A Few Ex-Rainiers In The MLB Playoffs

October 4, 2013

The one-game Wild Card playoffs are over, and now the real MLB playoffs are underway.

It’s that time of the year, when we find the ex-Tacoma players who are on playoff rosters. Let’s take a look:

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Pittsburgh Pirates: no players, but first base coach Rick Sofield played for the 1977 Tacoma Twins.

St. Louis Cardinals: no players. Hitting coach John Mabry is a former Mariners player who appeared with Tacoma on rehab assignments in 2000 and 2003. Bench coach Mike Aldrete was a Tacoma Tiger in 1993.

Los Angeles Dodgers: no players. Hitting coach Mark McGwire played for the Tacoma Tigers in 1986,

Atlanta Braves: one player. Freddy Garcia pitched for Tacoma in 1998 and 2000. Two former Tacoma relievers are not on the playoff roster: Eric O’Flaherty (2006-2008 Rainiers) is injured, and Anthony Varvaro (2010 Rainiers) was not activated for the first round of the playoffs (even though he pitched in 62 regular season games with a 2.82 ERA).

AMERICAN LEAGUE

Detroit Tigers: two players. Pitcher Doug Fister (2009-2010) and infielder Ramon Santiago (2004-2005) are both former Rainiers players. The Tigers left ex-Rainiers star Matt Tuiasosopo off the playoff roster for the first round – he lost his spot when Jhonny Peralta came off the suspended list. Jeremy Bonderman was also left off the post-season roster. Pitching coach Jeff Jones was with the Tacoma Tigers from 1982 to 1984.

Oakland A’s: no players, but check this out: 20 of the 25 players on their playoff roster played in the PCL recently, most with Sacramento. Pitching coach Curt Young and third base coach Mike Gallego were both long-time Tacoma Tigers in the 1980s.

Boston Red Sox: one player. Outfielder Mike Carp has had an excellent season for Boston; he played for Tacoma from 2009 to 2012 and ranks second on the Tacoma All-Time Home Run list with 67. Also, hitting coach Greg Colbrunn appeared in a few Tacoma games in 2003.

Tampa Bay Rays: no players. No coaches. No nothin’.

Well, this was surprising: only four former Tacoma Rainiers players are on active post-season rosters for the Division Series. We usually have more than that!

Yes, the playoffs started yesterday, I’m a day late with this, and you can call me out on that if you want. That being said, my World Series pick is the Detroit Tigers over the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games.

Links:

  • Ryan Divish has an update on the Mariners manager search, with some rumored names, in today’s News Tribune.
  • Talk about coincidence: Wednesday’s post was about Danny Hultzen‘s shoulder surgery, performed by Dr. James Andrews. Then that night I finally read my current edition of ESPN The Magazine, and there was… a feature on Dr. Andrews. It’s good reading.
  • Former Rainiers outfielder Adam Jones is set to appear as a guest analyst on the TBS pregame/postgame shows.
  • Jason Churchill has an interesting post running down the free agent class and judging how they fit in with the Mariners.

It’s a weekend full of baseball and football on TV – have a great one!


Wilson Era Ends; Felix Era Extends

February 8, 2013

Wow, we have a lot of Mariners news today, but we’re going to start with some ex-Rainiers news. Outfielder Mike Wilson – a mainstay on the Tacoma Rainiers since the end of the 2009 season – signed a minor league contract with the New York Mets yesterday. It’s safe to assume that we will see him with the Mets new Triple-A affiliate Las Vegas this season.

Wilson made his Tacoma debut on July 27, 2009, finally reaching Triple-A after parts of three seasons in Jackson, Tennessee. In fact, Wilson is the Jackson career home run leader: he hit 50 dingers for them.

Mike struggled in his first Triple-A experience, although he had a big sac fly to drive in a crucial run in the final game of the 2009 season, when Tacoma beat Colorado Springs to advance to the playoffs (shortly after Wilson’s sac fly gave Tacoma a 4-2 lead, the Rainiers erupted for seven runs in the eighth inning and turned the game into a blowout).

The 2010 season was Wilson’s first big year in Tacoma. He was forced to go back to Double-A for a while, but he hit .273 with 17 homers for the Rainiers before starring in the Rainiers championship run. Wilson homered in all three games of the PCL Championship Series sweep of Memphis, and he was named MVP of the series. In the locker room after the Rainiers won it all, PCL president Branch Rickey told the team that Wilson won the award.

Wilson hit .331 with 16 home runs during the 2011 campaign, which included his first call-up to the majors. Wilson was not expected to get the call, he wasn’t being talked about for a promotion publicly at all. It was an emotional moment when the organizational soldier got the call to the big leagues – Wilson has been playing in the Mariners minor league system since 2002.

He got his first big league hit on May 10, 2011 – a 13th inning RBI single off Baltimore reliever Jeremy Accardo at Camden Yards. He ended up going 4-for-27 in eight games as a bench player, and was sent back to Tacoma.

