Almonte Leads Rainiers To Win, Says Goodbye

July 31, 2014

Note: tonight’s Rainiers game in Salt Lake City is on national TV, as the CBS Sports Network’s Minor League Baseball Game of the Week. Check out the beautiful Salt Lake ballpark and watch the Rainiers at 7:00 (Pacific). Channel Finder: Click! 423/667 (HD), Comcast: 412/633 (HD), DirecTV: 221 Dish: 158.

Last night Abraham Almonte reached base four times, hit a three-run homer, singled in a big insurance run, and lead the Tacoma Rainiers to a 6-3 victory at Salt Lake.

Today he and reliever Stephen Kohlscheen were traded to the San Diego Padres for major league outfielder (and former PCLer) Chris Denorfia.

This move strengthens the Mariners outfield but obviously it’s a big hit to the Rainiers.

Almonte is batting 267/333/390 with six homers and 31 RBI. He’s 7-for-11 stealing bases. The season stats don’t really tell the whole story: Almonte struggled mightily in the majors in April, and he continued to struggle in Triple-A in May. But since June 1 he is batting .309 in 178 at-bats for Tacoma, and he has looked like the player he was last season when he was the Rainiers team MVP.

Kohlscheen opened the season in Double-A and was promoted to Tacoma in mid-June. In 15 games for Tacoma, he’s 2-0 with a 3.28 ERA. He pitched 24.2 innings and had a 22-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Kohlscheen doesn’t light up radar guns but he’s really tall and gets great downhill plane on his pitches, making him very effective.

Almonte is getting a promotion in the deal – he reports to San Diego tomorrow. I believe Kohlscheen is on his way to join El Paso, who is playing in Las Vegas right now.

Trade No. 2 just happened: in a three-team deal, the Mariners send Nick Franklin to Tampa and acquire major league CF Austin Jackson from Detroit.

This is a great trade from the Mariners standpoint, simply because Franklin is blocked in their own organization by Robinson Cano. The M’s just didn’t need him.

I think that Franklin is going to become a good major league player, and I hope he does with the Rays. That being said, the M’s didn’t need him, and they did desperately need a quality big league outfielder, so here we are.

This trade should help the Mariners try to reach the playoffs this year, and it fills a big hole in the lineup for 2015 as well.

OK, back to the current Rainiers team: Jordan Pries picked up the win yesterday, allowing three runs after just four batters in the first inning and then giving up no more runs while making it through seven innings. That’s a nice recovery.

Tacoma is back to .500 at 56-56, and is still seven games behind first place Sacramento. Reno is sandwiched between the two teams, in second place and three games behind Sacramento.

I’m hoping the Rainiers have some players coming in today, because they lost three from the roster and gained none in today’s deals. Tonight’s lineup will be interesting.

Thursday’s game starts at 7:05 PM (Pacific) – the Alaska Airlines Pregame Show begins at 6:50 on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. Tacoma starts RHP Forrest Snow (1-2, 1.52) against Salt Lake RHP Chris Volstad (0-0, 5.40).

Links:

That’s it for today. I’ll have more links to articles analyzing the Mariners trades on tomorrow’s blog.


Rainiers Add A Bat, Win Game, Lose Relievers

April 11, 2013

Infielder Nick Franklin made his belated 2013 debut last night in Sacramento, and his impact was immediately felt.

Franklin went 2-for-5, collecting hits from both sides of the plate. His RBI double in the top of the 7th off left-handed reliever Jordan Norberto was a big hit in Tacoma’s six-run rally that led to a 7-4 come-from-behind victory.

The recovery of Franklin (he was out with an illness) improves the team defensively, too – he was involved in three of Tacoma’s five double plays last night. The club was playing Nate Tenbrink at second base, and he has very little experience at the keystone. Now Tenbrink can slot in at the corner positions he is more comfortable playing.

