Greetings from sunny Peoria, Arizona, where it is 81 degrees at first pitch of today’s Mariners-Padres Cactus League game.
I’m writing from the press box at the big league game – which is not what I expected to do today.
My goal on this annual trip is to watch the Triple-A club as much as possible. And I’ll be doing that on Wednesday and Thursday, but today I struck out.
The entire Mariners minor league system had a half-day today. The pitchers threw bullpens and the hitters took batting practice in the morning, but there were no minor league games in the afternoon.
Luckily my flight to Phoenix was early and I was able to watch some Rainiers batting practice, and briefly speak with new manager Pat Listach.
Here are a few things I saw out at the minor league field:
- First things first: upon arriving at the camp, I stopped by the Mariners office and talked to a few folks I know. Multiple people brought up Rainiers pitcher Jordan Pries, talking about how impressive he has looked in big league camp. Apparently he’s picked up a couple of miles-per-hour on his fastball and has been in the 92-93 range this spring. It’s good to see him getting noticed here – he’s all but destined to start the season with the Rainiers, but a good impression from spring training can help him get called up later.
- The story about Jesus Montero losing 40-45 pounds is totally true. You should see the guy – he’s almost skinny. A coach told me the weight loss has improved his athleticism and he’s better at first base than we saw last year – I’ll keep an eye on this the next two days while I’m watching games.
- Whoa, Brad Miller just smoked a double in this big league game. Shot to right-center. Mariners are facing Padres No. 1 starter Andrew Cashner (maybe No. 2 now that they have James Shields?).
- In a Triple-A batting practice session at minor league spring training, there are a lot of dudes hitting. Far more than will actually be on the Rainiers roster in April. The grouping is a generalization at this point – the Mariners Player Development Department headed by Chris Gwynn will figure out where players are actually being assigned during the first week of April.
- I ran into last year’s manager Roy Howell, who is back where the organization originally intended for him to be last year: the Double-A Jackson hitting coach. Roy said he’ll miss Tacoma, and he had a nice off-season on the ocean in his hometown of Lompoc, California. I made sure to remind him that he should brag about having a winning record during his season unexpectedly managing the Triple-A club (his Rainiers went 74-70).
- (It’s weird seeing Matt Kemp in a Padres uniform)
- Talked to former Rainiers pitcher Rich Dorman, who will spend the 2015 as the Mariners pitching coach for their entry-level team in the Arizona Rookie League. We reminisced about his 14-strikeout game against the Salt Lake Bees in 2006 – he’s still unhappy that then-manager Dave Brundage pulled him after eight innings and 92 pitches. No Tacoma player has had 14 strikeouts since Dorman did it. I brought up this subject because Taijuan Walker made a run at it last season, when he struck out 13 Fresno Grizzlies on August 10.
Time for me to start paying attention to this big league game: expected Rainiers Carlos Rivero and Shawn O’Malley have just entered the game, along with possible Rainiers Jabari Blash and Daniel Paolini. Also I’ll get my first look at top prospect Alex Jackson, who I expect will be assigned to Low-A Clinton.
- The national media is hyping the Seattle Mariners. Larry Stone gets to the bottom of this startling reality.
- Here’s an example: national baseball writer Jeff Passan has an article titled “It’s World Series Or Bust For The Mariners.”
- Even Sports Illustrated has the Mariners on the cover of one of their six regional preseason issues.
- Ryan Divish’s Mariners Morning Musings wonder if today’s exhibition is featuring the opening day lineup.
- Both the Seattle Times and The News Tribune have articles on Mike Zunino‘s attempt to improve at the plate.
- I was asked to ramble about the Mariners for the Baseball Prospectus podcast, so I did. (The podcast is on the free access part of the site).
- The Associated Press has a story on the pace-of-play measures which are being implemented in Double-A and Triple-A. Interesting that the pitchers interviewed think that hitters will have more of an issue with the new rules than pitchers.
- Ex-Rainiers infielder Nick Franklin strained an oblique and won’t be ready for opening day with Tampa Bay.
That’s it for today. Tomorrow I’ll drive out to Surprise! to see Tacoma play Omaha at the Kansas City Royals complex. I’ll get a full report posted as soon as i am able – hopefully Wednesday evening, but possibly Thursday morning.