We’re In El Paso

May 31, 2014

Sorry guys – not much of a blog today. It turns out that it is extremely difficult to get to El Paso from Tacoma.

After playing until 11:30 pm last night in Tacoma, team wake-up calls were at 4:00 AM to fly to Phoenix, change planes, and then on to El Paso. The team got to the hotel at 2:00 pm, El Paso time.

I arrived an hour later, because the airline lost my luggage and I had to fill out paperwork. I could be wearing the same clothes for four days down here. At least it isn’t… oh. It’s 102 degrees here. This isn’t going to go well.

It’s a four-game series starting tonight. Xavier Nady has been activated by Tacoma, and infielder Brock Hebert was returned to High Desert.

Saturday’s game starts at 6:05 (Pacific) – the Alaska Airlines Pregame Show begins at 5:50 on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. Tacoma starts RHP Andrew Carraway (2-4, 4.53) against El Paso RHP Billy Buckner (3-2, 2.89).

No time for links today, except for the Rainiers game story from The News Tribune. Tacoma lost to Salt Lake in 12 innings on Friday night, 4-3, despite the best efforts of Ty Kelly.

I’ll have a full blog post on Sunday.

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Ramirez, Rainiers End Skid

May 30, 2014

Erasmo Ramirez carried a shutout into the seventh inning and earned the win as Tacoma ended a five-game losing streak with a 5-2 victory over Salt Lake on Thursday night.

Ramirez allowed hits to the first two batters in the seventh before being removed from the game, and they ended up scoring so he was charged with two runs. Still, it was an outstanding start for Ramirez, who was in command for the first six innings. Ramirez picked up his first Triple-A win of the season.

The Rainiers relief crew of Mike MacDougal, Lucas Luetge, and Carson Smith finished off the Bees.

Tacoma staked him to an early 2-0 lead on a Ty Kelly two-run homer in the first inning.

Leury Bonila had a big game: he led off the inning in each of his four at-bats, reaching base three times and scoring three runs. Bonilla had a solo homer, a double, and a walk.

It was a much-needed win for the Rainiers, who had lost eight of the previous nine games. The team has a chance to earn a split with the Bees by getting a victory in the final game of the homestand tonight.

Friday’s game starts at 7:05 – the Alaska Airlines Pregame Show begins at 6:50 on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. Tacoma starts RHP Matt Palmer (1-1, 2.31) against Salt Lake LHP Hector Santiago (–).

The Rainiers made a roster move before Thursday’s game, placing reliever Stephen Pryor on the 7-day disabled list with a shoulder impingement, and adding reliever Todd Coffey to the team from extended spring training.

Mariners beat writers reported the Pryor move two days ago. It’s a small thing that doesn’t matter, but the Mariners beat writers reporting that a Tacoma player was placed on the disabled list two days before he actually was placed on the disabled list is one of the odder things I’ve seen along these lines.

Links:

  • The Rainiers game story from The News Tribune has the details of last night’s Tacoma win.
  • Congratulations to the TNT’s Bob Dutton, who became the first baseball writer to use the phrase “cough up a fur ball” in the lede of a game story. The Mariners lost, 7-5.
  • According to Dutton’s Mariners Notebook, it sounds like Tacoma will have a few more Taijuan Walker starts.
  • Ryan Divish has a blog post on the no-hitter pitched at High Desert on Wednesday, and some details about pitching prospect Tyler Pike.
  • High Desert’s DJ Peterson ranks No. 4 on this week’s Baseball America Prospect Hot Sheet.
  • The all-star ballot for the Triple-A All-Star Game is here. Vote for some Rainiers!
  • In the PCL, we had a near no-hitter in Memphis: Redbirds starter Tim Cooney had his bid broken up with two outs in the ninth inning on a single by Iowa’s Arismendy Alcantara. This game was nationally televised as the CBS Sports Network Minor League Game of the Week.
  • Sacramento edged Albuquerque in 11 innings, 6-5. The River Cats ended up on Sportscenter.
  • New El Paso pitcher Michael Nix had another good start and the Chihuahuas beat Las Vegas, 7-4.
  • Reno had some good pitching from Bo Schultz and the bullpen in a 5-2 win over Fresno last night.
  • With Greg Maddux in town to work with Round Rock pitchers, the Express allowed 16 runs in a loss to New Orleans. Whoops!
  • Mike Moustakas is in Omaha trying to find his swing, and he had a big game in a 5-3 win at Oklahoma City.
  • Somehow Nashville starter Brad Mills – who throws around 86 mph – struck out 13 Sky Sox in a 3-0 win over Colorado Springs.

Friday Night Fireworks tonight, and it’s a beautiful afternoon. Hope to see you at the ballpark!


