Triple-A Tidbits From Mariners Media Day

The Mariners held their annual pre-spring training media day yesterday, and I had the opportunity to attend with a couple of other Tacoma Rainiers employees.

There is always a lot of news from this event, and much of it involves the major league team. For that stuff, use the links below. What I’m going to do here is cover the minor league news that came from the event, and we’re going to do it bullet-point style because I’m feeling lazy and depressed today.

  • First up was trainer Rick Griffin and he opened the day’s main subject, which amazingly enough turned out to be Jesus Montero. Montero has lost about 40 pounds and apparently looks great. He’s turnaround is covered in detail in the links below.
  • Griffin also said that Rainiers pitcher Danny Hultzen will be treated like any other pitcher during spring training. Hultzen missed all of 2014 with shoulder surgery, but Griffin said “when he shows up he’ll do what everyone else is doing. He’ll be on a regular program.”
  • M’s General Manager Jack Zduriencik was next, and he talked about a lot of major league stuff but he did have a few comments that were Rainiers-related. First off, he said that shortstop will be a battle between Chris Taylor and Brad Miller, but he was unsure if the loser of that battle would play for Tacoma or remain in Seattle. He said that would be determined in spring training.
  • Jack Z talked about expected Rainiers corner infielder Patrick Kivlehan. Here are some words he used about the former Rutgers football player: “good athlete” “really tough kid” “very intense” “hard-working” so I think we get the picture here. It sounds like Kivlehan is going to move around the diamond but see a lot of outfield time for Tacoma.
  • Jack’s exact quote on where D.J. Peterson will play was “he’ll play third, he’ll get a shot at first, who knows where he ends up.”
  • The Mariners announced they signed Richland native Shawn O’Malley to a minor league contract. O’Malley was Salt Lake’s lone PCL all-star last year, batting .330-3-38 for the Bees. He can play nearly any position and he got his first big league call-up last September with the Angels. O’Malley is a very good middle infield depth player for the Mariners and Rainiers.
  • Mariners Director of Player Development Chris Gwynn discussed a number of things, including one stunner: Ji-Man Choi has spent his winter working on switch-hitting. He’s always hit left-handed. Choi is 23 years old and that is a very late age to try to learn to switch-hit. This was not a Mariners suggestion – Choi did it on his own, causing Gwynn to just shrug his shoulders and say “kids..”
  • Gwynn said that if Montero gets optioned to Tacoma, he’ll play a lot of first base and not be a permanent DH.
  • It sounds like Gwynn is in favor of a slow-go for the Mariners top teenage investments. Last year’s No. 1 draft pick Alex Jackson will get a chance to make the Low-A Clinton club in spring training, but Gwynn said Jackson would have to earn it and they aren’t going to force the assignment. Sixteen-year-old Venezuelan bonus baby Brayan Hernandez may spend the summer in the Mariners new complex in the Dominican Republic.
  • Mariners Assistant GM Jeff Kingston spoke about the small number of minor league free agents that have been signed. He noted that Triple-A free agents haven’t been that interested in the Mariners, because they don’t see a lot of opportunity to make the big league team. In particular, he said Triple-A relief pitchers have not been interested in signing with Seattle because they see little opportunity for advancement.
  • The one reliever he did sign was Mark Lowe, who Kingston said “has a big-time fastball, a good slider, and he’s happy to be back.”
  • Kingston indicated that veteran pitcher Justin Germano could be used as a starter or a reliever for the Rainiers, and can fill-in in the big leagues in a pinch.
  • Someone asked Kingston about the pitch clock, which is expected to be implemented in Double-A and Triple-A this season (although that is not official yet). He saw some games with it in the Arizona Fall League and said “the pace of play sped up. I don’t think it’s very popular with the players.”
  • Then we had lunch, which included chicken and salmon. Mmmmm…. lunch!

After lunch I recorded some comments from Gwynn about the hiring of new Rainiers manager Pat Listach. We’ll get to that in Monday’s blog update.

Links:

Have a great weekend!

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