Rainiers Rally For First Home Win

April 21, 2011

It took longer than anyone expected, but the Rainiers picked up their first win at the new Cheney Stadium with a 4-3 win over Colorado Springs last night.

The victory – spurred by a seventh-inning rally – ended a six-game losing streak that included the first five home games of the season.

Tacoma trailed 3-2 in the bottom of the seventh, but had runners at first and third with one out. Colorado Springs brought in flame-throwing left-handed reliever Rex Brothers to try to escape the jam.

Josh Bard and Johan Limonta had other ideas. Bard lined a single to center to tie the game, and Limonta followed with a smash past the third baseman to drive in the go-ahead run.

The Rainiers bullpen finished it off, with Chris Smith looking particularly impressive as he recorded the final five outs to earn the save.

Bard now has an 11-game hitting streak, and Dustin Ackley has a 9-gamer. Alex Liddi went 2-for-2 with two sac flies and two RBI last night.

Let’s see if the Rainiers can start a winning streak tonight. Game time is 7:05 (broadcast on 850 AM and streaming online). Tacoma starts LHP Fabio Castro (0-0, 3.00) against Sky Sox LHP Josh Muecke (0-2, 6.75).

It’s the first Tasty Thursday of the season, and you know what that means: $2 Miller beers on the Tasty Terrace, and $1 hot dogs, coffee, and ice cream all around the park. It’s about as inexpensive a night at the ballpark can get.

Roster Notes: Tacoma added outfielder Brandon Haveman from Class-AA Jackson, and he started last night’s game in center field going 1-for-4 in his Triple-A debut. A former Big-10 Conference batting title winner at Purdue, Haveman is in just his second full professional season. Look for him to see a lot of time in center.

Elsewhere in the Mariners organization, slugging Venezuelan Luis Jimenez – who I thought had a chance to make the Rainiers opening day roster – is finally healthy and reported to Class-AA Jackson yesterday. He went 2-for-5 in his first game. Jimenez missed almost all of spring training with a groin injury, essentially ending his chances for a Triple-A assignment to start the season. We might see him down the road.

Ex-Rainiers (and Mariners) Alert: Colorado Springs has reliever Sean White in the bullpen, and Eliezer Alfonzo is with the team but not on the active roster. I talked to Alfonzo yesterday and he’s healthy but the team doesn’t have room on the roster right now. That can be a really frustrating situation for a player, but Alfonzo was in good spirits.

Links!

  • Here is the Rainiers game story from The News Tribune.
  • Dustin Ackley did a live chat for the Seattle Times yesterday – you can read the recap. You guys asked some good questions, I even learned a thing or two. I had no idea he was a Cardinals fan growing up.
  • Carlos Peguero’s first major league start wasn’t exactly a “soft landing.” Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times wrote about his debut.
  • Ex-Rainiers pitcher David Pauley is off to a good start out of the Mariners bullpen.
  • In the PCL, Las Vegas starter Michael MacDonald is a threat to fans hoping for a lengthy “Dollar Beer Night.” Salt Lake beat the 51s in ten innings last night.
  • Vegas outfielder and B.C. native Adam Loewen used to be a major league pitcher. This is a good story about the transition.
  • Sacramento’s Jai Miller hit two home runs and had five RBI to help the River Kittens crush Reno, 14-7.
  • The Giants optioned Brandon Belt to Fresno and he should report today. The Grizzlies need the help – they’ve lost five in a row.
  • The Tucson Padres players had to pool their money to buy furniture for the clubhouse. Can’t wait for my buddy Johnny Doskow to roll in there and beat them all at ping pong.
  • Albuquerque’s John Ely came one out away from a no-hitter last night in Iowa. Marquez Smith broke it up with a double.
  • New Orleans had only two hits but they were both home runs and the Zephyrs beat Nashville, 2-1. Tom Koehler is now 2-0 with a 1.00 ERA after three starts.
  • Omaha’s Clint Robinson went 4-for-4 and the Storm Chasers blasted Memphis, 10-4. Also, in the headline we see the short-form of Omaha’s new nickname: Chasers.

