by Adam Sobsey
If you're sad that the Bulls season is over, you might want to turn your attention to the Tampa Bay Rays, the Bulls' parent club, who have quickly morphed into Durham South. Major league rosters expanded to 40 players from 25 on September 1st, as they do each season, and the Rays seem to have filled nearly every available slot with a Bull. Immediate dividends were paid: Last week, just after Dan Johnson's promotion, he hit a game-tying, ninth-inning home run off of Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon. Yesterday, David Price put on his Rays uniform for the first time -- and was quickly called on to relieve Rays starter Edwin Jackson, who had been shelled in his first two innings of work. Price's major league debut came at at a little place called Yankee Stadium, and he allowed his first big-league home run to some shortstop named Derek Jeter. Other than that, Price pitched very effectively, going 5 2/3 innings and giving up just two runs. His fastball hit the upper 90s throughout. The Rays lost, 8-4, but the game wouldn't have been even that close had just-promoted ex-Bull (and Indy fave) Fernando Perez not whacked his first major league home run, a three-run shot off of the infamously always-injured Yankees pitcher Carl Pavano (who left the game in the sixth inning with, wouldn't you know it, an injury).
It's pro forma for major league squads to call up minor leaguers when rosters expand so they can get a look at their prospects against the best competition: it's a way to look ahead to next year. But the Rays aren't looking to next year. After leading the AL East Division for nearly the entire season, they're now in serious danger of falling behind the red-hot Red Sox, and they're likely to find themselves in a dogfight just to make the playoffs. Better call it a bullfight, because they'll be relying on a herd of Bulls to make the final charge to the postseason. That's pretty remarkable.
A last note: The Yankees have announced that Phil Hughes, fresh off his Governor's Cup-winning, 12-strikeout bedazzlement of the Bulls last week, will start for New York on Wednesday.