Clay Way Is A “Go”

March 29, 2012

Clay Huntington Way is happening.

The street that winds around Foss High School into Cheney Stadium – currently named Cheyenne Street – is going to be renamed Clay Huntington Way in a pre-game ceremony on April 21.

This is a terrific way to honor a man who made such an impact on athletics in the City of Tacoma.

Here is the newspaper story from The News Tribune, and a television news story from King 5. 

The Mariners lost the second game in Japan this morning, 4-1. Jason Vargas pitched terrific baseball, but the Mariners bullpen got hammered – three different relievers allowed a home run in the late innings.

Seattle split the series and now returns to Arizona for another week of Cactus League games before resuming the regular season in Oakland next Friday.

This big news this morning was that the Mike Carp sprained his shoulder making that diving attempt in left field on Opening Day. The Mariners placed him on the 15-day disabled list and activated Carlos Peguero to take his place.

We’re not going to learn the severity of Carp’s injury until he gets re-evaluated when the team returns to US soil. Hopefully it’s a minor injury and he won’t miss more than 15 days.

If you watched the game this morning – I did, and I am eternally thankful that it ended before sunrise this time – you had to be impressed by Yoenis Cespedes, the center fielder for Oakland. Cespedes was the best player in Cuba, and Oakland signed him to a big contract after he left the island nation. After two games, it’s looking like a great signing. Speed, power, defense – he showed it all in Japan. We’ll see what happens when full scouting reports get out on him – will he adjust?

By the way, we have a final ruling on the pronunciation of Cespedes – well, his last name, anyway. The San Francisco newspaper is printing an accent on the first “e,” and that’s how the Mariners broadcast team was pronouncing it throughout the second half of this morning’s game. SESS-pe-des.

Links:

  • We’ll start with Geoff Baker’s game story on the Mariners loss in game two in Japan, and the box score.
  • Here’s all we have on Mike Carp’s injury, from Greg Johns of MLB.com.
  • Larry Stone says it’s too early to panic about the Mariners offense.
  • Tim Booth took a break from his regular job of being a wiseass on Twitter to write this story about the technical challenges of the unusual telecasts of the games in Japan. 
  • Baker caught up with former Rainiers slugger Wladimir Balentien, who is big in Japan.
  • You can buy the hat that Bobby Thomson was wearing when he hit The Shot Heard ‘Round The World. Whitey Lockman – one of Tacoma’s winningest managers in franchise history* – was on base when Thomson hit it.
  • Things we learn from the latest round of Baseball America’s Minor League Transactions: the Red Sox released former Rainiers and UW pitcher Sean White, ex-Rainiers outfielder David Winfree was optioned to Reno, the Dodgers released ex-Mariners and Rainiers pitcher Ian Snell, the Nationals parted ways with Gaby Hernandez, and the Mariners released a whole bunch of lower-level minor leaguers, including pitcher Stephen Penney who I wrote about when I was in Arizona.
  • If you are a Baseball America subscriber, Ben Badler has a tremendously thorough round-up of the Mariners teenage international signings from last year.
  • Talk about a career spin: Steve Patterson, the consultant who worked tirelessly with the Rainiers on the Cheney Stadium renovation project, is now the Athletic Director at Arizona State University. Nice gig, Steve!**
  • Former Rainiers outfielder Scott Podsednik is having a huge spring in Florida, but he’s in a showdown with Juan Pierre to make the Phillies roster as the 25th man.
  • In the PCL, the Reno newspaper looks at the possibility that the Arizona Diamondbacks might not want to expose their highly regarded pitching prospects to the gravity-free environment of Aces Ballpark. There are some great quotes from Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers in this piece.
  • The Fresno Grizzlies will have a rehabilitating Ryan Vogelsong starting on opening day.

No blog post on Friday – I’m working on some other projects. Check back Monday for an update of the weekend’s news. Rainiers Opening Night is just a week from today!

* Spoiler alert: this is a subject that will come up again during the 2012 PCL season.

** I believe – although I am not certain – that he is the only Pac-12 athletic director who has ever karaoked “Truckin” at Barb’s Westgate


In The Wake Of An All-Nighter

March 28, 2012

I’m up!

