clubbies sometimes not so. The Brummies don't make visiting teams look forward to visiting the park.

You can be sure the guys love the commute to the Barons park, adding about ten hours of bus time to the schedule that week.

Saturdays Star Wars theme night will have a cast of over 20 characters.
A light saber bat signed by the team will be raffled.
I can not divulge any more than that.

Beleaguered closer Brad Schreiber was sent to Port Charlotte to recover from his bout of suck-itis. Schreib just couldn't find a way to miss bat this season, some asked if he was hurt or having issues but he never appeared injured - just hit-able. 
Ascher and Schreiber in the Biscuits bullpen

\m/ IRON MAN \m/
Brent Honeywell's warmup/intro music is Black Sabbath's Iron Man.
I love old Sabbath and always think its cooler to see guys warm up to something heavy, too many players music choice sounds like a boyband. I want opposing teams to think our team is back there chewing on metal shards waiting for a chance to clobber them. Not practicing their pop and lock routine.