Tacoma (5-2) is going for a rare four-game road sweep at Sacramento tonight at 7:05. Tacoma starts RHP Jeremy Bonderman (0-0, 5.40) against Sacramento RHP Dan Straily (first PCL appearance of the year). The broadcast is on 850 AM and streaming right here – tune in at 6:50, as I expect to have Mike Zunino on the Alaska Airlines Pregame Show.

Now we have a trade: just announced, the Mariners traded Tacoma reliever Steven Hensley to the Colorado Rockies for major league starter Aaron Harang.

Hensley appeared in two games for Tacoma this year, allowing one run in 2.2 innings for a 3.38 ERA. He had his ups and downs last year, with the highlight being his 4.1 shutout innings in that crazy 18-inning game against Sacramento.

Steven is a super-friendly guy and we wish him the best with the Rockies. Presumably, he’s going to Colorado Springs. I hope he packed his winter coat on this road trip!

Tacoma is short in the bullpen tonight. Lucas Luetge does not report until tomorrow (he couldn’t pitch tonight anyway due to his prolonged outing on Tuesday versus Houston), and both Hensley and Bobby LaFromboise are gone. The Mariners designated Kameron Loe for assignment, he might clear waivers and come to Tacoma but that won’t be known for ten days.

The Rainiers now have an open roster spot. I’ll let you know when it gets filled.

The Rainiers home opener is Friday at 7:05, with fireworks after the game. There are still some tickets left for all of opening weekend – come out and see these guys, this is a really good team right now.

Links:

  • We start with the Rainiers game story from The News Tribune.
  • The Mariners lost to Houston, and Michael Saunders injured his right shoulder.
  • Greg Johns writes that if Saunders has to go on the disabled list, Endy Chavez could get the call-up.
  • Bobby LaFromboise did get called up, and he pitched a 1-2-3 inning with a pair of strikeouts in his major league debut. Nice job, Bobby!
  • For ESPN Insiders, Buster Olney has more on Mike Zunino.
  • Chicago Cubs top prospect Jorge Soler charged the opposing dugout wielding a bat. He’s going to get suspended for a while.
  • In the PCL, former Rainiers infielder Luis Rodriguez drove in seven runs, hit a grand slam, and had the go-ahead RBI in both games of Salt Lake’s doubleheader sweep of Reno. Wowza.
  • The ball was flying out of Chukchansi Park – there were five homers in Fresno’s 6-3 win over Vegas.
  • The Sacramento Bee has a feature on new River Cats manager Steve Scarsone.
  • Oklahoma City’s Jarred Cosart was dealing in a 3-1 win over Nashville.
  • Round Rock starting pitcher Justin Grimm got the call to the big leagues.
  • Omaha swept a doubleheader at Albuquerque, winning both games by a score of 6-3. That makes it very difficult to determine which one was game one and which one was game two.
  • New Orleans scored four runs in the top of the 12th inning and was still batting when the game was suspended due to rain in Memphis.

Goodness gracious, we’re going to have good food at Cheney Stadium this season. First Ivar’s and Kidd Valley, now pizza from The Hub? Awesome!


Reaction To Vargas – Morales Trade

December 20, 2012

Yesterday afternoon the Mariners made their first impact move of the off-season, trading starting pitcher Jason Vargas to the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for slugger Kendrys Morales.

This is an interesting trade between division rivals, and it appears to be one of those trades that makes a lot of sense to both sides. Morales was expendable for the Angels, because they just signed Josh Hamilton and it created a backlog of hitters.

The Angles needed a starting pitcher, the Mariners have plenty of starting pitching prospects and needed a hitter, and here we are.

Both players are free agents after the 2013 season, so this deal is unlikely to have long-term ramifications.

I really like it from the Mariners side. They desperately needed a hitter who is a power threat in the lineup, and now they have one.

One side effect is that the arrival of Morales is going to put pressure on Justin Smoak to make the team. Smoak has one minor league option year left, and could end up in Tacoma if he does not have a productive spring training. With all apologies to Justin, if this happens, we’ll take him!

