Big Day For Peguero

February 28, 2011

The Mariners had their first spring training exhibition game yesterday, and they dramatically defeated the San Diego Padres in ten innings, 13-12. Since it was the first M’s game in five months, nobody complained about the 3:38 time of game.

The Mariners were trailing 12-10 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning when Carlos Peguero hit a two-run home run to tie the game. Peguero is a name to know – I haven’t written about the outfield candidates for the 2011 Tacoma Rainiers yet, but he will be on the list. He’s got real power – I saw him launch two home runs in minor league spring training games last year, and I was only there for four days.

(Yes, I am going to spring training again this year, but not until March 25. To get the most value out of my visit, I need to go near the end of camp, when we have a better idea who is going to be on the Tacoma roster. I will, of course, write about it while I am down there).

Peguero threw out the go-ahead runner at home plate in the top of the tenth, and Josh Bard won it with a bases-loaded single in the bottom of the inning.

Talk about announcing your presence with authority. The Mariners new coaching staff probably had no idea who Carlos Peguero was before yesterday. Now, they are intrigued!

Even though Peguero has little chance of making the Mariners opening day roster, performances like yesterday’s can help him earn a promotion to Triple-A. Eric Wedge and his staff might become impressed enough to say “Let’s keep Peguero nearby. Put him in Tacoma.”

Other potential Rainiers had good games: Mike Carp, my spring training sleeper (see previous post), went 2-for-3 with a double and two RBI. He played first base, though, and there isn’t room for him on the roster at that position. We all know Matt Mangini can hit, and he went 2-for-3 with a pair of singles. Mangini played third base.

Pitchers Yusmeiro Petit and Chris Smith, both possible Rainiers, worked scoreless innings. Reliever Danny Bautista had a rough outing, surrendering a grand slam and five runs in less than an inning. Bautista is one of the hard-throwing veterans with an outside chance of making the M’s roster, so that was a tough debut for him. 

Isn’t it great to have baseball back? Let’s move on to the links!

  • Here are your first-game-of-spring-training stories from Geoff Baker and Larry LaRue.
  • The game was broadcast on 710 KIRO, and it was the first without Dave Niehaus. Rick Rizzs is feeling the loss.
  • Scratch Jody Gerut off my soon-to-be-written list of potential Tacoma outfielders – he abruptly retired yesterday.
  • Shannon Drayer wrote a solid feature on Blake Beavan, who is a good candidate to be the Tacoma Rainiers opening day starting pitcher.
  • Jeff Sullivan of Lookout Landing explains why he thinks Dustin Ackley and Michael Pineda will open the season with Tacoma. Hint: it has nothing to do with performance.
  • Former and potential Rainiers pitcher Robert Rohrbaugh is about to start a crucial spring training. In this story from York, PA, notice the photos – he has to work out in a gym full of basketball players.
  • The Mariners apparently are close to signing longtime holdout James Paxton, a left-handed pitcher who has been playing Scott Boras games. At one time, he had a lot of potential. Does he still?
  • Former Rainiers infielder Luis Valbuena is trying to solidify a spot in the Cleveland Indians starting lineup. This could be a make-or-break spring for him.
  • Hall of Fame outfielder Duke Snider passed away at age 84. Here is his New York Times obituary. I noticed he was living in Escondido, where the PCL is hoping to add a team for 2013.
  • However, the final stadium vote in Escondido has been “delayed indefinitely.”
  • Baseball Prospectus minor league guru Kevin Goldstein posted his Top 101 Prospects list, and it’s free. He has a bit of a different take: he ranks Pineda #24, Ackley #25, Nick Franklin #44, and teenage slugger Guillermo Pimentel sneaks in there at #96. 
  • One of the key players for the Minnesota Twins is out of action because of a wart. I link to this for one reason: when we started this blog, never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would ever type the word “wart.” Not even in a link to this guy.

It would be nice if it would stop snowing in Tacoma, so we could really get into the baseball frame of mind.


The Corners

February 25, 2011

Continuing our sporadic look at players in Mariners spring training camp who have a chance to open the season with the Tacoma Rainiers, today we look at the corner infielders – first and third base.