Rehabbers Check Out OK, But Rainiers Lose Again

May 29, 2014

Taijuan Walker and Logan Morrison had healthy days on Wednesday – with Morrison contributing in a big way at the plate – but the Rainiers lost yet again, this time by a score of 5-3 to Salt Lake.

After the game, Walker reported that he felt good. He threw 61 pitches and was 90-95 mph on the Rainiers scoreboard radar gun, which was working for the final two innings he pitched.

However, Walker took the loss by allowing four runs in the top of the third inning. Efren Navarro lined a three-run homer moments after left fielder Xavier Avery just barely missed making a diving catch that would have ended the inning. Luis Jimenez made it back-to-back homers by launching a hanging curveball to left field.

In the end, Walker looked like a guy who had not pitched in a high-level baseball game since last September – which is exactly what he is. I have no inside information, but I think Walker will probably make another two or three rehab starts for Tacoma before going to Seattle. We’ll see what Jack Z has in mind.

Morrison’s day was very encouraging. He lined an RBI single up the middle in the first inning of left-hander Brooks Raley, and then ripped a long homer to right-center in the seventh inning of Dane De La Rosa. Morrison his hitting .333 on his rehab assignment, which enters day seven today.

Still, Morrison might be here a while longer. He has only played one game on defense, and that was just five innings at first base on Monday. Usually they don’t activate a player until he has played consecutive full games on defense.

The final result was just more of the same for Tacoma. That’s five straight losses, losses in eight of the last nine, and a 4-16 record over the last 20 games.

Thursday’s game starts at 7:05 – the Alaska Airlines Pregame Show begins at 6:50 on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. Tacoma starts RHP Erasmo Ramirez (0-3, 4.94) against Salt Lake RHP Anthony Lerew (0-0, 9.00).

We have some non-news on the roster front.

The Mariners told the Seattle media on Tuesday that Stephen Pryor was placed on Tacoma’s 7-day disabled list, but that has actually not happened. Yesterday Tacoma manager Roy Howell said Pryor is still active, and he’s just getting a few days off.

Tacoma reliever Forrest Snow had his 50-game suspension for “drugs of abuse” end on Wednesday. He was activated from Tacoma’s suspended list, and transferred to extended spring training. It appears that he’ll have to wait for an opening in Tacoma or Jackson to get reassigned.

Links:

  • Don Ruiz has the Rainiers game story for The News Tribune. Manager Roy Howell says Walker tired in the third inning and was leaving the ball up – hence the homers.
  • MLB.com has a story on Walker’s rehab outing (ignore the caption to the video on top which says he has been “shut down for seven days” – that’s an old headline, intentionally designed to confuse us or something. Walker is OK as far as we know).
  • Meanwhile, James Paxton has had a minor setback in his rehab. Bob Dutton has the details in his Mariners Notebook.
  • The Mariners had a great start from Felix Hernandez and beat the Angels last night, 3-1. Felix is 7-1 with a 2.57 ERA.
  • Former Rainiers and Mariners pitcher JJ Putz is about to come off the disabled list and is trying not to think about retirement.
  • There was a miracle at Class-A High Desert, where three Mariners pitchers combined to toss an ultra-rare California League no-hitter last night.
  • In the PCL, former Rainiers outfielder Trayvon Robinson had a big day for Albuquerque yesterday: he hit a game-tying home run in the eighth inning, and doubled home the winning run in the tenth for a 4-3 win at Sacramento. Sacramento’s seven-game win streak ended.
  • Nick Ahmed had the game-winning double in Reno’s 10-inning, 9-8 win over Fresno.
  • Las Vegas won a slugfest at El Paso, 13-7. Las Vegas pitchers recorded 16 strikeouts in this game.
  • Gonzaga product Clayton Mortensen and Omaha shut out Oklahoma City, 2-0.
  • Brewers prospect Taylor Jungmann earned his first Triple-A victory in Nashville’s 7-2 win over Colorado Springs.
  • Round Rock started 18-year-old Juremi Profar at third base in a 7-4 loss to New Orleans. Yes, he is Jurickson‘s little brother.
  • Iowa and Memphis played a rain-delayed doubleheader last night in Memphis. The Redbirds won the first game 1-0 on Xavier Scrugg‘s walk-off homer. The second game was suspended due to PCL curfew rules with Memphis leading 2-1 after six innings at 1:00 AM. They’ll finish it today, and then play the CBS Sports Network Minor League Game of the Week tonight.
  • The Des Moines Register has a story on how much new Iowa Cubs player-coach Manny Ramirez will play.
  • No-hit pitcher Tyler Pike is one of the featured players in today’s Baseball America minor league round-up.

Thirsty Thursday tonight, you guys!