Reaction to the trade:

  • The Seattle Times has a news story on the trade from Geoff Baker, who also has a blog post on how the trade came into focus.
  • The esteemed Larry Stone calls the trade a “win-win.” He also notes that the Mariners are expected to save roughly $2.5 million on salary with this move.
  • The News Tribune has a news story on the trade from Ryan Divish, who provides much deeper analysis of the trade on this blog post. He also talks about the starting rotation, and who is available on the market to take the Vargas slot. I think he left out a key name on the list of in-house candidates: Charlie Furbush has a lot of starting experience and the M’s are deep in left-handed relievers to fill his bullpen spot.
  • Jack Z talked about the trade with Mitch on KJR this morning, here is a link to the interview.
  • The trade sent Dave Cameron into a writing frenzy over at USS Mariner. In this post he tries to figure out how the pieces fit together now (and also takes a tweet of mine way out of context as a joke), and here he writes that the trade probably leaves Mike Carp dangling in the wind.
  • At Lookout Landing, Jeff Sullivan posted his thoughts on the deal.
  • On an ESPN video interview, analyst Keith Law likes the deal and still thinks the Mariners are trying to add more offense.
  • Rob Neyer asks the question, what does Kendrys Morales do for the Mariners?
  • If you are a Baseball Prospectus subscriber, here is their analysis.
  • In the PCL, the Reno Aces announced their coaching staff. Brett Butler returns as manager, ex-Mariners starter Mike Parrott is back as pitching coach, and the new hitting coach is Greg Gross. Gross, parrott butler.
  • 2012 PCL Pitcher of the Year John Ely was traded by the Dodgers to the Astros yesterday, opening up an opportunity in the majors for him. Ely went 14-7 with a 3.20 ERA with 165 strikeouts last year, leading the league in all three categories for the “pitcher’s triple crown” – and he did that despite pitching on the moon in Albuquerque.
  • Anyone who buys the Rainiers 12 Days Of Tacoma Pack today gets entered to win a chance to throw out the first pitch at a 2013 Rainiers game. Info is here, you can buy it here or just call 253-752-7707.

Tomorrow Baseball Prospectus releases their Mariners Top Prospects list, and I’m told it will be different and interesting. Looking forward to that…


Huge Comeback!

July 31, 2012

Tacoma trailed Tucson 8-0 going to the sixth inning. Who would have guessed that Monday night would turn out to be one of the most fun nights of the season?

Tacoma scored a season-best nine runs in the sixth inning, Carter Capps made an electrifying Triple-A debut, and the Rainiers went on to beat Tucson, 11-8.

The nine-run inning was an absolute monster. I went through the entire blow-by-blow in the Rainiers game story for The News Tribune – first link down below – and I’m not going to re-type it here. The big hits were by Guillermo Quiroz (bases loaded double to make it 8-5), Justin Smoak (line drive single for 8-7), and Luis Jimenez (rope to wall plus RF error, giving Tacoma a 9-8 lead).

After tremendous relief showings by Brian Sweeney and Brian Moran, Capps entered with a runner at first base and no outs in the eighth, protecting a two-run lead. Capps quickly retired three straight batters, striking out two.

He returned to the mound to open the ninth, and struck out Jeremy Hermida to open the inning. He was then mysteriously removed from the game, leading to speculation that his Triple-A debut may in fact be his only Triple-A game for a while.

Capps average 99 miles per hour on the radar gun that the Rainiers use to chart pitches, and he topped out at 100 mph.

After the game, the Mariners made a bunch of moves:

  • Reliever Brandon League was traded to the Dodgers for Double-A reliever Logan Bawcom and Class-A outfielder Leon Landry. Both young prospects were having tremendous seasons in the Dodgers system.
  • Reliever Steve Delabar was traded to Toronto for outfielder Eric Thames. Thames, who was batting .335 for Las Vegas, will report to the Mariners. Carlos Peguero was optioned to Tacoma.

