Who’s Catching?

June 30, 2011

It was about 11:00 at night in the cramped visiting coaches locker room at Cashman Field in Las Vegas.

The team was all dressed and gone, and usually we are right on their heels, but this time was different.

Manager Daren Brown, pitching coach Dwight Bernard, trainers Tom Newberg and Jeremy Clipperton, and I just sat there, with surprised expressions on our faces: both Tacoma Rainiers catchers had just been called up to the major leagues, because both Seattle Mariners catchers had been injured.

None of us had ever seen this happen before – and the five of us combined for over 100 years of professional baseball experience, mostly at the AAA and MLB levels.

Josh Bard and Jose Yepez were promoted to Seattle, leaving the Rainiers without any catchers.

Thank goodness the team had Wednesday off. Today, we have a ton of Tacoma roster moves:

  • Catchers Josh Bard and Jose Yepez – called up to Seattle on Wednesday.
  • Catcher Ralph Henriquez – promoted from Class-AA Jackson.
  • Catcher Trevor Coleman – promoted from Class-A High Desert
  • Pitcher Denny Bautista – released so he could sign with a team in Korea.
  • Pitcher Chaz Roe – designated for assignment; unavailable for a few days while we see if he clears waivers.
  • Utility Leury Bonilla – sent to Jackson.
  • Pitcher Jarret Grube – promoted to Tacoma from Class-AA Jackson

Tacoma has 22 active players for tonight’s game, with 11 pitchers and 11 position players.

Tonight’s game is at 7:05, with the Rainiers at home against the Fresno Grizzlies. Tacoma is scheduled to start LHP Nate Robertson (2-2, 5.26) against Fresno LHP Dan Runzler (0-1, 4.50). You can hear the broadcast on 850 AM and streaming online right here

The Rainiers are home through the weekend, with fireworks after the games on Friday and Sunday. Sunday’s fireworks show is the massive one – the annual July 3rd Fireworks Extravaganza, and tickets are still available.

Congratulations to Tacoma Rainiers reliever Josh Lueke, who will represent the team in the Triple-A All-Star Game on July 13 in Salt Lake City. Lueke is fully recovered from his rough start in the major leagues and he appears to be ready again should the Mariners make the call.

Seeing how the Rainiers all-star gets promoted to Seattle the day after the all-star break every year, thus meaning that he doesn’t get to play in the all-star game itself, I suggest that Brown use Lueke as often as possible in the next ten days.

Here is the release on the entire PCL All-Star team.

I was on the early flight to Seattle (with all of the Rainiers catchers) on Wednesday, and I made my Mariners Radio debut that afternoon.

I thought the broadcast went well. I wasn’t nervous, and I only called the Mariners the Rainiers once (whoops!). 

I was comfortable because of how warm and welcoming Rick Rizzs and producer Kevin Cremin are. They made everything go very smoothly, and they eased me in.

Rick is such an excellent, professional announcer and he’s a complete natural for the lead position in the booth. In addition to easing me (a rookie) into the broadcast, he’s working with a revolving door of announcers this year, so his rhythm and flow are constantly changing.

One thing that fans don’t see is that between innings, Rick is constantly greeting sponsors and visitors during the commercial breaks. His enthusiasm is relentless and he truly has fun in the booth.

On top of that, Rick is supremely prepared. He has several pages of hand-written notes for each broadcast, so he stays up all night (or wakes up at dawn – I don’t know) and preps for his game.

On a personal note, I’d like to thank all of you who left me notes of encouragement on this blog and on twitter. It’s great to hear some positive feedback – thanks!

Links:

See you at Cheney this weekend!


Cup Of Coffee

June 28, 2011

The Rainiers lost the final game in Las Vegas on Wednesday, 11-4, ending the team’s five-game win streak.

The team is off on Wednesday before opening a big holiday weekend series against Fresno on Thursday night at 7:05. Tickets are still available for all four games, including both fireworks nights (Friday and Sunday).

As you may have heard, I’ve been asked to work the Mariners broadcast with Rick Rizzs on Wednesday (12:40, 710 AM). It’s an honor to get the opportunity to call a Mariners game, and hopefully I won’t mess it up too badly.

