Four Durham Bulls on Thursday were elected to the International League All-Star team.
Infielders Reid Brignac and Chris Richard, starter Jeremy Cummings and closer Dale Thayer will represent the Bulls at the Triple-A All-Star game at Slugger Field in Louisville on July 16.
Brignac will miss the game, however. He was called up to the majors to fill in for Tampa Bay Rays starting shortstop Jason Bartlett, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list this afternoon. One of the best defensive shortstops at the Triple-A level, Brignac, 22, posted a line of .265/.312/.431 in 78 games before getting promoted.
Viewed by many as the Rays’ shortstop of the future, he ranks among Durham leaders with 24 doubles, 75 hits and 37 runs scored, though he has struggled to get on base; has only walked 21 times while striking out 69 times.
Brignac posted stellar numbers at Single-A Visalia in 2006, taking home California League MVP honors. After putting up such lofty numbers in a difficult circuit for young hitters, many expected him to continue his success at Double-A last season. His status as a blue-chip prospect took a hit, however, as he posted a disappointing .760 OPS, though he made steady progress as a defensive shortstop.
Brignac, who will make is major league debut and should start Friday in the opener of the Rays’ three-game series against the Kansas City Royals, is still considered one of the most promising infield prospects in baseball. Named to the Arizona Fall League Top Prospect Team in November, he has played in three All-Star games since he was selected by Tampa Bay out of a Louisiana High School in the 2004 draft.
Cummings, who began the 2008 season in Taiwan, has been one of the Bulls’ most effective starters in the first half. In fact, after signing with Durham as a free agent in May, he has been one of the most consistent pitcher in the International League over the past two months. He tossed seven innings of one-run ball in the Bulls’ 5-1 victory over the Richmond Braves last Sunday, improving his record to 7-2.
The career minor leaguer has registered a 2.72 ERA in 10 starts. In 59.2 innings pitched, he has allowed only 19 runs, 18 earned, while posting a 55-to-14 K/W ratio and an opponents’ batting average of .201. Cummings has come a long way since the St. Louis Cardinals selected him out of West Virginia University in the 1999 draft, but if he can continues to make pitching against Triple-A competition look this easy, perhaps he will finally reach his goal of pitching in the majors.
Richard will make his second trip to the Triple-A All-Star game, but it has been eight years since his last appearance. This season, though, the veteran has been one of the most productive offensive players in the International League, batting .313/.400/.552 with a club-best 15 homers and 53 RBIs. He currently ranks third in the league in batting average, fourth in on-base percentage and sixth in slugging percentage.
Richard, 34, has the fifth-highest OPS (.952) on the circuit as well. Selected by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 19th round of the 1995 First-Year draft, he made his major league debut at the age of 26. He then spent parts of four seasons, from 2000-2003, with three different major league teams, hitting a career-high 15 home runs for the Baltimore Orioles back in 2001. One of the oldest players selected, he continues to live the dream, hoping to return to the highest level.
Thayer, acquired by Tampa Bay along with Russell Branyan and Evan Meek in ’06, ranks seventh in the league with nine saves. In 44.2 innings pitched, he has posted a 1.48 and 1.17 WHIP, limiting opponents to a .226 batting average.
Durham, 48-40, currently has an eight-game lead in the International League South Division.
To reach Tyler Hissey, send an email To TylerHissey@gmail.com.