After these moves, the Mariners need to call up two relievers. One will obviously be Stephen Pryor. The other? Could be the hard-throwing Capps. Could be Chance Ruffin, who has a 2.33 ERA since June 20. Could be David Pauley, who has been in the majors with two other teams this season. Could be Bobby LaFromboise, who needs to be protected on the 40-man after this season anyway.

The trades resulted in the Mariners having an open 40-man roster spot, so they can call up whoever they want.

Personally, I think it will be Capps. It was weird when they took him out of the game with one out in the ninth yesterday, in a save situation – right when the Mariners were announcing the trades. Plus, he throws 100 mph – the other guys don’t.

Tonight the Rainiers take on Tucson at 7:05 pm. You can listen to the final game of the Nine Game Mega Series against Tucson on South Sound Sports 850 AM, and streaming online right here.

The Nine Game Mega Series is tied, 4-4 – this game tonight is for all of the Nine Game Mega Series Tostitos. Tacoma starts RHP D.J. Mitchell (0-1, 1.80) against Tucson LHP Colt Hynes (5-8, 6.05). Neither pitcher has ever started the final game of a Nine Game Mega Series before – but both made their Nine Game Mega Series debuts just five days ago.

Links:

  • We start with the Rainiers game story from The News Tribune.
  • Two Mariners relievers were ready to celebrate the team’s fifth straight win – only to find out they had been traded.
  • Larry Stone has a blog post about the prospects the Mariners acquired in the trades.
  • Dave Cameron wrote about the trades for USS Mariner – read it for the analysis, stick around for the punch line.
  • Here are Baseball America’s reports on Leon Landry and Logan Bawcom.
  • John Sickels also wrote briefly about the two new Mariners prospects.
  • Casper Wells – not worried about this year’s trade deadline – talked about the chaos of last year’s deadline.
  • In the PCL, Salt Lake outfielder Cory Aldridge is having a big series and the Bees keep beating Las Vegas.
  • The Tucson Padres are just happy to be playing better baseball.
  • Reno outfielder Adam Eaton hit an inside-the-park home run in the Aces 9-7 win over Sacramento. Bryan Shaw is back in Reno, trying to fine-tune his pitches.
  • Colorado Springs and Fresno were suspended in the second inning of a 0-0 game. The paper ran a Brandon Wood career retrospective. With all of these prospects being traded around at the deadline, it helps to remember Brandon Wood.
  • Memphis prospect Shelby Miller pitched a gem and Victor Marte came down from St. Louis and closed out a 5-4 win over Round Rock.
  • Nashville walked off Albuquerque on a ninth-inning single by Edwin Maysonet.
  • New Orleans beat Iowa, 5-3 – and, um, the Iowa Cubs are 1-10 so far on a 12-game road trip.

Last game in Tucson and then the Rainiers are home for a nice, long eight-game homestand starting on Wednesday night. Oklahoma City comes to town for four games, and then the New Orleans Zephyrs arrive for four more.


Tuesday and Wednesday

July 24, 2012

It’s going to be quiet here on the blog until Thursday – I’m taking two days off from Rainiers radio to cover the big club, so I’m focusing on that tonight and tomorrow.

The Rainiers are hosting Tucson in a four-game series starting tonight at Cheney Stadium. Bob Robertson will handle the play-by-play, with guests Ian Furness (Tuesday) and Mike Gastineau (Wednesday). You can catch the broadcasts on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here.

The pitching matchups look like this:

  • Tuesday, 7:05: RHP Hector Noesi (0-1, 14.04) vs. RHP Jorge Reyes (6-9, 5.34)
  • Wednesday, 11:35 AM: TBA vs. RHP Matt Palmer (6-6, 6.16)

TBA will probably be rehabilitating Mariners starter Erasmo Ramirez, but that hasn’t been confirmed yet. Wednesday’s scheduled starter was Andrew Carraway, but he landed on the disabled list with a strained lat. It’s unclear how long he will be out for.

So, the Mariners traded Ichiro.