Last year, Wilson hit .239 but with 12 homers and 34 walks in 230 at-bats. All told, Wilson hit 50 home runs for Tacoma (the exact same number he hit in Jackson), which ranks him tied for tenth place (with Bob Perry) on the all-time Tacoma home run list.

We wish Mike the best with his new team, and hopefully he’ll get another taste of the major leagues.

Mike Wilson swinging

That ball is GONE

Lots of Mariners news yesterday, and you can read all about it in the links below. A quick recap:

  • There are many reports from highly reliable news outlets (USA Today broke the story) that the Mariners and Felix Hernandez agreed to a 7-year contract that makes him the highest paid pitcher in baseball. The Mariners have yet to confirm this story.
  • Also, there are many media reports that the Mariners have signed veteran left-handed pitcher Joe Saunders to fill out their starting rotation.
  • Finally, the team announced the signing of catcher Kelly Shoppach. They made room for him on the roster by designating Shawn Kelley for assignment – a curious move, one that leads many to believe that they are going to trade Kelley to another club.

Links:

  • The News Tribune has a news story on all of the Mariners stuff, including reported salary information on the Felix deal.
  • John McGrath writes that the Felix deal serves as a message to baseball that the Mariners are willing to spend money.
  • Larry Stone has a column on the Felix extension.
  • Dave Cameron wrote that the Felix deal was a gamble the Mariners had to make.
  • John Sickels looked back at Felix Hernandez’s minor league progression.
  • Ryan Divish has a brief blog post on the Joe Saunders report.
  • The TNT continued its position-by-position spring training advance look at the Mariners with first base and the enigmatic Justin Smoak.
  • At his Seattle Times blog, Larry Stone compiled a grouping of several different Mariners top prospects lists.
  • The Times was able to speak with Jesus Montero, who said he has no idea how his name came up in the Biogenesis investigation. A thorough read of this story reveals how little news there actually is – at this time there is no connection to PEDs, no evidence of anything at all – yet Montero’s name is being dragged through the mud. Then again, if a “smoking gun” were to emerge…
  • Greg Johns posted a Mariners spring training primer looking at the various story lines heading into camp.
  • From Baseball America’s minor league transactions we learn the fate of some ex-Rainiers. All are minor league contracts: Joel Pineiro signed with the Orioles, Miguel Olivo to the Reds, and Scott Atchison to the Mets.
  • Also from the above link, we learn that the Mariners re-signed Felix‘s older brother Moises Hernandez. Moises spent the last two years with the Jackson Generals, pitching in middle relief. While you never know what might happen, it will be a struggle for him to crack the Tacoma bullpen which – as we outlined on Wednesday – is stacked.
  • The Caribbean Series championship game was crazy last night: Mexico won the title in the 18th inning, on a home run by former Fresno Grizzlies outfielder Doug Clark.
  • College baseball gets underway real soon. Here is Baseball America’s preview of the Pac-12 Conference – it includes notes on both Washington and Washington State.
  • Big news on the PCL radio front: Albuquerque broadcaster Robert Portnoy switched jobs, and the Isotopes are hiring a new radio guy. Send in your demos!
  • Broadcasting news: here’s a round-up of crazy things ESPN announcer Bill Walton said during college basketball games this week.

Spring training starts next week!


Sweeney Coming Back?

January 18, 2013

Yesterday the rosters were announced for all of the World Baseball Classic teams, and local media reported the various Mariners who dot the rosters. Included in the reports was a note that Rainiers pitcher Brian Sweeney is on the roster for Italy, and that he is “likely to sign a minor league deal with the Mariners.”

It would be great to have Sweeney back on the team this year. The team needs a certified strike thrower, especially considering the youth – and wildness that can come with it – of Tacoma’s prospective starting rotation.

Sweeney would also provide some veteran leadership on a team that right now appears to be severely lacking in that area.

Left to ponder, however, is the question of how Sweeney ended up on Team Italy.

Here is a list of all of the former Tacoma players on the World Baseball Classic rosters. I think you guys will be interested in Team Australia’s players.

  • AUSTRALIA: Ryan Rowland-Smith, Chris Snelling, Brad Thomas
  • BRAZIL: (none)
  • CANADA: Michael Saunders
  • CHINA: (none)
  • CHINESE-TAPEI: Yung-Chi Chen
  • CUBA: (none of course)
  • DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: Miguel Olivo
  • ITALY: Alex Liddi, Brian Sweeney
  • JAPAN: (none)
  • KOREA: (none)
  • MEXICO: Oliver Perez
  • NETHERLANDS: Wladimir Balentien
  • PUERTO RICO: (none)
  • SPAIN: (none)
  • USA: Willie Bloomquist, R.A. Dickey, Adam Jones
  • VENEZUELA: Asdrubal Cabrera, Felix Hernandez, Cesar Jimenez

On a personal note, I’d like to thank everyone who offered words of support in the comments and via Twitter and email regarding the Mariners radio position. Obviously, I wanted it, but that didn’t happen. I recently found out I didn’t get it, and that means you are stuck with me in Tacoma in 2013.