It’s a one-day assignment – I’ll be back with the Rainiers on Thursday. I’ll do a post about the experience on Thursday or Friday.

Special thanks to Randy Adamack of the Mariners for giving me the opportunity!


Winning Big In Vegas

June 28, 2011

The Rainiers opened the game hitting and didn’t stop for quite a while on Monday night in Las Vegas.

Tacoma scored six runs before making the first out in the first inning, and eventually beat the Las Vegas 51s, 19-5.

It was the fifth straight win for Tacoma – and that’s now the team’s longest win streak of the season. The Rainiers have won 13 of the last 17 road games.

At 38-41, the Rainiers are three games under .500. Tacoma has not been two games under since it was 3-5 going into the home opener.

Tacoma has scored 40 runs on 51 hits in the first three games of this series, and the Rainiers will go for a sweep today.

I was ready to bill tonight’s series finale (7:05 pm, South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online) as a potential pitcher’s duel, but now I’m not so certain. Las Vegas scheduled starting pitcher (and PCL wins leader) Brett Cecil was called up by Toronto, and their starter is unknown at this time.

Seeing how Vegas has used three different position players on the mound the last three days, they couldn’t have picked a worse day to have their starting pitcher called up on the day of his game.

Tacoma starts RHP Blake Beavan (5-2, 4.04), who has been dealing lately. Over his last six starts, Beavan is 4-1 with a 1.85 ERA and a 32-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 39 innings.

So let’s see if the Rainiers can get their first sweep of the season. Baby steps!

Links:

The Rainiers return home on Thursday for a four-game series against Fresno. Amazingly, as of yesterday there were still Reserved seats available for the huge July 3rd Fireworks Extravaganza on Sunday night at 7:05, so if you don’t have your tickets yet head down to the Cheney Stadium box office today or hit the Rainiers official site and set yourself up.


Approaching Even

June 27, 2011

Tacoma continued its hot play on Sunday afternoon, defeating Las Vegas 9-4. That’s four straight wins for Tacoma.

The Rainiers are now 37-41 on the year, four games under .500. This team has not been at the .500 mark since the first week of the season, and now it’s within reach. Baby steps!

I have all of the details on Sunday’s win in the game story (first link below), but I want to add a little more on Luis Jimenez.

The Rainiers DH went 3-for-5 with two home runs and five RBI yesterday. Both of his homers were two-run go-ahead shots, and both came with two outs in the inning.

Luis Jimenez loves Las Vegas. In six games at Cashman Field, Jimenez is 11-for-27 with four home runs and 14 RBI.

The pitching star yesterday was Cesar Jimenez, who tossed three shutout innings. In his last six games, Cesar has allowed just one run in 11.2 innings, giving up eight hits and two walks while striking out 11.

Cesar Jimenez has had a velocity bump recently – I heard that he reached 94 mph the other day. Remember, he was out for two years with shoulder surgery and he’s back at 100% for the first time since 2008.

He’s still got the great change-up, too.

The Rainiers will try to win five in a row for the first time this season tonight at 7:05. Tacoma starts LHP Luke French (3-6, 6.32) against Las Vegas RHP Rey Gonzalez (2-1, 6.89). The broadcast airs on South Sound Sports 850 AM, and it streams online right here.

Links:

  • I wrote the Rainiers game story for The News Tribune and they left my cheesy lede intact!
  • The Las Vegas Review-Journal also has a game story, with news that Mill Creek native Travis Snider (concussion) should come off the DL shortly. 
  • Warning to new Rainiers infielder Kyle Seager: the fellas at The Weekly Volcano have noticed you.
  • The Mariners had a miracle win yesterday, scoring the winning run on a wild pitch that came while an intentional walk was intended. I’m more amazed that after the intentional ball three was wild and the run scored, they went ahead and pitched to Carlos Peguero – and he still struck out. Think about that for a minute.
  • Geoff Baker has a blog post on Dustin Ackley’s big game.
  • Larry LaRue has notes on the Mariners long-haul planning for Michael Pineda, and our first sign of pennant fever
  • Here’s a ranking of top MLB promotions – and the Mariners are #1.
  • The weekly USS Mariner Minor League Wrap is up.
  • In the PCL, Reno evened up the series with Sacramento by winning yesterday, 9-2. The benches cleared and it was only game two of the series!
  • Salt Lake third baseman Jeff Baisley is having a breakout season.
  • Tucson scored three runs in the ninth to beat Fresno – Aaron Cunningham tied the game with a two-run homer, and Cedric Hunter had a walk-off RBI double. The paper has a feature on Steve Tolleson.
  • Look! I pro-baseball article from normally baseball-hating Portlandia!
  • Former Rainier Bryan LaHair is going off in Iowa. Could another shot at the majors be coming for him?
  • Nashville pitcher Frankie De La Cruz talked about how the extremely different pitcher training in Japan helped him.
  • Round Rock pitcher Eric Hurley returned after taking a line drive to the head in April.
  • The Storm Chasers were storm magnets yesterday, and their battle for first place with Memphis was rained out.

I am looking forward to Wednesday. It’s going to be a crazy schedule for me leading up to (and after) that, but I’ll write about the experience afterwards here on the blog.


Winning – It’s All The Rave

June 26, 2011

The Rainiers won their third straight game, crushing Las Vegas on Saturday night, 12-2. It was the opener of a quick four-game road trip to Las Vegas.

Chris Seddon tossed eight strong inning, allowing two runs, for the win. It was his fourth consecutive quality start.

Seddon put a lot of leadoff batters on base – five of eight – but he induced four double play grounders. Alex Liddi and Kyle Seager looked particularly flashy with the leather on the double plays.

Matt Tuiasosopo put the Rainiers ahead with a homer in the fourth, but the Rainiers really exploded with a seven-run 7th inning. Luis Jimenez, Mike Wilson, and Ryan Langerhans each homered in the inning.

Tacoma hit four home runs on Saturday – matching their total for the entire eight-game homestand which ended on Friday night.

Tacoma has won 11 of the last 15 road games, and is now 22-19 on the road for the year.

If we were playing in the old Cheney Stadium I’d probably make some pithy remark about how we should spend the rest of the season as barnstormers, but since our home ballpark is so nice now I guess the team just needs to figure out how to win in it.

Today’s game is at 12:05 – which feels like the crack of dawn in Vegas. Tacoma starts Knucklin’ Charlie Haeger (1-2, 9.10) against Las Vegas LHP Brad Mills (6-6, 3.57). Haeger is coming off his best start of the year, and Mills ranks second in the PCL in ERA. 

The broadcast will be on 850 AM and streaming online right here.

Sunday links:

  • Here is my Rainiers game story for The News Tribune.
  • My Sunday Minor League Notebook has notes on Nick Franklin and Guillermo Pimentel.
  • Larry LaRue has a notebook on Dustin Ackley’s initial major league impressions, and that criminal Jack McKeon.
  • Ryan Divish wrote a solid feature on former Rainiers pitcher David Pauley.
  • The best part of Sunday links is always the Larry Stone MLB package: his column on Jim Riggleman, his notebook, and his power rankings.
  • Steve Kelley remarks that Dave Niehaus would have really enjoyed this season.
  • I wish every team had an 80-year-old manager, just so John McGrath could make the rounds writing about them.
  • In the PCL, Reno is at Sacramento for a big series – and a possible playoff preview. Sacramento won the opener, 8-3, as Kevin Kouzmanoff homered and rove in five runs. A Sacramento sweep sure would help the Rainiers…
  • The Las Vegas Review-Journal has a nice feature on former Rainiers and Mariners shortstop Chris Woodward. Fun stuff: when Toronto offered him a job, he wasn’t sure if they meant as a player or as a scout.
  • The Sky Sox had two big innings and blasted the Salt Lake Bees, 15-7. Mike Jacobs had four hits.
  • After the Salt Lake game, fans were treated to Whiplash the Cowboy Monkey. This is the greatest promotion everAnnie Schultz, I am publicly calling you out: we need Whiplash at a Rainiers game.*
  • Arizona Diamondbacks General Manager Kevin Towers was in Reno and he did a fun Q&A, in which he discusses among other things his days in the PCL.
  • Here is the in-depth story on Sean Burroughs and his comeback – its great stuff, and proof that spending $20-30,000 a month partying in Vegas gets old after a while (for some people, at least).
  • Tucson outfielder Matt Clark is raking in his first Triple-A season.
  • Ex-Rainiers slugger Brad Nelson had the game winning hit in the bottom of the ninth inning for Round Rock last night.
  • The pitcher the Mariners traded to St. Louis for Brendan RyanMaikel Cleto – is absolutely dealing in the minor leagues this year. He made his Memphis debut yesterday and it was domination time.
  • Nashville’s Mat Gamel laid an egg at Cheney Stadium back in May, but everywhere else in the league he is crushing it. He had a walk-off home run yesterday, his 17th bomb of the year.

