Good Food Coming!

February 18, 2013

Lots of links to get to today, but first a little bit of Cheney Stadium news that should benefit all of us who go to the ballpark: the Rainiers announced a new concessionaire for the 2013 season.

Ivar’s, Inc. will be the new food service provider at Cheney. That means we’ll get their fish ‘n’ chips and clam chowder, plus we’ll have Kidd Valley burgers (which I am a fan of, and will need to install some sort of personal weekly limit on in order to remain in tip-top broadcasting condition).

I’m excited about the new food options and I hope you will be, too. One group who I know will be in favor is the visiting PCL radio guys – they’re gonna crush that clam chowder.

You can read more about the new food deal right here. Also, please note that Ivar’s is sponsoring that ridiculous opening weekend ticket special, where you get a reserved seat and a meal for just $10. The deal is internet-only and only available through Friday so jump on it quickly if you want it.

Now, lots of Mariners-related links from the first weekend of spring training:

  • Don’t get jealous, but Rainiers infielder Nick Franklin spent the off-season eating everything in sight, and he put on 35 pounds. If you see a guy in full uniform at the Ivar’s stand this season, it’s probably Nick.
  • The Rainier formerly known as Mike Morse now goes by Michael – and Greg Johns explains why in this notebook. It’s typical Morse reasoning. Also, in the blurbs at the end, Johns reports that Alex Liddi and Vinnie Catricala will rotate between third base, first base, and left field this season.
  • On his blog, Ryan Divish reports that the Mariners are moving Double-A prospect Francisco Martinez from third base to the outfield. Martinez is on the 40-man roster and was highly regarded when the Mariners acquired him in the Doug Fister trade, but he did not have a good season last year. I expect him to be in the Jackson outfield this year.
  • Divish also had a piece on Kendrys Morales in Sunday’s print edition.
  • Todd Dybas has a Q&A with Mike Zunino.
  • For you swing-tech guys, here’s a blog post on some subtle changes that Dustin Ackley and Brendan Ryan have made.
  • Geoff Baker writes in the Seattle Times that the Mariners roster has a new feel to it.
  • Larry Stone arrived in camp and has some pithy observations from his first day.
  • Stone also sat down with Dustin Ackley and filed this story.
  • The Mariners are going to take it slow and easy as they get Felix Hernandez ready for opening day.
  • Here’s a fun column from Jackson Generals broadcaster Chris Harris about the cross-country driving trip that Kyle Seager and his wife made to spring training.
  • Former Rainiers ace Michael Pineda is still coming back from shoulder surgery and won’t return to the Yankees until at least June.
  • From the latest round of Baseball America’s minor league transactions, we learn that ex-Rainiers pitcher Sean Henn signed with Boston, while Sean White and Mark Lowe both signed with the Dodgers.
  • Cool story on Nate Robertson, the former Rainiers and MLB starter. He’s now a sidearm-slinging reliever.

On Wednesday we look at the candidates to make the Rainiers opening day roster at the infield corner positions.


Aaaahhhhh…. Pitching!

May 13, 2012

To find out why the Rainiers have won the last two days, one must only look to the mound.

Tacoma had excellent starting pitching from Erasmo Ramirez and the bullpen, beating Round Rock 6-1 on Saturday night.

It was the second straight win for the Rainiers. You could see the turnaround coming on Thursday, when the Rainiers lost their seventh in a row. That game was only a 3-2 loss – Jarrett Grube gave Tacoma a good start in defeat, and then Andrew Carraway and Ramirez delivered outstanding outings in the two wins.

Ramirez bumped up his pitch limit to 75, as he transitions to the rotation from the Seattle bullpen. Ramirez threw exactly 75 pitches – 59 for strikes – over five shutout innings. Ramirez gave up three hits and didn’t walk anybody, striking out six.

The scoreboard radar gun – which appeared to be accurate on Saturday – had Ramirez’s fastball a consistent 92-to-94, topping out at 95.