The Mariners had over 150 applicants, and they decided to go with a young gun in Aaron Goldsmith, who was in Triple-A Pawtucket for one season. Goldsmith rose to the top of a field in which dozens had substantially more experience than him, and that means one thing: the Mariners must believe he has a special talent for broadcasting. I don’t know him – shoot, I had to Google him when I heard he was a candidate – but I ask you to please give him a fair chance.

Welcome to the Pacific Northwest, Aaron. If you happen to be reading this while in the process of moving here, please be advised that they are not joking when they say that it rains all of the time here.

Links:

Have a great weekend!


Mariners Bring Back Raul

December 23, 2012

Former Tacoma Rainiers slugger Raul Ibanez has agreed to sign a one-year contract with the Seattle Mariners, according to multiple reports. This will be his third go-around with the Mariners.

The 40-year-old Ibanez played for Tacoma from 1996 through 2000, and he came back on an injury rehabilitation assignment in 2004. He ranks in the top-20 on the Tacoma all-time career leaderboards in hits (17th), runs (16th), total bases (16th), doubles (16th), and runs batted in (18th).

When he was in Tacoma initially as a young up-and-comer, he spent a lot of time here – mostly because Mariners skipper Lou Piniella was unsure if Ibanez could hit major league pitching. It wasn’t until Ibanez became a minor league free agent and signed with Kansas City that he finally got a true big league opportunity, and he made the most of it.

For his career, Ibanez has 1,883 hits and 271 home runs – not including an additional six home runs in the playoffs, half of which came just three months ago for the Yankees.

The general reaction among many Mariners fans seems to be, “I like Raul, but his career is just about over. Why did they sign him?”

That’s a good question, and I think I know why.

Eric Wedge has spoken in the past about the team needing a veteran influence on the roster. Ibanez fits the profile perfectly – he is extremely popular in the clubhouse, one of the most respected players in the game for his work ethic and how he handles himself. The Mariners are hoping this rubs off on the young position players surrounding him.

As for playing time, I would be surprised if Ibanez is more than a pinch-hitter and occasional spot-starter in favorable match-ups. Maybe he’ll get hot at some point and play regularly for a week or two, but in the big picture I would not expect him to take meaningful playing time away from any of the young players.

Raul is truly one of the nice human beings in the game. It’s thrown about all the time that such-and-such player is “a good guy,” but the reality is that almost all baseball players are good people – just like regular people everywhere. That being said, Raul stands out above the crowd in terms of how he handles himself around the team, both publicly and privately.

It will  be good to have him in a Seattle uniform this season, and I suspect that the club would be proud to have him retire as a Mariner.

The Mariners also signed former major league starting pitcher Jeremy Bonderman to a minor league contract, and I suppose we must consider him as a potential Rainiers player – although it is a little early for that, because of this: Bonderman has not pitched since 2010 due to arm problems that eventually led to elbow surgery.

The Mariners are bringing the Pasco native in to spring training on a no-risk gamble. In fact, there are reports that the Mariners didn’t even scout him in-person; they just said “come to spring training and we’ll take a look.”

So that’s exactly what they will do: keep an eye on Bonderman. He had Tommy John surgery in April and recently began throwing again. Even if he looks promising in March, don’t be surprised if he has to stay back in extended spring training before joining a team, building up arm strength.

Links:

  • Stories on Raul Ibanez signing with the Mariners: one from Ryan Divish of The News Tribune, and one from Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times.
  • In this blog post, Baker talked to Ibanez to get his thoughts on coming back. Not surprisingly, Raul is already talking about helping the young kids.
  • As I post this, the Mariners have not made a complimentary move to fit Ibanez on the 40-man roster. They have reached a point where it is hard to find a player on the roster who has a good chance of getting through waivers (the last player removed, Mauricio Robles, was claimed by the Phillies). Don’t be surprised if they make a small trade instead, moving a 40-man roster player to another club in exchange for a prospect who is not on the 40-man.
  • Here is more on the Mariners signing pitcher Jeremy Bonderman.
  • Former Rainiers in the latest round of Baseball America’s minor league transactions: Brad Nelson signed with his home-state Iowa Cubs, and Ryan Langerhans inked a deal with Toronto.
  • USA Today did a slideshow of 50 Strangest Sports Team Names. I was highly entertained – there is a little blurb on the origin of each name. As you might expect, Minor League Baseball is well-represented – but not so much as the colleges. Scottsdale Community College might have the best mascot. High schools are covered, too.
  • In the PCL, the New Orleans Zephyrs are going to host their parent club the Miami Marlins in an exhibition game at Zephyr Field at the end of spring training. It will be the first major league exhibition in New Orleans since 1999.
  • Looking for a last-second Christmas gift for a loved one? How about this 23,000 square foot mansion being sold by Chipper Jones?

Have a great holiday!


Ex-Rainiers In The Minors

October 18, 2012

What ever happened to Matt Tuiasosopo? Ryan Rowland-Smith? Rob Johnson? These are the questions we answer today as we take a look at how former Rainiers with other minor league teams did in 2012.