The Mariners entered 2011 spring training with a plethora of candidates at these spots – particularly at third base. This is a little strange, because the major league spots are essentially determined: the Mariners are going to start Chone Figgins at third base, and Justin Smoak at first base. I don’t think the Mariners will carry a true backup at either position – the utility infielder will back up third base, and DH Jack Cust can play first base in a pinch.

There is a Triple-A logjam at third base. This is because the farm system has steadily advanced talented players to the Triple-A level:

Matt Tuiasosopo – has been up-and-down between Seattle and Tacoma the last two years; hasn’t been able to stick in Seattle. Tuiasosopo has one option year remaining, so if he doesn’t win a Mariners bench role he could find himself back in Tacoma.

Matt Mangini – one of the most improved players in the Mariners farm system, Mangini excelled in his first Triple-A season last year, eventually earning a September call-up. Mangini can hit – but, his defense needs work and he might be in line for a position change, to first base or left field. Mangini has three option years remaining.

Alex Liddi – the 22-year-old Italian had a good season at Class-AA West Tennessee and is due for a promotion – and I think he will get one, and be the Rainiers everyday third baseman.

So, if Liddi gets the job, what will they do with Tui and Mangini? That’s the big question. Tuiasosopo became more of a utility player last year – he saw time at third, second, and left field for Tacoma. Mangini might be forced to learn a new position as well.

First base is also a bit clogged.

Mike Carp is the incumbant. Carp is my spring training “sleeper” candidate to make a strong push for the Mariners opening day roster. He changed his hitting approach last year to generate more power, and hit 29 home runs. He decreased his body fat and became more agile. He learned to play left field and was acceptable out there by the end of the season. Reports are that he came to camp this spring 15-20 pounds lighter after working out all off-season. Carp is 24 years old and on the roster; he has one option year remaining.

Luis Jimenez is a minor-league masher that the Mariners signed to a Triple-A contract. Jimenez just won the home run crown in the highly competitive Venezuelan Winter League. He’s a thick, left-handed basher who would probably DH quite a bit if he ends up in Tacoma (that’s speculation by me – I really have no clue about his defensive skills).

Johan Limonta is the co-mayor of Jackson, Tennessee (along with Robert Rohrbaugh). A native of Cuba, the 27-year-old Limonta has played three full seasons at Class-AA, hitting roughly 300/375/470 during his time there. He joined the Rainiers for the Triple-A Championship Game last fall, after Smoak was called up. Limonta has flexibility – he has played a lot of corner outfield, as well as first base.

Liddi played 23 games at first base in Class-AA last year. Also in the mix is Nate Tenbrink – but my feeling is that Tenbrink will open the season at Jackson, and if he hits we’ll see him at some point in the summer.

Usually Tacoma manager Daren Brown fills his DH slot with his extra outfielder, but this year he may have to fill it with one of these corner infielders.


  • Geoff Baker wrote an excellent article on your probable 2011 Tacoma Rainiers third baseman, Alex Liddi. Liddi was born and raised in Italy; he’s hoping to become the first Italian-born major leaguer in over 50 years. If the Rainiers have both Liddi and Greg Halman, we will lead all of professional baseball in Europeans.
  • Here’s another story from Baker, this one on Rainiers catcher Adam Moore and his difficulty adjusting to major league pitching.
  • Want more on Moore? Larry LaRue wrote about him, too.
  • The News Tribune has a story on David Pauley, who is aiming for the Mariners #5 starter role.
  • Jason Churchill wrote a thorough draft preview, in which he looks at the candidates for the Mariners top selection (#2 overall), and also runs down some of the local draft-eligible high school and college talent.
  • Here’s a long story from St. Louis about new Mariners infielder Brendan Ryan.
  • In my time with the Tacoma Rainiers, we’ve had countless players promoted to the major leagues. But it’s not just players going to the show – the Seattle Mariners and other major league teams have hired away Rainiers ticket sellers, corporate sponsorship salesmen, scoreboard operators, a head groundskeeper, a concessions manager, an official scorer, an office manager – the list goes on. But, I’ve never seen this one before: the Fresno Grizzlies mascot was promoted to the big leagues. As someone who sees mascots every day for five months and has seen it all, let me tell you that this guy deserved it: the Fresno mascot was the only one in the PCL that would do something original and different every game that would make me laugh.
  • I could do a whole blog post on the people who play mascots. But instead, let’s just say that they are in a different crowd. I mean, these are people who want to dress up as Zinger The Acorn.
  • NFL draft expert Rob Rang wonders if Jake Locker will play baseball if the NFL owners lockout the players.
  • When I first started reading this story about a minor league hockey announcer going way, way over the edge, I figured it was an emotional young kid who was learning the ropes. Whoops! (I wonder if “Greasy little punk” will be the next “boom goes the dynamite”).