Last time we were in Vegas a month ago, the annual Punk Rock Bowling festival was going on right outside our hotel. This time, the country’s largest rave is in town – the Electric Daisy Carnival.

I’ve got to tell you, these ravers are relentless. Admirable, even. I went downstairs to get my coffee at 7:15 this morning and there were a bunch of them in the lobby, all dressed up and still partying. I didn’t really need to see the guy in neon short-shorts, glo-stick necklace and nothing else, but hey, whatever.

And I thought baseball people kept strange hours. We’ve got nothing on these ravers!

* Really, how much could his fee be? He’s a monkey, for cripes sake. Some bananas should cover it.


Getting Even Before Going To Vegas

June 25, 2011

Tacoma topped Colorado Springs on Friday night, 6-3, salvaging a split of the four-game series.

It was a somewhat unlikely split, seeing how Tacoma lost the first two games. But the pitching was very strong in games three and four, and the Rainiers were able to string together hits.

Nate Robertson started on Friday and was working on a two-hit shutout with one out in the fourth inning when the Sky Sox strung together three extra-base hits and scored three runs. But Robertson was able to settle down and retire the next five batters, getting through the fifth inning.

Tacoma took the lead with a four-run fourth. Ryan Langerhans had the big hit, a two-run single to center that snapped the tie and gave the Rainiers a 5-3 lead. Langerhans has a nine-game hitting streak and he has reached base with either a hit or a walk in 15 straight games.

Kyle Seager had another good game, going 3-for-3 with a walk, scoring one run and driving in another. The second baseman also made a fine defensive play on a ball hit up the middle.

But the biggest star may have been reliever Chaz Roe. Roe had his best outing of the season, delivering three scoreless innings in relief of Robertson. Roe retired nine of the ten batters he faced, striking out six. It was an impressive showing against his former team.

The Rainiers went 3-5 on the homestand, and now they go back to where their success has been this season: the road.

It’s a quick trip – just four games in Las Vegas, then right back home.

Saturday’s game in Vegas is at 7:05, and you can hear it on 850 AM or streaming online right here. Tacoma starts LHP Chris Seddon (4-4, 5.15) against Las Vegas RHP Scott Richmond (4-5, 6.28).

Links:

  • Ryan Divish wrote the Rainiers game story for The News Tribune, and he zeroed in on the key to Chaz Roe’s success: the mustache. Well, duh.
  • So the Mariners got a road win at home. Or something like that. I don’t know, I’m confused.*
  • Larry LaRue caught up with ex-Rainiers Greg Dobbs and Jose Lopez before the game.
  • In the PCL, Reno knocked out Las Vegas starter Kyle Drabek in the first inning and pounded out a 16-7 win over the 51s. Arizona Diamondbacks General Manager Kevin Towers is pleased with the Aces.
  • Colorado Springs manager Stu Cole says third baseman Ian Stewart needs an attitude adjustment.
  • Salt Lake picked up a win at Fresno last night, earning a series split.
  • Out of Tucson, we have a feature on former Rainiers and Mariners catcher Guillermo Quiroz – a quality story on a quality dude.
  • The Iowa Cubs won in front of a huge crowd, and Bryan LaHair hit his 20th home run.
  • Nashville beat Omaha 3-2 – amazingly, over half of Nashville’s games have been decided by one run.
  • New Orleans and Round Rock split a doubleheader for the second day in a row.