Let’s dive right into it. We’ll go team-by-team through the International League, and then check the final numbers on the ex-Rainiers of the PCL.

  • Rob Johnson, Buffalo. Hit .207 in 45 games for the Mets affiliate, did spend time in majors as a back-up catcher.
  • Sean Kazmar, Buffalo/Binghampton. Appeared in 11 Triple-A games and 57 Double-A games as a utility infielder in the Mets system.
  • Oswaldo Navarro, Buffalo/Binghampton. Opened season in AA before May promotion to Buffalo, hit .210 in 100 Triple-A at-bats.
  • Matt Tuiasosopo, Buffalo. Hit .242 with 12 HRs and 57 RBI in 131 games in Triple-A. Posted .690 OPS, played many positions.
  • Garrett Olson, Buffalo. Went 4-7, 4.63 in 122 innings swinging between rotation and bullpen, pitched in one MLB game for Mets.
  • Chris Seddon, Columbus. Went 11-5 with a 3.44 ERA in 20 starts before promotion to Cleveland.
  • Matt Mangini, Durham/Mobile. Hit .273 with 5 HR in 83 games for Tampa’s Triple-A team, released in August, signed with Arizona who sent him to Double-A Mobile. Helped Mobile win Southern League championship.
  • Josh Lueke, Durham. Went 2-6, 5.59 in 42 games for Rays affiliate. Had 71 K’s in 67 innings.
  • Josh Wilson, Gwinnett. Infielder hit .241-5-43 in 122 games for Braves Triple-A affiliate. Pitched three times in blowouts with 0.00 ERA.
  • Jose Yepez, Gwinnett. Batted .264-3-30 in 79 games, sharing catcher duties. Solid OPS of .724.
  • Anthony Varvaro, Gwinnett. Reliever had a 2.23 ERA in 44 innings; saw big league time.
  • Jeff Clement, Indianapolis. Hit .276-16-57 in 416 ABs as DH/1B. OPS of .825, September call-up to Pirates.
  • Tug Hulett, Lehigh Valley/Reading. Split season between AA and AAA in Phillies system. Batted .325 in 120 ABs in Triple-A.
  • Ryan Feierabend, Louisville/York. The lefty made seven starts for the Reds Triple-A team (1-4, 6.75), but spent most of the year with the independent York Revolution of the Atlantic League (9-5, 2.70).
  • Brett Tomko, Louisville/Reno/Mobile. Still going at age 39, Tomko was 0-6, 3.78 for Louisville before making a handful of starts in the Diamondbacks system.
  • Joel Pineiro, Norfolk. Made two starts in May for the Orioles affiliate before injuries ended his season.
  • Justin Thomas, Scranton/Pawtucket. Had a 3.45 ERA in 62 innings pitching for both the Red Sox and the Yankees AAA teams, saw brief MLB time with both.
  • Rene Rivera, Rochester. Catcher hit .226 with ten homers for the Twins AAA affiliate.
  • Luke French, Rochester/New Britain. Opened season dominating Double-A, then went 1-5 with a 6.42 ERA in 74 innings in AAA.
  • Manny Delcarmen, Scranton. Was 3-5, 4.42 in 57 innings for Yankees affiliate.
  • Josh Bard, Albuquerque. Had big year as backup catcher, hitting .331-6-32 in just 148 at-bats.
  • Jared Wells, Colorado Springs. Posted 5.96 ERA in 19 games out of Sky Sox bullpen.
  • Yusmeiro Petit, Fresno. Went 7-7, 3.46 in 28 starts for Giants affiliate.
  • Luis Valbuena, Iowa. Hit .303 with .885 OPS, earned promotion to Chicago.
  • Ryan Rowland-Smith, Iowa. Was 3-6, 3.94 in 77 innings for Cubs affiliate. Swung between bullpen and rotation.
  • Chris Woodward, Las Vegas. Hit .285 in over 300 at-bats, announced retirement. Will get minor league coaching/managing offers.
  • Chris Jakubauskas, Reno/Las Vegas. Had a combined line of 2-3, 4.64 in 54 innings pitched.
  • Nate Robertson, Iowa/Las Vegas. Veteran lefty was a combined 0-3, 8.07 in 29 innings.
  • Nick Green, New Orleans. Blasted PCL at a 344/397/599 rate before getting called up by Marlins.
  • Adam Moore, Omaha. Hit .296 in 115 at-bats after being claimed on waivers by Royals, September call-up.
  • David Winfree, Reno. Hit .263 and abruptly retired in late May.
  • Brad Nelson, Round Rock. Posted .279 average with team-leading 24 homers and 81 RBI. OPS was .852.
  • Sean Green, Round Rock/Somerset. Had a 5.60 ERA in 19 games for Rangers affiliate, released in late May. Finished in independent Atlantic League.
  • Fabio Castro, Sacramento/Midland. Was 3-7, 6.92 in 14 games for Sacramento, sent to AA Midland and went 2-7, 4.63.
  • Ryan Langerhans, Salt Lake. Batted .250-11-54 in 96 games for Angels affiliate.
  • Sean White, Salt Lake. Was 0-1, 8.12 in 29 games for the Bees.