It’s Academy Awards weekend. For a fun read, check out Jim Caple’s Baseball Movie Academy Awards – his own nominations and awards, looking solely at baseball movies. I’m a Bull Durham guy. Which is your favorite?

Keeping Score

February 21, 2011

I ordered my scorebook today. I often get asked what type of scorebook I use, so let’s talk about it.

(Warning: this is some serious baseball-geek talk. It’s OK with me if you just skip ahead to the links.)

To keep score during the game for broadcast purposes, there are certain features that I require.

In the lineups section, I need the space to be large enough to fill in several additional names for when there are in-game changes. But I don’t need extra lines at the bottom; nine spots is fine.

The pitching chart needs to have space for a lot of pitchers. Sometimes a team will use six pitchers in a game – in fact, if Tony LaRussa (or his Triple-A doppelgänger Tony DeFrancesco) is managing, a team always uses six pitchers in a game.

The book needs to be able to handle multiple extra innings. Carrying an extra-inning game over to a second scoresheet is highly annoying – especially when you are trying to fill-in all the names during a 90-second commercial break. 

The boxes need to be blank. I hate those scorebooks with the diamond in the background. Yuck.

The boxes need to be large enough for me to add additional details – for example, when there are runners on base I put a small notation in the corner stating where the runners are located after the play, which makes it easier to recap the game later in the broadcast.

I need room for a defensive chart. This is a broadcaster tool – something I can instantly glance at and check the name of the defensive player.

Space for notes. I need an area where I can write down any unusual occurrences, such as ejections or rain delays. 

My scorebook needs enough pages for 170 games, to cover the regular season plus any playoffs, and a few extra pages for when I screw up and ink my lineups on the wrong side (happens at least twice a year). Being able to carry the whole season around in one book is huge – I can’t tell you how many times each broadcast I look back and consult a previous game.

Fortunately I don’t have this problem (knock on wood), but for certain PCL broadcasters it would really help if their scorebook was soda-proof. Spill a Pepsi on your scorebook in April? That stain will be there all season long.

I used to create my own scorebook each year, and have Kinko’s bind it for me, but then I realized that a major league announcer was marketing cheaper, better scorebooks specifically for broadcasters. So now I order my scorebook each season from Bob Carpenter’s website,

Here is a look at my scoresheets from July 4 of last year, when 15,247 patriotic Salt Lake City residents gathered at Spring Mobile Ballpark to watch their local nine get hammered by your Tacoma Rainiers, along with an exemplary display of Michael Pineda Domination Time.

My scanner added all of those weird colors – the scorebook is actually white, as you would expect, and is sized at a standard 8.5 x 11.*

Lots of links from the holiday weekend:

That’s it for today – tomorrow (sorry, delayed) Friday I plan to do a post on the corner infielders in the Seattle/Tacoma picture. In the meantime, have you downloaded the new Radiohead album yet? Yes? Well then, here are seven ways to listen to it.

* one of the keys to using the Bob Carpenter Scorebook is to skip past the first page. Bob’s “baseball resume” is on the inside of the front cover, and the last thing you want to see when you are sitting down to broadcast your billionth minor league game is the resume of a guy who’s been in the majors for 20 years.

The Catching Situation

February 18, 2011

We started our around-the-diamond look at possible 2011 Tacoma Rainiers players with the two most difficult positions to track, starting pitchers and relief pitchers.

Today, we do something much easier: a look at the catchers.

Seattle and Tacoma will each carry two catchers, there are four candidates, and we even have one definite assignment.

Mariners Catchers

  1. Miguel Olivo
  2. TBA

It’s a spring training battle to win the Mariners back-up catcher job. The candidates are Adam Moore, Josh Bard, and Chris Gimenez. The two who don’t make it will open the season in Tacoma.