Only slept for five hours after that all-nighter. I’m not doing it again – I’ll watch the beginning of tonight’s 2:00 AM game, but when sleep hits, I’m going to bed. There will be no live blog. 

The all-nighter reminded me of college – I had to pull an all-nighter for my Shakespeare final due to circumstances I will not share here because it sets a bad example for our nation’s youth. It worked back then – I got a B+ on that final – and it worked for the Mariners last night. Let’s give them an A- for winning the season opener, getting great pitching from three different players, and timely hitting when it counted in the 11th. I docked them from a pure A strictly due to baserunning problems early in the game.

Links on this morning’s game:

  • I love it – we have the first box score of the season.
  • The Seattle Times sent Geoff Baker to Japan, and he wrote the game story.
  • Baker has two great bits in this blog post: about the importance of the game for Ichiro, and about reliever Tom Wilhelmsen who on the off-day Monday went and sat in the bleachers for the Oakland A’s vs. Hanshin Tigers exhibition game.
  • Larry Stone has his 10 Sleepy Observations from the game.
  • John McGrath had to file a column five hours before the first pitch. He decided to try to stay up and listen to the game on the radio, just like he did in his youth.

National media followed the game:

Let’s see if the M’s can make it 2-0 tonight!


Mariners Opener Live Blog

March 28, 2012

Well, here we are – opening day in Japan, A’s and Mariners.

I snuck in a nap in around normal dinner time, and I’m hoping to make it through all nine innings tonight.

This game is televised on ROOT and broadcast on 710 AM in Seattle.

The telecast is going to be weird. Announcers Dave Sims and Mike Blowers are not in Japan – they will be broadcasting from a studio in Bellevue, while watching the video from a Japanese sports channel. Larry Stone wrote about how strange this TV broadcast is going to be – from a production standpoint.

On the roster front, the Mariners had to trim the roster to 25 active players from a 28-man “provisional roster” for these two games. They made two starting pitchers that they will not need in Japan inactive – Hector Noesi and Kevin Millwood – plus long reliever Hisashi Iwakuma, who is unavailable after being used as a starter in Monday’s exhibition game.

The upshot of all of the latest moves: Carlos Peguero, Guillermo Quiroz, and Chance Ruffin were sent to Tacoma and figure to be on the Rainiers roster for next Thursday’s home opener. Alex Liddi, Erasmo RamirezCharlie Furbush, Steve Delabar and Lucas Luetge make the Mariners active roster for the two games against Oakland, but all four will be anxious when it comes time for the Mariners to activate the three “inactive” pitchers on the provisional roster.

Confusing this year, huh? I’m just figuring all of this out as we go along.

As another part of all of that: the Rainiers will arrive in Tacoma on Monday to get settled and work out at Cheney prior to Thursday’s home opener – but I am hearing only a portion of the team will actually be sent to town that day, because the Mariners will need extra players in Arizona for the Cactus League games that they will play when they return from Japan. We could have 15-20 players show up on Monday, with the remaining Rainiers arriving in Tacoma on game day for Thursday’s opener.

All of this maneuvering could result in the Rainiers opening day roster not being announced until opening day itself.

Pre-game links:

  • For the Mariners opener, The News Tribune put together brief bios on every member of the Mariners opening day roster. You can check it out right here.
  • Earlier today, Oakland A’s beat writer Susan Slusser pointed out that the A’s are the home team for both games in Japan, but the fans will be pulling for the Mariners.
  • Greg Johns has a health update on injured Mariners Franklin Gutierrez and Adam Moore. The news on Moore is particularly encouraging – it sounds like he might be able to play in the PCL opener.

All right, the stage is set, let’s get to the live blog and then the game!

1:36 AM – Just posted this first entry, and quickly perused the Mariners Opening Night Game Notes. Did you know that the Mariners have won five straight season openers? Winning streak!

 1:40 AM – best entry in the M’s game notes, quoted:

THANKS TOM: Tom Verducci (SI.com) points out that after this Japan trip “…Seattle goes to Arizona to play five more spring training games, then leaves for three games in Oakland and then three more in Texas. That’s a 19-game, 22-day, 14-time zone trip. The Mariners finally get to Seattle for their home opener April 13 — two months and two days after their first spring training workout.”