Just for fun, a few independent Atlantic Leaguers of note:

  • Prentice Redman, Bridgeport. Hit .282 with 21 home runs and 82 RBI in 503 at-bats.
  • Gaby Hernandez, Mobile/Southern Maryland. Was roughed up in AA in the Diamondbacks system, finished up with the Blue Crabs.
  • Tommy Everidge, Lancaster. Hit .255-9-46 in 404 at-bats.
  • John Halama, Lancaster. Went 13-9, 3.14 in 27 starts and 188 innings pitched. I’m stunned he is still playing, too.
  • Bobby Livingston, Sugar Land. Lefty was 9-2 with a 4.37 ERA in 16 starts.
  • Brandon Haveman, York. Outfielder hit .290 with six homers in 482 at-bats.
  • Johan Limonta, Mexico City/York. After a month crushing the Mexican League with a .384 batting average, Limo returned to the states and hit .277 in 155 at-bats for York.

Well, that was fun. Again, I’m sure I missed a few guys, but I feel like we covered most of the players you may remember from the last ten years. Whoops, make that 11 years – Halama and Tomko pitched for Tacoma in 2001!

Links:

  • I missed it on Tuesday, when ESPN.com’s Jim Caple looked at the “Ex-Mariners Factor” in the MLB playoffs.
  • The Mariners Insider blog is back and gaining steam at The News Tribune’s website – it’s been updating a few times a week lately, add it to your regular stops.
  • St. Louis took a 2-1 lead over San Francisco last night in a rain-delayed game, and now the Giants turn to UW product Tim Lincecum for a crucial Game Four start. The two-time Cy Young Award winner had a difficult regular season, but he was terrific in the division series. This will be fun to watch tonight (5:07 PM).
  • Reminder: you can enter to win the opportunity for Rainiers mascot Rhubarb The Reindeer to trick-or-treat with your kids. Here’s what it will look like, and here are all of the details.

We’ll be back Tuesday with… I don’t know, something? The World Series should be set by then, I’ll probably write about that.


How Ex-Rainiers Fared In 2012 – MLB Version

October 10, 2012

Today we’ll begin a series of posts in which we check in on former Rainiers players and see how they performed this year. We start by looking at former Rainiers who played Major League Baseball this season.

We’re not going to look at the current Seattle Mariners who played in Tacoma. My hunch is that if you read this blog, you probably already follow the Mariners and know that most of the players on their roster played in Tacoma some point. In fact, let’s count them… the Mariners used 38 different players last year, and by my count 26 of them are former Rainiers.

I’m going to list the player, his current team, and a few stats. The focus is on players who had an extended run in Tacoma – players who Rainiers fans are likely to remember. If you are wondering exactly when someone played for Tacoma, there are great resources for this under the “Roster” and “stats” tabs at the Rainiers official site.

To get the project started, we’ll open in the National League and work through to the AL.

