Rainiers Should Have A Loaded Bullpen

Finally a slow news day, so we can get to our last Rainiers position preview: the bullpen.

Folks in the Mariners front office are excited about the power relief arms that the organization has accrued, and we should get a first-hand look at these guys in Tacoma.

Returnees

Jonathan Arias: the big Dominican joined the Rainiers at the end of April last year and posted a 5.58 ERA in 32 Triple-A games. His stuff is better than his numbers; if he improves his command he could be a valuable part of Tacoma’s 2014 bullpen.

Logan Bawcom: the Rainiers closer last year saved 21 PCL games, was named Tacoma Pitcher of the Year, and was added to the Mariners 40-man roster in the fall. If he doesn’t make the big league club he’ll find himself back in the Rainiers bullpen.

Nick Hill: the lefty overcame injuries to have a strong season with Jackson last year, earning a late-August promotion to Tacoma. He’s ready for a full season in Triple-A and I think he’ll do well here.

Bobby LaFromboise: the 2012 Rainiers Pitcher of the Year wasn’t quite as effective in 2013, but he still had a good year (3.39 ERA in the PCL) highlighted by his first MLB call-up. He could crack the Mariners roster or be sent to Tacoma, where we’ll be happy to have him.

Chance Ruffin: Listed among the rotation candidates as well; I’m still not certain if he’s going to be a starter or reliever this season. He pitched well out of the Tacoma bullpen late last year and earned a September call-up as a reliever.

Forrest Snow: he must serve an MLB-mandated 50-game suspension first, but we’ll probably see the affable Washington Huskies alum in the Rainiers bullpen at some point this summer.

Up-And-Comers

Kyle Hunter: a left-hander who posted a 1.40 ERA at Double-A Jackson last year, Hunter was selected to pitch in the Arizona Fall League and now might be ready for a promotion to Tacoma. The report is that he achieves success through tremendous command of his pitches.

Stephen Kohlscheen: a former 45th-round draft pick who exploded onto the scene at Double-A Jackson last year, Kohlscheen is a 6-foot-6 right-hander from Nebraska. He went 7-3, 2.41 at Jackson with 85 strikeouts in 66 innings, earning an invitation to big league camp this spring.

Dominic Leone: Listed at 5-foot-11 and 210 pounds, Leone is known for his power fastball. He climbed three rungs of the minor league ladder last season and could start the year with the Rainiers. However, he doesn’t have much Double-A experience (18 innings) and the M’s may decide to have him open the season with Jackson.

Carson Smith: A 24-year-old righty, Smith spent the entire 2013 season at Jackson and posted a 1.80 ERA with 71 strikeouts in 50 innings. He’s ready to move up – I think Shane the Clubbie already has a locker prepared for him at Cheney Stadium.

Veteran Additions

Joe Beimel: A 36-year-old lefty who came back from elbow surgery last year, Beimel has a chance to crack the Mariners bullpen. If he doesn’t make it, he might agree to come to Tacoma – he pitched in 30 Triple-A games for Gwinett in the International League last year.

Logan Kensing: the Colorado Springs closer from last year was brought in on a minor league deal. He had 15 saves and a 3.05 ERA for the Sky Sox last year, and also appeared in one MLB game for the Rockies.

Zach Miner: Miner is a 32-year-old right-hander who has spent all or parts of five seasons in the majors, including last year with the Phillies. He’s currently pitching well in the Cactus League and is a Mariners bullpen candidate, but he’s on a minor league contract (for now).

Ramon Ramirez: another MLB veteran, Ramirez was brought to camp on a minor league contract with the hope that he would earn a spot in the Mariners bullpen. He pitched in the PCL part of last season with Fresno and could theoretically do it again with the Rainiers this season.

That’s 13 bullpen candidates (not including Snow), with probably eight making the Rainiers opening day roster. Some will end up in Seattle, others in Jackson.

I should note that there are a few Mariners relievers who are seen as big-leaguers, but have minor league options remaining: Lucas Luetge, Yoervis Medina and Tom Wilhelmsen each spent time in Tacoma last season.

Links:

  • James Paxton is honing in on a spot in the Mariners starting rotation.
  • John McGrath is the best. In this column, he appreciates the minimalism of “Who’s Who In Baseball.”
  • While it seems apparent that the Mariners front office is no longer emphasizes outfield defense, Lloyd McClendon thinks it will be improved this year. Seattle Times columnist Jerry Brewer disagrees.
  • Brewer caught up with our old buddy Willie Bloomquist, and he also wrote a story about Kyle Seager.
  • If you can get past the massive mug shot of Ryan Divish, this is a solid story on the work Brad Miller is doing to improve his shortstop defense.
  • Even ESPN’s Jim Caple is writing about Abraham Almonte.
  • Exhibition round-up: Felix Hernandez started on Sunday, although he was long gone by the time a bunch of Rainiers players mounted a big comeback victory over the Rangers… the Mariners laid waste to the NL West in a pair of Saturday split-squad games: Dustin Ackley led the parade with three hits in an 18-3 waxing of San Francisco, and Jesus Montero homered twice in an 8-5 win over the Dodgers… and on Friday, Jesus Montero hit a couple of doubles in a 10-9 loss to the Reds.
  • The 2014 season marks Tacoma’s 20th year as a Mariners affiliate. That’s a long stretch for a minor league baseball team, but it is not the longest.
  • Old pal Corey Brock has the story on former Rainiers catcher Rob Johnson and his attempt to convert to pitcher.
  • Josh Kinney spent last year in Tacoma’s bullpen, and now he’s trying to crack the Pirates roster.
  • Ex-Rainiers slugger Mike Carp hit one out for the Red Sox yesterday.
  • Check out this video of a player’s locker. Seriously, check it out.

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