Moore is the prospect, and he has the advantage of being on the Mariners 40-man roster (Bard and Gimenez are non-roster invitees), but he has not had success at the major league level yet. 

Bard is much more experienced than Moore, and he’s considered to be a better receiver. Bard was in Seattle for the majority of last year and he knows the pitchers. He definitely has a shot at winning the job.

I’ve never seen Gimenez play, but I’ve read that he is not a defensive whiz. However, he can play multiple positions: he has experience in right field, left field, first base, and third base. This positional flexibility works to his advantage.

The easy decision would be to keep Moore in the majors, putting off any 40-man roster decisions until later in the season. Bard and Gimenez know that injuries happen at the catcher position, and one of them – if not both – will get called up eventually.

Today’s links:

  • The News Tribune’s Larry LaRue  has a story on Dustin Ackley’s defense, and the coaching he is getting from Jack Wilson and Robby Thompson. Also, in the notes at the end, we learn that Mike Carp lost 15-20 pounds during the off-season.
  • More from LaRue on knuckleball pitcher Charlie Haeger, who is on the Seattle/Tacoma bubble during spring training. Also in this story is a note on outfield prospect Johermyn Chavez, who we’ll see in Tacoma eventually.
  • In the Everett Herald, Mariners beat writer Kirby Arnold has a couple of good ones today: a feature on potential Rainiers reliever Royce Ring, which led to a fun story about ballplayer’s cars.
  • Larry Stone continues his Florida Tour: today we have a story on Don Wakamatsu, and another on Don Zimmer and Casey Kotchman.
  • I cannot wait until the guys on the team see what’s happening when we check into our Las Vegas hotel on Memorial Day weekend: we are there the same weekend as Punk Rock Bowling – and our team hotel is right smack-dab in the middle of it! My goal: a photo of Daren Brown, Dwight Bernard and Alonzo Powell, sitting at the hotel bar, completely surrounded by people with gigantic, spiked & dyed mohawks.* This is going to be infinitely better than last year, when we shared the Reno hotel with a Justin Bieber concert. There is potential for an epic photo blog!
  • Here’s another feature on Brodie Downs Tom Wilhelmsen.
  • The Mariners have the #2 choice in the draft – a real opportunity to instantly acquire an impact player. Keith Law breaks down the potential #1 choices in his ESPN Insider column. All of us broadcasters are pulling for Bubba Starling!
  • In the Fresno Bee, Marek W. (who has impeccable music taste) takes a stab at predicting the Fresno Grizzlies opening day roster.
  • In Omaha, Mark Nasser found himself a broadcasting buddy.
  • Padres outfielder Cameron Maybin set off a rather amusing storm with a recent tweet.
  • New NCAA bat regulations could have a big impact on the college game. I wish they could afford to just go to wood; it would help the whole sport.
  • Here’s an update on PGE Park from baseball-hating Portlandia.
  • Friend of the program Rick Walter has started his own Tacoma sports blog, called Grit City Sports. Check it out!

Have a great weekend.

* What would be even more awesome: if Brown shocked us all and broke out a ratty old black leather jacket with a Subhumans patch on the back.

Wednesday Round-Up

February 16, 2011

Today we let the people who are down in Arizona do the work:

  • The Mariners are bringing back Ken Griffey Jr. as a “special consultant.” He’ll show up at spring training and the occasional game, assist with Mariners community programs, help schmooze corporate sponsors, and one report said “visit minor league affiliates.” Obviously if that last part ever happens, we’ll tell ya all about it – probably over and over again, to the point of annoyance!
  • “Special consultants” have been a part of baseball for a long time, John McGrath writes.
  • Steve Kelley writes that the first thing Griffey needs to do is apologize for the way it ended last year.
  • Jerry Brewer gives nine reasons why bringing back Griffey is a good idea (I think #7 is the real reason why they did it).
  • Let’s move to the field. Geoff Baker has a nice Mariners camp round-up, with some good photos and video of Dustin Ackley taking batting practice.
  • This Greg Johns feature on Mariners non-roster reliever Chris Ray provides a refreshing burst of positive thinking.
  • Here’s a blurb on knuckleball pitcher Charlie Haeger, who may make the Rainiers opening day roster.
  • Kirby Arnold has a note on potential Rainiers reliever Royce Ring, who reminds him of George Sherrill.
  • On his Florida Tour, Larry Stone stopped by Yankees camp and spoke with Jesus Montero – the Yankees top prospect that the Mariners nearly acquired in the Cliff Lee trade, before changing course and dealing with Texas instead.
  • Stone also talked to Dallas Green, who remembers his granddaughter. This is a tough read.