  • Willie Bloomquist, Arizona. Hit .302-0-23 in 80 games and 324 at-bats. Mostly played shortstop while Stephen Drew was injured.
  • J.J. Putz, Arizona. Posted a 2.82 ERA with 32 saves and a 65-11 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Now has 183 career saves.
  • Eric O’Flaherty, Atlanta. Left-hand reliever had a 1.73 ERA in 57.1 innings; he has flourished in Atlanta.
  • Bryan LaHair, Cubs. Hit .259-16-40 in 340 at-bats with 784 OPS. Made NL All-Star team but tailed off in second half.
  • Luis Valbuena, Cubs. Batted .219-4-28 in 90 games, played a lot of third base. Managed to walk 36 times.
  • Jason Giambi, Colorado. The last active Tacoma Tigers player hit .225-1-8 in 89 ABs. Has 429 career homers and 1,968 hits.
  • Greg Dobbs, Miami. Batted .289-5-39 in 319 at-bats. As usual, opened season as a pinch-hitter and ended up playing a lot.
  • Nick Green, Miami. Spent most of season in Triple-A but got into seven MLB games.
  • Rob Johnson, Mets. Played in 17 games as a back-up catcher, hit .250. We’ll have more on him in the minor league update next week.
  • R.A. Dickey, Mets. Went 20-6 with a 2.73 ERA, 230 strikeouts in 233 IP, wrote a book, Cy Young award candidate.
  • Jeff Clement, Pittsburgh. Went 3-for-22 pinch-hitting after a September call-up, spent season in Triple-A.
  • Brian Fuentes, St. Louis. Split season between A’s and Cards, went 2-2, 7.20 in 30 innings. End of the line for the 37-year-old lefty?
  • Mike Morse, Washington. Batted .291-18-62 despite injury-plagued season, currently in playoffs.
  • Adam Jones, Baltimore. Hit .287 with 32 home runs and 82 RBI, will get down-ballot MVP votes.
  • Scott Podsednik, Boston. Appeared in 63 games and hit .302 in 199 at-bats. Went 8-for-10 stealing – now 36 years old.
  • Scott Atchison, Boston. Put up a 1.58 ERA in 42 games out of the bullpen in his age 36 season.
  • Jose Lopez, White Sox. Appeared in 81 games as a utility infielder, hit .246 with four homers.
  • Matt Thornton, White Sox. Had a 3.46 ERA in 74 relief outings; somehow got dinged for ten losses.
  • Asdrubal Cabrera, Cleveland. Hit .270 with 35 doubles and 16 home runs as everyday shortstop. Do not talk about this trade.
  • Shin-Soo Choo, Cleveland. .283 with 43 doubles and 16 homers; don’t talk about this trade either.
  • Ezequiel Carrera, Cleveland. Hit .272 with a .312 OBP in 147 at-bats. Split season between AAA and MLB.
  • Jack Hannahan, Cleveland. Batted .244-4-29 in 105 games and 287 at-bats. Defensive whiz.
  • Chris Seddon, Cleveland. Spent second half in MLB, went 1-1, 3.67 mostly as a reliever.
  • Ramon Santiago, Detroit. Utility infielder batted .206 in 93 games.
  • Doug Fister, Detroit. 10-10, 3.45 in 26 starts, currently in post-season.
  • Yuniesky Betancourt, Kansas City. Hit .228 in 57 games, released in August.
  • Adam Moore, Kansas City. Went 2-for-11 with a homer as a September call-up.
  • Raul Ibanez, Yankees. Hit .240 with 19 homers at age 40. Career: 1,883 hits, 271 home runs, 1,116 RBI.
  • Alex Rodriguez, Yankees. .272 with 18 HRs, 57 RBI, .783 OPS. Slowing down but still: 2,901 hits, 647 home runs, 1,950 RBI.
  • Freddy Garcia, Yankees. 7-6, 5.20 as swing-man. Career record of 152-101.
  • Derek Lowe, Yankees. Actually spent most of the season with Cleveland, went 9-11, 5.11 combined. 175 career wins.
  • Rafael Soriano, Yankees. Saved 42 games with a 2.26 ERA for the injured Mariano Rivera.
  • Travis Blackley, Oakland. Went 6-4 with a 3.86 ERA as one of the biggest surprises in the majors.
  • Josh Lueke, Tampa. Got into three games for the Rays; spent most of the season in Triple-A.
  • Mark Lowe, Texas. Went 0-2 with a 3.43 ERA in 36 games from the bullpen.
  • Steve Delabar, Toronto. Put up better numbers after the trade: a 3.38 ERA with 46 K’s in 29 IP for the Jays.
  • Brandon Morrow, Toronto.10-7 with a 2.91 ERA in 21 starts. Another trade we’re not gonna talk about.

That should cover most of them. I’m sure I missed a player or two; I had to look at the final stats for every team to find the players and I’m sure I glossed over a name or two – they all start swimming in your brain after a while.

Next week we’ll look at former Rainiers in the minor leagues and see what we find.

Links:

  • The News Tribune’s Ryan Divish is back on the Mariners beat, and he returns with a blog post detailing the contract status of every Mariners player on the 40-man roster.
  • The Arizona Fall League opened up yesterday, and Mariners prospect James Paxton pitched a strong game. Look for Paxton in a Rainiers uniform this coming April.
  • It’s Mariners Domination Time in Baseball America’s list of the Top-20 Prospects in the Double-A Southern League. Subscribers can click through for scouting reports.
  • In the PCL, a complicated stadium lease situation in Las Vegas has cleared up, paving the way for the team to be sold.
  • Pretty amazing story out of San Francisco: Brandon Crawford grew up in a family of Giants fans, and his name is on a brick the family purchased when AT&T Park was built. The newspaper took a “sad fan” picture of the 5-year-old Crawford at a game in 1992. Now he is the team’s starting shortstop.
  • While we are in the Bay Area, here is a funny little story on Tigers pitcher Al Albuquerque kissing the baseball.
  • It’s Wednesday and you need a good laugh, so spend some time with these guys mocking Dennis Eckersley‘s haircut.

I’m going out of town for a few days and won’t be blogging again until Tuesday, when we’ll get caught up on the news and look at the former Rainiers in the minors.


Ten Former Rainiers In MLB Playoffs

October 8, 2012

It’s that time of the year when we take a look at all of the former Tacoma players involved in the Major League Baseball playoffs.

Please keep in mind that you are not required to root for the team with the most former Tacoma players. This will become quite clear as you read below.

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Washington Nationals: Mike “Michael” Morse is the only player on the Nationals with any Tacoma ties. Morse played for the Rainiers in 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2009. Morse ranks 13th on the Tacoma career doubles list – he hit 67 two-baggers as a member of the Rainiers. I put the “Michael” in quotes because we always called him Mike, but upon achieving stardom with the Nationals last year he decided to go by Michael publicly.

