Optioned To Triple-A

Hey guys, after two games with the Mariners I am back in my beloved T-town, and we have lots to cover, so let’s get to it.

First of all, the Rainiers ended their seven-game losing streak with a 4-3 win over Tucson on Wednesday afternoon. I wasn’t there to see it, so we will leave the details to the Rainiers game story, which is always the first link down below.

One thing we were talking about in Seattle was the promising rehabilitation start by Erasmo Ramirez. He was limited to 50 pitches, and he needed just 46 to get through three scoreless innings. Great news, and I’m sure he’ll have a longer leash in his next rehab start on Monday in Tucson.

I’m not ready to comment on Justin Smoak yet, having not seen him – but, I can tell you that Mariners manager Eric Wedge still has a lot of faith in Smoak, and still believes he can be a middle-of-the-lineup hitter in the major leagues. In his meeting with the media at Safeco on Wednesday morning, Wedge said that Smoak’s swing in batting practice looks far better than his in-game swing. We’ve seen this before in Tacoma with other players this year (e.g. Chih-Hsien Chiang).

Anyway, Smoak is the new No. 1 project for hitting coach Jeff Pentland. Pentland believes that he can shorten Smoak’s swing, but he requires a receptive and open-minded student. Nothing will happen overnight, this will be a process that takes some time.

We had roster moves the last two days, with more imminent.

On Tuesday, the Rainiers added Smoak and pitcher D.J. Mitchell (acquired in the Ichro trade). Outfielder Trayvon Robinson was called up to Seattle, and pitcher Jeff Marquez was released.

The Mariners needed another outfielder after trading Ichiro, and Robinson got the call. This is because he was on the 40-man roster, and the other candidate Darren Ford was not. Ford – who has quite obviously been Tacoma’s best player for the last month – was passed over because of the roster issue.

Timing hurt Ford this week. It’s trade deadline season, and the Mariners don’t want to be messing around with the 40-man roster and trying to pass players through waivers right now.

If Ford keeps playing like he has in Tacoma, he won’t have to worry about these things – he’ll get his call-up, or a trade to another team that can use him – soon. He’s playing like a bona-fide major leaguer right now, and he has been doing it for a  month.

The release of Marquez signifies another confirmation of the disappointing season the Rainiers have had. Marquez and opening day starter Matt Fox were both Triple-A free agents the Mariners signed to stabilize the Tacoma starting rotation and be ready for a big league call-up.

Instead, Fox got injured after three starts and has been rehabbing in Arizona all season, and Marquez just plain struggled to get outs.

I had high expectations for both – go back and check my pre-season blogs, I thought these two guys were going to be rotation anchors and that Fox might even end up in the big leagues. Instead, here we are. It’s been that kind of season.

The new pitchers from the Ichiro trade are arriving: D.J. Mitchell starts tonight, and Danny Farquhar is expected to report today. If he does, another roster move will be required to activate him.

And that’s just the surface of it. Trade deadline time is wild in Triple-A, especially when your parent club is not a contender. That means they are usually trading a veteran or two for prospects, and often those prospects are Triple-A level players. Roster moves get interesting this time of year.

So, I kinda spent the last two days in the big leagues. (On twitter, we call that a #HumbleBrag).

I cannot express in writing how fun it is to call Major League games. It’s the biggest jump in baseball, from Triple-A to the majors. That doesn’t just apply to players, it applies to lots of other jobs in the game – including broadcasters.

The Mariners ridiculously awesome broadcast crew of Rick Rizzs, Mike Blowers, and Kevin Cremin treated me so well that I was embarrassed by it. They made me feel like a regular member of the team, and that was awesome.

Matt Pitman and Shannon Drayer also earn my respect for being quality humans who happen to be great at their jobs.

I thought I did OK on the air. My chemistry with Rick was much better than last year, when we did three games together. Broadcaster partnerships simmer over time, and Rick and I have now done a whopping total of five games together. Our fourth and our fifth games were our best. If we get to do a sixth, I know it will be our new best game.

It’s a weird adjustment, going from working entire games by myself to working as a #2 to one of the best in the business. I found myself at times just sitting back and listening to Rick, in awe of how good he is at calling the action. Rizzs has an amazing ability to work in tiny little colorful details – I need to work on this.

It was bizzaro-land being at Safeco Field and calling Mariners games with Ichiro on the Yankees. Really, this was surreal and ridiculous – and that was just for me, as a once-in-a-blue-moon substitute announcer. I can’t imagine what Rick Rizzs, Dave Sims, and Mike Blowers had going through their minds during the series. It was just plain weird.

The strangest part for me was watching Ichiro catch fly balls. A Mariner would loft a routine fly to right, and I would watch the Yankees right fielder move over to catch it – and it was Ichiro. If you’ve watched Mariners games for the last ten years, you know this: Ichiro does not look like other outfielders when catching a fly ball. He eases over, gets under it, and then stands kind of sideways while grabbing the ball with his glove. M’s fans, you know what I’m talking about: he has his own style. It was weird watching him retire Mariners with his different – yet common to us –  outfield style.

I had an on-air screw-up – well, I’m sure I had many screw-ups, but this one made me laugh at myself and the situation – with the attendance on Tuesday night. The crowd for the Yankees-Mariners game was 31 908. When I was tasked to read the Happy Totals (I also read the unhappy Totals on Wednesday, which I learned are just called Totals), I got to the attendance… and my brain went Triple-A: I saw that first digit and said “three thousand and one… errr… thirty-one thousand…”

I read the totals every night in the PCL. No team draws more than 15,000 for a game. So I saw that “3” in the first digit, and just assumed three thousand…. whoops! At least I was only off by 28 grand.

Finally, two quick stories that made me laugh at the Mariners games the last two days:

Rizzs and Blowers were talking about what they were going to do on their upcoming off-night in New York. Rick said he was going to go to a favorite Italian restaurant and have “a great big plate of pasta.” I was rolling, reminded of this, of course (click lower right).

Also, I learned that I was brought in to call the games because Jay Buhner, who was scheduled to do the games, had to bail out (no, this had nothing to do with his Ichiro-related comments – I was locked in well before that happened).

So, I apologize to Mariners fans who had to listen to me, but, what can I say? The Bone sent me.

Tonight’s Rainiers game is at 7:05, and you can hear it on South Sound sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. Tacoma starts RHP D. J. Mitchell (0-0, 0.00) against Tucson LHP Colt Hynes (4-8, 6.52).


Big thanks to Bob Robertson for holding down the fort while I was away. Nothing quite like a Hall Of Fame broadcaster filling in for you while you are gone. Also, many thanks to KJR Sports Radio talkmasters Ian Furness and Mike Gastineau for helping out.


One Response to Optioned To Triple-A

  1. rainierfan says:

    I think Smoak is taking this demotion serious. He spent probably two hours after the game yesterday working in the batting cage with Jeff Pentland. I really hope this works out for him because the Mariners need it.

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