In my lengthy career in the minor leagues, I have received hundreds of promotional items. I’ve been to hat night and bat night and magnet schedule giveaway day and team poster night and foam finger day and t-shirt night and even Shin Soo Choo-Choo toy train day. But never, in my entire career, have I been given a free tree. This will change on Monday night in Salt Lake City.


Ackley Live Chat Today

April 20, 2011

Here’s something different: Rainiers second baseman Dustin Ackley is doing a live chat today at 1:30.

The Seattle Times is hosting the event, and it will run through their website right here. Apparently, Dustin will be doing his part from one of the suites at Cheney Stadium. So get your questions ready.

Hey, I’ve got a question: when are the Rainiers going to win a home game? This is getting kind of ridiculous. The team is now 0-5 at the New Cheney and has lost six in a row.

There isn’t much manager Daren Brown can do. He’s down to ten position players on the roster and yesterday he crossed himself and put both of his catchers in the starting lineup (Jose Yepez played first base).

Tacoma has lost all three starting outfielders to injury and/or promotion, and has received no outfielders in return. If the Mariners aren’t comfortable promoting any of the Class-AA outfielders – and apparently they aren’t, or else they would have done it when Greg Halman was injured - then they need to sign an experienced Triple-A outfielder. There are plenty of veteran players looking for jobs right now.

This whole outfield crisis was completely unexpected. Who would have guessed that Halman and Mike Wilson would get injured immediately? Certainly nobody expected Carlos Peguero to be in the major leagues on April 19.

Changing gears, let’s talk about something positive: a few of the Rainiers hitters are heating up.

  • Dustin Ackley had three hits yesterday and has an 8-game hitting streak.
  • Josh Bard extended his hitting streak to 10 straight games last night.
  • Mike Carp has his first multi-hit game with two doubles yesterday.
  • Alex Liddi has hit safely in 5 of his last 6 games.
  • Jose Yepez had three hits last night.

Tacoma had 11 hits in the game yesterday, and five were doubles, yet it all added up to just three runs in a 6-3 loss to Colorado Springs.

David Aardsma pitched the eighth and looked rusty, issuing two walks and surrendering a two-run homer to veteran Mike Jacobs. It was the first time Aardsma has faced live hitters since the end of last season, so the rust is totally understandable. Aardsma will probably pitch several times for Tacoma.

One fun fact I unearthed before the game (OK, this is a “fun fact” for everybody except Aardsma): prior to last night, the last pitch Aardsma threw at Cheney Stadium was hit for a walk-off grand slam by Tacoma’s A.J. Zapp.

It was August 20, 2004, and Aardsma was an up-and-coming San Francisco Giants relief prospect pitching for Fresno. Protecting a one-run lead, he allowed the tying run to score and then loaded the bases with one out for Zapp. Zapp launched it onto the Foss Hill to complete the biggest single-player game I’ve ever witnessed: he went 5-for-5 with two home runs and 9 RBI in that game, an 11-7 Tacoma win.

Tonight’s game is at 7:05 (broadcast on 850 AM and streaming here). Tacoma starts RHP Chaz Roe (0-1, 10.57) against Colorado Springs RHP Billy Buckner (0-0, 8.00). Roe pitched for the Sky Sox all of last season.

Links:

That’s it for this morning. If Pedro Grifol sends in the Calvary today, I’ll post the roster moves before the game.


Aardsma Will Probably Pitch Today

April 19, 2011

It sounds like this one is going to happen – injured (hip) Mariners closer David Aardsma will work to a few hitters in a relief role in tonight’s Rainiers game.

7:05 first pitch at Cheney Stadium against Colorado Springs.


Controversial Call Costs Rainiers

April 19, 2011

Man, the Rainiers just can’t catch a break right now.

Sacramento scored the go-ahead run on a disputed play at home plate and completed a four-game sweep of Tacoma with a 7-6 win on Monday night.

The Rainiers have lost five straight games, and every one of them has been close: three have been one-run games, and the other two were decided by two runs.

It looked like the Rainiers were going to end the string last night. Tacoma jumped out of the gate and scored four runs in the bottom of the first inning, with Alex Liddi’s long two-run homer capping the rally.

