Rainiers Spring Training – Day Three

Today the Rainiers played the El Paso Chihuahuas on the Padres side of the Peoria Sports Complex. We were on a quadrant of fields behind the main stadium, and the Padres and Mariners Double-A teams were playing each other on a neighboring field.

This was a sloppy game for the Rainiers, and I’m glad they got it out of the way during spring training. In fact, had this happened during the regular season, I may have been compelled to describe it as a “stinker.”

Tacoma’s first two outs in the top of the first inning were made at third base.

James Jones had a great at-bat to open the game, seeing several pitches from El Paso lefty Robbie Erlin before crushing a deep opposite-field double. He was immediately caught trying to steal third base.

Ketel Marte drew a walk, and Kevin Rivers singled hard to right field – and Marte tried to go first-to-third, but was thrown out by the El Paso right fielder.

In the third inning, Tyler Smith hit a leadoff triple when the center fielder misplayed his fly ball. He was stranded at third base when the next three hitters went strikeout, strikeout, strikeout.

The game was 0-0 going to the bottom of the fifth when James Gillheeney came in to pitch for Tacoma. He allowed a leadoff double and then walked the next guy – trouble, right? Well he bore down and should have gotten out of the inning unscathed, but a series of defensive blunders behind him allowed three runs to score and the inning was “rolled over” (i.e. ended before three outs were recorded). There was a dropped soft liner that ended up as a single, a double play grounder that resulted in zero outs… that kind of stuff.

That being said, there were some positive developments for Tacoma:

  • Starting pitcher Mike Kickham looked really sharp, delivering four scoreless innings and striking out many. I wasn’t counting, but he may have had as many as seven strikeouts. Left-handed batters in particular struggled to make contact against him. I believe he allowed just one hit.
  • John Hicks started at catcher and yanked a hard double to left field. Hitting coach Cory Snyder said that Hicks has looked better at the plate this spring.
  • Franklin Gutierrez played left field again, giving further indication that he’s healthy and may break camp with the Rainiers.
  • D.J. Peterson played first base for the second day in a row, leading me to wonder if he may see more time at the position than the Mariners have publicly indicated. He didn’t have any hard-hit balls while I was watching.
  • I can’t stop looking at Skinny Montero. It’s truly amazing.
  • Left-hander Kyle Hunter looked impressive in the seventh inning, notching a pair of strikeouts while allowing one single. Hunter had some success at Double-A Jackson and could see some Triple-A time this season.
  • There was an interesting surprise in the eighth inning. A 23-year-old righthander named Richard Vargas came in the game throwing 95 mph fastballs that had some movement. He’s a late bloomer due to an elbow fracture that limited his innings for three years, from 2011-2013. Last year he relieved at Jackson and had some pedestrian statistics, but seeing him in person makes you think he has a chance to reach the majors. It’s a big league fastball, at least. He’s a name to file away.

Other than the two relief pitchers mentioned above, the late innings were played by lower-level players after the starters left the game.

I spent some time with new skipper Pat Listach on Wednesday evening and came away impressed. He’s a fiery guy. I’m not sure if that is going to reveal itself in terms of on-field antics, but he’s definitely a high-intensity guy. I think that Rainiers fans are going to like him.

I asked him about his managerial style and he said it depends on his player personnel. He was a speed player and he likes to put the game in motion – but only if he has players capable of playing that way.

In Wednesday’s Triple-A game, James Jones and Ketel Marte executed a double-steal in the top of the first inning with no outs. Listach said that Jones will always have the green light – so that should be fun.

Heard back from Andrew Carraway today. He says he finds it funny to say he is “retired,” saying that Tom Glavine gets to retire; he just stopped playing baseball and is doing something else. He’s now working full-time for an investment firm in Richmond, Virginia.

Links:

That’s it for this spring training trip. I fly home on Friday morning and will be in attendance at the Rainiers Preseason Party on Saturday – so come say “hi.”

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