 1:57 AM – let’s do another quote, because that last one was fun (and easy)… Jeff Sullivan sums up exactly what we don’t know about the 2012 Mariners:

We know what to expect from this team. And what we’ll expect from this team is anywhere from like 60 to 90 wins. Look around the roster. Who knows? There’s upside almost everywhere, and there’s downside almost everywhere.

It’s so true!

2:25 AM – Root is not helping us stay awake by showing soccer before the Mariners pre-game show. I’m starting to feel drowsy…

2:47 AM – it just occurred to me that the East Coast finally has a superior sports viewing time than us on the West Coast. I’ve often wondered how sports fans survive on the East Coast – no football until 1:00, many of the good games start at 10:00 PM…

3:03 AM – we have live TV from Japan. That’s an ugly dome. Blowers says its a launching pad – he played there.

3:09 AM – Chone Figgins bounces out to shortstop on the second pitch of the game – and this season is underway.

3:16 AM – After an Ichiro infield single, Justin Smoak K’s and the M’s don’t score in the first. Mariners pounding the ball into the turf against the sinkers of Brandon McCarthy.

This series is clearly about Ichiro – flashbulbs were going off throughout his at-bat, and the crowed roared when he tried to steal (Smoak fouled off the pitch).

3:25 AM – Seth Smith just yanked a foul ball into an on-field patio down the right field line. It reminded me of that beer garden they used to have at PGE Park in Portland.

3:26 AM – So long, Seth Smith. Felix has his first strikeout of the new season.

3:37 AM – in his first MLB at-bat, Yoenis Cespedes has no chance against Felix. Just waving at breaking stuff. Felix has 3 K’s through two innings, and it’s 0-0.

3:38 AM – cracking open my first beer. I haven’t had a beer at this hour since college (obv. not counting Vegas).

3:45 AM – Michael Saunders lashes a single to right, steals second, and then makes a baserunning mistake getting thrown out at third on a grounder to the backhand side of the shortstop. At least he smoked that single!

3:48 AM – former Reno Aces longball masher Brandon Allen is starting at first base for Oakland. There is no Felix in the PCL – Allen K’s swinging at the high heat.

3:55 AM –  we have our first run of the season, on a Dustin Ackley home run just to the right of center field. McCarthy left a fastball up and Ackley crushed it.

4:01 AM – Dustin Ackley leads all of Major League Baseball in home runs.

4:04 AM – Dustin Ackley is on pace to hit 162 home runs this season, which I believe would be a record.

4:08 AM – A’s tie it up, 1-1. Cliff Pennington hit a leadoff double, and Kurt Suzuki hit a two-out RBI double to left. Both balls were hit hard – Carp attempted a diving catch of Suzuki’s and almost got it. It was a good risk to make the diving attempt with two outs, he just couldn’t get it.

4:12 AM – ex-Rainiers catcher Miguel Olivo: still Runs Well For A Catcher. Dude must have bionic knees.

4:23 AM – Felix picks up a couple more strikeouts in the fifth – although he did hit Cespedes with a pitch that he appeared to be swinging at. Greg Johns – who is in Japan – reports that Felix hit 143 on the stadium radar gun. That’s 143 kilometers per hour.

4:35 AM – Figgins and Ichiro single in the sixth, but the M’s leave them stranded. Ichiro is 3-for-3 and I’m beginning to think he might go 8-for-8 in Japan.

4:49 AM – Felix works out of a jam in the bottom of the sixth, with Mike Carp helping out with solid defense in left field. Still 1-1.

4:50 AM – we need to score a bunch of runs. I’m starting to fade…

4:59 AM – Yoenis Cespedes rips a curve for a double for his first MLB hit. From the broadcast, it sounds like his name is pronounced 17 different ways (and counting).

5:03 AM – just to clarify, I have no idea how to pronounce Yoenis Cespedes myself. I’m trying to learn…

5:17 AM – we’re through eight innings and it’s still 1-1. Felix is right around 105 pitches and I suspect he might be done for the day.

