As The Roster Turns

June 11, 2014

The Rainiers lost Tuesday night’s game in Memphis, 7-4. You can read about it in the first link down below.

Tacoma’s roster took a major change in the last 36 hours, so let’s get caught up.

The Mariners have decided to release two veteran right-handed relievers who were having trouble this season, as both Zach Miner and Mike MacDougal were let go.

Miner, 32, had a strong spring and nearly made the Mariners opening day roster as the long man in the bullpen. Once he was sent to Triple-A, however, he posted an 8.60 ERA and allowed 57 hits in 37.2 innings pitched.

The 37-year-old MacDougal was brought in for a look on May 10, and appeared in 12 games with an 8.25 ERA. He pitched scoreless ball in three of his last four outings, but apparently the Mariners felt he was unlikely to contribute in the majors.

The two pitchers are replaced on the active roster by Taijuan Walker (who was officially optioned to Tacoma) and Clay Rapada (who was activated from the disabled list).

Tacoma’s starting rotation now, in order starting today, is Andrew Carraway, Jordan Pries, James Gillheeney, Walker and Matt Palmer.

The team also made a move that should really help the offense: infielder Chris Taylor was activated from the disabled list, and he started last night at shortstop.

Despite playing in his first game in nearly a month, Taylor went 1-for-3 with a double and was even intentionally walked (in a bizarre decision that didn’t work, with Memphis leading 3-2 in the fifth inning and the red-hot Jabari Blash on deck and no change in the platoon advantage).

Taylor has now reached base with a hit or a walk in 30 straight games, and he has a nine-game hitting streak which spans a four-week disabled list stay.

To make room for Taylor on the roster, utility infielder Patrick Brady was transferred to High Desert. I’m sure we’ll see Brady again in the future – he’s filling the organization infielder role that Leury Bonilla held down for years before settling in at Triple-A.

Now we’re caught up on the roster – for the moment. Logan Morrison‘s rehab stint is just about over, so we’ll probably have some news on that later today.

Wednesday’s game starts at 5:05 (Pacific) – the Alaska Airlines Pregame Show begins at 4:50 on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. Tacoma starts RHP Andrew Carraway (2-4, 4.61) against Memphis RHP Scott McGregor (1-6, 6.22).

Links:

  • The details from last night’s game can be found in the Rainiers game story from The News Tribune.
  • The Mariners lost to Derek Jeter and the Yankees, 3-2.
  • Todd Dybas fills in on the Mariners Notebook today.
  • Former Cy Young Award winner Bob Welch passed away yesterday, and John McGrath has a remembrance.
  • Larry Stone wrote a column on Jeter. In case you weren’t aware, Jeter played the game the right way.
  • In the PCL, River Cats legend Michael Taylor drove in two runs to help Sacramento beat Omaha, 3-2.
  • Nashville walked-off Reno with a 2-1 victory for the second day in a row – this time Jeremy Hermida had the game-ending hit. Reno now trails first-place Sacramento by one game in the standings.
  • Fresno had a strong start from the improving Mike Kickham in a 3-2 win over Iowa. The game had a dramatic finish.
  • Las Vegas infielder Omar Quintanilla came a single away from hitting for the cycle in a 9-3 win at Colorado Springs. Alert: we have a typo in the headline! The Sky Sox pitching staff has been raided by the Rockies.
  • Salt Lake had a bullpen day, and it was brilliant: five relief pitchers combined to shut out Oklahoma City on just four hits.
  • New Orleans continued its hot play, shutting out El Paso 10-0 in Texas. The Zephyrs are on a 15-4 stretch.
  • Round Rock picked up a 7-5 win at Albuquerque. The link has a note that the humidor in Albuquerque appears to be having an impact.

That’s it for today – I’m off to lunch.


Rainiers Win As Roster Revolves

April 16, 2014

The Rainiers kicked off the homestand with an 8-5 win over Salt Lake on Tuesday night. The victory extended Tacoma’s win streak to four in a row, and the team moved over the .500 mark improving to 6-5.

That was the good news.

The bad news was that Taijuan Walker had his rehabilitation start scratched due to shoulder stiffness. He was scratched before he ever threw a baseball – he was doing his pre-start stretching routine in the trainer’s room when this happened. We’ll have to wait and see how this plays out – the Mariners will err on the side of caution here.

James Gillheeney filled in for Walker and allowed just one run over five innings to earn his first win of the season. The Rainiers banged out a dozen hits and built a 7-0 lead after two innings. The game tightened up but a different rehabber – in this case reliever Stephen Pryor – nailed down the save in the ninth inning.

