The Bulls were shut out at Gwinnett yesterday, 4-0, and split their four-game series with the Braves. Before that, they split a two-game series at Charlotte; before that, they split a two-game series at home against Charlotte; before that, they split a four-game home series against Columbus; before that, they split a two-game home series — against Charlotte. The Bulls are 7-7 over their last 14 games. Since opening the season with a 6-1 homestand, they’re 12-12. So far this season, they have played 31 games, 27 of them against the same three teams, all in their own division. It’s like a closed-loop of International League South hell. The Bulls should start reading Kafka.
To drive the point home, yesterday’s game pitted the Braves’ Kris Medlen, who was originally drafted in 2003 by (of course) Tampa, against the Bulls’ Mitch Talbot. It was the third time already this season that those two pitched against one another. Medlen got the win, making him 2-0 against Talbot/Durham. If only he was 1-1! At least Talbot is now 3-3 on the year. His record has staircased: 1-0, 1-1, 2-1, 2-2. 3-2, 3-3. Talbot has pitched five innings in each of his last two starts (and in five of his seven starts this season), with four walks and two strikeouts in both. He should read Kafka.
Medlen, a shortstop-cum-reliever-cum-starter, hasn’t given up a run in his last three starts, spanning 19 2/3 innings. He now leads all International League starters with a 0.96 ERA, and is a perfect 5-0. In 6 2/3 innings yesterday he gave up two hits, back-to-back. He quickly escaped the inning by getting the Bulls’ catcher, John Jaso, to ground into a double play.
Notes, all in the form of roster moves on a surprisingly busy day for Bulls transactions:
* Righty reliever Joe Bateman was promoted to Durham from Hudson Valley. There was no corresponding pitcher move off of the Bulls’ roster, so the first assumption is that Charlie Montoyo asked for another arm to take some of the stress off of his overworked bullpen. Bateman threw a scoreless ninth inning for the Bulls yesterday, with two strikeouts. He is 29 years old; not a prospect anymore, a little Dale Thayer-like in his six-year history of pitching well but impressing no one. At this point, Bateman is a salvaged but still-utile part, the equivalent of an alternator or a half-empty jar of capers.
* The Bulls received second baseman Joe Dillon via the trade that sent Adam Kennedy to the Oakland A’s. Dillon had been playing for the A’s AAA affiliate (wow, that was a lot of As), the Sacramento River Cats. It is not clear what a river cat is, exactly, and I would certainly not like to see the team mascot, which I picture as a wet, sneezing, mangy, shivering, scrawny, starving, homeless tom. Come to think of it, though, is there any such thing as a river cat? Cats hate water. The Sacramento team name must derive not from any real creature but from the minor-league vogue of giving teams two-word nicknames, the first of which must be something natural or elemental and the second of which must be an animal, thus: the Sacramento River Cats, The New Britain Rock Cats (there are also teams called the Cracker-Cats, the Fisher Cats, the RailCats and the ValleyCats), the Lehigh Valley IronPigs (okay, that’s one word, sort of), the Aberdeen Ironbirds (okay, that’s also one word, sort of), the Portland Sea Dogs, the Charleston RiverDogs (okay, that’s also one word, sort of; so is the Batavia (NY) Muckdogs), the Vermont Lake Monsters (who play in Winooski — duh, like I have to even tell you), the Savannah Sand Gnats, the Charlotte Stone Crabs (okay, that’s cheating), the Carolina Mudcats (okay, that’s one word, sort of, and also cheating). The granddaddy of the element+animal nickname is the venerable Toledo Mud Hens, although I think a mud hen is an actual type of bird. How about the Durham DirtBulls?
Anyway, Joe Dillon: 33 years old, kind of a poor-man’s Adam Kennedy. A second baseman by trade, he is now a utility player — i.e. a Durham Bull waiting to happen. Dillon has played in the following places: Albuquerque NM (Isotopes), Lansing MI (Lugnuts), Milwaukee WI (Brewers; very limited major-league playing time there and with Florida), Edmonton, Alberta, Canada (Trappers), Mazatlan, Mexico (Deer), Yomiuri, Japan (Giants), New Britain CT (those meddling Rock Cats again), and Zebulon NC (those meddling Mudcats again — hey, welcome back to the Triangle, Joe!). Dillon also retired for a while in 2003-04 due to back problems, and coached baseball for a season at his alma mater, Texas Tech (where he holds the single-season home run record), in Lubbock — a place, I remind you, that is so flat you can watch your dog run away for two days. (The internet, our tiny yet unnavigable galaxy of proliferation and dilution, suggests the same of some other places, unfortunately.) Dillon is the virtual definition of a journeyman. I’m hoping he hits a lot of balls into the outfield gaps so I can call him Double Dillon — but then again, if he was in the habit of doing that, he’d be in the majors.
* Matthew Hall is now a Bull as well, called up from the Charlotte Stone Crabs — that’s Port Charlotte, FL, by the way, not Charlotte NC. The Rays Prospects web site lists him as a shortstop, so naturally he started at third base for the Bulls yesterday. His promotion to Durham is probably to shore the Bulls against the ruins of the injured Elliot Johnson. Or is Chris Nowak hurt? Or is Hall’s presence in Durham just to insure that at least three guys can play each position?
* Nope, not three: With John Jaso’s knee healthy enough to allow him to squat again, he has resumed catching duties; so Alex Jamieson became the third wheel on the Bulls’ backstop romance and was duly dispatched back to Hudson Valley from Durham for the second time this year (I trust that he and Joe Bateman exchanged forlorn waves from their buses as they passed each other on I-95). What is truly remarkable about this transaction is that the Hudson Valley Renegades, who are the Rays’ short-season class-A affiliate, do not play their first game until June 19; moreover, their web site, which announces that “National Anthem Auditions [sic] have been postponed until June 2nd at 5:30,” does not inform the visiting surfer where their stadium is or even what town they play in: So where did Jamieson just go? I hope that on the long bus ride up through Amerika to nowhere, he read Kafka.
* The Bulls are back home tonight to start a four-game series with the Louisville Bats — David Price is the starter for Durham and unfortunately I can’t be there — followed by a four-game set versus Rochester. What are the odds they split both series?