I was stunned by this, just like most of you guys. I thought for sure that Ichiro was a Mariner For Life. I actually expected the Mariners to sign him to a contract extension for next year, even though it probably wasn’t in the best interest of the team.

There is no question that Ichiro’s skills are starting to fade. He is such a speed-based player that “losing a step” really brought down his overall production.

Still, he is one of the greatest players in Mariners history, and watching him play the last 11 years was a true joy.

I remember spring training 2001, when Lou Piniella expressed concern that Ichiro wasn’t going to be able to hit. I was at the game in September of 2004, in the left field foul pole seats where The King’s Court is today, when Ichiro broke the single-season hit record.

He brought us a lot of great memories. Since the Mariners aren’t in it this year, I might – might; don’t hold me to it – root for the Yankees in the playoffs, just for Ichiro to get to a World Series. Ugh, it pained me just to write that sentence. I need to do some soul-searching on this one.

In return for Ichiro, the Mariners received two Triple-A pitchers: D.J. Mitchell and oft-traded reliever Danny Farquhar.

Both pitchers are joining Tacoma. Mitchell is a starter, Farquhar a sidearm reliever. They are expected to arrive on Wednesday – but I’m not sure if they will arrive in time for the 11:35 AM game. No roster moves will be made until these guys actually show up; they were on a road trip in the International League – in fact, they played for a homeless team, the “Empire State Yankees.” More on that later this week.

Also, Justin Smoak has been optioned to Tacoma, the Mariners are activating Mike Carp from the DL tonight, and they have one more roster spot to fill before tonight’s game.

So, we’re getting a flurry of transactions here – and the trading season is just getting underway! Deadline time is always wild at the Triple-A level.

Quick links:

  • My Rainiers game story for The News Tribune on Tacoma’s 9-1 loss in Colorado Springs on Monday, in which Danny Hultzen struggled.
  • The Seattle and Tacoma papers are chock-full of Ichiro coverage – just hit their front pages for tons of stories.
  • One Ichiro story you must read, that you might have missed: columnist and Mariners historian Art Thiel weighs in right here.
  • Sacramento’s Dan Straily kept it going last night, shutting out Tucson as the River Cats avoided a sweep. Straily is keeping them guessing.
  • A column from Las Vegas about the late, great Bob Blum.
  • Salt Lake beat Fresno last night, 1-0, and the only run of the game scored on a balk. Baseball!

We close out with a big, warm “Goodbye” to long-time Rainiers front office employee Mallory Beckingham, who is leaving the organization to pursue other opportunities. Best of luck down the road, Mallory, and come back and see us – you will be missed.


A Necessary Evil

January 24, 2012

The big Mariners-Yankees trade was officially announced by the teams yesterday afternoon, and there were no surprises.

Michael Pineda and Jose Campos go to the Yankees in exchange for Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi.

The thought of trading a young, emerging star pitcher like Pineda was certainly hard for a lot of Mariners fans to take. Even here in the Rainiers front office, a lot of employees were not happy to see Pineda go.*

But the Mariners had to do something.

This team has had the worst offense in Major League Baseball for two years running. While Dustin Ackley and Mike Carp provided some late-season hope that the offense might improve, the Mariners still have a long, long way to go to field just an average lineup in the American League.

They needed a hitter desperately, so they traded for one in Montero.

Montero is expected to become a  middle-of-the-order power hitter – exactly what the Mariners need. These types of players don’t come around very often, and the Mariners took the opportunity to grab one with six years of team control before free agency. To do this, they had to move a premium player – and that was Pineda.

The Yankees needed pitching, and the Mariners needed hitting. Each team had a young, emerging star that fit the other club’s need.

Public opinion seems split on the deal.

In one of his blog posts right after the trade was announced, Larry Stone wrote that according to the comments on the Times site, Mariners fans seemed split 50/50 on the deal. Then Stone went and looked at some Yankees sites and saw that their fans were also split 50/50 on the trade. That seems to mean it’s an even trade.

Check back in six years and we’ll see who won the deal. But for now, I see it as a trade that needed to happen.