There were roster moves before yesterday’s game, and there will be more before tonight’s game.

Yesterday the Mariners called up Blake Beavan, and optioned reliever Lucas Luetge to Tacoma. Tacoma placed catcher Humberto Quintero (left hamstring) on the disabled list, and activated catcher Manny Pina. Finally, reliever Jonathan Arias was placed on the disabled list, and Ramon Ramirez was activated from the DL to take his spot.

Today Nick Franklin flew to Texas to join the Mariners, who placed Logan Morrison on the disabled list. Shortstop Gabriel Noriega is joining the Rainiers, up from Double-A Jackson.

Tuesday’s game is at 7:05 – the Alaska Airlines Pregame Show starts at 6:50 on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. Tacoma starts LHP Anthony Fernandez (0-1, 4.35) against Salt Lake RHP Matt Shoemaker (first PCL game).

Links:


Rainiers Release Tentative Roster

April 1, 2014

We have a roster, but it is being labeled “tentative” because changes are still possible prior to opening day on Thursday.

For example, there were several injuries around the majors last night, and teams are already recalling players from Triple-A as reinforcements. We almost had that happen in the Mariners game last night – Charlie Furbush was smoked in the knee by a line drive, but luckily it sounds like he’s going to be OK.

Here are the players who flew into Tacoma and were issued uniforms today:

PITCHERS

  • Bawcom, Logan
  • Beavan, Blake
  • Fernandez, Anthony
  • Gillheeney, James
  • Hill, Nick
  • Kensing, Logan
  • Leone, Dominic
  • Luetge, Lucas
  • Maurer, Brandon
  • Miner, Zach
  • Ramirez, Ramon
  • Ruffin, Chance
  • Smith, Carson

At this time I do not have a starting rotation – manager Roy Howell said he should have one ready to announce on Wednesday.

CATCHERS

  • Quintero, Humberto
  • Sucre, Jesus

I heard today from a reliable source that Brandon Bantz was released at the end of spring training. An unfortunate situation for a likable guy, but I’m sure he’ll hook on with another team soon.

INFIELDERS

  • Choi, Ji-Man
  • Franklin, Nick
  • Kelly, Ty
  • Montero, Jesus
  • Noriega, Gabriel
  • Taylor, Chris
  • Tenbrink, Nate

That’s a lot of middle infielders. Taylor was the Mariners Minor League Player of the Year last year, and he’s going to play every day. Obviously, Franklin is playing every day – we’ll see if he gets any reps in the outfield. Kelly and Tenbrink were two of Tacoma’s best hitters last year. It could be tough for Howell to keep everybody happy with enough playing time.

OUTFIELDERS

  • Chavez, Endy
  • Gillespie, Cole
  • Jones, James

Right now the fourth outfielder appears to be Tenbrink, Kelly, or possibly Franklin.

DISABLED LIST

  • Bonilla, Leury
  • Carraway, Andrew
  • Rogers, Mark

Carraway and Rogers are staying in extended spring training as each had injuries in Arizona (Carraway apparently very recently since he was fine when I talked to him last week). I heard Matt Palmer is still in extended, too.

Keep in mind there are three players currently on waivers, and if they don’t get claimed by other teams they are Triple-A players who would probably be assigned to Tacoma. Those three are Carlos Triunfel, Xavier Avery, and Bobby LaFromboise.

Here is the roster press release, and a one-page roster PDF with lots of player data is right here.


Position Previews: Corner Infielders

February 5, 2014

For the past two years, I have lumped the first basemen and third basemen into one group when doing these positional previews.

This was because the Rainiers have had a lot of players switching across the diamond during the season – players like Alex Liddi, Nate Tenbrink, Vinnie Catricala, and Scott Savastano.

So, I assumed that would be the case again in 2014, before I really started thinking about it.

Well, now I’ve thought about it, and it appears that the 2014 Rainiers are going to have some separation between the first and third base positions. The first basemen are strictly first basemen, leaving the third basemen to play third base.

With the corner infielders, we don’t need to look at the big league picture. Kyle Seager plays third in Seattle, and three dudes play first (Justin Smoak, Logan Morrison, Corey Hart). None of these players will be sent to Tacoma, and it’s going to be very difficult for any from the below group to crack the Mariners opening day roster.

Here are the Tacoma corner infield candidates:

First Basemen

The Rainiers will have a regular first baseman and the designated hitter come out of this group. The top two on the list have a lot to prove in 2014.

