After the overabundance of corner infielders last week, today’s look at the potential Rainiers middle infielders will be brief.
Shortstop: Brendan Ryan
Second Base: Dustin Ackley
Reserve Infielders: Chone Figgins, Luis Rodriguez, Munenori Kawasaki.
I think that two players from the reserve infielders group will make the Mariners opening day roster. Figgins seems to be a lock, so it appears that Rodriguez and Kawasaki are battling for what will essentially be the back-up shortstop job.
Both Rodriguez and Kawasaki are on minor league contracts going into spring training, so either (or both) could end up with the Rainiers. It is possible that Rodriguez – a veteran with over five years of MLB service – has an opt-out clause in his contract if he does not make the big league team. This information is rarely released publicly, so it’s hard to know for sure but it seems logical in this case.
Shortstop: Carlos Triunfel. We got out first look at Triunfel over the final month of last season, when he hit .279 but drew only two walks in 111 at-bats. He was better on defense than advertised, but he’s still looking for that first Triple-A home run. Look for the 22-year-old Triunfel to be the Rainiers starting shortstop throughout the 2012 season.
Second Base: This is where things get murky. Luis Rodriguez would be a good fit here, but first he has to not make the Mariners roster, and then (possibly) choose to report to Tacoma. Munenori Kawasaki could play here if he ends up with the Rainiers. Another possibility is Kyle Seager, if he gets squeezed off the big league roster.
Scott Savastano is a potential answer here. Savastano played second base for Double-A Jackson last year after Seager was promoted, and he swings a pretty good bat: he hit .283-10-49 in 368 at-bats, with a .362 on-base percentage. Savastano played in one game for the Rainiers in 2008 – he was an emergency fill-in from the low minor leagues, and he started at third base on September 1 after Matt Tuiasosopo got called up. I actually remember this game because he smoked a couple of line drive singles; it was the last day of the season.
What about highly regarded prospect Nick Franklin? I just don’t see him breaking camp in Triple-A. He had an injury-riddled 2011 season and he has only played 21 games at the Double-A level. They were an excellent 21 games, but he’s just 21-years-old this season and there is no hurry to move him up. Look for Franklin to open the season at Jackson, and if he plays well we should get to see him in Tacoma some time this summer.
Up next Wednesday is the outfielders. Ugh, what a mess. Too many outfielders.
- Confirming what we suspected last Wednesday, Mariners manager Eric Wedge said that Alex Liddi will be playing a lot of first base this season.
- Scratch one off the catcher list: Chris Gimenez opted to become a free agent rather than return to the Mariners on a minor league contract – in his spring training notebook, Larry LaRue reports he signed with Pittsburgh. I’m a bit surprised by this – it definitely hurts the Mariners and Rainiers catching depth.
- Haven’t heard yet about Mike Wilson, who was designated for assignment the same day as Gimenez. We’ll probably find out about him by the end of the week.
- At the Seattle Times, Geoff Baker did a write-up on Mariners pitching prospect James Paxton – who is a potential Rainiers starter in 2012.
- Catchers are the unsung heroes of early spring training.
- Outfielder Trayvon Robinson had his eyesight checked and he’s going to wear some goggles this year.
- Larry LaRue is a veteran of many spring trainings, so he had no trouble picking out the happiest camper in Mariners Spring Training. It’s one of our guys!
- Mariners reliever Chance Ruffin uses a brief video to show us how he throws his slider.
- Former Rainiers outfielder Adam Jones is getting paid. Hey buddy, can I get a loan?
- Former Rainiers pitcher Michael Pineda has a new buddy on the Yankees in second baseman Robinson Cano.
- The New York Mets hired Josh Lewin to be on their broadcast team. I’ve only met him once, but I like Josh: when he was with Texas and the Rangers were in Seattle for a night game, he came to a Rainiers – Oklahoma City day game just to check out Cheney Stadium and see his team’s Triple-A affiliate. He climbed up to the old “press box” on the roof and said hi to everybody.
- ESPN baseball expert Buster Olney posts his famous Deion Sanders story every year at the start of spring training. If you’ve never read it before, make sure you do so today (Insider access required).
- One of the legends in my business, Milo Hamilton of the Houston Astros is announcing his intention to retire at the end of the 2012 season.
Check back on Friday for a news round-up.