Tacoma starter Blake Beavan wasn’t able to hold the lead, as he got knocked around for the first time this season and allowed three homers.

Liddi struck again with a bases-loaded opposite-field two-run double in the fifth inning. Liddi had his best game as a Rainier, going 2-for-5 with four RBI.

It was 6-6 in the top of the seventh inning when the Rainiers got unlucky.

Sacramento had Matt Carson at second base with two outs when Adrian Cardenas singles sharply to right field. Tacoma rightfielder Leury Bonilla made a strong throw to catcher Josh Bard, who appeared to apply a sweep tag on Carson for the final out of the inning.

However, home plate umpire Brian Sinclair didn’t see it that way. He called Carson safe, giving Sacramento a 7-6 lead. Bard argued more than I’ve ever seen him, and then manager Daren Brown got into it as well, quickly getting ejected (and getting excellent distance on his hat-throw).

Neither team scored again and the disputed run decided the game.

I never saw a replay of the play, so I can’t definitively say that Carson should have been called out. But Bard is a level-headed fellow and he certainly thought he had made the tag. And Brown told me afterwards he wasn’t just out there to defend his player – he thought the call was wrong, too.

Sacramento swept a four-game series at Cheney Stadium for the first time since re-joining the league in 2000. The Rivercats have had a pair of three-game sweeps at Cheney in the past, but this was the first four-gamer.

So the Rainiers are still looking for their first win at the New Cheney Stadium, and they hope to get it tonight against Colorado Springs. Tacoma starts LHP Chris Seddon (0-0, 0.00) against Sky Sox RHP Greg Reynolds (has not pitched in AAA yet). First pitch is set for 7:05 and the pre-game show starts at 6:50 on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online.

Let’s hit the links:

  • The News Tribune sent Don Ruiz out to cover the Rainiers last night. Don enjoyed a crab cake sandwich while typing this game story.
  • The Mariners lost yesterday and the bullpen sputtered.
  • The health situation surrounding Franklin Gutierrez is a total mystery.
  • Geoff Baker wrote a blog post explaining exactly why the East Coast media suggesting the Mariners should trade Felix Hernandez is just plain stupid.
  • Yesterday we told you Chris Seddon was named Pitcher of the Week, and now we learn the Hitter of the Week was none other than my man Wily Mo Pena.
  • Reno beat Colorado Springs last night, 10-6. These two teams just played each other eight days in a row – eight! – and Reno won six of them.
  • Looks like the Sky Sox are going to have some roster moves before tonight’s game in Tacoma.
  • Here’s an unusual story: Albuquerque’s Jay Gibbons is having vision problems after LASIK surgery gone bad.
  • Scary moment for Round Rock starter Eric Hurley, who was struck in the head by a batted ball and hospitalized last night in New Orleans. Apparently he is ok.
  • David Lough had a big game and Omaha beat Nashville last night, 8-3. Brand-new Werner Park is getting good reviews.

It was fun calling the game with Bob Robertson last night. One longtime Tacoma resident with an impressive collection of baseball memorabilia had Bob and I sign a “Tacoma Broadcasters Baseball.” It had already been signed by the other three Tacoma announcers: the late Don Hill and Art Popham, and Jerry Howarth. It was the coolest thing I’ve signed since my first driver’s license on my 16th birthday!


Let’s Score Some Runs

April 18, 2011

One of these days – and it might be today – the Rainiers are going to hit rockets all around the ballpark and score about 11 runs.

We’re due for one of those games. Because right now, this team is not scoring.

On one of those warm-in-the-sun, freezing-in-the-shade April Sunday’s that we get around here, Tacoma mustered just one run and lost to Sacramento, 3-1.

The run came immediately: Dustin Ackley led off the bottom of the first with a single to center, and Matt Tuiasosopo roped a double into the corner to score him.

Tui was at third base with nobody out and did not score – and that was that, the Rainiers did not score the rest of the game.

Luke French tossed a fine ballgame for Tacoma, reverting to his form from 2010. French lasted six innings and allowed only one run.

