Mariners Minor League Camp Fires Up

March 9, 2016

Today is a big day on the minor league side of the Mariners spring training complex in Peoria, Arizona: it’s the first workout for minor league pitchers and catchers.

The position players report this weekend, and next week they’ll have full squads working out for all four full-season minor league teams, plus several dozen more players who are ticketed for the two short-season league teams (these guys are in for a long stay in Arizona).

If you’ve never been to Mariners spring training before, this is what the scene is like: there is one large stadium that is very similar to a Triple-A ballpark. This is where the major league Mariners play their Cactus League games.

Surrounding this one, nice stadium are about seven other well-maintained baseball fields*. These don’t have fan amenities (other than maybe a single bleacher) but the playing surfaces are nice. These fields are where the Mariners minor leaguers work out, and they’ll see a ton of action once the full minor league squads report this weekend.

Here’s an aerial shot of the Mariners side of the complex. The minor league fields are where I hang out on my annual trip to Peoria (which is coming in less than two weeks!).

We’ll continue looking at Rainiers players in the exhibition games as spring training moves on:

Monday – Arizona 10, Seattle 8

Stefen Romero continued his hot spring by adding two more hits in three at-bats… Boog Powell hit a two-run single… Shawn O’Malley kept it going, reaching base in both of his plate appearances (single, walk)… outfielder Daniel Robertson tripled off top prospect Archie Bradley… I’m not convinced he’ll play for Tacoma, but first baseman Dae-Ho Lee hit a long home run off lefty reliever Matt Reynolds.

There were actually some decent Tacoma relief appearances in the 10-8 game: Mayckol Guaipe tossed 1.2 scoreless innings, and David Rollins worked a shutout frame.

Tuesday – Cleveland 4, Seattle 3

The Mariners had just five hits in this game, and all five were by players who might be Rainiers on April 7th… O’Malley, Robertson, Powell, Tyler Smith, and Ed Lucas had the hits… O’Malley also stole two bases.

Pitching was good, including a strong outing by likely Rainiers starter Joe Wieland. Wieland tossed three innings, allowing one hit and one run… Tony Zych delivered a clean 1-2-3 inning, with a pair of strikeouts.

Links:

I have arrived in Las Vegas for my favorite offseason event of the year, the Pac-12 Basketball Tournament. Yet there will still be a new blog post on Friday – probably just a bit later in the day than normal.

* The seven fields are on the Mariners side only – there are probably another seven fields on the Padres side of the complex.


Rainiers In Peoria – Weekend Update

March 7, 2016

Mariners exhibition games are in a daily rhythm now, and the M’s crack PR team makes sure I get a box score in my inbox shortly after each one.

Let’s take a look at the M’s games from the weekend, and see how some potential Rainiers players did in the games.

Friday – Brewers 5, Mariners 2 

Possible Rainiers left fielder Mike Baxter was the story in this one, hitting a two-run homer off Brewers RH reliever Jim Miller. It was the M’s only extra-base hit of the game. Possible Rainiers catcher Steve Baron and third baseman Ed Lucas each hit singles.

On the pitching side, Cody Martin delivered two scoreless innings of one-hit ball in a relief role (although I think he’ll be a starter if he is in Tacoma). Lefthander Paul Fry chipped in with a scoreless frame.

Saturday – Angels 9, Mariners 7

Chris Taylor – who does have a decent chance to make the M’s roster – had a single and a walk in two plate appearances. Tyler Smith played third base and went 1-for-2. Daniel Robertson started in left field and went 1-for-2, hitting his second double of the spring.

Saturday wasn’t a good day for the bullpen, which allowed a lot of hits and walks.

Sunday – Mariners 7, Rangers 3

All three of the players battling for the Mariners utility infielder spot had a good game. Remember, it’s likely two of these three players will end up with the Rainiers. Luis Sardinas continued his hot start with two hits, including a double, a stolen base, and two runs scored. Chris Taylor was 1-for-2 with a steal and an RBI single. Shawn O’Malley went 2-for-3, stole two bases, and scored two runs.

The team mostly used major league pitchers on Sunday, although Paul Fry and Blake Parker each delivered a scoreless inning from the bullpen. Parker is an interesting player if healthy – he’s dominated the PCL previously while with Iowa.

The Rainiers front office tried to put a bored Rhubarb The Reindeer to work during the offseason. Results were, well… you’ll see.

Links:

We are exactly one month from Opening Day! Get your Rainiers opening weekend tickets right here.