St. Louis Cardinals: the Cards do not have any players who are former Tacoma Rainiers. However, their coaching staff is loaded up: hitting coaches Mark McGwire (1986) and John Mabry (2000, 2003) both played in Tacoma, as did bench coach Mike Aldrete (1993).

Cincinnati Reds: utility infielder Wilson Valdez played in one game for the Rainiers in 2005. That’s all we’ve got.

San Francisco Giants: none. No coaches, nothing. Not even a front office ticket sales guy. Couldn’t find a roster of hot dog salesmen – perhaps one of their vendors once worked at Cheney Stadium? The Giants do have local product Tim Lincecum.

AMERICAN LEAGUE

Baltimore Orioles: outfielder Adam Jones played for Tacoma in 2006 and 2007, I recently spoke to him and wrote about it here. While he never pitched for Tacoma, starter Jason Hammel is a product of the baseball factory at Port Orchard’s South Kitsap High School (class of 2000).

New York Yankees: The Yankees lead the way with four former Tacoma Rainiers on the playoff roster. Outfielder Raul Ibanez (1996-2000, 2004), third baseman Alex Rodriguez (1995-1996), reliever Derek Lowe (1996-1997), and closer Rafael Soriano (2003-2005) all suited up for Tacoma. As is the Yankees way, all of these players are veterans who have achieved varying levels of stardom and eventually signed with the Yankees as free agents. One additional local connection: first base coach Mick Kelleher starred at the University of Puget Sound and is in their athletic hall of fame.

Detroit Tigers: Two former Rainiers are on the roster. Doug Fister (2009-2010) started game two for Detroit yesterday, pitching well in the Tigers 5-4 win over Oakland. Infielder Ramon Santiago (2004-2005) is the utility man, he still possesses a smooth glove. Pitching coach Jeff Jones (1982-84) has worn two Tigers uniforms: Detroit and Tacoma.

Oakland A’s: pitcher Travis Blackley (2004, 2006) is the only former Tacoma player on the roster, but the A’s coaching staff is a veritable Tacoma Tigers reunion. Pitching coach Curt Young (1983-1986, 1996), third base coach Mike Gallego (1982-1984; 1986-1987), bullpen coach Rick Rodriguez (1983-1987), and assistant trainer Walt Horn (1980s-mid-1990s) were all with the Tacoma Tigers.

Final totals: Yankees 4, Tigers 2, Nationals 1, Orioles 1, A’s 1, Reds 1 (sort of), Cardinals 0, Giants 0.

EDIT: the Rainiers have made a slide show of many of these players in their Rainiers uniforms – check it out!

Links:

  • Larry Stone is still churning out his Sunday baseball package in the Seattle Times. He has a column on the divergent paths of the Mariners and A’s (he used my stat!), a notebook leads with an item on Ryne Sandberg, power rankings, and thumbs up-and-down.
  • This is fun, Mariners fans: the Seattle P-I released a large number of their previously unpublished photos of “The Double” in 1995.

Later this week we’ll check in on some recent former Rainiers players and see how they performed this season.


Catching Up With Adam Jones

September 21, 2012

I had a chance to visit with former Rainiers outfielder Adam Jones on Wednesday at Safeco Field.

We talked for a while and I recorded an interview with him – it’s been posted on the Rainiers website, you can hear it right here.

A few hours and 11 innings after the interview, Jones cracked his 30th home run of the year to give his Baltimore Orioles a 3-1 victory over the Mariners. It was yet another extra-innings win for Baltimore, who is in the stretch run of a drive to reach the playoffs for the first time since 1997.

Adam played in Tacoma in 2006 and 2007.

In 2006 – his first Triple-A season – Jones hit .287 with 16 home runs and 62 RBI. He made the PCL All-Star team and represented the Rainiers in the Triple-A All-Star Game Toledo, Ohio before getting his first call-up to the majors. He was only 20 years old that season.

Jones returned to Tacoma in 2007 and damaged the Pacific Coast League to the tune of a .314 average with 25 homers and 84 RBI in just 101 games. He had a .967 OPS for Tacoma as a 21-year-old.

After we recorded the interview, he told me that was the biggest learning year of his career. He quite bluntly said, “When I was 20, I was dumb. I became a lot smarter at 21.”

The Mariners traded Jones – their top prospect – to the Orioles after the 2007 season in a package for starting pitcher Erik Bedard. The Mariners had just won 88 games and they thought the addition of Bedard would push them to the top of the standings.

At the time of the trade, it was a controversial deal and a hot topic for talk radio and baseball analysts. The Mariners traded their top prospect in an attempt to win now.

Personally, I leaned very slightly against the trade at the time. Like all Rainiers fans, I had seen Jones play for two seasons and I knew he was going to be a good major leaguer. But I understood that the Mariners saw a window to reach the playoffs, and you have to give up something good to get something good.

With the benefit of perfect hindsight, we now know that trade was a disaster.

