The Mariners had an eventful weekend, to say the least. There was bad news on Friday, a tragedy on Saturday, and then a move toward the future on Sunday.
First, the tragedy.
The Tacoma Rainiers offer their condolences to the family and friends of Mariners pitching prospect Victor Sanchez, who passed away on Saturday.
Sanchez spent roughly six weeks in a coma after being struck by the propeller of a boat while swimming off the coast of his native Venezuela in early February. The 20-year-old was an excellent pitching prospect, but the outpouring of messages via social media indicate that he was a great teammate and good friend of many.
Sanchez never played for Tacoma, but several Rainiers players from last year had previously been teammates with him. There is more on Sanchez in the links below.
On Friday, Major League Baseball gave Mariners reliever David Rollins an 80-game suspension for performance enhancing drugs.
Rollins appeared to be the favorite to win the last spot in the Mariners bullpen – the second left-hander, replacing the since-departed Joe Beimel from last year’s squad.
There is further confusion because Rollins was a Rule 5 Draft selection from the Houston Astros. The Mariners were required to keep him in the majors all season, or else return him to Houston. The is new territory – MLB will have to make a ruling on what the Mariners and Astros are going to do about this.
On Sunday the Mariners had a big round of roster moves, nearly setting their opening day roster.
The moves settled two of the position battles in Mariners camp: Taijuan Walker made the starting rotation over Roenis Elias, and Jesus Sucre hung on to the backup catcher slot over challenger John Baker.
Here is the complete list of roster moves:
Optioned to AAA Tacoma (2):
Left-Handed Pitcher (1): Roenis Elias
Right-Handed Pitcher (1): Carson Smith
Re-Assigned to Minor League Camp (8):
Right-handed Pitchers (3): Mark Lowe, Jordan Pries, Kevin Correia
Left-Handed Pitchers (1): Joe Saunders
Infielders (2): Shawn O’Malley, Carlos Rivero
Catcher (1): John Baker
Outfielder (1): Endy Chavez
Everyone listed above will open the season with Tacoma if they are still in the organization on April 9. Major League veterans like Endy Chavez, Baker, Kevin Correia, and Joe Saunders may have contractual language that allows them to become free agents before opening day. This information is rarely released to the public, so all we can do is wait and see what happens.
The organization currently has too many Triple-A caliber players, so there are going to be some cuts (do they want both Endy Chavez and Franklin Gutierrez in the Tacoma outfield along with Stefen Romero and James Jones?) or trades (sorry no speculation from me) or surprising Double-A assignments (D.J. Peterson? Patrick Kivlehan?) prior to next Friday.
- The death of Victor Sanchez was devastating to his minor league teammates. The Mariners PR Blog has a tribute page.
- Sunday’s roster moves shaped the Mariners opening day roster.
- Bob Dutton suggests that the Mariners intend to use a “modified six-man starting rotation” this season.
- Here’s the news story on David Rollins‘ suspension.
- Felix Hernandez is ready for the regular season, Jerry Brewer writes.
- Brewer brought up an important point: it is almost impossible for the Mariners bullpen to be as good as it was last year.
- The Mariners hope to get a steady performance from new outfielder Seth Smith.
- Nathan Bishop remembers the Kingdome.
- Mariners Morning Muses from Ryan Divish: today he writes about shortstops getting healthier, on Sunday he wrote about the roster moves, and Saturday marked the beginning of the dog days of spring training.
- The Seattle Times has yet another column about how TV money can allow the Mariners to increase their payroll. Read it here if you missed the first five times they ran the same story.
- MLB.com has a look at Mariners prospects to watch in 2015.
- Ex-Rainiers outfielder Mike Wilson has signed with the independent Winnipeg Goldeyes of the American Association.
- Legendary Washington State baseball coach Bobo Brayton has passed away. John Blanchette from the Spokesman-Review has some Bobo stories in this column.
- Russell Wilson took batting practice with the Texas Rangers, and even hit a homer. It’s cool that he likes baseball, but Dave Boling writes that the whole publicity stunt is cringe-worthy.
- The El Paso Chihuahuas are hosting the Triple-A National Championship Game this September.
Tacoma Rainiers single game tickets are available now for the entire season. Make your plans early to get the best seats!