MLB Opener Tonight

March 31, 2013

The major league opener is tonight, when Houston and Texas meet on Sunday Night Baseball. It’s the only game today – almost everybody else plays Monday, including the Mariners.

Here in Tacoma, we’re waiting for the Mariners to send us our opening day roster. I expect it on either Monday or Tuesday, and we’ll have it posted online as soon as we get it.

There was one big news item yesterday, as far as the Rainiers are concerned: the Mariners released veteran catcher Ronny Paulino. This clears the way for Mike Zunino to play in Tacoma, with either Jesus Sucre or Brandon Bantz backing him up.

Just as I was wrapping up this blog, Shannon Drayer reported on Twitter that it looks like Jeremy Bonderman is going to accept an assignment to Tacoma. Good news!

The Mariners season preview articles came out today, so let’s hit the links.


  • The Mariners-Rockies game yesterday was a big hit in Salt Lake City.
  • Ryan Divish writes that the Mariners pitching staff is Felix Hernandez and a whole lot of question marks.
  • Felix Hernandez isn’t worried – he thinks that the Mariners are going to be good.
  • John McGrath took the persona of the Houston Astros and introduced himself to his new friends in the AL West. OK, that sounds weird, but trust me: it’s a terrific column.
  • McGrath also answered questions about what is new in MLB for 2013. He predicts the Washington Nationals will win the whole ball of wax.
  • Here is your one-stop-shop for the entire Seattle Times MLB/Mariners preview package. From that page you can read on a variety of subjects, including this piece on the Mariners farm system.
  • Mariners infield prospect Brad Miller stayed in big league camp until the very end.
  • Some ex-Rainiers notes, both good and bad: Rob Johnson was sent to Memphis, the Mets released Mike Wilson, Shawn Kelley made the Yankees opening day roster, and the Giants decided to carry three catchers in the majors – with the third one being Guillermo Quiroz.
  • Opening Day, 1867. Base-ball matters.
  • In the PCL, three teams announced their opening day rosters: the Omaha Storm Chasers, the Round Rock Express, and the Nashville Sounds.
  • Here’s a look at the probable Fresno team Tacoma faces on Thursday.
  • Bob Turley – one of the key members of the 1950s Yankees dynasty – passed away. His New York Times obituary contains some great baseball history.

Not sure if I’ll have a Monday update; I’ve got a ton of stuff to do before the road trip. I certainly will post if we get a roster…


Cheney Stadium Open House Saturday

March 29, 2013

Just a quick reminder that the Rainiers Open House is tomorrow (Saturday), from 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM. There will be free samples of food from our new concessions group, Ivar’s Inc.

I saw one more Rainiers spring training game, on Thursday. They lost to Tucson, 4-2.

D.J. Mitchell started and went four innings, giving up a three-run homer to Tucson slugger Cody Decker.

Decker went deep a again in the sixth inning, a solo shot off Brian Moran. Moran pitched two innings, allowing one run.

Forrest Snow, George Mieses, and Logan Bawcom each pitched one scoreless inning.

There wasn’t much offense for Tacoma. Alex Liddi homered off left-handed reliever Colt Hynes, and Jake Marder (not expected to be with Tacoma) had an RBI double. Tacoma had seven hits.

Today the big league club packed up and left Arizona. They have an exhibition game on Saturday in Salt Lake City (Tacoma will be there in three weeks), and then they fly to Oakland to start the season on Monday.

The Triple-A club will stay in Arizona until Wednesday, and then travel to Fresno to open the PCL season Thursday night.


Stress Time In Minor League Camp

March 28, 2013

It seems to happen every spring, but this year more so than others.

Right now the Mariners have too many upper-level players in their minor league camp. A Triple-A team can carry a max of 25 players, and there are about 35 players here who can make a legitimate claim that they should be one of the 25.

This means that there are going to be some disappointed players reporting to Double-A Jackson – and there are going to be some even more disappointed players who are sent home without a job.

The most impacted positions are starting pitcher (I have seven Triple-A starters listed right now, which is two too many), outfield (no room to promote anyone from Double-A, and the entire High Desert outfield from last year should be moved up to AA, causing a sandwich effect at Jackson), and catcher (Tacoma can’t carry Zunino, Paulino, Sucre and Bantz).