In the booth, I watched a lot of Ramirez’s pitches on the in-house monitor with the center field camera view, and it appeared to me the he was getting tremendous movement on the fastball. The pitch would dip and dive at 94 mph – he got swings and misses with that fastball.

Sean Henn followed up with two scoreless innings, Chance Ruffin turned in a needed 1-2-3 frame, and Scott Patterson allowed a homer in the ninth but closed it out.

Johan Limonta was the hitting star, launching a two-run homer in the fifth before delivering a two-out, two-run single in the sixth to open up the game. He finished 2-for-3 with four RBI.

Also still hot: catcher Guillermo Quiroz went 3-for-4 and scored twice, and Carlos Triunfel had a pair of hits to keep his May batting average at a robust .383.

Today the Rainiers try to make it three in a row, with first pitch set for 1:35 pm. Tacoma is scheduled to start LHP Anthony Vasquez (3-2, 5.88) against Round Rock RHP Neil Ramirez (4-2, 4.98). We’ll see about Ramirez – the Express scratched top prospect Martin Perez last night, and he might be slotted back into the rotation during this series. It seems that the Rangers/Express have some sort of potential starting pitcher issue they are concerned about, either in the majors or here at AAA, and it’s throwing off their rotation.

We’ll have the radio broadcast for you on South Sound Sports 850 AM, with the pre-game show starting at 1:20. Online listeners can dial-up the streaming audio right here.

A note on Saturday’s broadcast: when Round Rock’s Mark Hamburger pitched 2.1 innings of shutout relief, I spent 2.1 innings making bad hamburger puns on the radio. I apologize for this, and I promise not to do it again, even though I enjoyed myself immensely.*

Links:

  • Taking a break from writing critically acclaimed novels, Dave Boling rolled into Cheney Stadium and wrote the Rainiers game story for The News Tribune.
  • In my Sunday Minor League Notebook for The News Tribune, I wrote about the Mariners impressive middle infielders at Class-A High Desert.
  • Stephen Pryor and Andrew Carraway are here, and John McGrath writes that the migration has just begun.
  • The Mariners lost to the Yankees 6-2 – that’s two 6-2 losses in a row in New York, which is weird.
  • Larry Stone’s Sunday baseball package at the Seattle Times includes a column on former Rainiers slugger Bryan LaHair, a notebook which includes some unexpected and thought-provoking opinions on instant replay from Justin Verlander, power rankings that I almost didn’t link to because of that “Two Tickets To Karkovice” line, and thumbs.
  • Prospect Insider has a look at Rainiers reliever Stephen Pryor, with video.
  • We all know how ridiculously hot Josh Hamilton is right now. How about this: he hasn’t even broken a bat all week – he’s still using the same bat from Tuesday’s four home run game, which he is sending to the Hall of Fame as soon as he cracks it. He’s on pace for 85 home runs – or about the same number of hamburger puns I made last night.
  • Here’s a weird one – noted pitching coach Tom House is now working with NFL quarterbacks.
  • For all of the groundskeepers out there, the Miami Marlins are having some grass problems at their new ballpark.
  • In the PCL, I suspect manager Brett Butler was not a happy camper when rain shortened Reno’s game at Nashville to five-and-a-half innings - just long enough to be an official game and a 6-5 Nashville win.
  • Albuquerque beat Salt Lake, 5-4, and pitcher Stephen Fife is back in his old stomping grounds.
  • Las Vegas outfielder Anthony Gose is heating up. He had four hits, including one of Vegas’s four homers, in an 8-0 win at New Orleans. Jessie Chavez tossed eight scoreless innings to improve to 5-1, 2.63 – unheard-of numbers for a Vegas starter.
  • Fresno is cooling off - after a red-hot start, the Grizzlies have lost five of six, including a 10-1 whuppin’ at the hands of Omaha last night.
  • Oklahoma City got seven shutout innings from starter Paul Clemens and barely hung on to beat Tucson, 6-5.
  • The St. Louis Cardinals front office brass showed up in Memphis to see the Redbirds lose to Colorado Springs, 8-3.
  • We’ll close it out with a fun one from the Sacramento Bee, which caught up with Harry Dunlap, the catcher who caught Ron Necciai‘s 27-strikeout game. I learned something here – I never knew there was an in-play out, and a four-strikeout inning.