5:27 AM – Mariners go to the bullpen in the bottom of the ninth with the score tied 1-1. It’s Tom Wilhelmsen in this situation, which is kind of amazing if you think about it. The Mariners have very little bullpen experience.

5:32 AM – thanks to another great grab by Mike Carp in left field, we are going to extra innings at 1-1. It’s a baseball tradition: getaway days and games that start at 3:00 AM always go to extra innings.

5:38 AM – former Rainiers LHP Brian Fuentes comes in for Oakland, and works a scoreless top of the tenth. The Mariners have not had a hit since the sixth inning – which sounds like a stat from last year.

5:50 AM – Wilhelmsen with an impressive outing, two scoreless frames. That was a nasty fastball to punch out Weeks. We go to the 11th tied 1-1.

5:57 AM – What a turn of events for the Mariners. Oakland brings in a green rookie to pitch the top of the 11th – and after three straight fastballs to leadoff man Brendan Ryan, he hangs a slider and Ryan crushes it for a double. Figgins has a good AB, with a sac bunt – but he was trying to work a walk from the rookie first, only getting the bunt down once he saw a strike. Then Dustin Ackley strokes a fastball into center for an RBI single, and the Mariners lead 2-1.

5:59 AM – apparently Ichiro supports Kirin Beer. Don’t believe I’ve ever tried that – I think Sapporo is the only Japanese beer I’ve ever had.

6:00 AM – if Jerry Blevins was available, why didn’t they bring him in to face Ackley? 

6:06 AM – Ackley swipes second, and Ichiro’s fourth hit of the game scores him to make it 3-1. It’s Brandon League time!

6:14 AM – Brandon League gets it done – the Mariners win, and I get to go to bed!

Now the M’s go for a sweep tonorrow – and we get an hour break; the game starts at two instead of three.


Live Blog Tonight (Tomorrow Morning)

March 27, 2012

For all of you night owls, I’ll be live-blogging the Mariners season opener tonight at 3:00 AM.

If you aren’t awake then you can just read the recap whenever you get around to it.


Train Like Seals

March 26, 2012

The Mariners season opener from Japan will be televised at 3:00 AM on Wednesday morning. After much consideration, I decided that I’m going for it: the live television experience.

I put in a practice run last night and was able to stay up until 4:30 – or what would be about the 5th inning. The problem is I could only sleep until 10:00 AM. I think the backside of watching these games is going to be the tough part, unless you regularly work the night shift and sleep from 6:00 AM – 1:00 PM or something.

This reminds me of those Tom Clancy and Vince Flynn books. The Navy Seals are trained do their special operations at 4 or 5 in the morning, when the enemies are at their lowest level of alertness. I’m going to try to condition myself to be at a higher level of alertness for these games. Let’s do it, Navy Seals style!

Is anyone else going to try to stay awake all night on Tuesday night for the opener?*

(Special note to rainierfan in the comments: just say no to Tivo for this one. It’s Opening Day!)

Links:

  • Shannon Drayer is blogging about the Mariners trip to Japan, and she posts a lot of good pictures. Check it out here.
  • I enjoyed Baker’s blog post and pictures of the high school baseball tournament he went to in Japan. A beer vendor at a high school sports event would never be allowed in the USA!
  • The jet-lagged Mariners lost their first exhibition game, 5-1, to the Hanshin Tigers.
  • Then they lost their second game, this morning to the Yomiuri Giants.
  • Art Thiel has notes on the exhibition games, including news that the Mariners owner will not be attending.
  • Larry LaRue talked to everybody on the planet about Mariners manager Eric Wedge.
  • Lash also submitted a feature on Felix Hernandez.
  • Larry Stone reminds us that it will be years before we know who won the Michael PinedaJesus Montero trade.
  • For those following the Michael Pineda velocity watch: he picked up a couple of miles and was hitting 94 yesterday. As I wrote before, he’ll be just fine.
  • Former PCL President Bill Cutler passed away at age 92. Cutler had an impact in Washington: he moved Triple-A baseball to Spokane in the 1970s. Also, he was once fired by Charlie Finley – there was a time when that was badge of honor in baseball, like being fired by George Steinbrenner or being traded for prospects by Billy Beane.
  • Former Rainiers and Mariners reliever David Pauley was signed to a minor league contract by the Los Angeles Angels. He was released by Detroit last week.
  • On Friday the Tampa Bay Rays sent ex-Rainiers reliever Josh Lueke to Triple-A Durham.
  • Just for fun – don’t read much into this – here is Tacoma’s lineup for today’s minor league spring training game. Players from any level in the organization can and do play in these games, so take this with a grain of salt but one thing I’ve noticed is that 1B/OF Joe Dunigan has been getting a lot of run with the Triple-A group lately. That might just be because Alex Liddi and Carlos Peguero are in Japan.
  • Just awesome: Jim Caple has 49 things about 49-year-old Jamie Moyer. I didn’t realize that he’s older than Mr. Met.
  • How rich do you have to be in order to drop a cool $1.5 million on this baseball card?
  • I just can’t take my eyes off the video of the Marlins psychedelic home run celebration thingamajig.
  • A Brewers prospect named Scooter Gennett hit for the cycle yesterday. If Scooter Gannett isn’t a gritty, hustling second baseman then I need to re-learn baseball.
  • Look, it’s no secret that food at sporting events is never cheap. But the $26 hot dog the Texas Rangers are selling is a little over-the-top, isn’t it?
  • On that subject, today we learned that one of the makers of “pink slime” is based in Amarillo, Texas – the home of Rainiers manager Daren Brown. I think we just found a sponsor for his radio show.
  • We leave you with the most spring training moment of the year.

We’ll be back Wednesday, I hope, with a post on the Mariners opener. I’ve got to stay on this Seals training regimen.

* I believe I just became the first baseball blogger to ever link to Krokus. Somebody alert Guinness!


Off To Japan

March 23, 2012

The Mariners set their 30-man travel party and flew to Japan yesterday afternoon. The play two exhibition games against Japanese teams (Saturday and Monday), and then they have the two season-opening games against Oakland on Wednesday and Thursday mornings.*

Here is the list of the 30 players the Mariners took to Japan:

  • Pitchers (14)
  • 49     BEAVAN, Blake                    
  • 35     DELABAR, Steve                  
  • 34     HERNANDEZ, Felix             
  • 18     IWAKUMA, Hisashi              
  • 23     KELLEY, Shawn                   
  • 43     LEAGUE, Brandon               
  • 45     NOESI, Hector                      
  • 50     RAMIREZ, Erasmo             
  • 59     RUFFIN, Chance                  
  • 54     WILHELMSEN, Tom            
  • 41     FURBUSH, Charlie              
  • 44     LUETGE, Lucas                    
  • 52     SHERRILL, George              
  • 38     VARGAS, Jason                    
  • Catchers (4)
  • 27     JASO, John                                   
  • 63     MONTERO, Jesus                     
  • 30     OLIVO, Miguel                              
  • 3        QUIROZ, Guillermo               
  • Infielders (7)
  • 13     ACKLEY, Dustin                     
  • 9        FIGGINS, Chone                    
  • 61     KAWASAKI, Munenori    
  • 16     LIDDI, Alex                              
  • 26     RYAN, Brendan                      
  • 15     SEAGER, Kyle                        
  • 17     SMOAK, Justin                        
  • Outfielders (5)
  • 20     CARP, Mike                           
  • 4        PEGUERO, Carlos                
  • 55     SAUNDERS, Michael           
  • 51     SUZUKI, Ichiro                      
  • 33     WELLS, Casper                     

Some of the Rainiers players who just missed out on the trip to Japan include outfielder Mike Wilson, infielders Vinnie Catricala and Luis Rodriguez, and left-handed pitcher Cesar Jimenez. Jimenez was removed from the 40-man roster and assigned to Tacoma.

Players who made the travel roster but might not make the 25-man roster for the Oakland games include Erasmo Ramirez, Guillermo Quiroz, and Carlos Peguero.