The coaches – who are my friends – are tight-lipped about how this is going to be handled, which is the right thing when people’s jobs are at stake. In many cases decisions are made above Daren Brown and Dwight Bernard. Director of Player Development Chris Gwynn, the Mariners team of professional scouts, and sometimes even Jack Zduriencik will make final decisions on where minor league players will start the season.

Opening Day in the PCL is one week from today (Tacoma opens at Fresno). The roster will be set before then – probably this weekend, or maybe Monday when the big league club begins play.

The Triple-A squad will stay in Arizona until Wednesday, then fly to Fresno to begin PCL play.

Today is my final day in Arizona, I fly home on Friday morning. I’ll be checking out the Mariners vs. Padres Triple-A game (Tacoma vs Tucson) at 1:00. I may not have time to post my thoughts on that game until I get home on Friday, due to a busy schedule today. Anyway, check back often – baseball season is upon us, and this blog will be updated on an (almost) daily basis.



Zunino To Tacoma and Other Notes From Arizona

March 27, 2013

It was intrasquad day today on the back fields of Mariners spring training camp, with a pair of 10:00 AM games pitting Mariners against Mariners, with little regard for the rules of baseball.

Three outs in an inning? Not usually. A nine-man lineup? Nope. Batting out of turn? Encouraged!

Here are some of my notes from the game – a game which was still going when I left, as the teams seemed to be playing an unlimited number of innings.

  • Early today during a live radio interview with Mitch on KJR 950 AM, Mariners manager Eric Wedge said that catcher Mike Zunino will open the season in Tacoma. This will be fun!
  • Erasmo Ramirez started and was on a strict pitch count. He did not look sharp, and it appeared he was limited to 15-to-20 pitches per “inning” – once  he hit the number, the inning was declared over no matter how many outs there were. After the game, Ramirez was optioned to Tacoma.
  • Ramirez did not help himself in the first inning, fielding a comebacker and throwing the ball into center field on a potential double play.
  • The game was essentially a Triple-A versus Double-A match-up, except Ramirez started for the AA team, and Jackson starter Trevor Miller started for the AAA group. This way, the pitchers faced a more appropriate level of hitter.
  • Vinnie Catricala had an eventful day, starting in left field. He dropped a routine fly ball with two outs, allowing runs to score. He missed a cutoff man. He also launched a three-run homer off Hector Noesi. In the end, I think he drove in more runs than he allowed.
  • Speaking of Noesi, he had a very, very, very rough outing. The good news is there was no scoreboard, so we don’t know exactly how rough of an outing it was.
  • Potential Tacoma first baseman Rich Poythress continued to swing the bat, lining an opposite-field single off Ramirez.
  • Rainiers lefty Brian Moran doesn’t just excel at pitching. He also has tremendous bat boy skills, which he displayed at Field 6.
  • Scott Savastano saw a lot of time, making a nice play at third base charging a bunt, and contributing a hard RBI single which picked up speedy Eric Farris from second base.
  • Left-handed reliever Nick Hill stood on a mound and threw baseballs to hitters in a live game. This is notable, because he was once somewhat of a prospect before injuries wiped out the last two complete seasons. If he’s healthy we could see him in Tacoma at some point.
  • Infielder Nick Franklin has not played the last two days – I heard that he is nursing some sort of minor injury, perhaps a sprained ankle.
  • I wandered over to the Class-A game for an inning, wanting a glimpse of rising prospect Gabriel Guerrero. He was instantly identifiable: even from 300 feet away when he is standing in right field, he looks just like his uncle Vladimir.
  • Top prospect Victor Sanchez was pitching in the Class-A game. I’m not sure if he’s going to be the next CC Sabathia or the next Jumbo Diaz (photo). My point is that he is absolutely massive and not all in a good way.
  • I promised Rainiers manager Daren Brown that I would repeat his joke, so here goes: when he saw how un-tan I am, he asked if I spent the off-season working in a paste factory. I don’t write the jokes, guys, I just repeat them.
  • When I got to the big league press box, the Mariners announced their starting rotation: Felix, Iwakuma, Saunders, Maurer, and Beavan. Erasmo to Tacoma, and Jeremy Bonderman assigned to minor league camp. The media people are unsure if Bonderman is willing to accept an assignment to Tacoma.

