Back home in Tacoma after 3.5 days at Mariners/Rainiers spring training, I’ve had some time to let my first impressions of this year’s club sink in a bit.
I watched three (mostly) full games, and talked to a lot of coaches and a handful of players. Here’s what I came away with:
OFFENSE – This is going to be a good-hitting Rainiers team. The lineup looked impressive, even without players who are/were still in big league camp (specifically: Nick Franklin, Endy Chavez, and Humberto Quintero). I know he got bad press for arriving at spring training overweight, but Jesus Montero was stinging the ball in the games I watched – and he is under a lot of pressure to perform this year; I think he’ll rise to the occasion. I also think we will see improved performances from second-year Triple-A players like Nate Tenbrink and Rich Poythress. Adding PCL veteran Cole Gillespie is a boost to the lineup as well.
DEFENSE – The outfield – with some mixture of James Jones, Xavier Avery, and Endy Chavez to go with Gillespie – is going to cover a lot of ground. There is nothing alarming about the infield defense, and catchers Jesus Sucre/Quintero/Brandon Bantz are all good on defense.
STARTING PITCHING – This is unexpectedly a big area of concern right now, due to the injuries (Walker, Iwakuma) and opting-out (Wolf, Baker) of several players during spring training. It appears that there will be pitchers who were not originally intended to open in the Triple-A rotation doing exactly that. Right now the only pitchers I expected to be in the Rainiers rotation who are (probably) in it are Matt Palmer and Andrew Carraway. We’re six days from the opener and I have no idea who the other three starters will be.
BULLPEN – Everyone I talked to said that the Tacoma bullpen will be a huge strength. The latest news regarding Bobby LaFromboise (below) could put a damper on that if he gets claimed, but it should still be a strong relief corps. Most of the Mariners final major league roster decisions involve the bullpen, but the Tacoma group should have some young guns.
Opening Night is Thursday. The team is supposed to arrive in Tacoma on Tuesday, so I expect we’ll have a roster for you on Tuesday afternoon, or Wednesday at the latest.
- The Mariners named Erasmo Ramirez the No. 2 starter, Bob Dutton writes. This story also has the 2014 Mariners salary information in a sidebar.
- On Thursday, the team signed veteran starter Chris Young to a major league contract. Young has been injured for years, but if he’s healthy he could be pretty good. That’s a very, very big “if.”
- To make room for Young on the 40-man roster, reliever Bobby LaFromboise was designated for assignment. If he clears waivers he’ll report to Tacoma. I’m interested to see what happens here – we could certainly use him in Tacoma.
- Nick Franklin talked about learning to play the outfield.
- If Roenis Elias makes the major league rotation, it will be another case of the Mariners rushing a prospect to the big leagues too quickly, Jerry Brewer writes.
- Exhibition round-up: there was no game on Thursday… on Wednesday a late home run wasted another solid start from Erasmo Ramirez.
- Will Leitch has a behind-the-scenes look at MLB’s new replay review system.
- Pat Jordan is one of my favorite writers, and he has a long-form feature on Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Chris Archer. Great stuff.
- In the PCL, on Wednesday afternoon the Texas Rangers may have set a modern record by announcing the Round Rock roster a full eight days before the start of the PCL season. That’s early!
- Reno has added veteran outfielders Trent Oeltjen and Aaron Cunningham (a Port Orchard guy), and new manager Phil “Filthy” Nevin has guaranteed 60 degree weather on opening day.
- The Arizona Diamondbacks assigned pitcher Archie Bradley to Reno. Bradley will be the No. 1 pitching prospect in the PCL – assuming Taijuan Walker joins the Mariners when he is healthy.
- The big deal in Memphis is done: the St. Louis Cardinals bought the Triple-A team, and the City of Memphis took over AutoZone Park.
- The new ballpark in Nashville is being built on an ancient burial ground. What could possibly go wrong?
On the flight home from Arizona yesterday, I finished a good book about sports broadcasting: Holy Toledo: Lessons From Bill King, Renaissance Man of the Mic by Ken Korach. Oakland A’s broadcaster Korach lovingly tells the life story of his late broadcast partner, who was considered the best radio announcer in Bay Area history. If you are into sports broadcasting, this is a great read full of tips and anecdotes. Any sports fan will love the “Mother’s Day” chapter. You can get the book here.