The score was 1-1 in the eighth when Cesar Jimenez issued a two-out walk on a full-count pitch, and then allowed a two-run homer to Chris Carter.

Carter is something to see, and we’ve seen a bit too much of him. He’s hurt the Rainiers a lot over the past three seasons, starting in the 2009 playoff series when he homered in all four games.

Yesterday he looked like he barely swung when he hit the homer – it wasn’t a hard swing, just a casual waving of the bat at the pitch, and then boom! – off goes the baseball. He’s just ridiculously strong. 

Sacramento’s Graham Godfrey pitched seven strong innings for the win. Danny Farquhar worked the final two innings to get the save – and today he was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays. That’s the baseball life right there.  

The Rainiers need a win tonight to avoid being swept at home by the River Cats. Tacoma starts RHP Blake Beavan (1-0, 0.90) against Sacramento LHP Josh Outman (0-0, 7.50). The game is at 7:05. 

Tonight is our first Monday With Bob. Legendary Pacific Northwest voice Bob Robertson will be joining me on the air all game, and he’ll man the play-by-play during the 4th, 5th, and 6th innings. Check out the broadcast on 850 AM and streaming online.

Links:

  • The Rainiers game story from The News Tribune has good quotes and details.
  • Chris Seddon was named the Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Week. He tossed 13 scoreless innings – that’ll do it every week.
  • The Mariners picked up a win and avoided a sweep yesterday. There are lots of cool quotes from and about Michael Pineda in the game story.
  • Larry LaRue projected the final stats now that the Mariners have played 10% of the season.
  • Both newspapers reported that David Aardsma will pitch an inning for Tacoma on a rehabilitation assignment Tuesday, but these things have a way of changing at the last minute. I’ll put it on this blog when we have concrete information (i.e. when he actually shows up at the park).
  • Jay at USS Mariner wrote his first weekly Minor League Wrap. These are always long and packed full of good info.
  • The first-place Reno Aces lost yesterday with a bullpen implosion. Perhaps that is their weakness. My man Wily Mo Pena went 3-for-5 but they were all singles. C’mon, Wily Mo, you’ve got to elevate the ball. Backspin!
  • Las Vegas reliever Rommie Lewis (Newport High School, Bellevue) might get an offer to replace Lance Burton at the Monte Carlo after escaping a base-loaded jam to preserve a one-run win at Cashman Field.
  • Ex-Rainiers star Bryan LaHair went bonkers for the Iowa Cubs yesterday, but they still lost to Memphis, 7-5.
  • More ink on Anthony Rizzo of Tucson, a top hitting prospect at age 21. He’ll be in Tacoma with the T-Pads (that just doesn’t look right) on May 2.
  • Brad Nelson hit a big fly in the Big Easy.
  • Mike Montgomery” is the name of the coach of my favorite basketball team and of one of the top pitching prospects in the PCL.
  • Albuquerque’s Jerry Sands has hit five home runs – second only to Wily Mo in the PCL - and now he’s John Sickels’ Prospect of the Day.

One of Tacoma’s greatest athletes has passed away. I definitely want John McGrath to write my obituary (don’t start working on it yet, John).


Searching For A Win

April 17, 2011

The Rainiers fell to 0-2 at the new Cheney Stadium after Saturday’s 3-1 loss to Sacramento.

Overall, the Rainiers have lost six of the last seven games and are 3-7 on the year.

It’s still early, of course. Right now the team is struggling to score runs. A big part of this is that loss of Greg Halman and Mike Wilson. The two power-hitting outfielders are out right now with injuries, and they’ve left a bit of a void in the Rainiers lineup.

Halman is having surgery on his left hand on Tuesday. He told me he expects to be out roughly five weeks.

Wilson has a sore left shoulder. He thinks he’ll be ready to return on Tuesday or Wednesday.

The two injured players combined to hit 58 home runs last year. Obviously, not having them in the lineup is a factor.

Dustin Ackley hit the first “New Cheney” home run for Tacoma’s only run on Saturday. His liner to right-center bounced off the top of the fence and went over. The new outfield fence is nine feet high, eight feet shorter than the old 17-foot fence. Last year, Ackley’s ball would have been a double.