Links:

  • Leading off, it’s the Seattle Times recap of the trade, with quotes from many of the subjects.
  • In the two-hole, John McGrath writes that a former Tacoma Rainiers player helped Jesus Montero with his work ethic.
  • Batting third, Montero was a guest on the Mariners Hot Stove League radio show last night. You can listen to the podcast here – Montero comes on shortly after the 19-minute mark.
  • Cleanup man Jeff Sullivan has a little off-the-cuff trade background.
  • Up fifth is The New York Daily News, which sent a writer to the Dominican Republic to visit with the newest Yankee, our old pal Michael Pineda. This is an excellent story adorned with photos of Pineda’s family and hometown.
  • Hitting sixth, the Mariners made the signing of starting pitcher Kevin Millwood official.
  • Batting seventh, former Rainiers (and Cal Bears) pitcher Brandon Morrow is getting paid. Hey, buddy, how ’bout a loan?
  • In the eighth spot, there are lots of rumors that Prince Fielder may sign today. Larry Stone opinionates that Baltimore could be his landing spot. Of course, The Onion has figured out exactly why this is taking so long.
  • And batting ninth, Ken Griffey Jr.’s son Trey is going to play wide receiver at the University of Arizona.
  • And there are more than nine links. So much for that plan. John Sickels ranked the MLB teams by strength of farm system, and he has the Mariners #4.
  • The Mariners PR Department now has a blog, called The Voice of the Mariners.** You might want to bookmark it – I’ll see if I can figure out how to add it to the blogroll on the right.
  • College baseball starts soon – here is the pre-season Top 25 from Baseball America. Oregon State is the only Pacific Northwest school to make the list.
  • In the just-invented super-duper unlucky 13-hole, baseball historian and amateur movie buff Rob Neyer writes that “Moneyball” received four Academy Award nominations.

That’s it for today – should have a lot of good blog content later this week.

* especially to the Yankees.

** did the Mariners PR Department win a bet with Rick Rizzs to take that name?


Big Trade

January 16, 2012

The Mariners apparently made a big trade with the New York Yankees, as word leaked out on Friday evening that Michael Pineda and Rookie-level pitcher Jose Campos were going to the Yankees in exchange for hitting prospect Jesus Montero and pitcher Hector Noesi.

The trade has not yet been announced by the teams, as the players involved have to pass physical exams – and they are scattered around the globe right now. But there is a story on the Mariners website about it, so let’s assume this deal is going down.

This is a classic challenge trade of a pair of young, extremely talented players.

You know Pineda. The former Rainiers pitcher had a fine rookie season for the Mariners last year, putting up big strikeout numbers and making the all-star team. He struggled a bit in the second half and eventually was shut down by the Mariners coaching staff, simply to protect his young arm.

Pineda has a chance to become a star, and he won’t cave in to the pressure of New York.

The Mariners are banking on Jesus Montero becoming an impact hitter. Scouts are in agreement that the 22-year-old Venezuelan has a great bat and could become a star offensive player. He made his MLB debut last year and hit a few key home runs for the Yankees down the stretch.

Montero is a player without a defensive position, but that doesn’t matter to the Mariners: this team needs a DH, bad. If Montero hits like the experts think he will, the Mariners will have their first proper designated hitter since Edgar Martinez retired.

Catcher is Montero’s listed position, but I doubt he’ll do much catching this year. With Miguel Olivo and John Jaso on the roster, I think Montero will be the DH and he might catch once every week or two.

As for the other players, don’t sleep on Hector Noesi – he’ll have a good chance to make the Mariners starting rotation out of spring camp. The prospect in the deal is Jose Campos, who starred at Everett this year. He’s a 19-year-old with a strong arm and good command, but he is a long way from the major leagues.

This was a trade between two teams that each had something the other needed: the Yankees needed a starting pitcher, and the Mariners needed someone who could hit.

Ideally, Pineda and Montero will both become superstars. I’ll be rooting for both players.

Trade links:

Stay warm today!


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