by Adam Sobsey
1) Last year's team was organized around pitching. Wade Davis, David Price and Mitch Talbot were all in the opening-day rotation and are all now starting in the majors. (Talbot, now a Cleveland Indian—-he was dealt for catcher Kelly Shoppach—-tossed a complete-game six-hitter for his first big-league victory on Friday!) This year's Bulls are bat-heavy. Last night was an outlier of a game, but note: Dan Johnson already has four homers; Hank Blalock has seven hits in his first 14 at-bats; Ryan Shealy's OPS is 1.014; and Elliot Johnson, with five hits and a walk in his last 11 plate appearances, seems to be snapping out of a first-week funk. The pitching line on Tides' Friday-night starter Troy Patton, whom I spoke with at length last year, has more home runs allowed than outs on it. No, the Bulls will not score 14 runs per game; yes, the herd of big power bats currently ruling the pasture will have been culled by midseason, via trades, callups, injuries, etc.; but yes, you've got to be very smart when you pitch to the April 2010 Bulls. Slugger Chris Richard didn't even play in last night's derby.
2) With John Jaso up in the majors as a replacement for the injured Shoppach, the Rays sent catcher Craig Albernaz to Double-A Montgomery and called up Jose Lobaton from Biscuitville. Probably this is mainly because Lobaton is still a prospect and Albernaz is really slotted as a space-heater appliance: you can put him anywhere and he'll do what he does. Might as well give Lobaton, who is on the Rays' 40-man roster, a chance to compete a level higher. The move reminds me a little of last year's callup of Rhyne Hughes when Chris Richard went down with a hamstring strain. Hughes took advantage and is now thriving with... the Norfolk Tides.
3) The loss of Jeff Bennett was a drag—-don't know if he's out for an extended stretch—-but Bennett is mostly a swingman anyway. The Bulls have plenty of those (although it's too bad that Jason Childers is now down in Mexico—-hey, nice picture!), and indeed the world has plenty. Again, aside from Jeremy Hellickson and maybe Carlos Hernandez (if he can stay healthy), this is a pretty fungible starting rotation. As far as the Bulls are concerned, their job is to keep duct tape wrapped around the pasture fence so that the big steers can run wild. To that end, Virgil Vasquez's 5 6 5 3 0 2 line last night was serviceable.
4) Back at it tonight. I can't be there but Mike Potter will be, and I'll see you on Sunday.