It will be interesting to see how many former doubles (and sometimes singles) are home runs this year. I speculate the number will be in the 15-20 range.

We have our first home day game today, and as I type this there is blue sky overhead and no clouds in sight.

First pitch is at 1:35. Tacoma starts LHP Luke French (0-2, 8.00) against Sacramento RHP Graham Godfrey (0-0, 5.40). The game will broadcast on South Sound Sports 850 AM and stream online.

Sunday links:

  • The Rainiers game story for The News Tribune was inked by Grant Clark.
  • It appears as if Mariners manager Eric Wedge has hit his boiling point.
  • John McGrath knows it, too: it’s fun to watch Michael Pineda pitch.
  • At the Seattle Times, Larry Stone has all kinds of stuff in his Sunday baseball package: A feature on the Mariners attendance and TV ratings situation, a column full of major league notes, power rankings, and a thumbs-up-and-down.
  • My Minor League Notebook turned into a mini-feature this week on local product Travis Ishikawa, who is back in Triple-A with Fresno. 
  • There is no update on Franklin Gutierrez’s condition.
  • The Omaha Storm Chasers opened up new Werner Park last night with a 2-1 win over Nashville. The stadium is a hit.
  • Ex-Rainiers outfielder David Winfree hit an opposite-field grand slam, and my man Wily Mo Pena belted his league-leading 6th home run in Reno’s 15-2 pasting of Colorado Springs last night. I wish the Aces (7-2) weren’t in our division – it sounds like they’re both really good and fun to watch this year.
  • The Iowa Cubs got their home opener in last night after Friday’s rainout. Bryan LaHair had three hits and he’s batting a nice .406.
  • Here’s a feature out of Las Vegas on infield prospect Brett Lawrie.
  • Subscription required, but ESPN’s Buster Olney writes about the Mariners plight.
  • We Mariners fans get frustrated when the team trades away a young player and he becomes a star somewhere else (hello, Shin-Soo!). This column out of San Francisco reminds us that other teams have that problem, too: the Giants traded away an entire future all-star outfield in the early 1970s.

That’s all for this morning – time to head out to the ballpark!


A Historic Day For Tacoma Baseball

April 16, 2011

The renovated Cheney Stadium opened up last night as the Rainiers played their home opener in front of a sellout crowd of 7,202.

I suppose it was inevitable that it was going to rain during the opener. Not only did we have that familiar misty Puget Sound rain at the first pitch, it did not stop at any point during the game. Yet still, fans seemed to enjoy themselves. As far as I could tell, anyway – with my job, I’m not able to mingle around the crowd and get a sense of people’s impressions.

However, with my new booth, I can actually see the crowd right in front of me (I’m not stuck on the roof anymore!). The people in front of me in Section E appeared to be having a great time at the ballpark – I wished I could bail out of the booth for an inning and join them for a hot dog and some cheering.

I talked with several Rainiers co-workers afterwards and the night went as smooth as could be expected under the circumstances. There were some hiccups, of course – there is still some finishing work being done at the park, and filling it up with all of those people for the first time ever certainly tested it. On the whole, it was a great night.

From my personal area, the broadcast went as well as could be expected. I arrived at about 1:00 in the afternoon and began moving into my booth: equipment, books, etc. I had to make sure all of the proper connections were working, and I was running around looking for cables and power strips and that type of stuff.

The big test of the connection to the radio station passed with flying colors – phew! – and I knew I was in good shape.

Calling the game was fun. Having Eddie Fisher stop by was a joy – we chatted about the Tacoma Giants of the early 1960s, knuckleballs, the 1966 World Series, the changing role of relief pitchers in the 1960s - it was great.

As for the mechanics of the broadcast, I am now situated on the third base line. This is a very different vantage point for me and it’s going to take some getting used to – I had difficulty judging balls hit to the left side, particularly fly balls to left field and if they were fair or foul. A couple more games and this should stop being a problem. Pitch location (inside/outside) is tough to see, but I have a video monitor to help with that.