Sending this from the airport – we’re off to Vegas!

* Actually, after Tacoma’s “home” games at Memphis in the PCL finals last year, I guess I’m really an expert at this situation. Hey Mariners or Marlins, if you need a consultant to help you through this confusion, my fees are quite reasonable.


Beavan Deals

June 24, 2011

The Rainiers have a few starting pitchers who are beginning to get it going, and Blake Beavan has been the leader of the pack.

The 22-year-old right-hander tossed another gem last night – his sixth consecutive strong start, leading to a 4-2 victory over the Colorado Springs Sky Sox.

Tacoma ended a four-game losing streak with the victory, and moved back into a second-place tie with the Sky Sox.

Beavan tossed seven innings and allowed just two runs on six hits. He struck out seven and walked only one. Both runs he allowed came on solo home runs – the first one on a clear mistake pitch to Mike Paulk with an 0-2 count.

Over his last six starts, Beavan is 4-1 with a 1.85 ERA (39.0 IP, 8 ER, with 33 strikeouts). This is his first real extended run of success at the Triple-A level – remember, he didn’t get promoted until late July last year, so he was only here for August and then the playoff starts.

Beavan’s progress this season is promising for the Mariners organization, which has most of it’s starting pitching prospects in the low minor leagues.

Kyle Seager made his Triple-A debut last night, starting at second base and batting in the #2 spot. He singled sharply in each of his first two at-bats and finished the game 2-for-4. Defensively, he was untested – he didn’t even have a fielding chance until the seventh inning.

The Rainiers can split the series with a win tonight in the last game of the eight-game home stand. It’s Friday Night Fireworks and game time is 7:05 – a big crowd is expected, but general admission tickets should be available at the door. You can follow the broadcast on 850 AM or streaming online right here. Tacoma starts LHP Nate Robertson (1-2, 5.23) against Sky Sox RHP Billy Buckner (1-2, 5.36).

Links:

  • In the Rainiers game story from Larry LaRue in The News Tribune, we learn that Blake Beavan has been going to his new curveball more often.
  • The Mariners lost to the Washington Nationals yesterday, 1-0, getting swept by the hottest team in the National League. Then, the Nats had a Marinersesque managerial change.
  • Now the M’s are “home” at Safeco for this crazy series against the Marlins, in which the Marlins will pretend to be the home team. National League rules, pitchers will bat. Who was the last pitcher to bat at Safeco Field? I’m sure Tim Hevly will have the answer (hint: it’s in the story, and it was a player who was named after one of the world’s most dangerous animals).
  • It’s Friday afternoon and you have time to kill, so read this fun Jeff Sullivan primer on National League baseball.
  • Geoff Baker writes that the Mariners need to make a trade. At this point, I disagree, but I reserve the right to change my mind in a month. The franchise needs to move forward with the youth, and that means letting the kids play. It’s for the long run.
  • Mariners prospect Nick Franklin made his Double-A debut, and he had two hits and helped turn a triple play.
  • Another M’s prospect – Clinton pitcher Taijuan Walker – made a strong showing in this week’s Baseball America Prospect Hot Sheet.
  • In the PCL, first-place Reno had a come-from-behind victory at home against Las Vegas.
  • Salt Lake signed former SF Giants and Fresno Grizzlies pitcher Jerome Williams, and he made his Bee’s debut at Fresno and beat his former team. In this story, we learn that Williams is now a restaurateur.
  • The Chicago Cubs sent Tyler Colvin to Iowa, where he is hitting home runs.
  • Here’s an odd one: Last week, Nashville pitching coach Rich Gale was named to the staff of the PCL All-Star team. Now, he has quit his job due to personal reasons.
  • It might not be a Storm, but the Omaha Chasers have proven they can catch the Sounds.
  • My Cal Bears were knocked out of the College World Series. A fine showing, though.

Tonight may be the last game of the homestand, but the Rainiers road trip is very short – just four games in Las Vegas (whoo0!) and then an off-day (double-whooo!), and the Rainiers will be right back home again on Thursday night (triple-whooo!).


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