“Have you seen the lineup card today?” asked Rainiers manager Daren Brown, making no effort to disguise his smile.
No, I had not.
It was a Sunday morning in Sacramento, a crisp 70 degrees on June 14, and I had just arrived at the park.
I stepped outside his office doorway in the clubhouse at Raley Field and looked where the lineup card hangs on the wall in the hallway.
I started scanning through the names and then it hit me: Brown had put all six of his first basemen in the lineup.
He had been threatening to do it for a month, and today was the day.
“We’re gonna bash ‘em,” said Brown, breaking into a full laugh.*
It’s a testament to Brown’s character that he was able to good-naturedly handle the position players he was assigned throughout the 2009 season. Because while the Mariners were busy assembling the best defensive team possible in the major leagues, they were not making a similar effort in Triple-A.
In fact, what the Mariners were doing was collecting Triple-A first basemen.
Here’s the lineup that day in Sacramento:
‘Best’ Position June 14 Position
- Michael Saunders CF CF
- Mike Morse 1B 2B
- Jeff Clement 1B** DH
- Chris Shelton 1B 3B
- Mike Carp 1B LF
- Brad Nelson 1B RF
- Adam Moore C C
- Bryan LaHair 1B 1B <<<< winner!
- Chris Woodward SS SS
This was a season-long defensive puzzle for Brown and the Rainiers in 2009, but early indications are that it won’t be the same in 2010.
Right now the likely Triple-A first basemen in spring training camp are Mike Carp, Tommy Everidge, and Brad Nelson.
Everidge has played third base before and can make starts there – especially if Matt Tuiasosopo continues to see action at second base.
Furthermore, Brown can rotate one of his first basemen through the designated hitter slot.
Everidge could become a fan favorite at Cheney Stadium – especially if he hits like he did in 2009.
Unheralded going into ’09, Everidge opened the season with the Oakland A’s Class-AA team in Midland, Texas. He played in 53 games and hit .308-8-55 with a .380 on-base percentage before getting promoted to Sacramento.
With the River Cats, Everidge put up even more impressive numbers: a .368 batting average, a .428 on-base percentage, and a .632 slugging percentage. He earned a call-up to Oakland, where he hit .224 in 22 games and was eventually placed on waivers, with the Mariners claiming him.
Everidge is a stocky fellow listed at 6 feet, 240 pounds. He uses the whole field with his hitting approach, and he can drive the ball out of the ballpark – something he did 22 times last year.
Carp and Nelson are returning players, both should hit very well in the PCL in 2010.
Another first baseman might be in the mix: Johan Limonta, 26, who hit 297/376/443 at Class-AA West Tennessee last year. He has played at West Tenn two straight seasons but it looks like he’s going to have to be an outfielder to crack the Triple-A roster.
Unless, of course, the Mariners want to continue collecting Triple-A first basemen.
* the June 14 “let’s bash ‘em” plan didn’t work. After scoring two quick runs in the first inning, the Rainiers had the bases loaded and one out. But Sacramento starter Chad Reineke got out of the jam with no further damage, and the Rainiers had just three hits the rest of the way. The River Cats went on to win, 3-2.
** Clement was certainly a better catcher than 1B at this time, but this was during the time he was supposed to be learning to play first base.