The game was a back-and-forth affair that saw Sacramento win it, 6-5. Chris Carter drove in five Sacramento runs, including the game-winner with a double to right in the ninth inning.

Carlos Peguero was the big star for the Rainiers. He slugged a homer off the scoreboard in right-center, smashed a rocket off the glove of the Sacramento second baseman, singled sharply to center, and doubled off the giant wall in deep center. Four hard-hit balls for Peguero.

A few “firsts” in the new ballpark:

  • First Pitch: Chaz Roe, Tacoma (ball)
  • First Hit: Jemile Weeks, Sacramento (single)
  • First Tacoma Hit: Alex Liddi (single)
  • First Run: Alex Liddi, Tacoma
  • First Home Run: Carlos Peguero, Tacoma

Tacoma hosts Sacramento again today at 7:05. Tickets are available at the door tonight, and as I type this it is not raining (fingers crossed!). Tacoma starts LHP Fabio Castro (0-1, 6.75) against Sacramento RHP Travis Banwart (0-1, 8.31). The broadcast airs live on 850 AM and streams online.

Links:

  • Cheney Stadium Grand Re-Opening coverage from The News Tribune: Kathleen Merryman with the fan’s perspective, John McGrath with thoughts on the opener, Ryan Divish with the game story, and TNT staff photographers with a photo gallery.
  • The Seattle Times was there, too: Mason Kelley filed this report.
  • Quality bloggers made it out to the park as well: Prospect Insider has photos and a food review, the mysterious and level-headed marc w from USS Mariner was on hand, the Weekly Volcano had a good note on bicycle access.
  • The Cheney Stadium “SuperFlush” was just a ball sitting on a tee for The Nose. I’ll admit it: I laughed at the Rhubarb-in-the-shower line.
  • The Mariners had a late rally fall short in Kansas City.
  • I like the quotes from Michael Saunders in this well-researched Geoff Baker blog post. Nice stat work, Geoff.
  • A Mariners Minor League report from Ryan Divish.
  • There have been many stories written about Mariners reliever Tom Wilhelmsen, but this one from Jim Caple takes the prize.
  • Reno had a record crowd of 9,490 and local boy Konrad Schmidt had a big game in the home opener. This link includes a 60-shot photo gallery. My man Wily Mo Pena launched his fifth homer – look out, PCL record! The ghost of Tony Lazzeri (60, for Salt Lake City in 1925) is worried…
  • Tucson is back in the PCL- and it might be for longer than expected. The Padres had a nice crowd but lost to Salt Lake, 7-6. The outlook is promising in Tucson.
  • Las Vegas held its opener but lost to Fresno in the ninth. Former Rainiers reliever Chad Cordero is with Vegas. Ed Graney had fun at the game in this state-of-Las Vegas baseball round-up, and he dares to mention one of the PCL’s most hallowed and formerly secret traditions: the Jim Gemma Table Knock.
  • Breaking news: Emmanuel Burris was caught stealing. He’s 13-for-14 on the year.
  • New Orleans won its home opener over Round Rock, 4-0. Name to know: Zephyrs starter Tom Koehler, who was a big winner in Double-A last year.
  • Nothing is more depressing than when the home opener is rained out. It’s a real bummer for the fans, and the team front offices. We here at Mike… Off-Mic send out our condolences to Sam Bernabe and his staff, and Martie Cordaro’s crew, also.

Time to head to the ballpark and get further acclimated. Hope to see you out there!


The First Shall Be First Again

April 15, 2011

The craziest baseball off-season I’ve ever seen comes to its conclusion tonight with the Grand Re-Opening of the newly renovated Cheney Stadium.

There are so many angles to take on this, and I decided to focus on one that I think is pretty cool: the ceremonial first pitch.

Eddie Fisher threw the first real pitch of the first game at Cheney Stadium on April 16, 1960. And he’s still kicking. Fisher, 74, is living in Oklahoma and he agreed to come out for the first game at the new Cheney Stadium.

Fisher was a knuckleball-throwing starting pitcher for the Tacoma Giants in 1960 and 1961. He went 17-12 with a 3.32 ERA for the T-Giants in 1960, while leading the Pacific Coast League with 239 innings pitched.