Also of note, they brought left-handed reliever Lucas Luetge with them – he’s the Rule 5 Draft guy who must make the 25-man roster or be returned to his original team, the Brewers. I see this as good news for Luetge – it would be odd for them to take him to Japan for the two exhibition games, and then return him to Milwaukee prior to the Oakland game on Wednesday.

Links:

Have a great weekend!

* I have not decided how to approach these 3:00 and 2:00 AM games. I could definitely stay up and watch the start of them, but I’d have no chance of staying awake for the whole games. Plus, I’m not so sure I want to mess up my sleep schedule that close to Rainiers opening day. On the other hand, waiting until the 7:00 pm replay seems unfulfilling. What to do, what to do?


Mariners Set Rotation

March 21, 2012

The Mariners are flying to Japan on Thursday at noon – and that means it is roster-setting time.

The Mariners have official games next week, in which they will have a standard 25-man roster. They are allowed to bring 30 players to Japan, because there are a few exhibition games against Japanese teams.

Tomorrow – or perhaps even later today – we will know the 30 players chosen to travel. You can bank on the five “extra” players being Tacoma Rainiers when we start up on April 5.

The rest of the Rainiers roster is still very unsettled. We won’t have a real understanding of how that is going to shake down for another two weeks.

We did get word today that the Mariners have announced a starting rotation of Felix Hernandez, Jason Vargas, Hector Noesi, Kevin Millwood, and Blake Beavan. The odd man out is Hisashi Iwakuma, who will work as the long man in the bullpen. In all likelihood, this means that Erasmo Ramirez will open the season in the Rainiers starting rotation.

I like this rotation and the plan behind it. We have three young kids – Felix, Noesi, and Beavan. Vargas has been solid for a few years now. Then we have a veteran in Millwood. Millwood should serve as a role model for the young guys – and if it turns out that he has nothing left in the tank, Iwakuma or Ramirez can step into the rotation.

On top of all of that, I heard positive things from scouts in Arizona regarding Triple-A veteran Matt Fox, who figures to work in Tacoma’s rotation at the start of the season. The general consensus from the scouts was that Fox is a “good depth guy” to have in Triple-A, who can fill-in in the majors if/when the need arises.

Links:

  • The Mariners released Hong-Chih Kuo on Monday afternoon. This means they are down to 39 38 (see below) players on the 40-man roster – but they’ll probably need to clear more space if non-roster players Munenori Kawasaki and Kevin Millwood both make the team.
  • Then today, Shawn Camp was released. That means both of the veteran relievers the Mariners signed didn’t make the club – they’re going with a young bullpen.
  • Experts took stabs at setting the Mariners opening day roster: Larry Stone here, and Greg Johns here.
  • Seattle Times columnist Jerry Brewer admits that he might be deluded by Spring Training Optimism when it comes to Chone Figgins.
  • Justin Smoak says that whatever you do, don’t try to hit home runs!
  • Larry Stone reviewed the Mariners history of Rule 5 draft picks. No Roberto Clemente’s in here…
  • Peter Gammons filed his Mariners pre-season report.
  • We have yet another story in which Felix Hernandez says he doesn’t want to play for anybody except Seattle. I love this guy. 
  • In the USA, professional baseball teams don’t wear sponser names on their jerseys – but they sure do in Japan. The Mariners and A’s are doing it for their two-game series in Japan next week. The classy Mariners will be wearing a Boeing patch; the A’s are pitching something called “Gloop.” Hey A’s, you’ve got gloop on your shirt!
  • Bellarmine Prep graduate Jon Lester was named the opening day starter for the Red Sox.
  • From the latest round of minor league transactions from Baseball America: the Phillies released ex-Rainiers Joel Pineiro and Ryan Feirabend, the Mets signed Oswaldo Navarro, and the Mariners released a handful of lower-level minor leaguers including Kenn Kasparek, who pitched in Double-A last year.
  • According to my man Doug Pacey of The News Tribune, there’s a smart kid at Auburn-Riverside High School hitting the low-90s with his fastball.
  • While the Rainiers are on the road, there is going to be soccer at Cheney Stadium.

Fifteen days until the Rainiers opener!


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