Tomorrow, I’ll watch Tacoma take on the Tucson Padres in my final taste of spring training baseball.


Spring Training Day One – Surprise Start

March 26, 2013

I woke up at 5:00 AM today and caught the early flight down to Phoenix. I was on the ground at 10:10 (my second straight Alaska Airlines flight that landed considerably early – nice work, Alaska!), in a rental car by 10:40, and pulling into the Mariners parking lot at the Peoria Sports Complex at 11:15.

I stopped by the Mariners PR office, where Tim Hevly handed me a spiral-bound Mariners media guide and a spring training press pass. I made a quick stop by the media workroom, where reporters Greg Johns and Shannon Drayer were kind enough to tell me the fast way to get to the field in Surprise.

Check into the hotel, grab an In ‘N’ Out Burger (double-double, fries, vanilla shake – sorry if you are reading this, Doc, I’ll try not to do it again this week but), and hit the road for the Rainiers game against Omaha on the back fields of the Royals complex.

By the time I drove there, found the secret free parking lot, and walked to the field the game was already underway.

As I approached the field, a large man in a Mariners jersey was finishing off his home run trot. I did not recognize this trotter – he was new to me. After saying hello to Tom Newberg, Dwight Bernard, and meeting Howard Johnson I learned that Mr. Home Run Guy was Rich Poythress, erstwhile Tacoma first baseman, and a man who is having a big spring training camp.

I settled in and started watching some baseball while quickly getting a sunburn.

Andrew Carraway started and coasted through the first two innings, but he gave up three runs in the third including a two-run homer to Chad Tracy. He got back on track and ended up going five full innings, allowing four runs and throwing roughly 80 pitches.

I talked to Carraway when he was done, he said he’s just beginning to get stretched out as a starter now. Since he was invited to big league camp, his MLB appearances were no longer than two innings so he’s just now getting into the starting groove again.

Brian Sweeney followed Carraway and tossed three super-quick routine innings. Sweeney said that he enjoyed playing for Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic, and that it presented a nice break from the spring training grind.

The spring training grind – that was a theme. Everyone seems to be bemoaning how long this camp has been – it had an early start because of the WBC, and it seems to be going on forever. I suggested it was the longest spring training ever and Bernard (a baseball lifer) said “Nope! The year of the replacement players was longer.” He’s right.

In the fourth inning, Carlos Peguero launched a big fly to left field off left-handed Omaha starter Ryan Verdugo for a solo homer.

The Tacoma defense looked like this:

  • 1B – Rich Poythress
  • 2B – Eric Farris
  • SS – Carlos Triunfel
  • 3B – Alex Liddi
  • LF – Eric Thames
  • CF – Denny Almonte
  • RF – Carlos Peguero
  • C – Mike Zunino, Ronny Paulino, Brandon Bantz (3 innings each)

Oh yeah – ex-Rainiers star Adam Moore started at catcher for Omaha.

In the 6th inning Mike Zunino came to the plate and I decided to try to take a picture. I was aiming my cell phone through a chain-link fence and low and behold I got two shots – of the same pitch, which he ripped to deep left-center for a double off of sometimes major-league reliever Brian Sanches. Click to enlarge the photos.

The set

The set-up


Right before ripping the pitch to left-center.

I posted the second picture on Twitter and was immediately asked if Zunino was going to start the year in Tacoma. We just don’t know yet – and probably won’t know until Sunday or Monday. Believe me, I’ll tell you as soon as I find out.

The Rainiers lost the game, 4-2, but I wanted to point out three other highlights.

  • Ronny Paulino hit a slicing line drive down the right field line – a ball that barely went foul. The lumbering Paulino was running it out and as he was headed toward first base Hector Noesi started yelling “Triple! Triple! Triple!” When the ball went foul, even Paulino was laughing. Hector Noesi, eternal optimist. Paulino has hit a grand total of three triples over the last seven years.
  • Alex Liddi hit a screaming line drive off the very top of the fence in left-center field. It was probably the hardest-hit ball of the game, an absolute BB. He got a double out of it.
  • The mysterious Yoervis Medina pitched the ninth inning and set down the side in order. I stood right behind the plate and could see the radar gun where Carraway and Noesi were charting pitches: Medina was 94-96 mph on the gun, with fantastic movement on his fastball – movement that pitching coach Dwight Bernard said may have been supplemented by the “awful baseballs.” With that kind of velocity, it’s easy to see why Medina is still on the Mariners 40-man roster.