Fisher returned to Tacoma in 1961 and was 9-5 with a 3.09 ERA before a mid-season promotion to San Francisco.

He then embarked upon a 15-year major league career that saw him become one of the top relief pitchers in major league baseball, and a part of the changing landscape in how managers use relief pitchers.

Fisher’s career highlights include a World Series championship as a member of the 1966 Baltimore Orioles, and 4th-place finish in the American League MVP voting in 1965 (15-7, 24 saves, 2.40 ERA while pitching in 82 games).

Fisher appeared in 690 major league games and had a lifetime ERA of 3.40. Bill James and Rob Neyer ranked him among the Top-10 Knuckleball Pitchers of All-Time in their book The Neyer-James Guide To Pitchers.

Fisher is a native Oklahoman, which is nice because Rainiers manager Daren Brown can speak in his native tongue when they meet before the game.

For more on Fisher, here are links to his career statistics, a detailed profile page from a fan, and an anectdote-filled newspaper story from his Oklahoma Sports Hall of fame induction two years ago.

After Eddie Fisher takes the Cheney Stadium mound for the first time in 51 years, we’ll have our regularly scheduled PCL baseball game. Tacoma RHP Chaz Roe will throw the first pitch at the renovated stadium, and he’ll be opposed by Sacramento River Cats RHP Yadel Marti.

The game will start at 7:20 due to the pre-game festivities. We’ll go on-air at 7:00 sharp with the Muckleshoot Casino Pre-Game Show on 850 AM and streaming here

Links:

  • Here is The News Tribune’s game story on last night’s ten-inning Rainiers loss in Fresno. The Fresno Bee coverage is a game notebook and a feature on excellent reliever Steve Edlefsen.
  • John McGrath wrote a feature profile on new Tacoma Rainiers owner Mikal Thomsen.
  • The Mariners lost the series opener in Kansas City, and some veterans are struggling at the plate.
  • Today’s Mariners Minor League Report with links from Ryan Divish.
  • The M’s changed plans and decided to have Franklin Gutierrez do his rehabilitation work in High Desert instead of Tacoma, due to better weather.
  • I can commiserate with Larry LaRue, who had a difficult time getting to Kansas City. When you fly all the time, things like this are bound to happen occasionally.
  • Eight PCL teams play their home opener tonight. Tacoma is not the only team opening a new ballpark – the Omaha Storm Chasers are christening Werner Park tonight, weather permitting. Nevermind, they cancelled it – they’ll try again on Saturday.
  • Las Vegas has its home opener tonight and the roster features four of the Toronto Blue Jays top prospects.
  • Reno got “Colorado Sprung” last night: they blew a 7-run lead and were beaten in Colorado Springs, 18-13.*
  • Triple-A baseball is working in Reno. I agree with the story: the development around the ballpark is a big hit. The Aces have an older team.
  • Salt Lake lost to Tucson last night despite two home runs from Jeff Baisley.
  • Foxy senior Emmylou Harris is a good luck charm for the Nashville Sounds.
  • They’ve made a bunch of changes at Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City, including the addition of a home run horn.
  • Round Rock won again, and Brian Barden has a 29-game hitting streak in the PCL going back to last season.**
  • The New Orleans Zephyrs are carrying a five-game win streak into their home opener.
  • The Albuquerque Isotopes are going on a long bus trip, but they’re doing it in style: the have two buses from Eminem‘s last tour.
  • Well this is just great. The first Baseball America Prospect Hot Sheet is out, and we get a player on the Not-So-Hot Sheet.
  • Jason Churchill is trying to make my head bigger than it already is.
  • Hey it’s Jackie Robinson day!

Well this should be fun tonight – a night many of us will remember for a long time. It’s a night that I never thought would happen.

* several years ago Rainiers pitching coach Dwight Bernard coined the term “Colorado Sprung” for when ridiculous things happen, usually due to high altitude and/or extreme weather, and you lose a game you should have won in Colorado Springs. As in, “we should have won that game, but we got Colorado Sprung in the ninth.”

