When the season finished last year, Vince Belnome was the team MVP for the Durham Bulls, a Tampa Bay Rays minor league affiliate. Now, he’s battling for an opening day roster spot with the Rays. But he’s not quite ready.
Last season, Belnome hit .300 with 35 doubles and 67 RBI, leading the Bulls to a Governor’s Cup victory but falling short in the Triple A Championship game by just one run.
Personally, Belnome garnered individual awards and was named to numerous All Star teams, drawing the attention of Rays manager Joe Maddon.
Now, Belnome has been given the opportunity to make the Rays roster during spring training, Maddon telling the team’s official website that he likes the way the ball comes off of Belnome’s bat and his ability to go the other way.
After playing just three games in the spring for the Rays, Belnome has played in 13 games this preseason. So far he’s hitting a dismal .167 with just four hits in 24 trips to the plate. In those four hits, one has been a double and one drove in a run. Of the 24 plate appearances, seven trips have ended in strikeouts.
Belnome’s best game came on March 5 against the New York Yankees when he picked up two hits in three trips. Since then, though, he has just one hit in six trips and his plate appearances have decreased significantly.
To make the roster, Belnome would have to compete with the likes of James Loney, Sean Rodriguez and even Ben Zobristt at first base.
Belnome is 25 years old so time is of the essence for the former Mountaineer. But, being a newcomer to the Rays organization, I don’t see Belnome making the cut this go around. With another Triple A MVP caliber season under his belt, Belnome has a legitimate shot at being called up should the Rays make a postseason run.
Barring that, I think Belnome spends another season with the Bulls.