The Rainiers lost hitting coach Alonzo Powell yesterday, as he was hired by the San Diego Padres to be the “second” major league hitting coach.
Two hitting coaches is a growing trend in the major leagues. With 13-14 hitters on the roster, and two batting tunnels in most major league ballparks, having two hitting coaches to work with the players seems like a solid plan.
The St. Louis Cardinals had two hitting coaches this past year (Mark McGwire and Mike Aldrete, both former Tacoma players), and they won the World Series. When you win the World Series, other teams copy you. Two hitting coaches; get used to it.
Losing ‘Zo is going to hurt the Rainiers. Alonzo will be the first to say that the hitters did this, not him, but still: Tacoma set a franchise (since 1960) record for home runs in 2008, and tied it in 2010. Of our 52 team home run totals since 1960, Alonzo’s teams have four of the top five marks. Two of his teams – 2008 and 2011 – have top-five batting averages in franchise history.
Most importantly, three of Tacoma’s four highest-scoring teams came under the tutelage of Powell.
Aside from all of the runs we’ve been scoring, having Alonzo around the ballpark was a treat. He’s a kind and caring man, and he’s always up for a good baseball conversation. As a player he starred in Japan and he has many fun stories about Japanese baseball and the different nuances there. We’ll miss him at Cheney Stadium.
Who will replace him? I have no idea. The Mariners Double-A hitting coach is Cory Snyder the former major leaguer, and I’ve heard positive things about him. The Mariners might hire somebody from outside the organization – I’ve heard a few names floated out there, but I’m not going to turn this blog into rumor central. We’ll see what happens.
We have a few player moves to pass along.
According to the latest round of Baseball America’s minor league transactions, the Mariners have signed hard-throwing left-handed pitcher Sean Henn.
You may remember Henn coming out of the Las Vegas bullpen the last two seasons. He’s a big, burly guy who brings it at 94 miles per hour from the left side. He had a tremendous season in 2011, posting a 2.79 ERA in 61.1 innings, striking out 61 batters and giving up just three home runs (in that launching pad in Vegas!). He’s always struggled with walks, but he managed to cut them down to 29 last year.
Henn has pitched in 60 major league games, for the Yankees, Padres, Twins, and Orioles. The 30-year-old will go to spring training with a legitimate shot at making the Mariners bullpen, but if that doesn’t work out I’m sure we’ll see him at Cheney Stadium – and we’ll happily take him, thank you very much!
In another move, 2011 Rainiers catcher Jose Yepez has signed a minor league free agent contract with the Atlanta Braves. The 30-year-old receiver originally joined the Rainiers at the very end of the 2010 season, and he was on the roster and caught a couple of games during the PCL playoff run that year. Then he was with us all of 2011, batting .307 with 26 RBI in just 153 at-bats as Tacoma’s back-up catcher.
Yepez had a knack for the clutch hit in 2011, coming through in big situations late in games on numerous occasions. He hit .351 with 10 of his RBI in the 7th inning or later.
Mariners fans will remember Yepez – or perhaps not remember him – as the guy who was called up to the big leagues, was there for a week, and did not play in a game. It was Yepez’s first major league call-up, but he didn’t get into the book.
Hopefully he’ll get another opportunity with the Braves.
- From former News Tribune sportswriter Corey Brock, who now writes for the San Diego Padres website, we have a nice story explaining the exact role of Alonzo Powell.
- Larry LaRue of The News Tribune has contacts at the GM meetings, and he is hearing that the market for Prince Fielder is pretty small – which may give the Mariners some hope.
- Locals already know that Prince isn’t coming to Seattle – he’s coming to Tacoma.
- The Houston Astros are moving to the AL West. In the short run, it means the Mariners won’t finish in last place. But in the long run, it makes it more difficult for the M’s to win the division. The Mariners, Angels, Rangers and A’s had a very real (and very unfair) advantage in MLB’s only four-team division; that will be gone in 2013.
- The Mariners will be wearing 35th anniversary commemorative patches in 2012. This link has a nice photo.
- Memphis manager Chris “The Hammer” Maloney was promoted to St. Louis Cardinals first base coach. Maloney is the winningest manager in Memphis Redbirds history; they won the PCL title in 2009 and reached the finals again in 2010, only to get swept by Tacoma.
- The PCL punted all of its Canadian franchises, but it looks like the Double-A Eastern League is going to welcome back Ottawa. Personally, I would love to see the PCL bring back Vancouver, Edmonton, and Calgary – the big problem is that only Edmonton has a Triple-A ballpark.
It’s rivalry weekend for most of us college football fans, so of course I must leave you with the greatest sports highlight in the history of television. John Elway refused to talk about this game for 20 years. The final call is the stuff broadcasting legends are made of, but I’ve always enjoyed the earlier moment when Joe Starkey says “only a miracle can save the Bears now.” And that pretty much describes what we’ll need on Saturday night, too.