We had some PCL stories today, too:

  • The Kansas City Royals have the best farm system in baseball, and Omaha World-Herald baseball scribe Rob White runs down the players who might be in Omaha this year. Omaha visits Tacoma August 16-19 and should be loaded with top-tier talent by then.
  • Strange news coming out of Oklahoma City, where the new team management is a) changing the name of the stadium from Bricktown Ballpark to RedHawks Ballpark, and b) tarping off a large section of seats in the PCL’s most beautiful stadium. Both moves are curious to me – this has been my favorite stadium in the league for the last 12 years; it’s going to have to be one beautiful tarp. (I can imagine how that telephone conversation went. RedHawks employee: “Hello, is this Tarps Unlimited? Excellent! I need to order a huge plastic tarp to cover 4,000 seats, but you see, we play in the most beautiful ballpark in the PCL, so we need this giant piece of plastic to… you know… not be hideously ugly. Can you do that?” – silence, click; dialtone.)
  • Here’s an early preview on the Albuquerque Isotopes from The New Mexican, with quotes from manager Lorenzo Bundy.
  • I swear I’m not linking to this just because he’s the boss – a Q&A with Rainiers president Aaron Artman. I wish I could add some questions, such as “Bon Jovi? Really?”

Upcoming, we look at the Tacoma catching situation on Friday. Also, I’m scheduled for a stadium visit (to measure counter-space in my new booth – exciting!) sometime next week, so I’ll perform some more amateur photography when that happens.

Rainiers Relief

February 14, 2011

Today we take a look at the possible Rainiers relief pitchers for 2011. We did the starting pitchers last week – scroll down if you missed it.

Once again, we start with Seattle. In recent years, the Mariners have carried 12 pitchers – five starters, and seven relievers. We’ll assume that they will continue down that road.

Mariners Bullpen

  1. David Aardsma (out until late April)
  2. Brandon League
  3. Garrett Olson (out of options, so he figures to make it)
  4. (open)
  5. (open)
  6. (open)
  7. (open)

Golly, that’s a lot of open bullpen slots! That’s why the Mariners have been signing relief pitchers to minor league contracts all winter long, and inviting them to spring training.

Non-Roster Relievers Invited To Camp

  • Manny Delcarmen
  • Chris Ray
  • Denny Bautista
  • Justin Miller
  • Royce Ring
  • Chris Smith
  • Chris Seddon
  • Jamey Wright

But wait, there’s more. The M’s also have younger players who are on the 40-man roster who will compete for major league bullpen spots:

Relief Prospects In The Mix For Seattle

  • Dan Cortes
  • Josh Lueke
  • Cesar Jimenez (out of options)
  • Jose Flores (Rule 5 selection – unlikely to join Tacoma)
  • Edward Paredes

At this point, trying to determine which of the above players will be on Tacoma’s opening day roster is a fool’s errand. In fact, I’m only willing to commit to one Tacoma reliever right now:

Tacoma Bullpen

  1. Scott Patterson
  2. through 7. –  TBD

Finally, we cannot forget about the guys who did well at Class-AA and are candidates for promotion to Triple-A:

  • Josh Fields – former first-round pick
  • Nick Hill – military lefty
  • Mumba Rivera – always a candidate; throws hard
  • Robert Rohrbaugh – co-mayor of Jackson, TN (with Johan Limonta)

It’s a mess right now. We’ll get some clarity by… I don’t know, late March or so?

Next up, a much easier position: catchers.