In the interview, he talks about the trade and brings up an interesting comparison to Detroit Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson, who was traded at the exact same moment in his career, in a very similar deal.

Oh yeah, one other thing: after the interview, I asked Adam how his mom is doing. Many Rainiers fans remember her from Cheney Stadium for her gregarious personality. He said Andrea is doing great and is well-known in Baltimore, too.

The interview is six minutes, 43 seconds long. Here’s how it goes:

  • 0:00 to 1:00 – a  few general thoughts on the Orioles success this year.
  • 1:00 to  2:15 – getting traded to the Orioles and the opportunity that resulted from it.
  • 2:15 to 3:45 – on signing a long-term contract with the Orioles and suddenly becoming extremely wealthy.
  • 3:45 to 5:20: – on social media and interacting with fans on twitter (follow Adam @SimplyAJ10).
  • 5:20 to 6:43 – on teammates in Tacoma who helped him become a big leaguer.

“No problemo.” I hope you like it.

Links:

  • It looks like the PCL’s Tucson Padres will be moving to El Paso, TX for the 2014 season after some final hurdles were cleared. This will cause a realignment of the divisions after the 2013 season.
  • The News Tribune has an article on Michael Saunders and his successful season.
  • The Seattle Times has a feature on Justin Smoak and trying to overcome a rough season.
  • Ichiro has recently been on a tear for the Yankees.
  • Memphis Redbirds General Manager Ben Weiss won the PCL Executive Of The Year award.

Have a great weekend!


Blackley Shuts Down Rainiers

April 16, 2012

Former Rainiers and Mariners left-hander Travis Blackley shut down Tacoma on Sunday afternoon, 7-1.

Blackley went 5.1 innings and gave up just one hit – a Carlos Triunfel homer in the fourth inning.

The Rainiers radar gun had Blackley topping out at 92 mph, and Fresno pitching coach Pat Rice told me that he’s been 90-94 all spring.

Rice also said that Blackley feels like pitching a lot has strengthened his arm. Blackley was a starter in Korea last year, and then continued to pitch in the Australian Winter League where he worked deep into games.

The amazing thing is that he’s only 29 years old. Blackley was a pup of just 21 when he pitched for Tacoma and Seattle in 2004.

He is completely recovered from the shoulder problems that plagued him years ago, and he is older and wiser. Always one of the more outgoing and friendly players in the game, there are a lot of people pulling for him to get another shot at the majors.

Maybe it will happen this year.

Tonight’s game is at 7:05, and it’s the final game of the Fresno series. Tacoma needs to win tonight to salvage a split. The Rainiers send RHP Jeff Marquez (1-0, 9.00) to the mound against veteran LHP Brian Burres (0-1, 8.10). The broadcast is on 850 AM and streaming online right here.

After the game, the Rainiers go to Sacramento in a rare PCL bus trip. It’s about a three-hour drive.

Links:

  • Here’s the Rainiers game story from The News Tribune, in which I wrote about Travis Blackley and Carlos Triunfel.
  • The Rainiers aren’t the only team that can’t get Fresno outfielder Justin Christian out. The PCL’s leading hitter is batting .553, and he’s 8-for-12 against Tacoma.
  • It was nice to see former Rainiers pitcher Blake Beavan pick up his first win of the season in the Mariners 5-3 win yesterday.
  • Justin Smoak had a much-needed big game, John McGrath writes.
  • Brendan Ryan connected for his first career home run at Safeco Field. Reporters must love this guy.
  • Geoff Baker writes that the Mariners don’t appear to be serious about trying Jesus Montero at catcher.
  • Jason Churchill has an interesting piece on the next Mariners closer.
  • USS Mariner has its first Minor League Wrap of the season. These are always really long and contain some good information.
  • On the business side of things, respected sports business writer Maury Brown says that the Mariners are positioned for a sale – although he is quick to point out that they are not for sale.
  • Baseball America has a scouting report on a 17-year-old Dominican outfielder named Hersin Martinez whom the Mariners just signed to a big bonus.
  • In the PCL, Sacramento edged Reno, 3-1. Looks like the Rainiers are going to miss top prospect Jarrod Parker in the series that starts tomorrow.
  • Salt Lake outfielder Mike Trout is scorching hot. He’s hit safely in all 11 games and is batting .417 – and a local columnist says you better see him while you can. Trout is blazing fast – he went first to home on a single (video).
  • Bees pitcher Garrett Richards continues to impress.
  • Las Vegas got snowed out in Colorado Springs – they’ll try to play two today.
  • Nashville reliever Jim Henderson hit the game-winning single in the bottom of the 13th inning against New Orleans.
  • In another 13 inning game, Round Rock toppled Iowa, 11-10. Brad Nelson had a big game, and it ended on a Matt Kata sacrifice fly.
  • Party on Beale Street – the Memphis Redbirds won a baseball game!

This is a big early season game tonight. Fresno is good – they’re 8-3, and they have the hottest hitter in the league. A split here would be a fine accomplishment.


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


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