In the days leading up to the start of this season, Tampa Bay's plan called for Vince Belnome to play at Double-A Montgomery.
Then, just before the season began, the Rays placed Luke Scott on the disabled list and promoted Shelley Duncan from Triple-A Durham. That opened up a spot for Belnome with the Bulls.
Belnome has taken advantage of that opportunity, ranking among the International League's top hitters.
Belnome, who came to Tampa Bay in a Minor League trade with the Padres last December, ranks fourth with a .317 batting average, is tied for fourth with 29 doubles and ranks third with 68 runs scored. He also has eight homers and 61 RBIs.
"He's been a pleasant surprise this year," Durham manager Charlie Montoyo said. "This is another Andrew Friedman trade that's working out, at least at the Triple-A level. He looks like he will be a good insurance policy for the big league club."
Belnome said he didn't try to change his style of play when he found out about the late spring promotion to Durham.
"It didn't matter if I was at Double-A or Triple-A, I still had to do what I do," he said. "I still had to play the game: hit the ball, throw the ball, catch the ball.
"I wasn't going to change my approach or anything. It was one of those freak things, and I lucked out."
While Belnome ranks fifth in the league with 112 hits, he also stands third with 71 walks. As a result, he's second in the IL with a .428 on-base percentage.
"I like to think of it as being patiently aggressive -- or maybe aggressively patient," Belnome said. "If I get a good pitch to hit, no matter what the count, I'm going to try and put a good swing on it and drive the ball.
"But I also feel I'm very selective and I pride myself on my on-base percentage. So I'll take walks as much as hits."
Montoyo agreed, adding, "He's been very consistent at hitting the ball hard the whole year. He gives you good at-bats almost every time. Plus, he can play third, he can play first, he can play second. His range may not be big at second base, but it's good enough. If he gets to the ball, he's going to catch it."
The versatile Belnome has played 44 games at first base, 13 at second and 26 at third, committing a total of four errors.
"I've played a little bit of first base in past years, but not as much as this year," he admitted. "That's the new position for me, but I feel I've settled in and done a pretty good job there. Second base and third base are where I've played in college and coming up through the Minors, so I feel comfortable there. But the more versatile I am, the more likely I will be in the lineup."
Longball Lambo: OF Andrew Lambo began the season with Double-A Altoona and belted 14 home runs in 58 games to earn a promotion to Indianapolis. Since joining the Indians in early June, he's kept on hitting homers, collecting seven in June and seven more in July. In only 51 games, Lambo has 14 homers to go with 42 RBIs and 24 runs scored, not to mention a .567 slugging percentage .
Guilmet to the rescue: Columbus RHP Preston Guilmet has made 41 appearances for the Clippers this season and directly helped them produce 21 wins. Guilmet is 4-4, ranks second in the league with 17 saves and has a 1.99 ERA. He's allowed 40 hits and 13 walks over 54 1/3, and opponents are batting .195 against him. Guilmet also leads all IL relievers in fewest walks per nine innings (1.82) and is second in fewest baserunners per nine innings (8.46).
He said it: "I don't know how to explain that one." -- Rochester manager Gene Glynn to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle on Aug. 3 after his team, trailing Syracuse by five runs with two outs in the bottom of the 10th, staged a five-run rally to tie the game before winning, 7-6, in 12 innings. "Winning is a mentality," Jeff Clement, who hit a tying grand slam in the 10th, told the newspaper. "And no matter what level you're at, the name of the game is winning."
He said it, part II: "We had [Cody Martin] throw [a two-seam fastball] a few times. And when he threw it, it was like, 'Hey, that's pretty good.' It's too good not to throw." -- Gwinnett pitching coach Marty Reed to the Gwinnett Daily Post. Martin has added the two-seam fastball to a repertoire that includes a four-seamer, slider, curveball and changeup, and is 2-2 with a 2.89 ERA in eight games with the Braves.