2011 Rainiers Begin To Take Shape

The Mariners signed seven minor league free agents this week, giving us a better idea what this coming season’s Tacoma Rainiers are going to look like.

The team announced the re-signing of three players who spent 2010 with the Pacific Coast League champions: pitchers Chris Seddon and Yusmeiro Petit, and outfielder Mike Wilson.

Seddon was one of the anchors of the Rainiers starting rotation, going 10-4 with a 3.39 ERA and being named a PCL All-Star before his promotion to Seattle in mid-July. Seddon was used sparingly in a long relief role by the Mariners for the remainder of the season. Seddon will have a chance to win a bullpen spot with the Mariners in spring training, but if he’s in Tacoma it will likely be as a starter.

Petit was injured for much of the first half of the 2010 season, but he stepped into the Rainiers rotation after Seddon and Luke French were promoted to Seattle. Petit’s crowning moment came in the second-to-last game of the regular season on September 5, when he tossed seven shutout innings and earned the victory over Fresno as Tacoma clinched the division title.

Wilson is a long-time Mariners organizational outfielder who went on a home run tear in the PCL championship series at Memphis. Wilson homered in all three games and was named Most Valuable Player of the series.

Additionally, it was announced today that the Mariners have signed four minor league free agents from outside of the organization: left-handed pitcher Fabio Castro, right-handers Charlie Haeger and Chris Smith, and infielder Luis Rodriguez. We’ve seen all four players before on opposing teams.

Castro is a diminutive lefty who pitched for Las Vegas in 2009 – you may remember this dominating start he had at Cheney Stadium, when he struck out ten Rainiers over seven shutout innings. Castro, 25, has good stuff; it’s his inconsistent control that has kept him in Triple-A. Last year he went 7-9, 4.93 for Pawtucket – he had 102 strikeouts in 104 innings, but he also walked 50.

Luis Rodriguez is a 29-year-old middle infielder who has spent a lot of time in the majors with the Padres and Twins as a utility infielder. We saw him with Portland in 2008, although he spent most of that season in the majors. Last year Rodriguez had an excellent season in Triple-A with Charlotte, hitting .293 with 16 home runs. Rodriguez will certainly pressure Josh Wilson for a spot on the Mariners opening day roster. For more on Rodriguez, check out the link below.

Haeger, 27, is a knuckleballer who has had the career ups-and-downs of virtually all non-Wakefield knuckleballers since the Niekro era. Surely the M’s are hoping that Haeger goes all RA Dickey on the league. Haeger has had some really good seasons in Triple-A – most notably an 11-6, 3.55 mark for Albuquerque in 2009.

Chris Smith has an everyman’s name, but he has been one of the top closers in Triple-A baseball the last three years, leading the PCL with 26 saves for Nashville in 2010. Smith converted 21 straight saves for Nashville until the Rainiers ended that streak in May last season – it was Tacoma’s first shocking win of the season. The 29-year-old got a long major league look from the Brewers in 2009.

These players will provide depth for the Mariners and a core veteran group in Tacoma. Look for more players to sign leading all the way up to spring training.

Now for a few links:

  • Dave Cameron thinks that Luis Rodriguez is an excellent under-the-radar signing.
  • The Mariners website has an interesting article on Greg Halman’s trip home to Holland, and a clinic he participated in with former Rainiers star Adam Jones.
  • At The News Tribune, Larry LaRue writes that Russell Branyan would like to re-sign with the Mariners.
  • All 30 major league manager jobs have been filled, so LaRue asks the obvious question
  • Geoff Baker points out that the previous winners of the Arizona Fall League MVP award haven’t exactly become superstars.
  • At Baseball America, Matt Eddy provides too much information about things I have recently written about: minor league free agents, and protecting players on the 40-man roster.
  • The story surrounding former Rainiers outfielder Shin Soo Choo has been remarkable. He led South Korea to a gold medal in the Asian Games, thus earning an exemption on his required two-year military duty. Get this: if South Korea had lost a game, Choo would have been forced to join the military immediately, and miss the next two major league seasons – not to mention over $10 million in expected salary. Or, Choo could have taken residence in the USA and skipped his military duty – but then he would never be able to return to his home country and visit family and friends. Cleary it was a big win for Choo.
  • This was close – we just barely escaped. Tucson is indeed playing a “home” series in Fort Wayne, Indiana this year – and the Rainiers missed it by one day! Instead, the Las Vegas 51s will have the honor. Colorado Springs-based historian Chris Moyer believes these will be the first Pacific Coast League games played in the Eastern Time Zone since Indianapolis was in the league from 1964-66.*

Everyone here at Mike… Off-Mic – well, that’s just me – would like to wish you a happy Thanksgiving holiday. Eat the bird!

* I actually think this series would be fun to work – once you get there and get set up. The travel, the potential for an A-ball motel, and the unlikelihood that the broadcast booth is wired for a PCL-quality radio transmission would be the sticking points from my perspective.


One Response to 2011 Rainiers Begin To Take Shape

  1. Michael says:

    Scott Patterson resign with M’s, i remember you saying that it could be less likely he resigned but he did… Basellamerica.com minor league transition report this…

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