M’s Update: Wild Card, Bakersfield, Hultzen

There was some baseball news to pass along from the weekend, but first a word about the blog: we are in off-season mode now that the minor league season is over, so that means no more posts on Saturday and Sunday anymore. I’ll have new content two or three times a week during the business days. I’ve got a list of off-season topics to write about, and some of them are going to be pretty fun.

As for the weekend that was, well… it was a rough one for our Seattle Mariners, who dropped two-of-three games at Houston. It is now crunch time in the push for the playoffs: the Mariners are two games behind Oakland and 1.5 games behind Kansas City, and they need to pass one of those teams to make the playoffs. The final week starts tonight – here are the schedules:

  • SEATTLE: (7) four games at Toronto, three vs. Los Angeles Angels.
  • OAKLAND: (7) three games vs. LA Angels, four at Texas.
  • KANSAS CITY: (8) four games at Cleveland*, four at Chicago White Sox

* one of KC’s four games at Cleveland is the completion of a suspended game which KC trails 4-2 in the tenth inning. This game will be completed today.

The Mariners need to take care of their own business and start winning games again. Something like a 5-2 finish could do the trick.

The Mariners changed affiliates in the Advanced-A California League, switching from High Desert to Bakersfield.

By moving to Bakersfield, the Mariners will no longer have prospects playing 70 home games in the notorious launching pad of High Desert. Instead, they’ll play 70 home games in the not-quite-as-notorious launching pad of Bakersfield’s Sam Lynn Ballpark.

Locals have been trying (and failing) to replace Bakersfield’s ballpark for decades. It’s an ancient mistake: they built it facing the wrong way, so the sun sets in straight-away center field. There is (or used to be – I worked in the California League from 1996-1998) a tall sun screen behind the center field fence. Often, 7:05 games would start ten or 15 minutes late – the umpires would wait until the sun was low enough to no longer shine directly into the batter’s eyes.

Why would the Mariners move their affiliate to this place?

It appears that the M’s are gambling on the future.

Plans are afoot to build a new ballpark in Salinas, California and move the Bakersfield franchise there. This could happen as soon as 2016 if everything falls in place – there is a key city council meeting on Tuesday.

By signing on with Bakersfield now, the Mariners could find their affiliate playing in a shiny new park in two years.

I received some encouraging news about Rainiers pitcher Danny Hultzen over the weekend.

Hultzen – who missed the entire 2014 season with shoulder surgery – is recovering nicely. He faced live hitters for his first time on Friday down at the Mariners instructional league in Peoria, Arizona. Reports are that Hultzen looked good – and also happy, as he was finally pitching again after a long and grueling rehabilitation process.

I don’t know what the Mariners plan to have Hultzen do next, but for now this is great news. Hopefully he can be ready to compete for a rotation spot in Tacoma next spring.

Links:

  • The postseason outlook is included in this Mariners game story covering Sunday’s loss. The Mariners rotation is struggling, including yesterday’s starter Hisashi Iwakuma.
  • There is big pressure on rookie James Paxton to deliver a strong outing tonight in Toronto. He’ll be pitching on his native soil for the first time in seven years, according to Bob Dutton’s Mariners notebook.
  • Here’s the press release on the Mariners switch from High Desert to Bakersfield.
  • If you haven’t seen this yet, PCL MVP Joc Pederson – now a lowly rookie with the Dodgers – was asked to go on a pregame Starbucks run for the veterans. In full uniform. The photo was shot outside Wrigley Field.
  • Omaha has won three of the last four PCL titles, and the wave of talent isn’t done yet.
  • I wrote on Friday about how the PCL affiliation changes (nearly) wiped out the Triple-A version of the Mariners-A’s rivalry. Turns out the PCL version of the Giants-Dodgers rivalry suffered the same fate.
  • Fresno’s Chris Dominguez is enjoying his first big league call-up, and he hit his first Major League home run on Sunday. The story of what happened to the baseball is a new one.
  • John McGrath ranked and commented on the 30 MLB teams in Sunday’s News Tribune.
  • In his Sunday column for the Seattle Times, Ryan Divish picked his MLB award winners. He also has his power rankings.
  • Baseball history alert: it’s the 50th anniversary of one of the biggest collapses in MLB history. Chico Ruiz helped doom the 1964 Phillies, and his story is a unique one.
  • If you don’t enjoy this Vine of a fan catching a home run with his popcorn bucket, we just can’t be friends anymore.

Our next blog update will come on Wednesday.

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