Let’s Play Ball

Opening day is finally here. The Rainiers host the Albuquerque Isotopes tonight at Cheney Stadium. First pitch is at 7:05, and tickets will be available at the gate. Fireworks will follow the game.

Tacoma starts RHP Blake Beavan against Albuquerque RHP Stephen Fife. The broadcast airs on 850 AM, and streams online right here. The Alaska Airlines Pregame Show begins at 6:50.

The team arrived on Tuesday morning, and they guys were given the day off to take care of their arrangements for the season. Yesterday the team gathered at Cheney Stadium in the afternoon to move into the locker room, get uniforms, take pictures, do a media session, and have a workout with batting practice on the field.

A few tidbits came down from manager Roy Howell and pitching coach Jamie Navarro:

  • The Rainiers starting rotation is Beavan, LHP Anthony Fernandez, RHP Chance Ruffin, LHP James Gillheeney, and TBA. The injuries in the majors (Walker, Iwakuma), the veterans opting out of contracts (Randy Wolf, Scott Baker), and the injuries to experienced Triple-A pitchers (Andrew Carraway, Matt Palmer, Mark Rogers) have left the group kind of thin. It will all work itself out as pitchers regain health.
  • Brandon Maurer is going to open the season pitching out of the bullpen. Maurer was slowed down by back problems in spring training, and Navarro liked him out of the bullpen in the big leagues last season (Navarro was the Mariners bullpen coach last year).
  • Ruffin was pitching in relief during spring training, but was tossing multiple innings and worked four frames in his most recent outing. He’s been building up for the rotation.
  • Navarro said it will be closer-by-committee to start the season, but he is hoping one of his relievers emerges as the closer once the season gets rolling a bit.
  • Veteran left-handed reliever Clay Rapada was working out with the Rainiers and has been issued a uniform. Looks like we might have a change to that “tentative opening day roster” prior to tonight’s game.
  • Nick Franklin was in good spirits and is ready to play. He’s going to play shortstop, second base, and some left field according to Howell. Nick doesn’t seem to care what position he plays – he just wants to be out on the field. The writers asked him the tough questions, and he handled it well.
  • Portland native Cole Gillespie is happy to be a part of the Mariners organization – he was a free agent, and he chose to sign with Seattle very early in the off-season. He had a strong spring training and holds a career .290 average in six (full or partial) seasons in the PCL.

All told, the team seemed to be in great spirits and was excited to get the season started. Let’s do it!

Links:

  • The News Tribune has its Rainiers preview articles in today’s edition. Leading things off, Todd Dybas sat down with new Rainiers manager Roy Howell.
  • Todd Milles previewed the Rainiers roster.
  • John McGrath wrote about Nick Franklin, the middle infield log jam, and versatility.
  • On the business side of things, The News Tribune ran a Q&A with Rainiers President Aaron Artman.
  • One guy who is not on the Rainiers this year is James Paxton. He dropped seven shutout innings on the Angels last night, earning the win. Stefen Romero had his first two big league hits in the win.
  • Jay Yencich posted his 2014 Tacoma Rainiers preview.
  • Shortstop Carlos Triunfel was claimed off waivers by the Dodgers, and they optioned him to… Albuquerque. He’ll be one of three former Rainiers on the Isotopes roster, joining Trayvon Robinson and Miguel Olivo.
  • Also with the Isotopes: catcher Tim Federowicz, who was the Dodgers back-up for most of last year. Hometown guy Brian Cavazos-Galvez is back with the squad.
  • The Isotopes are happy to be back in the Pacific Confernce, as the travel will be better.
  • Rainiers division rival Reno has a lot of talent this year, according to this season preview. In the story: outfielder Trent Oeltjen is described as an “Australian heartthrob.”
  • Love the name or hate the name, the El Paso Chihuahuas will be for real when they take the field tonight at Reno.
  • Cashman Field in Las Vegas is one of the best hitter’s parks in the PCL. But, the 51s are going to have a loaded starting rotation. Will they be able to keep the score down? Returning manager Wally Backman hopes so.
  • Backman talked about the day he went 6-for-6. << Entertaining column.
  • Salt Lake broadcaster and good friend Steve Klauke shared some of his wacky PCL stories with the Deseret News. These tales never get old.
  • Fresno has some players with interesting backgrounds, Marek W. writes in the Fresno Bee.
  • The reigning PCL champion Omaha Storm Chasers will be led by returning No. 1 starter Chris Dwyer. We have some Storm Chaser notes.
  • Nashville was the worst team in the PCL last year, but hey: it’s a new season.
  • The top hitting prospect in the PCL – and perhaps in all of minor league baseball – is Iowa Cubs infielder Javier Baez. Learn about him here.
  • It’s going to be old vs. young when the Round Rock Express host Oklahoma City tonight.
  • Two PCL teams made the top four in Baseball America’s list of most talented minor league clubs, and 16 of the publication’s Top 100 prospects are in the league.
  • The Pacific Coast League announced four new members of the league’s Hall of Fame. One owner and three long-gone old-timers – the league needs to find a way to modernize this.
  • The brutal winter had an impact on many minor league teams in the East and Midwest.

Happy opening day!

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