Rich Poythress: Tacoma’s incumbent at first base, Poythress hit .252 with 13 homers and 57 RBI in 365 at-bats in his first Triple-A season. The former 2nd-round draft pick drew 47 walks and has a history of showing patience at the plate. Poythress is an outstanding defensive first baseman and is very good at digging out errant throws – something his infielders and pitching staff greatly appreciate. Still, first base is all about the bat at the Major League level. This is a big year for the 26-year-old, who needs to show he can crush PCL pitching in order to make himself a candidate to reach the next level.

Jesus Montero: last year was a lost season for Montero. He was moved off the catcher position, sent to Tacoma to learn first base, blew out a knee, and then got suspended due to the Biogenesis mess. The 2014 season will be Montero’s chance to rebuild his career. I think he’ll be doing a lot of DH-ing while he tries to get his bat back on track, but he will see some time at first base. Like Poythress, Montero could really use a season of blasting PCL pitching to put himself on the big league map.

Ji-Man Choi: Choi had a tremendous offensive season in 2013, rising from Single-A to Triple-A and earning a spot on the 40-man roster. He played in 13 games for Tacoma at the end of the season and showed some promise. However, he may start the season in Double-A because the organization is going to want him to play every day – and that might not be possible at the Triple-A level. Choi will only be 22-years-old on opening day so it’s not like he’d be too old for Double-A.

Third Basemen

Nate Tenbrink: Going into spring training, it appears that Tenbrink is the lone third baseman in line for the Tacoma roster. He played 51 games at third for the Rainiers last year. He also played multiple games everywhere else: first base, second base, shortstop, and all three outfield positions. The way things look to me right now, he’ll be seeing the majority of his time at third base this year.

Others: the guys who will play the hot corner when Tenbrink is playing a different position or is not in the lineup will come from the middle infield group – I’ll be writing about them next week, but we are talking about familiar faces like Ty Kelly, Carlos Triunfel, Leury Bonilla, and possibly Nick Franklin if he doesn’t make the big club.

There is one everyday third baseman making his way up the minor league ladder in Ramon Morla, who reached Double-A for the second half of 2013. He is slated to return to Jackson to open the season, but Morla is a name to remember for the future.

Last year’s first-round draft pick D.J. Peterson is a third baseman, but I wouldn’t expect to see him in Triple-A until 2015 at the earliest. I could be wrong, though: this organization has really been rushing top draft picks in recent years.

Those are the corner infielder candidates for 2014. We’ll look at the middle infield next Wednesday.

Links:

  • Ryan Divish broke down the Mariners catching situation and the Seattle bullpen.
  • The Mariners and arbitration eligible Logan Morrison agreed to terms.
  • There is opportunity for Stefen Romero, Bob Dutton writes.
  • ESPN predicts that the Mariners will win 74 games.
  • The Sporting News talked to Ken Griffey Jr about his 1989 Upper Deck baseball card.

I never blog on New Year’s Day, so this is the first post I have ever written while watching a parade on TV. That is some turnout!


Rainiers Eliminated As Roster Revolves

August 30, 2013

Lots going on today, so let’s get to it.

The Rainiers were eliminated from playoff contention last night, as Salt Lake clinched the division title with an 8-4 victory. They celebrated in the visiting locker room at Cheney Stadium, much to our clubbie’s delight.

Salt Lake was as many as nine games behind Tacoma in late May. Their turnaround was remarkable, as they are now 16 games over .500 and on the cusp of 80 wins despite posting a negative run differential. Salt Lake manager Keith Johnson was named the PCL Manager of the Year today.

Our congratulations to Salt Lake, who will play either Las Vegas or Sacramento in the playoffs.

After the game, moves started to happen.

Abraham Almonte was called into the office to receive the good news: he was getting his first promotion to the majors – two days before anticipated.

Almonte will certainly be the Rainiers Team MVP for 2013. He hit .314 with 11 homers and 50 RBI in 94 games – from the leadoff spot. He drew 49 walks and posted a .403 on-base percentage. Almonte was 20-for-27 in stolen base attempts.

Almonte can drag bunt and he can hit for power. He also has the best throwing arm from center field we have seen in Tacoma since Adam Jones played here.

Analysts have pegged Almonte as a fourth outfielder type in the majors. After watching him play for four months, I believe he is better than that. Here’s hoping I’m correct on this one.

The Rainiers also officially lost Taijuan Walker today, as he will be starting for the Mariners tonight in Houston. Go get ‘em, Tai!