Walker Rehab Attempt No. 2 Tonight

May 28, 2014

Seattle Mariners pitcher Taijuan Walker is going to make another attempt at a rehabilitation outing tonight at Cheney Stadium If all goes according to plan, Walker will stay in the game for 70-75 pitches.

Walker is on the Mariners disabled list with shoulder soreness. He made one attempt at a rehab start for Tacoma earlier this season on April 15, but was scratched when he couldn’t get loose in the training room. He was shut down for a few weeks, and now he has been pitching simulated games building up to tonight’s start.

Hopefully it will all go smoothly for Walker and he can proceed with his season.

The Rainiers dropped the series-opener to Salt Lake on Tuesday, 6-1. Jordan Pries was hit for just the second time in eight Triple-A starts, allowing five runs on eight hits in 5.2 innings. He was literally inches away from another good outing: with two outs and the bases loaded in the third inning, Xavier Avery just missed catching Efren Navarro‘s drive to left-center. It would have been a great grab if Avery had made the play, but instead it went for a three-run double and Salt Lake had control of the game.

Tacoma is in a real downswing right now, and it appears that some roster moves are coming. Hopefully Walker will help, and now there are reports that the Mariners are going to take a look at veteran right-handed hitter Xavier Nady. Bob Dutton’s Notebook (link below) says Nady will sign a minor league contract and play for Tacoma.

Wednesday’s game starts at 7:05 – the Alaska Airlines Pregame Show begins at 6:50 on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. Tacoma starts RHP Taijuan Walker (–) against Salt Lake LHP Brooks Raley (0-2, 11.37).

Links:

Looking forward to seeing Walker tonight.


Rainiers Can’t Find Offense

May 27, 2014

After scoring 12 runs and hitting three home runs on Sunday, the Rainiers faced a pitcher with a 13.50 ERA who had allowed 31 hits in 13.1 innings since being promoted from Double-A.

That pitcher – El Paso’s Matt Wisler – shut down Tacoma on two hits over seven innings, allowed just one unearned run, and earned the win as the Chihuahuas beat Tacoma on Monday, 3-1.

El Paso won the series, four games to one. The Rainiers struggles are continuing, as the team has now lost seven of its last eight games.

Now Tacoma welcomes a team that is having even more trouble: the Salt Lake Bees arrive for a four-game series which starts tonight.

Salt Lake has the league’s worst record, 17-35. They were playing OK and were 13-17 on May 3rd, but they have gone 4-18 since then. That stretch included a franchise-record 11-game losing streak.

We’ll see if the Rainiers can get things turned around against the Angels Triple-A affiliate.

Tuesday’s game starts at 6:05 – the Alaska Airlines Pregame Show begins at 5:50 on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. Tacoma starts RHP Jordan Pries (3-2, 1.80) against Salt Lake RHP Jarrett Grube (2-2, 3.95).

Links:

  • We start with the Rainiers game story from The News Tribune.
  • It’s tough to say when or where James Paxton will make his next start, according to Bob Dutton’s Mariners Notebook.
  • Chris Young pitched well and the Mariners beat the Angels on Monday afternoon.
  • After 50 games, the Mariners are 25-25. John McGrath has a 50-game report.
  • Salt Lake lost at home to Fresno yesterday, 10-6, and dropped three-of-four in that series. The paper has a feature on the Salt Lake stadium announcer, who is really, really good.
  • Angels star Josh Hamilton is day-to-day with his thumb injury – he might rehab with Salt Lake at Cheney Stadium later this week.
  • Sacramento completed a four-game series sweep at Las Vegas with a 9-5 win yesterday.
  • Mike Bolsinger was dealing and Reno picked up a rare 1-0 win at Albuquerque. It was only the second nine-inning 1-0 game ever played at Isotopes Park.
  • Justin Maxwell drove in five runs and Omaha topped Round Rock, 6-5.
  • Iowa blasted Colorado Springs, 12-3. Eric Jokisch just missed a complete game.
  • Oklahoma City’s Jon Singleton hit his 13th home run in a 6-4 win at Memphis.
  • So this is why injured Major League umpires always call a few games in New Orleans. I always wondered about that. Brian Flynn and the Zephyrs shut out Nashville yesterday, 3-0.
  • We’ll close with Baseball America’s minor league round-up.

Memorial Day Game Today

May 26, 2014

The Rainiers play their traditional Memorial Day afternoon game today, with first pitch set for 1:35.

Sunday’s game was one of those classic PCL games that we just don’t see in Tacoma.

For those of you who attended, congratulations! You saw what fans in Colorado Springs, Reno, Las Vegas, Salt Lake, and Albuquerque see with regular frequency at their home ballparks.

El Paso beat Tacoma 14-12 in a game that featured six lead changes over the final five innings, five home runs, the Rainiers first grand slam of the season, and a ninth inning heartbreaker. All in 3 hours, 59 minutes of game play.