Spring training links:

  • The News Tribune has come out swinging with big features this week. Yesterday we had Ryan Divish’s magnum opus on Eric Wedge (link in yesterday’s blog), and today Larry LaRue has one on Josh Luekein which he asks all the questions, and lets the reader decide.
  • Speaking of Divish, he decided that Valentine’s Day is a clear #2 to the start of spring training. Comment withheld (too easy).
  • In last week’s run-down of the Mariners and Rainiers starting pitching candidates, I suggested that counting on Erik Bedard to hold down a spot was illogical. Well, he’s had four successful bullpen sessions already.
  • One of the 2010 Rainiers who left as a free agent is pitcher Ryan Feierabend. Larry Stone of the Seattle Times opened his tour of Florida spring training camps at the Phillies compound, and he talked to Feierabend at length. Some good stuff here, along with photos of the Phillies Big Four (the real reason Stone opened his tour with the Phillies).
  • Steve Kelly has a column about potential Rainiers starting pitcher Nate Robertson. Robertson is a strong candidate to make the Mariners, but if he doesn’t, we’ll happily take him.
  • More from the Seattle Times, a story about David Aardsma’s hip injury, and who might be the closer while “The D.A.” is out.
  • From the Everett Herald, Kirby Arnold has some colorful tidbits, including sage advice about where not to stand when you are a baseball journalist.
  • Good news! Rob Neyer doesn’t think that the Mariners will lose 101 games again this year.
  • For the stat-minded, here is an interesting post about the 2010 Rainiers from Mariner Central.
  • A blog that is new to me called “The Outfield Grass” did a Q&A with Josh Lueke. Check it out.
  • I want to send a shout-out to my fellow astronauts. I will be orbiting with you on March 25.
  • In Las Vegas, you can’t tell the stadium proposals without a scorecard. Sadly, only one of the proposals includes a Triple-A ballpark.

The poor folks who follow my personal twitter account know that I’m a rather enthusiastic (OK, annoying) follower of my alma mater’s sports programs. I try to keep that off this blog, but I must link to the Cal Baseball Reinstatement Rap. I feel OK doing this here – Peter Gammons linked to it, so it must be allowed. On that subject, it’s absolutely ridiculous that a major university is eliminating a baseball program that is over 100 years old, won the first College World Series, and is currently nationally ranked – and a program that churns out high draft choices every year. College baseball isn’t even fully scholarshipped – schools are limited to 11.7 scholarships for a 30-man roster. Team travel is costly, for sure, but I’m having trouble coming up with additional large expenses (aluminum bats, fans return foul balls, and at Cal they don’t have to pay an electricity bill for stadium lights, since they have none). I won’t even comment on the list of obscure sports programs they are keeping – other than to say that the baseball program is preparing and sending students into professional careers. How many of the so-called “Olympic sports” are doing that?

It’s Springtime!

February 13, 2011

What’s this? A new blog post on a Sunday?

That means baseball season is fast approaching, folks.

Seattle Mariners pitchers and catchers reported to the Peoria, Arizona compound today. Day One is simple: move into your locker, and take a thorough physical.*

The pitchers will begin throwing bullpen sessions tomorrow – which is why the catchers have to report early, too.

The start of spring training means that the reporters have something to write about. There are a ton of Mariners stories out there today. Let’s get to ’em:

  • Ryan Divish of The News Tribune set the modern record for Longest Story On The First Day Of Spring Training, with this opus on new Mariners manager Eric Wedge. Ryan talked to Wedge’s wife, high school coach, college coach, former boss, peers – this is an excellent feature, and it would be a good idea for Mariners players to read it.
  • Also at The News Tribune, John McGrath pronounces today a holy day – and then he rehashes the Mariners decidedly unholy recent history of catching prospects.
  • At the Times, Geoff Baker’s spring preview story focuses on the Mariners hopes to improve the offense.
  • More from the Times: award-winning national baseball scribe Larry Stone takes a look at the big stories in MLB entering 2011.
  • Mariners closer David Aardsma, recovering from hip surgery, is two weeks away from being able to throw.
  • Here’s a “Mariners Spring Training Camp Opens” round-up from the prolific Greg Johns of
  • Some M’s player tidbits from Kirby Arnold, including the Josh Lueke Fishing Report.
  • Going to Peoria? Larry LaRue filed this Fan’s Guide to Early Spring Training.
  • Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports is one of baseball’s more accurate rumor-spreaders, and he says that the M’s are interested in veteran relief pitcher Chad Durbin.
  • Buster Olney always starts spring training by re-running his Deion Sanders in Nashville story. If you’ve never read it before, it’s an absolute classic. (Insider access required).
  • If you follow college baseball, here’s Baseball America’s Pac-10 Preview (subscription required). They have UCLA predicted to win it – the Bruins are #2 in their pre-season Top-25. The conference is ridiculously strong: UCLA, ASU, Stanford, Oregon, Cal and Arizona are all in the Top-20.