Happy Mother’s Day, to all of you mothers out there!

* Seriously. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would say on the air, “Hamburger is on the mound – which, if you think about it, kind of looks like a giant toasted bun.” That was fun.


It’s Opening Day!

April 7, 2011

The defending Pacific Coast League champion Tacoma Rainiers open the 2011 season tonight at Raley Field in Sacramento.

The first pitch is at 7:20 pm. The broadcast will air on 850 AM and (fingers crossed) stream on www.tacomarainiers.com. I plan to start the pre-game show at 7:00.

Tacoma starts LHP Luke French (11-3, 2.94 last year). French just missed being named the 2010 PCL Pitcher of the Year – Oklahoma City’s Michael Kirkman edged him out in the voting.

Sacramento will start LHP Josh Outman, who did not pitch last season while recovering from “Tommy John” surgery on his left elbow. Pre-surgery, Outman always had plus stuff for a lefty – he pitched well against Tacoma a couple of times in 2008.

I’ll post the lineups and broadcast link in the afternoon when I get to the park.

Note: I will be doing a live bit on KJR 950 AM with Ian Furness at 1:30 and I’m sure we’ll preview the team a little bit.

Mondays With Bob: I’m very excited and honored to announce that Pacific Northwest broadcast legend Bob Robertson will be joining me on the air for all Monday home games this year. 

Robertson has at least 25 years of PCL broadcasting experience in Seattle and Tacoma - he called Tacoma Giants games in the 1960s, for cripes sake.

Robertson is in the College Football Hall of Fame for his work with WSU, and he has something nobody from my alma mater has: a Rose Bowl ring.

I look forward to hearing stories from the PCL of the 1960s – 1980s. Bob will be joining me for the entire game, and in the middle innings he’ll slide into the play-by-play seat. It should be a real treat, especially for those of you who have been following Tacoma baseball for longer than I have.

Let’s hit the links:

  • Finally, someone asked Rainiers manager Daren Brown the big question. Ryan Divish has an excellent story
  • Award-winning Larry Stone of the award-winning Seattle Times wrote a Rainiers preview.
  • A Rainiers season preview from USS Mariner declares REPEAT!
  • We have previews from the Sacramento perspective: a column on new Cats manager Darren Bush, in which we learn he is a commercial fisherman in the off-season; a River Cats photo gallery; the Sacramento team-at-a-glance; and new Raley Field food which I will not be eating.
  • A flippant, fun, not serious Rainiers preview from yesterday’s Weekly Volcano.
  • The Mariners are off today – their home opener is tomorrow, and you can still get tickets. The opening road trip was streaky: two wins to start, and four losses to finish. It sure appears as if Texas is the class of the division, but it’s a long season.
  • Adam Moore left Wednesday’s game with a knee injury. If he has to go on the disabled list, the M’s will call up a Tacoma catcher. We’ll find out tomorrow.
  • It sounds like David Aardsma is close to being activated – or maybe tossing a couple of rehab innings in minor league games.
  • Buster Olney – one of my favorite MLB columnists – has a note on Michael Pineda at the beginning of his column today. It might even be before the subscriber cutoff!
  • Lots of PCL stories today, including this excellent league-wide preview out of Las Vegas. This is a good read for a general overview, and a Top-5 PCL Prospects list.
  • One of the top prospects in the PCL this year is Albuquerque infielder Dee Gordon – son of former pitcher Tom “Flash” Gordon. Here is a feature.
  • The dreaded rival Salt Lake Bees are starting 21-year-old prospect Tyler Chatwood in the opener today.
  • Tucson’s opening day starter is Wade LeBlanc. The Tucson newspaper has a few funny LeBlanc anecdotes.
  • The Tennessean has a feature on stalled Brewers prospect Mat Gamel. I predict a big bounce-back year for him.
  • Fresno has some older pitchers, including Ryan Vogelsong who pitched at the so-awful-I-had-permanently-erased-it-from-my-memory Beiden Field in the early days of the Grizzlies.
  • Colorado Springs opening day starter John Maine was not expecting the assignment.
  • Brett Butler is back as skipper in Reno. Here’s a preview of Bugsy and the Aces.
  • Baseball America has its national minor league position-by-position rankings (subscription required). Shocker: Tacoma has the #1 ranked second baseman.
  • For Baseball Prospectus subscribers the esteemed Kevin Goldstein has a list of top minor league teams to follow nationwide.
  • Cool minor league promotion alert: the Class-A Quad City River Bandits (Davenport, Iowa) have improved the traditional refrigerator magnet schedule giveaway: instead, they are giving away the actual refrigerator.
  • Local guy Willie Bloomquist is hotter than a pistol.