Also out of the picture is left-handed reliever Brian Moran, who sprained his right ankle on Wednesday night. He is out for the remainder of the PCL season, and unfortunately the injury clouds his chances for a September call-up.

The Mariners have promoted two players from Double-A Jackson to Tacoma. Outfielder James Jones and left-handed reliever Nick Hill are on their way.

Jones hit .275 with six homers and 45 RBI in 101 games. He’s a speed player: he hit ten triples and stole 28 bases in AA. This is probably a 2014 preview, as Jones seems like a strong candidate to play daily for Tacoma next year.

Hill is a product of the US Military Academy who had to jump through a lot of hoops to pursue his professional career. He’s dealt with injury issues, but rebounded this season to post a 2.17 ERA in 42 games out of the Jackson bullpen.

One other move occurred today: the Mariners traded Michael Morse to the Baltimore Orioles for Triple-A outfielder Xavier Avery, and assigned Avery to Tacoma.

Avery hit .237 for Norfolk, with two homers, He has 29 stolen bases between Double-A and Triple-A this year.

This trade just happened this morning, and Avery is with the Norfolk club. It remains to be seen if he will actually report to Tacoma before the season ends with the day game on Monday – I say coin flip, 50/50 shot.

The Sacramento River Cats come to town today, and the Rainiers can play spoiler.

Sacramento trails Las Vegas by two games in the Pacific-South. Las Vegas has possession of the tiebreaker, so their magic number is two.

Sacramento’s string of six consecutive Pac-South division titles is on the ropes. Ending that streak would be a fun way for the Rainiers to finish off this season.

Tonight’s game is at 7:05 (Pacific), and you can hear it on South Sound Sports 850 AM, streaming right here, and available via the TuneIn app for iPads and smart phones. Tacoma starts RHP Forrest Snow (3-0, 3.34) against Sacramento LHP Carlos Hernandez (1-2, 6.00).

Links:

It’s the final Friday Night Fireworks of the season – come on out to the ballpark!


Rainiers Lose Liddi, Game

June 29, 2013

Tacoma’s four-game winning streak got snapped yesterday, 9-0, by the Las Vegas 51s. More importantly in the big picture, the Rainiers lost third baseman Alex Liddi.

When the Mariners called up Brad Miller yesterday, they needed to add him to the 40-man roster. That meant designating someone for assignment, and that someone was Alex Liddi. Liddi is currently on waivers and can be claimed by any other team as long as they place him on their own 40-man roster.

I think Liddi will be claimed, and perhaps already has. He’s simply too young and talented to slip past 29 other big league clubs.

That being understood, it makes total sense from the Mariners perspective to let him go. While he has been tried at other positions, Liddi has shown us that he is a third baseman first and foremost. Much of his value as a player comes from his strong defensive skills at third. The Mariners don’t have an opening at that position, and don’t figure to for several years.

Some team that needs a third baseman in the majors or at Triple-A will claim Liddi on waivers, and that will end his time with Tacoma.

This creates a huge hole in the Tacoma lineup. Yes, the Rainiers received Carlos Triunfel back from Seattle when Miller was called up, so they got a quality player back in that exchange. But Liddi leaves without anyone filling the slot – and he was Tacoma’s cleanup or No. 3 hitter in the lineup all season.

Compounding the problem is the continued injury woes of Stefen Romero, who missed his fourth straight game with wrist soreness yesterday.

The Rainiers don’t have much thunder in the lineup right now. There isn’t anyone knocking on the door from Double-A, except possibly outfielder Julio Morban, who would not be counted on to provide much in his first taste of Triple-A.

There is still a chance that Eric Thames and/or Liddi might clear waivers. In Thames case, he’s still injured and probably won’t be playing until late July or August.

One bat that could help soon is Jesus Montero. He was injured May 29, with the torn meniscus in his knee, and was said to be out for 4-to-6 weeks. We’re four weeks into that period, so he should be coming back soon. Tacoma can play him at first base, and move Rich Poythress to DH, and that should help the offense.

Tacoma did activate Scott Savastano from the disabled list yesterday, and he went 1-for-4 in his return to the lineup. It was his first game since suffering an elbow injury on June 2.

It’s a good thing that the Rainiers have this prospect-laden starting rotation right now. We could be in for a stretch of low-scoring games.

Now that I’ve typed the previous sentence, get ready for a 13-11 slugfest tonight.