Rainiers Manager Works With His Players In Peoria

March 4, 2016

Even though minor league spring training hasn’t officially started yet, Tacoma Rainiers manager Pat Listach has been down in Arizona since day one of Mariners major league spring training, helping out with big league camp.

Listach and Double-A Jackson manager Daren Brown were invited to help with major league camp. This is pretty standard for most organizations: there are so many players in camp, extra coaches are needed. More players means more batting practice to throw, more fungos to hit, more instruction, and more experienced eyes needed to make evaluations.

The Mariners have sixty players in major league camp – more than twice the number who will comprise the opening day roster. Many of the sixty will be on the Rainiers opening day roster, so it makes a lot of sense for Listach to be there.

Listach said that sixty players is far too many to have on one field for batting practice and defensive drills, so they divide them into two groups of thirty. The players split off to either Group A or Group B, and Listach has been put in charge of Group B.

Now that the Cactus League games are underway, the team takes batting practice and infield (along with additional drills) in the morning, then plays the exhibition game at 1:00. Still lots of work for extra coaches.

The first minor league practice game isn’t until March 19th. Usually the Mariners keep the Triple-A manager in major league camp until sometime around the start of the minor league practice games.

By this point, your Triple-A manager has already been working with nearly everyone who will be in Tacoma on April 7. It’s a good way for Listach to learn all of his personnel.

Links:

  • The Mariners played their first exhibition game of the 2016 season on Wednesday, whitewashing the Padres 7-0. The Times has a photo gallery from the game.
  • The undefeated Mariners juggernaut beat the Padres again on Thursday, 6-5. Luis Sardinas made the first statement in the battle for the utility infielder job, driving home four runs in the victory.
  • Kudos to Bob Dutton for asking a question I was truly curious about: how does Jesus Montero feel about the Mariners signing all of these first basemen to compete against him for a job? Seems like he is OK with it.
  • Ryan Divish took a good look at Nathan Karns, who tossed two scoreless innings yesterday.
  • Franklin Gutierrez homered in the Cactus League opener, and he is feeling good. In this notebook, an item on the Mariners new Cuban players who might appear in games for Tacoma this year.
  • Here’s an item from the Times on the Mariners signing PCL superstar Efren Navarro.
  • I have no idea how these things work, but Korean first baseman Dae-Ho Lee has traveled to Canada in order to get a work visa so he can play baseball in the United States. No explanation here, either.
  • USS Mariner’s marc w took a look at the combined prospect rankings of the Mariners farm system, from five different sources.
  • “Hey, how are you doing? What’s going on?”… “Oh, I’m fine, nothing happening here except I found seven Ty Cobb cards from 1910 in a paper bag in the attic.” If you are like me and are into these types of stories, you can find a much more detailed version right here.

Have a good weekend, and if you’re cleaning out the attic don’t throw away any paper bags without seeing what is in them.


M’s Add PCL Superstar; Games Start Today

March 2, 2016

This morning the Mariners announced that they have signed PCL superstar Efren Navarro to a minor league contract, immediately inviting him to major league spring training.

PCL fans know Navarro: he’s been the toughest out in the Salt Lake Bees lineup for the past five years. Here are his numbers in the PCL – batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage:

  • 2011: .317/.368/.488 – 36 doubles, 6 triples, 12 HR.
  • 2012: .294/.336/.403 – a down year by his standards
  • 2013: .326/.404/.454 – 39 doubles, 68 walks
  • 2014: .326/.418/.482 – 19 doubles, 43 walks in 72 games
  • 2015: .329/.380/.442 – 24 doubles in 72 games

He’s a career .316 hitter in the PCL, and he does all of this while playing gold glove quality defense at first base.

In recent seasons Navarro has been moved to the outfield because first base in Anaheim is blocked by Albert Pujols. He’s spent about half of each of the last two seasons as a reserve player in the majors.

Navarro is the modern-era Salt Lake franchise leader in almost every offensive category, and someday they’ll honor him at Smith’s Ballpark. In the meantime, maybe we’ll get him in Tacoma this year?

Exhibition games start today! The Mariners face the Padres at 12:10 (Pacific), and it’s radio only on 710 AM – listen as my radio buddies shake off the offseason rust! (Actually, Rizzs is a machine – he’s in midseason form 365 days/year).

Lineups:

Media preview

Hey, don’t we know one of those Padres?

Links:

Enjoy a sort-of real baseball game today!