OK, time to research some players, grab some lunch, and head out to Raley Field. I’ll get those lineups posted in the late afternoon.


No Run Support, No “W” For Pineda

July 29, 2010

Michael Pineda is turning into the “no run support” guy. For the second start in a row, Pineda allowed one run, only to see the Rainiers eventually lose the game, 2-1.

Pineda got in trouble right away on Wednesday night, drilling the leadoff batter with a pitch. Emmanuel Burris then stole second and went to third on an error, so he was at third base with nobody out. Pineda worked through that jam, escaping the first with no runs scoring although it took him 25 pitches.

Pineda was great after that, only allowing a solo homer to veteran slugger Joe Borchard in the fourth. It was a high change-up that Borchard lifted over the fence in left for an opposite-field homer.

Pineda made it through six innings on 86 pitches. The Mariners continue to keep him between 85 and 95 pitches per start; as they do not want to tax his 21-year-old arm. Keep in mind that Pineda was injured for most of 2009 with elbow problems that did not require surgery – the Mariners are being very, very careful with him.

When Pineda left the game it was 1-1. The Rainiers just can’t hit Fresno lefty Matt Yourkin. Yourkin has made three starts against the Rainiers, allowing exactly one run in each outing.

Fresno finally won the game in the tenth against reliever Levale Speigner. Ben Copeland led off with a single to center field, and he took second on a passed ball. Steve Holm bunted up the third base line, and Speigner tried to get the out at third but Copeland was safe. Burris followed with a grounder inside the third base bag to drive in the winning run.

Mike Carp went 0-for-3, ending his hitting streak at 17 games. Matt Mangini, however, had his hitting streak extend to 17 games under unusual circumstances. Mangini hit a grounder between short and third in the sixth inning, and shortstop Burris made a running backhand attempt, only to have the ball bounce off his glove. The play was originally ruled an error on Burris, but after the game it was changed to a hit – which I believe was the right decision, and both managers agreed. So Mangini’s hitting streak is alive.

Salt Lake trimmed Tacoma’s lead down to six games by beating Portland, 8-3. The Bees have seven more games against last-place Portland, right in a row (there is a makeup doubleheader in there that I just learned about). The Rainiers lead looks good with 39 games to play, but Salt Lake has an easy schedule right now. The Bees have won nine of their last 11 games.

Tonight’s game is at 7:05, and Tacoma starts RHP Andy Baldwin (7-4, 5.00) against rehabilitating San Francisco Giants RHP Todd Wellemeyer (0-0, 0.96). Wellemeyer was the Giants fifth starter; he’s been out since June 10 with a quadriceps strain – and in the meantime, Madison Bumgarner took his job. Baseball can be a cruel business. You can catch the broadcast on 850 AM or streaming via www.tacomarainiers.com.