I’ll take a look at Tacoma bullpen candidates tomorrow.

* thank goodness there are no physicals for RGs.

Get Well, Darrel

February 11, 2011

There is concerning news regarding San Diego Padres bullpen coach Darrel Akerfelds, who is battling pancreatic cancer.

Akerfelds was the Seattle Mariners first-round draft choice in 1983, when he was selected with the 7th overall pick. The Mariners traded him five months later to the Oakland A’s, for major leaguers Dave Beard and Bob Kearney. Akerfelds climbed the A’s minor league ladder, eventually pitching in the Tacoma Tigers starting rotation during the 1986 and 1987 seasons. He had a solid season for Tacoma in 1987, going 10-3 with a 3.54 ERA.

His major league debut was one of the more memorable games of the 1980s, as he gave up the home run that completed the cycle for young Kirby Puckett. Akerfelds likes to joke about this “accomplishment.”

Akerfelds pitched parts of five years in the majors, and then went into coaching. He was the pitching coach for the Class-A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes when I called games for them in 1998, and he was a joy to work with. We called him “Ak-Fu” back then – hopefully somebody gave him a better nickname at some point in the past 12 years.

It’s typical behavior for Darrel that he plans to work between chemotherapy sessions. Please join me in wishing him the best in his fight.

Now, for our regularly scheduled programming:

  • The Mariners signed 17-year-old Gabriel Guerrero out of the Dominican Republic. Gabriel is the nephew of Vladimir Guerrero. Baseball America posted this video of Gabriel – and whoever edited it has a sense of humor, because it shows Gabriel doing something very un-Vladimir: he takes a pitch.
  • In a signing of more importance for this coming season, the M’s added Manny Delcarmen on a minor league deal. He’ll compete for a major league bullpen spot.
  • Guerrero, Moises Hernandez, and Henry Mathewson make cameos in John McGrath’s Friday column. Larry Stone took it a step further, working in Billy Carter, Fred Clause, and of course Aberforth Dumbledore.
  • In the PCL, stadium issues are becoming more of a concern in Las Vegas. Here is the latest scheme to build a new ballpark; as a part of a proposed huge sports development.
  • My Cal Bears got absolutely clobbered by UW.*

On Monday I’ll take a look at the relief pitching candidates for the Seattle and Tacoma opening day rosters.

* Yes, that’s only here because I lost a bet.

No Shortage Of Arms

February 9, 2011

With spring training opening on Sunday – and many players already at the Peoria camp – let’s begin our position-by-position look at the players who may open the season on Tacoma’s roster.

This series of posts will also look at the Mariners roster, too, since one usually determines the other. Such is the nature of Triple-A.

We begin with a look at the starting pitchers.

      Mariners Rotation

  1. Felix Hernandez
  2. Erik Bedard
  3. Jason Vargas
  4. Doug Fister
  5. (open)

Now, you alert readers notice that there is a big leap-of-faith in that rotation: assuming that Erik Bedard is going to be healthy. However, recent history suggests that will not be the case.

  More Realistic Mariners Rotation

  1. Felix Hernandez
  2. Jason Vargas
  3. Doug Fister
  4. (open)
  5. (open)

The M’s have decided to bring a huge number of starting pitching candidates to fill those last two slots. Here is the list of pitchers who will battle for the back-end of the Mariners rotation. There are so many of them, I could have easily overlooked a player or two.

  • Michael Pineda
  • David Pauley
  • Nate Robertson
  • Luke French
  • Chris Seddon
  • Charlie Haeger
  • Yusmeiro Petit
  • Fabio Castro

Two of the above eight will make the Mariners rotation, and the rest will either come to Tacoma, or be let go. If nobody is released that leaves six starting pitchers in Tacoma.

