Winter Warriors

A handful of Tacoma Rainiers players are playing Fall/Winter baseball, and seasons have begun.

Leagues range from the Arizona Fall League (played in spring training stadiums with scouts often out-numbering fans in attendance) to the Venezuelan Winter League (played in front of tens of thousands of passionate fans and nationally televised).

We’ll look at where players who appeared for Tacoma in 2013 are playing. Additional players may join the Dominican or Venezuelan leagues later, as those teams are trying to win championships for their fans and often make in-season roster adjustments.

ARIZONA FALL LEAGUE

The Mariners contingent includes 2013 Rainiers Stefen Romero and Brandon Maurer, with potential 2014 Rainiers Chris Taylor, Kyle Hunter, Dominic Leone, and Carson Smith. They all play for the Peoria Javelinas, in the Mariners spring training park.

Romero is off to a tough start, going 4-for-32 with 10 strikeouts so far. That just doesn’t seem right; I expect him to start hitting real soon.

Maurer has made three starts and posted a 3.72 ERA. This is a hitter’s league and that is not bad. Note that in the AFL, starting pitchers often toss only three or four innings because there are a lot of guys who need to get work. Maurer has thrown 9.2 innings in three outings.

DOMINICAN WINTER LEAGUE

Three members of the Rainiers are already playing down there. Carlos Triunfel and Hector Noesi are teammates with Tigres del Licey, and Jonathan Arias pitches for Leones del Escogido.

I wrote this last winter, but Triunfel has trouble getting playing time because the shortstop position is stacked down in the Dominican (many established major leaguers who are Dominican play for their hometown teams in the winter league). He’s been in three games and is 0-for-4.

Noesi made one start and dealt, allowing one run in five innings. Arias has one relief appearance and it did not go well.

VENEZUELAN WINTER LEAGUE

This is where many Rainiers play, mostly due to the Mariners relationship with the Cardinales de Lara. The Mariners have been sending advanced players down there for years now, and the relationship is very strong – in fact, the Cardinales owner and General Manager visit Cheney Stadium every August to talk to players they are interested in, and to answer questions the Americans have about playing down there. It shows a lot of commitment on their part.

So far, only two American players from the Mariners have ventured to Venezuela: pitchers Logan Bawcom and Anthony Vasquez. One of their teammates is native Venezuelan Jesus Montero.

In the league with a different team is Rainiers catcher Jesus Sucre, who is playing for Caracas.

Bawcom has appeared in five games already, posting a 2.08 ERA and nailing down a save. He’s working to refine his command while pitching in pressure-packed, uncomfortable situations down there. He blogged about his travel to Venezuela earlier this week (scroll down to Wednesday’s links), and hopefully he’ll write about the baseball experience later.

Vasquez is recovering from brain surgery – a remarkable story – and has made three starts, going 0-2 with a 7.71 ERA.

This is a big winter league season for Montero, who barely played in 2013 due to injury and suspension. He’s playing strictly first base and is hitting .265 with one homer in eight games. A big winter in Venezuela would be huge for Montero, who needs to get back on track offensively.

We’ll check in on these guys again later in the winter.

Links:

  • Larry Stone has a column on the Mariners manager search.
  • The Mariners interviewed former Portland Beavers manager Rick Renteria for the opening, Greg Johns reports.
  • From this transactions log we learn that the Mariners re-signed would-be minor league free agent LHP Nick Hill, who is a strong candidate to be in the Rainiers bullpen in April.
  • Shannon Drayer caught up with 2013 Mariners first round draft pick DJ Peterson.
  • Former Rainiers infielder Ramon Santiago is waiting to find out if his long stint with the Detroit Tigers is over.
  • Geoff Baker has a blog post regarding the cash value of the Mariners, if you are into that sort of thing. Lacking that kind of dough, I find myself uninterested.
  • If you have a Baseball America subscription, you can read their “Mariners Draft Report Card” right here.
  • Also at Baseball America but not requiring a subscription, their business columnist has a blog post on the El Paso Chihuahuas and similar team names from around Minor League Baseball.
  • Here’s an entertaining piece on the Chihuahuas and other PCL team names.
  • Momentum continues – thank goodness – for a new ballpark in Nashville.
  • Congratulations to longtime Omaha manager Mike Jirschele, who was added to the Kansas City Royals major league coaching staff today. He managed in Omaha for 14 years!

Enjoy the World Series, it’s shaping up to be a good one.

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