Some links for you:

  • Here’s the Rainiers game story from The News Tribune. Here’s the notebook from the Fresno Bee, and a story about Fresno’s starting pitching woes – which were clearly not evident last night.
  • The Mariners lost in Chicago when Jason Vargas had a rare problem with home runs.
  • In today’s Long Geoff Baker Post, Geoff Baker writes that the Mariners could trade David Aardsma. Larry LaRue says you won’t be overwhelmed by any Mariners trades.
  • The renovated Cheney Stadium will host the state 3A and 4A high school baseball championships next year.
  • In the PCL, Salt Lake leadoff man Peter Bourjos is hotter than a pistol right now. But really, the whole Bees team is heating up.
  • The Reno Aces got to experience a bullpen day gone right. Veteran infielder Ed Rogers is the glue that holds the Reno Aces together.
  • Las Vegas lefty Brad Mills got called up to Toronto, shut out the Orioles, and was shipped right back to Vegas.
  • When your leadoff man bats twice in the first inning, it’s a good sign. When he hits a grand slam in his second at-bat, it’s a great sign. Cameron Maybin did that yesterday for New Orleans. Same game, different paper: headline reads “Nine-run first trips Redbirds.” Trips? Really? Isn’t a nine-run first more like a punch in the mouth?
  • Derek Holland had an excellent rehab start for Oklahoma City. The only hit he allowed was a home run to Chris Shelton. Sleeper prospect Mitch Moreland homered and then got called up to Texas.
  • Portland owner Merritt Paulson publically stated that he is selling the Beavers so they can move out of town.
  • Former Rainiers outfielder Scott Podsednik was traded from Kansas City to the Dodgers, taking his .310 batting average and 30 stolen bases with him.
  • Another former Rainier – Wladimir Balentien - is on a home run binge for Louisville. Balentien has six homers in his last nine games, and 20 on the year.

I leave you now with a nice picture of my lunch – with special thanks to Doug Greenwald, who was kind enough to pick me up and take me there.

Better Than El Gaucho

A taste of Heaven


Fun Day In Nashville

May 13, 2010

Steven Shell pitched a complete game shutout, and we ran into Kid Rock in a Nashville dive bar. Just another day in the PCL!

It was a morning game on Wednesday, and apparently Shell is a morning person. He pitched a four-hitter, only finding himself in trouble two times: the fifth, when Mike Wilson threw out a runner at the plate; and the ninth, when runners were at second and third with one out.

I asked catcher Josh Bard why Shell was so good yesterday, and he said “He hit my mitt.” Over and over again – Shell had pinpoint command, throwing 72 of his 102 pitches for strikes – and the strikes were on the black.

Also, his first pitch to Natural Born Rainiers Killer Trent Oeltjen was a high-and-tight fastball. I liked that – we don’t need a repeat of 2009 from Oeltjen (although he did smoke a double in the ninth).

The complete game shutout is a rarity in the PCL – Tacoma had just two last year, both in August. (Andy Baldwin at Round Rock; Brandon Morrow vs. Iowa). It was Shell’s first shutout since 2005, when he was in Double-A.

After the game and a nap, we went out to dinner with my man Doug Scopel. We filled up on very unhealthy Southern food, and then he (predictably) took us to a local dive bar. The joint was called Losers, and there were fewer than 50 people sitting around and having a beverage while three local musicians were playing in a corner, covering dreadful modern pop-country songs. We were about to get out of there when Kid Rock entered the bar. The dynamic had changed – now we had to stay. 

Rock lives in town. He knew a lot of people in the bar, and he visited with them while downing some drinks. Showing impressive radar skills, a number of dolled-up rocker-girl types began streaming into the bar shortly after Rock’s arrival. Eventually Rock joined the three musicians for some country and blues standards, finishing with Bob Seeger’s “Night Moves.”

The Rainiers ace problem-solver Ashley Roth is on this road trip and she surreptitiously took an excellent photo while the bouncer was trying to halt all photography. Note the cigar.

Kid Rock sings with house band at Nashville dive bar

I’m not a Kid Rock fan but I admire him after last night. He was just hanging out at his neighborhood tavern, being friendly to everybody, and he sang a couple tunes with the locals. Pretty cool, really. He did briefly take off his shirt, which was high on the unintentional comedy scale.

