Well, my first day of spring training, anyway. I flew into Arizona today.
My flight was slightly delayed and then there were epic lines at both the Rental Car Shuttle and the Rental Car Counter. I was running late for the Triple-A game and I had to eat quickly, and I knew just the place. Of course, I was planning on In ‘N’ Out ever since my last trip to an In ‘N’ Out State back when I was on vacation in October, so I wasn’t going to miss it.
I scarfed my Double-Double and headed to the office at the Mariners complex. I picked up my pass, media guide & minor league roster, and said hello to the members of the Mariners PR Staff who were preparing for tonight’s Dodgers-Mariners exhibition.
Then I walked through the media room and was briefly entertained by the comedy team of Arnold, Johns & LaRue before heading out to the minor league fields to watch the Triple-A game against Tucson/San Diego.
Let’s just do it in bullet points, because I don’t have much time to type before heading back out for tonight’s major league game.
- Before I left the media room, Kirby Arnold told me that the Mariners had returned Rule 5 pick Jose Flores to the Cleveland Indians, which opens up a spot on the 40-man roster.
- I was 50 feet out of the office when I bumped into Michael Pineda. He said he’s feeling great, and we came to a friendly agreement that we do not want to see one another again this season.
- Rainiers batting coach Alonzo Powell was hanging out in the batting cage, waiting for hitters to stop by. He told me he bought a house and moved the family to Peoria, which is making spring training much more comfortable for all of them. Like everyone I spoke with, he’s really looking forward to seeing the remodelled Cheney Stadium.
- Blake Beavan said hello and told me he’s pitching the intersquad game on Sunday, which I plan to attend.
- I finally made it out to the quadrant of minor league fields. The M’s were playing the Padres in a Triple-A game on one field, and in a Double-A game on another. The other fields were used for individual workouts.
- It felt like it was about the 4th inning when I arrived – although it’s hard to tell, since there is no scoreboard. The first thing I noticed was the Padres major league lefty Wade LeBlanc was pitching against the Rainiers.
- Daren Brown and Dwight Bernard were there, along with Tacoma trainers Tom Newberg and Jeremy Clipperton. Everyone was looking forward to getting to Tacoma and seeing their new “office.”
- Brown, Bernard, and Powell are coaching the Mariners tonight against the Dodgers. It was a split squad today – much of the major league staff was in Mesa for an M’s-Cubs day game.
- In the game, Greg Halman had a nice line drive single to center off LeBlanc, and he later scored on a base-hit by Class-A catcher Carlton Tanabe.
- Carlos Triunfel was playing for Tacoma and he ripped an RBI triple to left-center off LeBlanc. Triunfel is visibly in far better physical shape than when I saw him last spring. If Triunfel doesn’t break camp with Tacoma it will only be because there are so many experienced infielders.
- Speaking of experienced infielders, Sean Kazmar played shortstop late in the game and made a terrific diving stop on a hard grounder up the middle. He was able to scamper to his feet and throw out the speedster Luis Durango at first base. I was standing with a group of Mariners minor league coaches when this happened and you could tell Kazmar is the type of player that coaches love.
- Third baseman Alex Liddi has a less-than-stellar reputation on defense, but he made a nice charging scoop-and-throw of a weak grounder, drawing hoots and cheers from his teammates.
- Injuries: Matt Mangini has a strained quad and is out until at least mid-April. Luis Jimenez – the left-handed slugger the M’s signed as a free agent – hasn’t played much due to a groin problem. I didn’t see him, but apparently Jimenez is huge.
- I don’t know who the starting pitcher was for Tacoma – I missed him – but relievers Fabio Castro and Mumba Rivera pitched, and an A-ball lefty named Jose Jimenez also worked an inning.
- Dustin Ackley played the first half of the game at second base before giving way to Leury Bonilla. I saw Ackley coax a walk from LeBlanc.
- Chris Seddon was sitting on the riser behind the plate, charting pitchers. He was working so we didn’t chat – although we exchanged waves, which was nice.
There was an amusing moment when a man with an Australian accent asked me if I knew the score. “No” I replied. He asked if it mattered and I said “nope!” The three or four of us watching all laughed. That pretty much summarizes minor league spring training games.
That’s a bit of a stretch, though. The final score doesn’t matter, but the player’s individual performances are crucial in determining which – if any – minor league team a player gets assigned to for opening day. Guys are fighting for their jobs and in some cases their career out there on the back fields.
- Here’s an update from Larry Stone on former Mariners in spring training with other clubs.
- Special thanks to the people at Baseball America for posting the active career minor league statistical leaders. Who would’ve guessed that former Rainiers outfielder Jeremy Reed is the active career leader in minor league batting average?
- Ever wonder why they started playing the National Anthem before baseball games? Me, too – particularly when some 6-year-old is warbling his or her way through it on a Tuesday night in Colorado Springs. This story sheds some light on it – the pre-game Anthem has been a baseball staple since World War Two.
- I am already dangerously addicted to Tim’s Sea Salt & Vinegar potato chips, so it is with some trepidation that I tell you Tim’s is now the Official Chip of the new Cheney Stadium.
- This is disappointing: the M’s Class-A High Desert affiliate stopped broadcasting games this year. They are the only California League team with no radio or internet broadcasts.
I’m off to tonight’s major league game. If anything interesting happens I’ll post about it Saturday morning – otherwise, look for a blog on Saturday evening after I get back from the Tacoma vs. Omaha game in Surprise!