(Some could work in relief in Tacoma or Seattle – Petit did it for much of 2010, and Seddon, while an all-star as a starter in Tacoma, was a reliever when he was in Seattle. It’s feasible that Pineda could open in the bullpen and move into the rotation later, to conserve his workload.)

There are even more starting pitchers in Tacoma’s mix.

Likely Tacoma Rotation

  1. Blake Beavan
  2. Mauricio Robles
  3. (open)
  4. (open)
  5. (open)

So, we have two spots certainly taken, and six coming down from the Mariners. But wait a minute – there are three more starting pitchers who did good things at Class-AA last year, and are in line for promotions: Steven Hensley, Anthony Vasquez, and Jarret Grube.

The way I see it, there are at least eleven starting pitchers deserving a spot in Tacoma, and only five slots. This is a roster crunch that the Mariners will have two months to sort out during spring training.

Other subjects:

  • The Triple-A Baseball National Championship Game is on the move: it will be played in Albuquerque this year, and it will rotate sites.
  • Larry Stone wrote a blog post about Ichiro not batting third.
  • When John McGrath gets going, you know you’re in for a treat. “A-Rod In A Buttery, Hot Mess”… he was being fed “like a goat at the children’s petting zoo”… just go read the whole thing for yourself, you won’t regret it.
  • The Mariners signed Felix’s older brother Moises Hernandez to a minor league contract. Moises is 26 and also a pitcher, he played previously in the Braves and Orioles systems. He’s done well at the Class-A level but hasn’t had success at the higher levels yet. The move made Jeff Sullivan happy.
  • Has anyone seen ex-Rainiers Craig Griffey or Shawn Buhner recently?*
  • The Memphis Redbirds knew they wanted to have a “Guaranteed Win Night” but they couldn’t decide what date to have it. So, they consulted a psychic. How awesome is that? If I was the Iowa Cubs, I wouldn’t even show up on August 1.

Beautiful day here in Tacoma – we could play a double-dip today.

* It would take a lengthy search through an old scorebook, but I seem to recall Shawn Buhner having a monster performance to single-handedly win a game for us once. 

Spring Training Opens Sunday

February 8, 2011

Well, here we are. Mariners spring training camp opens on Sunday, with pitchers and catchers reporting first, and hitters next week.

Yesterday was the two-month countdown to the Tacoma Rainiers season opener, April 7 in Sacramento. The home opener and the first game at the renovated Cheney Stadium will be April 15 – also against Sacramento. Look for an announcement regarding the sale of individual tickets to the opener soon.

We’ll start looking towards the Rainiers season opener this week. Tomorrow afternoon – unless something unexpected comes up – I’ll take a look at the list of potential Tacoma Rainiers starting pitchers for 2011.

We do have some links today:

  • Some of the Mariners players have already reported to camp, as has Everett Herald beat writer Kirby Arnold. Want to read about the sizzle on Michael Pineda’s fastball? The off-season workout regimen of Michael Saunders? Josh Lueke’s latest discovery in bass fishing bait? Ladies and Gentlemen, here it is: your first report from 2011 Seattle Mariners Spring Training. Enjoy!
  • Kirby also had a not-as-entertaining story on the Mariners minor league mini-camp.
  • At the Seattle Times, Larry Stone looks at the five key Mariners entering 2011. He also touches on the Rangers little problem with Michael Young, and he couldn’t help but include the “Cameron Diaz feeding A-Rod popcorn” video. Of note: Stone, who is considerably wiser than me, thinks that Dustin Ackley will open with Tacoma.
  • Last year, pitcher Tom Wilhelmson championed the Mariners in the always hotly contested race to be crowned “Low-Level Minor Leaguer With The Most Stories Written About Him.” This year, Low-A shortstop Nick Franklin has taken the pre-spring training lead. He’s already been written up by John McGrath, and now Greg Johns got him. Stone/Baker, you’re up next!
  • I stumbled upon this article from Cincinnati – “10 Things You Don’t Know about Francisco Cordero.” Well, here’s Number 11: former Rainiers second baseman Mickey Lopez had one major league hit: a line drive that smoked Cordero right in the seat cushion.

Check back tomorrow afternoon, when I attempt to sort through a long, long, long list of potential 2011 Tacoma Rainiers starting pitchers.