Tonight’s game is at 7:05, and as always it can be heard on 850 AM, streamed online right here, or picked up on an iPad or smart phone via the TuneIn app. Tacoma starts RHP Erasmo Ramirez (2-2, 2.23) against Las Vegas RHP Jacob deGrom (0-0, 0.77).

Links:

  • We start with the Rainiers game story from The News Tribune, in which manager John Stearns talks about dealing with the losses to the lineup.
  • Ryan Divish has more on the Mariners roster moves.
  • The Mariners beat the Cubs on Mike Zunino‘s RBI single in the bottom of the tenth inning.
  • Colorado Springs picked up a game on the Rainiers by beating Tucson, 4-2. Ben Paulsen had the go-ahead two-run homer in the eighth inning.
  • Fresno tallied 19 hits in a 9-6 win over Salt Lake. Former Rainiers pitcher Yusmeiro Petit returned from the disabled list for Fresno.
  • Reno crushed Sacramento, 8-1. Alfredo Marte had a big game at the plate.
  • Former Royals closer Joakim Soria made his Round Rock debut last night. Not sure if he changed the spelling of his first name, or if that’s a bad typo in the Austin Statesman.
  • Justin Sellers had the big hit as Albuquerque topped Memphis, 4-3.
  • The Iowa Cubs mashed 16 hits in a 5-1 win at Omaha.
  • Oklahoma City swept a doubleheader from Nashville.

This should be an interesting one tonight – I’m very curious to see how the Rainiers offense does. Furthermore, Erasmo tossed eight scoreless innings the last time he faced Vegas. Can he do it again?


Rainiers Receive Boost For Homestand

June 21, 2013

The Rainiers return home to start an 11-game homestand tonight at Cheney Stadium, and they are getting a boost to the starting rotation.

Yesterday the Mariners announced that top prospect Taijuan Walker is being promoted to Tacoma from Double-A Jackson. Walker is set to make his Triple-A debut as the starting pitcher on Tuesday night, at home against Fresno.

Walker didn’t get much run support at Jackson, posting a won-loss record of 4-7. Look deeper, however, and the numbers jump off the page: he had a 2.46 ERA, he pitched 84 innings and allowed only 58 hits, the league batting average against him was .195. He led the Southern League with 96 strikeouts, while walking 30.

Walker had a 12-strikeout masterpiece on Thursday night in his final Double-A start. If nothing else, he should be fun to watch.

Furthermore, News Tribune reporter Ryan Divish learned that Danny Hultzen is set to throw five innings in a rehab start in Arizona today, and if all goes well he will return to Tacoma and start Thursday’s game against Las Vegas.

These moves lead to a Tacoma starting rotation of James Paxton, Erasmo Ramirez, Brandon Maurer, Walker, and Hultzen. I would assume that Hector Noesi and Brian Sweeney are going to the bullpen, which could definitely use some right-handed help.

It will be interesting to see what happens when Andrew Carraway is ready to go again. Carraway is not on the disabled list, but he did not pitch on this road trip because of some muscular trouble in his back. It’s not thought to be serious. Carraway has been the Rainiers most consistent and successful starter since opening day.

The Rainiers lost the final game in Colorado Springs, 8-3, and dropped the series to the Sky Sox, three games to one. Game details are in the first link down below.

It was the first series loss for Tacoma since the team was swept in Oklahoma City, May 7-10. That was a nice run of successful series.

Tacoma went 6-6 on the marathon road trip – not bad in my opinion, although manager John Stearns wasn’t satisfied with that result (as he says in the game story).

Tonight’s game is at 7:05, and praise the Baseball Gods for it is being played at Cheney Stadium in lovely Tacoma, WA! We’ll have the broadcast on 850 AM, and streaming online, and via the TuneIn app for smart phones and iPads. Tacoma starts LHP James Paxton (4-5, 5.18) against Fresno RHP Mitch Lively (3-1, 7.16).

Links:

  • Here is my Rainiers game story from The News Tribune.
  • The moved-in fences at Safeco Field may have been a factor last night, as the Mariners lost a dinger-fest to the Oakland A’s.
  • The Mariners signed second-round pick Austin Wilson out of Stanford University. I’ve never seen him, but everything I read about him reminds me of Sacramento’s Michael Taylor.
  • John McGrath makes some really good points in his column about bringing back the relevance of the World Series.
  • Salt Lake kept up the pressure from third place, beating Sacramento 5-2. The Bees are three games back – they have won 17 of their last 22 games.

That’s all of the links I can get to today, due to the travel day. Make plans to come out and see the team this homestand, this starting rotation right now looks one-of-a-kind for Triple-A.


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