By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports
PORT CHARLOTTE — This baseball season couldn’t have gone any better for Brock Burke.
Burke posted a 1.10 earned run average in 10 starts with Class A Bowling Green – the best of any pitcher in the Tampa Bay Rays’ organization. That effort earned him a promotion to Advanced-A Charlotte, where he made his Florida State League debut Friday.
The Florida Fire Frogs gave Burke a rude welcome to the next level of professional baseball, tagging the left-hander with his first loss of the season in a 10-3 drubbing at Charlotte Sport Park.
“There’s always growing pains when you move a guy to a different level, but I thought overall his stuff for the most part was up in the zone,” manager Michael Johns said of Burke, who was 6-0 in Bowling Green. “This is the kind of team that’s really aggressive and will make you pay for it when you’re up in the zone … but he’ll be fine.”
Burke didn’t make it out of the fifth inning in his first appearance with the Stone Crabs. When the 20-year-old was with the Hot Rods, he had allowed one or fewer earned runs in every start of the season, but surrendered four (six total) against the Fire Frogs.
The damage off Burke was done on nine hits and a walk. He never allowed more than six hits with Bowling Green this season. It was the second blowout loss in a row for Charlotte, and their fifth time on the losing end in the last seven games.
“You lose a lopsided game, you get over it, but two in a row is tough to handle,” Johns said. “We’ve ran into a team who is a really good-hitting team. Everything they hit is finding holes right now.”
June continued to be a tough month for Jake Cronenworth. The shortstop entered the night batting .222 in seven games this month. He went 0-for-5 on Friday.
Over the last 18 games, Cronenworth has seen his batting average drop from .336 to .289. He had a 25-game hitting streak that included his final game in Charlotte in 2016 to start the season.
“I don’t think there’s anything you can point a finger at,” Johns said of Cronenworth. “He’s fine. He’s played a lot of games in a row and that’s probably on me. He’s in one of those slumps right now – and I don’t even think I’d call it a slump – I think I’d probably call it a little more of a tired bat. But he’s still putting together good at-bats.
One of the Stone Crabs’ top relievers, Joe Serrapica, had to leave the game after 1.2 innings due to fatigue.
“His velocity kept dropping,” Johns said.. “We just wanted to be cautious. He said he was fine. I just think he was a little tired.”
David Olmedo-Barrera had a good night with a double and his fourth homer of the season with a pair of runs batted in.
Rays catcher Wilson Ramos served as the designated hitter while working his way back from offseason ACL surgery. Ramos went 0-for-3 in the loss, falling to 1-for-11 in four games this week.