It’s great to be back in Tacoma to start an eight-game homestand this evening, with the prospect-laden Memphis Redbirds in town.
Tacoma wrapped up the road trip with a 4-2 win at New Orleans on Tuesday afternoon – a very nice win, because it salvaged the trip. Tacoma opened the trip by getting swept in Oklahoma City, but rebounded to win three-of-four at New Orleans. A 3-5 road trip is not good, of course, but it certainly wasn’t the disaster that it could have turned into.
The Rainiers host Memphis tonight, and this is a fact: seven of Baseball America’s preseason Top 100 Prospects will be at Cheney Stadium this weekend. If you like watching prospects, this is the series of the year.
However, there are some injury issues.
Memphis outfielder Oscar Taveras – ranked the No. 3 prospect in baseball preseason, and considered the top hitting prospect in all of the minors – is day-to-day with a sprained ankle suffered on Sunday. My spies with the Redbirds say he is unlikely to play until Saturday or Sunday – but that is not for sure, he is “day-to-day” in the truest form.
The St. Louis Cardinals are treating Taveras like the Mariners treated Danny Hultzen when his arm was “a little stiff” – very, very carefully, because he is a huge part of the future of their organization.
Hopefully we’ll get to see Taveras play; it’s fun watching these elite talents when they come through. It’s one of the most fun parts of minor league baseball. The memories can remain for years – I still clearly recall Prince Fielder lining balls of the tall old right-field fence when he was with Nashville in 2005, Tim Lincecum striking everybody out for Fresno back in 2007, etc, etc, etc.
Speaking of Hultzen, he should be working out with the Rainiers this week, and progressing on his return from the disabled list. Danny did not go on the last road trip, instead doing rehabilitation work with the specialists at Safeco Field. I’m not sure where things stand right now, but if we see him throwing early bullpen sessions this weekend, that would be a big step toward his return.
Tacoma will get some help this week: Mariners Josh Kinney (oblique) and Franklin Gutierrez (hamstring) will begin rehabilitation assignments with Tacoma tonight. Both could be here for a while.
Kinney strained his oblique in spring training and was placed on the 60-day disabled list – meaning he’s not eligible to be activated until roughly May 31. As a pitcher, he’s allowed to rehab for up to 30 days.
Gutierrez could also be here for a while, based on the recent quotes from Mariners manager Eric Wedge. Paraphrasing rather than looking it up (because I am lazy), Wedge said that Gutierrez needs to prove he can play every day – like 4-5 days in a row – before being activated from the disabled list. As a position player, Gutierrez is limited to 20 days on a rehabilitation assignment.
The St. Louis Cardinals Triple-A affiliate comes into Tacoma with a record of 20-17. They got hot in early April, went on a 6-1 stretch to move three games over .500 on April 18, and they’ve been sitting right there for the last month, playing .500 ball.
Memphis just had an eight-game homestand against Sacramento and Fresno. They beat Sacramento 3-of-4, then lost 3-of-4 to Fresno avoiding a sweep with a win on Tuesday.
Other than Taveras, Memphis features Top-100 prospects Michael Wacha and Kolten Wong.
Wacha will be the starting pitcher tonight. He’s the Cardinals version of Mike Zunino, at least in terms of the fast track: like Zunino, Wacha was a big star in college, was a 2012 first round draft pick, was rushed to Triple-A, and is holding his own. Wacha is 4-0 with a 1.99 ERA, so this will be a tough one for the Rainiers tonight.
Wong is a 22-year-old Hawaiian second baseman who is receiving glowing reviews around the PCL. He’s hitting .309 and has ZERO errors in 35 games at the keystone in his first taste of Triple-A ball.
The Redbirds have one former Rainiers player: catcher Rob Johnson, who is of course a former Mariner, too. Johnson is currently on the 7-day disabled list with some minor ailment, he’s supposed to come off it and play this weekend.
Look for Memphis first baseman Brock Peterson to have a fan club at Cheney Stadium. He was born in Centralia, and attended W.F. West High School in Chehalis (Class of 2002, I believe). He played in the Twins system for a few years, ended up in independent ball, and then was rescued by the Cardinals late last season. Peterson is off to a good start for Memphis, hitting .276 with five homers and 17 RBI.
One other important note on Memphis: certified Rainiers Killer Justin Christian is on their team. Let’s see if Tacoma can get him out this time around.
Tonight’s game is at 7:05, and it is Thirst Thursday at Cheney Stadium. Tacoma starts LHP Jimmy Gillheeney (2-1, 2.37) against Memphis RHP Michael Wacha (4-0, 1.99). Catch the broadcast on South Sound Sports 850 AM, or streaming online right here. If you are using an iPad, try this link.
- The Rainiers game story from the final game of the road trip on Tuesday has reaction from Blake Beavan.
- Raul Ibanez ripped the Yankees yesterday, with two homers and a grand slam.
- Taijuan Walker is showing improved consistency at Double-A Jackson, Baseball America reports. If things continue to go well for Walker, I suspect we’ll see him in Tacoma in the second half.
- Ryan Divish’s minor league report notes that outfielder Julio Morban is on a tear at Double-A Jackson. The oft-injured Morban always hits when he is in the lineup…
- The PCL was off yesterday, but there are a few stories of note. For instance, the Colorado Springs mayor is checking to see if a downtown ballpark is feasible.
- Construction has begun on the new ballpark in downtown El Paso, Texas. The Tucson Padres are moving there next year.
- The Nashville newspaper is getting to know Scooter Gennett – one of my favorite names in the PCL; he’ll be here Monday.
- Round Rock Express team president Reid Ryan is getting a big promotion to the Houston Astros. Huge move for Reid, but a big loss for the PCL, where Reid is one of the top executives.
It’s going to be a great weekend. See you at the ballpark!