There was a bit of big news over on the other field.

The Double-A game was being played on the next field over, and I wandered over and saw that Chance Ruffin not only started the game, but he pitched at least four innings.

I asked some questions and it turns out it is true: Ruffin, who has been a short-reliever since his junior year of college, is being moved into the starting rotation for 2013. It is possible that he will be going to Double-A Jackson in order to make the conversion.

Ruffin has not been a starter since his sophomore year of college, at the University of Texas. I like this idea: Ruffin had a few outings with Tacoma last season where he threw over 40 pitches, and he was able to maintain his low-90s velocity in those games. If he can do that for 100 pitches, and improve his complimentary pitches a bit, he’s got a shot at making this work.

Sorry, no links today – I didn’t have time to do my baseball reading, due to travel. (Note: I actually did read a really good piece in the latest ESPN magazine on the airplane, about Joey Votto‘s approach to hitting. That’s worth tracking down).

Tomorrow the Mariners minor leaguers have a “camp day” and I’ll have a report on it in the afternoon.

Jacobs Out, Endy Chavez In

March 25, 2013

There was an unexpected turn in the composition of the Tacoma Rainiers roster over the weekend.

The Mariners announced that veteran first baseman Mike Jacobs asked to be released, and the Mariners agreed. So Jacobs – who I expected to start at first base and bat in the middle of the lineup – is out of the picture.

Just as I was contemplating how this would change the team, the Mariners announced that they had signed veteran outfielder Endy Chavez to a minor league deal. In a news story (linked below), Chavez said that he expects to open the season in Tacoma.

The 35-year-old Chavez has a ton of big league experience (stats). He’s always been a defense-first outfielder, and I assume he can still hold his own out there in center field. That seems to be where he’ll be playing; we were previously looking at playing a Triple-A rookie in center field (either Abe Almonte or Denny Almonte).

Unless I’m reading the tea leaves incorrectly, we’re looking at a Tacoma outfield of Eric Thames, Endy Chavez, and Carlos Peguero.

First base could go two ways. Manager Daren Brown could run Vinnie Catricala and Alex Liddi through first base – although, as I have stated many times, I think that is a waste of Liddi’s defensive talents. Liddi is a good third baseman and it would be nice to see him actually play his best position.

The other possibility is that longtime Double-A first baseman Rich Poythress could finally get promoted to Tacoma. Last year Poythress posted a huge on-base percentage (.404) but did not show much over-the-fence power (six HRs, although he did have 21 doubles in 303 at-bats).

They’ve got a week to figure this out.

I’m off to Peoria, Arizona early on Tuesday morning. I’ll be blogging daily from spring training for the remainder of the week, although the new updates will come at unusual times – I’m guessing late in the afternoon, or perhaps later in the evening. As usual we’ll have notifications of new posts going out via Facebook and Twitter.


  • The Mariners could not commit a starting rotation spot to non-roster veteran Jon Garland, so he took advantage of his contract right to become a free agent. This helps clarify the Mariners starting rotation plans (a little bit).
  • It appears that Erasmo Ramirez is not going to start for the Mariners and he may pitch from the bullpen.
  • Outfielder Endy Chavez knows he is opening the season in Tacoma.
  • New Mariners reliever Kameron Loe talked about how a sports psychologist has helped him.
  • From Baseball America’s minor league transactions we learn that the Mariners released ten low-level minor leaguers.
  • Veteran pitcher Nelson Figueroa lost to Reno in the Triple-A Baseball National Championship Game last year. This year, he’s going to play for Reno. Figueroa has 103 career Triple-A wins – pretty amazing, if you think about it.
  • Many analysts have Texas Rangers infielder Jurickson Profar ranked as the top prospect in the minors. He may open the season in Round Rock.
  • The Angels sent down eight players, which I mention here because these guys are going to be on our division rival the Salt Lake Bees.

As long as I don’t have any flight delays, I’ll be at the Tacoma Rainiers vs. Omaha Storm Chasers game tomorrow in Surprise, Arizona. Surprise! Hoping to have a blog post up on that game sometime Tuesday evening.

