Today I drove out to Surprise! to see an early version of the Tacoma Rainiers play the Kansas City Royals “Triple-A” group out on the backfields of the baseball complex there.
I put “Triple-A” in quotes because the Royals had major leaguers Chris Young and Greg Holland pitch against Tacoma.
Here’s what the Rainiers lineup looked like today:
- James Jones – CF
- Ketel Marte – SS
- D.J. Peterson – 1B
- Franklin Gutierrez – LF
- Jesus Montero – DH
- Jordy Lara – 3B
- Patrick Kivlehan – RF
- Jack Reinheimer – 2B
- Steve Baron – C
And Tyler Pike was the starting pitcher.
That lineup doesn’t look too far off what we may see on April 9. Second and third base will probably be different, and we expect John Hicks at catcher, Stefen Romero will be in there, but otherwise it seems pretty legit.
Things got off to a great start: Jones beat out a single, Marte drew a walk, and then with Peterson at the plate the duo pulled off a double steal. Peterson popped up, Gutierrez drove in a run with a grounder… and then they ended the inning, because Chris Young had reached 20 pitches.
This would become a theme.
Young was unable to get three outs in 20 pitches in each of the first three innings. Who knows how many runs the Rainiers would have scored without the innings being “rolled over” – which is a common occurrence in minor league spring training games.
When the game ended, the scoreboard said Omaha 7, Tacoma 1 – but that’s really misleading.
A few notes:
- Patrick Kivlehan hit a pair of singles, with one coming off the major leaguer Young (yes, the Mariners fifth starter last season). Kivlehan was also able to make contact against the Royals all-everything closer, Greg Holland (he popped up).
- Kivlehan looked OK in right field. Outfield is a fairly new position for him but I think he’ll see a bit of time out there for Tacoma this season.
- It was nice to see Ketel Marte draw a pair of walks against Young. Patience is something he needs to improve and he had good plate appearances today.
- Franklin Gutierrez had a hard single to left off Young. Guti is playing again after being slowed by a groin injury. He left after five innings (like many players).
- Skinny Montero went 1-for-3 with a single. Didn’t get to see him play first base today.
- There were some mid-game changes, including Jabari Blash entering at first base. He stretched out his mammoth frame to help record a tough out on a grounder in the hole to the second baseman.
- I saw Robinson Cano‘s cousin, Burt Reynolds. He looks absolutely nothing like this guy.
- On the pitching side, Tyler Pike tossed the first four innings and allowed three runs. He’s not going to break camp with the Rainiers but we could see him someday if he regains the form he showed in 2013 with Clinton. Pike is only 21 years old.
- More guys who aren’t likely to be Rainiers this season pitched the middle innings: Moises Hernandez tossed a 1-2-3 fifth inning, and Jordan Shipers worked two rough frames.
- Finally Rainiers reliever Lucas Luetge entered the game. He pitched two scoreless innings to wrap things up, retiring six of the seven batters he faced. I stood behind the radar gun briefly and saw him reach 92.
Apparently Luetge is taking this whole pace-of-play plan seriously: he got called for quick-pitching to Omaha’s Dusty Coleman! The umpire ruled Coleman was in the box but not ready to hit. The Rainiers disagreed – it would have developed into a situation if it wasn’t a meaningless minor league spring training game.
It was fun to be at the field and see a game again. We’ll do it tomorrow, too.
- With his knee problem in the rearview mirror, Willie Bloomquist is now battling a glove problem.
- Left-hander J.A. Happ had a rough outing yesterday, but once again: it’s only spring training.
- In the PCL, the Colorado Springs Sky Sox roster is starting to take shape. The story mentions slugger Matt Clark, who could put up some big numbers at that elevation.
- The Fresno Grizzlies gained national attention by announcing a promotion and then immediately rescinding it. Whatever.
Like today, tomorrow’s post will come late in the day, after I get back from the fields.