** not to take anything away from Barden’s accomplishment, but I think the idea of the wrap-around hitting streak is dumb. New season, everyone should start at zero.


Rainiers End Skid

April 14, 2011

Blake Beavan tossed a gem, Dustin Ackley hit a leadoff homer, and Johan Limonta and Sean Kazmar had big hits as the Rainiers ended a three-game losing streak by defeating Fresno on Wednesday night, 3-1.

My game story (link below) covers the basics, but I want to write about the Rainiers bullpen here.

After Beavan showed pinpoint command over six outstanding innings, Cesar Jimenez, Justin Miller, and Royce Ring continued the trend in closing it out.

All told, the four pitchers did not walk a single batter.

Ring’s performance was nice to see, as he struggled a bit in his first two games. Ring has a history of success at the Triple-A level, and we saw it last night.

First, the lefty struck out pinch-hitter Edgar Gonzalez (Adrian’s brother), then he got Ryan Rohlinger to line out to center. Finally he faced a left-handed batter, and he struck out Travis Ishikawa to end the game.

Tonight the Rainiers finish the road trip with a 7:05 game in Fresno. Tacoma starts LHP Chris Seddon (0-0, 0.00) against Fresno LHP Matt Yourkin (0-1, 13.50). The game will be broadcast in the usual places: 850 AM, and streaming online.

Links:

  • Here is the Rainiers game story from The News Tribune, with quotes from manager Daren Brown.
  • The M’s had a slim lead going to the eighth yesterday, but reigning MBL home run king Jose Bautista launched a three-run bomb and that was that.
  • In this Doug Pacey notebook we learn a bit more about Franklin Gutierrez’s scheduled rehab with the Rainiers this weekend. Just a little something extra at Cheney Stadium’s Grand Re-Opening Weekend! Cancelled!
  • Geoff Baker wrote about difficult roster decisions approaching for the Mariners.
  • Ryan Divish posted the Mariners daily minor league report with a little commentary. Welcome to the listening audience, Ryan!
  • Here’s an excellent story from the Fresno Bee about the Grizzlies early season base stealing. They are on pace to shatter the PCL record for most steals in a season.
  • Also from the Bee, a summary of last night’s Tacoma-Fresno game.
  • Sacramento botched a game-ending double play and lost to Vegas in the ninth.
  • We have a feature on Roger Clemens son Koby Clemens, who is in the PCL with Oklahoma City.
  • Albuquerque beat Iowa, 10-7, to improve to 5-2. Jerry Sands had his four-game home run streak end, but Trent Oeltjen homered twice. Bryan LaHair doubled twice for Iowa – he has nine RBI already.
  • Omaha opens its new stadium tomorrow and Danny Duffy is going to be the starting pitcher. Despite being one of the top pitching prospects in the minor leagues, Duffy briefly quit the sport last year.
  • Rangers Class-A pitching prospect Neil Ramirez made an emergency fill-in start for Round Rock and delivered six shutout innings. Then he was promptly sent back to A-ball.
  • Salt Lake swamped the Tucson Padres yesterday, 15-4. It was a rain-shortened game – Salt Lake has played six games, and none of them have been nine innings. They have two rain-shortened games, two seven-inning doubleheader games, and two long extra-inning games.
  • Phenom Bryce Harper hit his first home run in an official minor league game. Here’s the video. Oppo-bomb!
  • Aroldis Chapman is amazing: he was throwing only 93 mph yesterday, so the Reds are worried he is injured.
  • There is some really insightful stuff about pitching in big games in Jeff Pearlman’s Q&A with Russ Ortiz

Last day of the road trip – let’s open the new place tomorrow!


Limonta Arrives

April 13, 2011

Johan Limonta joined the Tacoma Rainiers today, after opening the season at Class-AA Jackson. Limonta has three full seasons of AA experience and he has put up good offensive numbers every year, while playing defense at first base, left field, and right field.

To make room for Limonta, reserve infielder Jetsy Extrano was officially sent to extended spring training. He’s still here in Fresno, though - it sounds like Extrano will continue to work out with the Rainiers for a little while.

Limonta is in the lineup today, as the designated hitter.


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