Mariners Ready To Make Decisions

March 22, 2013

It’s decision time for the Seattle Mariners, as they have to make some moves with veteran pitchers who are hoping to make the team.

Starting rotation candidate Jon Garland pitched well last night, lasting six innings and allowing two runs on five hits to a Cubs team that featured about six major leaguers in the lineup.

Garland told the media he has an out in his contract that kicks in today. The Mariners must tell him if he’s making the big league team – and if the answer is no, he can become a free agent. We should expect some news this afternoon.

Looking at the bullpen, it appears that veteran reliever Kameron Loe has locked up a spot. While the team has not announced that, they sent Loe’s last remaining competition (prospect Carson Smith) to minor league camp, which seems to indicate that Loe is on the club. Geoff Baker has that story.

The team also made some roster moves with position players: outfielder Carlos Peguero was optioned to Tacoma, and infielder Nick Franklin was transferred to minor league camp. Both are slated for Tacoma.

Peguero, of course, is going to crush PCL pitching. I think that Franklin will put up much better numbers in the PCL now that he has been around the league a little bit.

We’re getting close to being able to pencil out a Tacoma opening day roster. I may take a stab at that next week, when I’m down in Arizona.


Have a great weekend, and make sure you catch a good case of March Madness – after all, tomorrow is National Corn Dog Day.

Maurer Makes His Bid

March 20, 2013

Brandon Maurer pitched well again last night in Arizona, lasting five innings and giving up just one run on three hits to the world champion San Francisco Giants.

Maurer has been getting good results all spring. He’s pitched 15 innings, allowing two runs for a 1.20 ERA. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is 15-5, and he’s allowed only 13 hits.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. Spring training stats don’t mean anything – that’s been proven over the years. But still, Maurer is making an impression in camp.

Say what you want about the stats, Maurer has the major league look on the mound. He has a big-time slider, which was his go-to pitch last night. He was composed and not rattled at all when a couple of Giants reached base in the first inning, getting a double play grounder to end the threat.

Maurer’s strong showing in the Cactus League is further complicating the Mariners starting rotation battle.

LOCKS: Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, Joe Saunders.


FIGHTING FOR A SPOT: Blake Beavan, Jon Garland, Jeremy Bonderman, Brandon Maurer.

It will be interesting to see how this shakes down. Who will be the starting five?

Spring performance is far from the only factor. Contract status, roster status, injury history, and experience are also weighed.

Ramirez, Beavan, and Maurer are each on the 40-man roster, and each can be optioned to Tacoma. Garland and Bonderman are on minor league contracts, are MLB veterans, and are coming off injuries. Neither Garland nor Bonderman is on the 40-man roster, so a move would have to be made to bring either one to opening day.

I suppose at this time I am expected to be an “expert” and tell you how it’s going to shake down. The truth is, I have no idea what goes on behind the closed doors of the Mariners front office. Personally I side with youth over the veterans, but the Mariners have made veteran leadership a real priority this off-season. My hunch is that they will commit to Garland or Bonderman (probably not both) and send down the younger guys.

We also have a starting pitcher back-up in Tacoma. Your Triple-A rotation will consist of five of the following names: Erasmo Ramirez, Blake Beavan, Jeremy Bonderman, Brandon Maurer, Danny Hultzen, Andrew Carraway, James Paxton, DJ Mitchell, Taijuan WalkerHector Noesi, and Anthony Vasquez. That’s a ton of guys – heck, I may have even forgot someone.

No decisions regarding the Tacoma starting rotation can be made until the Mariners make their decisions about the big league rotation. This may go down to the final day of March.

Add another name to the Rainiers roster: after last night’s game, the Mariners optioned outfielder Eric Thames to Tacoma.

Thames has played very well in the PCL in the past (with Las Vegas) and we should expect him to thrive here. He’ll be a key cog in the Rainiers lineup.

Also, the Mariners reassigned two players to minor league camp: reliever Logan Bawcom and catcher Mike Zunino.

Bawcom is a potential member of the Rainiers bullpen, although he could end up at Double-A Jackson on opening day.

We talked about Zunino a little bit yesterday. His assignment will launch a big domino effect among the catchers in the minor league system, resulting in roster shuffling of other receivers and possibly even lost jobs.