It’s fun (aside from the loss) for us in Tacoma to get a game like that, because it is so rare here at sea level. But in the high-elevation cities of the PCL, these types of games are fairly common.

Tacoma has had many heartbreaking losses and surprising victories in these types of games on the road over the years. You just don’t expect to see it at home.

All of the details are in the game story – first link below. Check ’em out; it was a wild game.

Crazy game or not, it was still a loss. Tacoma (21-27) needs to get things straightened out. This team has lost 14 of the last 18 games, with a number of blown leads in the late innings recently. It’s still early, yes, but the team needs to make a run to .500 in June if it is going to charge towards the division title in July and August. Might as well get started now.

Monday’s game starts at 1:35 – the Alaska Airlines Pregame Show begins at 1:20 on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. Tacoma starts RHP Andrew Carraway (2-3, 4.91) against El Paso RHP Matt Wisler (0-3, 13.50). Bob Robertson joins me on the air and will call the middle innings today.

Links:

Happy Memorial Day!


Rainiers Split With Little Dogs

May 25, 2014

Tacoma split the Saturday doubleheader with the El Paso Chihuahuas, winning the first game 4-3 while dropping the second, 8-2.

James Paxton pitched the fist game, allowing three runs over three innings. For more on his rehabilitation assignment, check out the first link down below.

Tacoma won that game after Paxton left, when Chance Ruffin delivered three scoreless innings and the Rainiers staged a sixth inning comeback. Gabriel Noriega‘s sac fly brought home the winning run.

Fun stat for you: Chance Ruffin, starting pitcher: 0-3, 8.64 ERA in 25 IP. Chance Ruffin, relief pitcher: 1-0, 1 save, 0.73 ERA in 12.1 IP. He was supposed to relieve all along this year, but was forced into the rotation at the end of spring training due to all of the starting pitcher injuries.

The second game was all El Paso. Chihuahuas shortstop Jace Peterson hit a three-run homer in the fourth inning to make it 5-1, and their starter Michael Nix went the distance for his first career complete game.

A split should have been expected, I suppose: the Rainiers have played four doubleheaders this season, and in each of them the Rainiers have won the first game and lost the second.

Tacoma is now 21-26 on the year. Two games remain in the El Paso series and both are day games at Cheney Stadium on Sunday and Monday.

Sunday’s game starts at 1:35 – the Alaska Airlines Pregame Show begins at 1:20 on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. Tacoma starts LHP James Gillheeney (1-4, 8.41) against El Paso LHP Jason Lane (4-4, 4.09).

Links:

  • We start with the Rainiers game story from The News Tribune, which includes quotes from James Paxton about his rehabilitation outing.
  • My weekly Minor League Notebook for the paper looks at the eight(!) No. 1 prospects currently playing in the Pacific Coast League.
  • The Mariners luck against the Astros ran out – Houston picked up a 9-4 win on Turn Back The Clock Night at Safeco.
  • Brandon Maurer‘s tenuous hold on a rotation spot and a possible draft pick are among the subjects in Bob Dutton’s Mariners Notebook.
  • At the Seattle Times, Ryan Divish has his power rankings.
  • Stefen Romero is getting some starts as the DH, and Taijuan Walker is gearing up for a rehab start in Tacoma on Wednesday.
  • The Cubs have hired Manny Ramirez to be a player-coach at Triple-A Iowa. The Iowa Cubs visit Tacoma August 24-27. Cubs GM Theo Epstein has a statement about it. As easy as it is to joke about this, the reasoning seems sound.
  • The Angels sent Efren Navarro back to Salt Lake and he went 3-for-3 with 3 RBI in the Bees 10-6 win over Fresno.
  • Sacramento starts Dan Straily tossed seven shutout innings and the River Cats won in Vegas, 5-2. Las Vegas star Andrew Brown talked about how hard it is to go from everyday player in Triple-A to pinch-hitter in the big leagues.
  • It was Role Reversal Night in Albuquerque: closer Sam Demel started and tossed five shutout innings, and normal starter Matt Magill nailed down the save in a 3-2 win over Reno.
  • When Colorado Springs pitcher Christian Bergman ends a streak, he really ends a streak. After pitching 30 straight scoreless innings, Bergman got tattooed for eight runs in an 8-3 loss to Iowa.
  • New Orleans took advantage of some errors and had strong relief pitching in a 3-2 win over Nashville.
  • Omaha scored six runs in the first inning and coasted to a 9-3 victory against Round Rock.
  • Domingo Santana homered twice as Oklahoma City downed Memphis, 10-4. Good news: Tony DeFrancesco will return to manage the RedHawks on Tuesday after undergoing successful cancer treatments.

Back to the ballpark! Tacoma and El Paso will be playing their third game in 24 hours.