One person in our group was a big Kid fan, but he was too nervous to go say “hi.” I didn’t give him too much grief – I once met my favorite musician, and I was a stumbling nervous wreck. It was embarrassing.

Ok, some baseball links. And I promise to blog about the Rainiers tomorrow – unless something crazy happens again tonight!

  • Here is my Rainiers game story for the TNT, with quotes from Shell and the skipper.
  • Larry Stone posts a poll: which ex-Mariner do you want back? Most of these players are former Rainiers.
  • This is awesome: Scott Ostler actually attended an Eric Byrnes softball game.
  • John Shea says that Griffey’s naps are far inferior to Barry’s. Jayson Stark wrote about Griffey as only Jayson Stark can.
  • Colorado Springs and Brad Eldred battered Albuquerque. Chris Nelson returned from the DL and homered. The Sky Sox are getting a fill-in starter from Tulsa.
  • A new Salt Lake pitcher had a rude awakening in his Triple-A debut. Oswaldo Navarro has 9 hits and 9 RBI in his last five games for Round Rock. I did not make that up.
  • Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner double-teamed the Zephyrs. Posey is now batting .355. Call him up already!
  • Reno beat Omaha 4-2 as ex-Royal Billy Buckner tossed a gem.

 That’s it for now – gotta go eat at Ted’s Montana Grill. I, for one, will not be missing my chance to celebrate National Hamburger Month.


Sometimes A 40-Foot Single Works

May 6, 2010

In the ninth inning of a tie game Wednesday night at PGE Park, Portland Beavers manager Terry Kennedy decided to intentionally walk Matt Mangini, loading the bases and with one out for Ezequiel Carrera.

Now, Kennedy wasn’t loading them up to set up a double play situation. Carrera is fast; he’s going to be very difficult to double up. Kennedy was banking on Carrera not hitting a fly ball deep enough to score the run. Carrera lacks power, and if he’s trying to drive a fly ball he very well might pop it up, or fly out too shallow to score the run.

What happened was perfect for the Rainiers: Carrera took a full swing, but ended up hitting a dribbling grounder up the first base line. The ball stayed fair, and it died in the synthetic turf about 40 feet from home plate. This put Carrera’s talents into play: he easily beat it out for an infield single, the go-ahead run scored, and the Rainiers ended up taking the ballgame, 4-2.

Tacoma (11-13) has won two of three so far in Portland, and the Rainiers can win the series with a victory tonight in the final game. Tacoma starts LHP Luke French (3-0, 1.41) against Portland LHP Cesar Ramos (0-1, 5.00). We’ll have it live on 850 AM, and streaming at www.tacomarainiers.com.

Tacoma has a few hitters who are warming up. Mangini, after sitting out for nearly a week while Jack Hannahan has been playing third base, homered in his second at-bat and also had a hard-hit out. Michael Saunders had another hit and two walks; he has reached base in 10 of his 16 plate appearances in this series. And Matt Tuiasosopo has been a big lift, collecting four hits while drawing five walks in the last three days.

On the injury front, manager Daren Brown said that both pitcher Yusmeiro Petit (shoulder) and outfielder Greg Halman (oblique) are going to have big days in their recovery plan on Friday. Petit will throw a simulated game of two or three innings, and if it goes smoothly he’ll be ready to be activated. Halman has been running and throwing; on Friday he will hit off a tee and if he feels no tightness he will be close to returning.

Today’s links:

  • The Tacoma-Portland game story from The News Tribune. Portland has lost eight of its last 10 games.
  • Karen Westeen did a Q&A with Rainiers pitching coach Jaime Navarro.
  • Bryan LaHair hit a tape-measure grand slam and had six RBI to lead Iowa to a 9-5 win at New Orleans. Check out this video of the Times-Picayune reporter describing the action – is this really an advancement in technology?
  • Colorado Springs is in a roster crunch – they started Paul LoDuca at second base! Still, Matt Miller hit them to victory. 
  • The Oakland A’s called up Henry Rodriguez and his 103-mph fastball from Sacramento.
  • Oklahoma City’s Michael Kirkman has pitched 22.2 consecutive scoreless innings. Omaha’s Alex Gordon homered after Kirkman was pulled.
  • Round Rock left 14 runners on base, yet still beat Nashville, 2-1.
  • This is a very sad story about Memphis pitcher P.J. Walters, who really had a tough off-season. Hopefully he’ll be able to have some success on the mound this year.
  • Minor League Baseball had a good first month.
  • Here is a proper summary of the playing conditions in Nashville and Memphis. The Rainiers do that road swing starting on Tuesday.
  • Former PCL RG’s Dave Raymond and Brett Dolan look back fondly on their times in the low minor leagues. They are now part of the Houston Astros broadcast team. I was lucky – I never had it as bad as either of these guys.
  • Recently released Eric Byrnes is playing slow-pitch softball for a team sponsored by a burgers-and-beer joint in my hometown of Menlo Park, CA. It’s not even the best dive in town - he should be playing for The O.
  • Hall of Famer Robin Roberts passed away at age 83; he was my father’s favorite player. Joe Posananski wrote this excellent obit.

The sun is out in Portland right now. Rumors are that it will be a bit warmer tonight – thank goodness! The Rainiers come home on Friday to host Dan Rohn’s Las Vegas 51s – a team that hits a lot of homers.


It’s Always Sunny In Arizona

March 28, 2010

When the alarm went off at 5 am at my North End townhouse, the rain was pounding on my window.

When I stepped off the plane at 10:30 am in Phoenix, it was 82 degrees with nary a cloud in sight.

It’s one of my favorite trips of the year – the annual four-day pilgrimage to Peoria, Arizona to check out Mariners spring training.

People always ask me if I am looking forward to the season starting. I’m usually pretty ambivalent about it – until I get to Arizona. For me, this is the trip that signifies the start of the new season, and that the six months of fun has begun.

This trip started the same way the last ten did: I got off the plane, rented a car, and it automatically drove me straight to In ‘N’ Out Burger. I don’t know what it is about the rental cars at Sky Harbor Airport, but they are all programmed to go straight to In ‘N’ Out.

I obliged by crushing a Double-Double – but not before taking a photo of the burger and picture-mailing it to a few friends back home. Mean-spirited? Yeah, a little.

I typically spend my time at the minor league fields, in the back of the Peoria complex. But this year the only major league home game while I am here was today, so I am typing this from the press box during the Cubs-Mariners major league game. I think the players are ready to go home – the game is not one hour old, and they’ve completed five innings! It’s like the last game of the PCL season out there; everybody’s hacking.

I did get a chance to corner Mariners PR Guru (and former Rainiers intern) Jeff Evans to try to straighten out the Yusmeiro Petit situation. To summarize, the former Diamondbacks pitcher was claimed on waivers during the winter, spent some time on the Mariners 40-man roster, then was outrighted to the minors, clearing waivers. This was before spring training – he was then invited to major league camp.

Earlier this month, the Mariners announced that they released Petit from his contract. Petit spent a little bit of time as a free agent, but then re-upped with the Mariners on a Triple-A deal.

So, that’s all a very confusing way of saying that it seems likely Petit will break camp with the Rainiers next Thursday.

After the game I’ll catch up with manager Daren Brown, and see if he’s willing to share any news. He might not have much yet – he’s still working with the major league team! Triple-A games have been going on for 10 days, but Brown has not yet been asked to go out there and actually manage his team.

This is a good thing for Brown – Wakamatsu and the major league staff like having him around – but soon he’ll have to head out to the back fields and see his own team play. There are going to be some tough decisions; there are too many Triple-A players in this camp right now.

And that’s where I’ll be the next three days. The Rainiers will play Oklahoma City out on one of the back diamonds tomorrow, and I’ll be sitting in the bleachers getting a look at some of the new guys like Petit, Tommy Everidge, Ezequiel Carrera, Eliezer Alfonzo, and Levale Speigner, while getting caught up with some of the returning players.


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