There seems to be a general feel among media members in Arizona that Zunino is going to start the season at Jackson. I’ll try to dig around on this some more when I get to Arizona next week.

Rainiers single-game tickets are on sale now – here is the link to the online sale. If you know you are going to attend the July 3rd game, or a few Friday and Saturday nights during the summer, or Opening Day, buying now will get you better seats.


  • Ryan Divish has this report on Brandon Maurer‘s strong performance last night.
  • Nice story from Geoff Baker on pitching prospect Taijuan Walker and his mother.
  • Larry Stone checked up on a bunch of former Mariners players, including Mike Carp.
  • One of the new guys at Lookout Landing has an interesting piece on the future of Hector Noesi. The article suggests that Noesi will be in the Tacoma bullpen.
  • For those into prospecting, here is a valuable piece from John Sickels: his “prospect retrospective” on Randy Johnson.
  • Friend-of-the-blog Jonah Keri has a massive, fun article on Grantland about the art of base stealing.
  • Smoke ’em if you got ’em? Not in Colorado Springs.

March Madness starts tomorrow!

Getting Closer To A Rainiers Roster

March 19, 2013

The 2013 Tacoma Rainiers took some form over the last five days, as the Mariners have made a bushel of roster moves. Let’s take a look at them:

Optioned to Tacoma: Danny Hultzen, Hector Noesi, Alex Liddi, Bobby LaFromboise, Yoervis Medina, Vinnie Catricala, Carlos Triunfel.

Reassigned to minor league camp: James Paxton, Taijuan Walker, Jhonny Nunez, John Hicks, Ronny Paulino, Stefen Romero, Andrew Carraway.

The players “reassigned to minor league camp” can be sent to any minor league affiliate, and the organization will determine which team they are going to during the next two weeks. My opinion is that Carraway and Paxton are certain to come to Tacoma. I’m not so sure about the free agent signings Nunez and Paulino (for more on Paulino see link No. 2 below); and Romero is currently injured (strained oblique). Hicks appears ticketed for Double-A, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Walker joins him there.

The Mariners also optioned young outfielder Julio Morban to Double-A Jackson in what had to be one of the most awkward conversations of spring training.

On Friday the 21-year-old Morban – in his first big league spring training camp – hit two home runs in an exhibition game against the Angels. After the game,  he was optioned to Double-A Jackson.

That must have been a strange meeting in Eric Wedge‘s office. Obviously, he should have hit three homers. Or maybe four?

Morban played at Class-A High Desert last year and a promotion to Jackson is a natural progression for 2013. We’ll see him in Tacoma down the road a bit.

I had a blast attending the Pac-12 basketball tournament in Las Vegas this past weekend. If you are a fan of one of the teams and a hoops junkie I highly recommend it – even if your team gets knocked out early (like mine did), it is a ton of fun.

Now I am locked in on baseball. Next week (Tuesday) I go to spring training and will have daily reports from the Rainiers camp. There are 16 days until the PCL opener and it is time to get in gear.

The season must be coming, because this is the best collection of links we have had in quite a while:

  • Baseball America has a look at park factors from around the minors, including an “in-focus” look at Cheney Stadium. After two years in the new park, Cheney ranks as the best pitcher’s park in the PCL despite an increase in homers since the renovation. We have more home runs but fewer total runs scored per game (park factor) relative to the league average. To get that weird mix of results Cheney must have fewer walks, singles, doubles (and definitely triples) than the majority of the league.
  • Ryan Divish has some thoughts on the Tacoma catching situation – no answers here, yet. It all hinges on the Mike Zunino placement.
  • Reliever Danny Farquhar is still in big league camp, fighting to make the Mariners roster. If he ends up getting sent to Tacoma, manager Daren Brown may use him as the Rainiers closer. Here’s video of Farquhar talking about a new pitch he’s working on.
  • I was going to recommend Baseball America’s google maps view of every minor league stadium, except the Cheney Stadium marker points you to some guy’s back yard in Fircrest. Whatever.
  • Double-A Jackson broadcaster Chris Harris is in spring training camp right now, and he blogged about some Tacoma players today.
  • Contrary to popular opinion,  Larry Stone writes that the Mariners are loaded with veterans.
  • Jeremy Bonderman impressed on Friday. At the end of the story, Bonderman says he has not yet decided if he is willing to open the season in Tacoma.
  • Jim Caple wrote a story for ESPN about catcher Mike Zunino.
  • Geoff Baker wrote a feature on Mariners minor league outfielder Kalian Sams, who grew up with the late Greg Halman.
  • Former Rainiers reliever Steve Delabar could end up as the Toronto Blue Jays closer.
  • The Mariners invested in a teenage pitcher from the Dominican Republic.
  • If you haven’t checked out Lookout Landing since Jeff Sullivan left, they have introduced their new team of writers who are already providing some good content.
  • I’ll admit that the reason I was looking at the San Francisco Chronicle sports section was for Cal NCAA Tournament news, but instead I found a feature on Silverdale native and UW baseball product Todd Linden. He’s in Giants camp and is probably going back to Fresno to start the season; he seems to have a good outlook on life.
  • From Reno, five things to watch with the Aces this year. They’ll have WBC star Nelson Figueroa in the starting rotation.
  • The news that some MLB owners want to abolish the pension plan for front office workers and scouts is rather disgusting.
  • From disgusting to heart-warming, News Tribune columnist Larry LaRue returned to his baseball-writing roots with this piece on a University Place man who brings baseball equipment to Cuba every year.

Check back often – the push to opening day is on!

Only Black Smoke In Peoria

March 13, 2013

We’ve reached a quiet time in spring training.

Position players are starting to get into a groove, re-accustomed to the daily baseball routine. Starting pitchers are beginning to stretch out a bit, working deeper into exhibition games.

The flood of roster cuts hasn’t happened yet. Yesterday the Mariners cut their fifth player, sending pitcher Anthony Fernandez to Double-A Jackson. The Mariners still have 56 players in big league camp.

The majority of the fan focus is on the World Baseball Classic. Team USA picked up a nice win yesterday, beating Puerto Rico fairly easily. The US needs to win one of the next two games to advance to the championship round.

It’s around this time when veteran players begin to look toward the start of the season. In another week, they’ll be really antsy to get out of Arizona and get this season started.

On the minor league side of the complex, things are just getting going. The minor leaguers recently reported, and the minor league “exhibition games” (for lack of a better term) begin on Saturday.

I’ll be going down to Arizona to check out Rainiers spring training on March 26, and I’ll watch several games and have detailed reports here as the team takes shape.

Before that happens, I’m taking a quick little vacation before diving into the 2013 season. The Pac-12 basketball tournament moved to Las Vegas this year, and those two things are right up my alley. I love Pac-12 basketball and Las Vegas, and the combination of those two events is a perfect getaway for me.

So, I’m outta here for a few days. I get back in town Monday morning, and our next blog update will be Tuesday the 19th.


  • Felix Hernandez tossed three nice innings yesterday. They are easing him in slowly – he’ll probably be ready for 6-7 innings by opening day.
  • Brendan Ryan‘s brother helped him with his swing. Move over, Josh Bard’s brother!
  • One of the Mariners original employees from 1977 is retiring.
  • Big news in the Mariners blogosphere: Jeff Sullivan has quit the Lookout Landing site. The funniest writer in baseball will write about the Mariners only sporadically, and when he does it will be at USS Mariner. This is good news for Jeff Sullivan’s sanity, and bad news for our entertainment.
  • An interesting – albeit concerning – story from the Grapefruit League is the struggles of Phillies ace Roy Halladay. Yesterday Halladay got shellacked by Detroit, with former Rainiers infielder Ramon Santiago launching a long grand slam off him. Halladay is a player’s player; almost every pitcher in the game looks up to him.
  • Former Rainiers pitcher Brandon Morrow is progressing down in Blue Jays camp.
  • Link of the day: Diamondbacks pitcher Brandon McCarthy – who is a bit of a stat-head – gave some serious insight into the importance of team chemistry.
  • Baseball America identified two Class-A teams that should be stacked with prospects come opening day. Depending on how things shake out, we could see a similar story on the Rainiers in a few weeks.
  • I am pleased to report that former Portland Beavers broadcaster Rich Burk has landed as the play-by-play man for the new Hillsboro Hops franchise in the Northwest League. Burk has been the voice of Portland-area baseball for a long time.