Injury Scares Temper Excitement Of First Spring Games

February 27, 2018

Baseball games! We just had a weekend of baseball games!

Hold the enthusiasm for a minute, Mariners fans, because the games were somewhat terrifying.

Injuries keep coming, although it seems that the M’s caught a few “lucky” breaks.

The scariest moment came yesterday, when Felix Hernandez was smoked by a line drive – which hit him near the elbow of his pitching arm. Fortunately, the X-rays came back negative, and Felix is listed as “day-to-day.” However, he’s still in pain and he’ll be treated with caution. The most current update is the first link down below.

Another scare came when Dan Vogelbach was drilled in the foot by a pitch on Friday. He remained in the game at the time, but later that night it swelled up and he was wearing a walking boot the next day. Again we got somewhat fortunate: it was simply a deep bruise, and in fact Vogelbach is back in the lineup today as the designated hitter – so he only missed three games.

With Ryon Healy (progressing nicely!) and Erasmo Ramirez (no recent updates) still on the shelf, it’s been a rocky camp for Seattle.

Here’s a rundown of the first four exhibition games:

In the Cactus League opener on Friday the Mariners beat San Diego, 3-2. Kyle Seager had a couple of hits and a nice defensive play. Potential Tacoma starters Andrew Moore and Christian Bergman each pitched two scoreless innings.

On Saturday the White Sox rallied late to beat the Mariners, 5-3. Taylor Motter and Gordon Beckham each had two hits, but the White Sox took the lead with a pair of runs in the eighth inning against reliever Mike Morin.

The pitching shined on Sunday, when the Mariners shut out the Dodgers, 2-0. Marco Gonzales, Juan Nicasio, Edwin Diaz, Rob Whalen, Chasen Bradford, and Sam Moll combined on a two-hit shutout.

Monday was scary, when Felix Hernandez was hit in his right forearm by a line drive and left the game in obvious pain. Fortunately, X-rays were negative. Potential Rainiers third baseman Seth Mejias-Brean hit a grand slam in what turned out to be a 9-9 tie with the Chicago Cubs.

Here’s someone to root for: former Rainiers pitcher Danny Hultzen is attempting a comeback, and the Chicago Cubs are giving him a chance.

The Mariners first round pick in 2011, Hultzen had two major arm surgeries and eventually parted ways with Seattle. He has not pitched since 2016, and the last time he was fully healthy was in 2013 – and when he was healthy, he was really good (4-1, 2.05 ERA in six starts for Tacoma and on the brink of the majors at the time of his injury that year).

According to the Chicago Tribune, Hultzen finished his degree at the University of Virginia while resting his arm. It would be pretty neat if Hultzen was with the Iowa Cubs when they visit Tacoma in June.



Sorting Out The Tacoma Bullpen Candidates

February 23, 2018

It’s time for our final spring training positional preview, in which we look at the 2018 Tacoma Rainiers bullpen candidates.

We’ve done these previews for at least five years now, and the bullpen section is always kind of silly. There are just so many players who could end up being in the Rainiers bullpen.

It starts at the top, with the big league club, and there is always a spring training battle for a spot or two (or some years, three or four) in the Seattle bullpen.

Mix in the injury issues that often crop up with pitchers, and you begin to realize how fluid the whole situation is.

I think it’s easiest to lump the relievers into groups. These are my generalizations and may not reflect the opinions of Scott Servais and Jerry Dipoto.


These relievers appear to be locks to make the big league bullpen, if healthy.

  • Edwin Diaz
  • Juan Nicasio
  • James Pazos
  • David Phelps
  • Marc Rzepczynski
  • Nick Vincent
  • Tony Zych

If they go with an eight-man bullpen, which they probably will, they’ll add one more.


  • Shawn Armstrong
  • Marco Gonzales

These two cannot be optioned to Tacoma without going through waivers, giving them a leg up to make the big league team. Gonzales is battling for the fifth starter role in the rotation, but if someone beats him out he’ll end up in the bullpen (hard to imagine the M’s prized trade acquisition getting DFA’d). Armstrong was acquired from Cleveland and is under pressure to make the big league team; spring training results will be particularly meaningful for him.


  • Ariel Miranda

Miranda is competing for the No. 5 starter role, but what if he doesn’t get it? The M’s will have to decide if they want him working as a long man in the major league bullpen, or if they prefer to have him starting games in Tacoma. The recent injury to Erasmo Ramirez may affect Miranda’s situation.


  • Dan Altavilla
  • Chasen Bradford
  • Sam Moll
  • Mike Morin
  • Nick Rumbelow

These relievers are all on the 40-man roster, and as far as I can tell have minor league options remaining. Each of them has appeared in the majors – Morin has three years of service – and each of them will be given an opportunity to show their stuff in the Cactus League. Each of them will pitch for Tacoma if they don’t make the big league team.


  • Ryan Cook
  • Ryan Garton
  • Johendi Jiminian

Very different backgrounds here, but all three have been invited to big league camp. Cook is an established major leaguer coming off of major elbow surgery; not sure where he stands physically right now but he’s been out for two years. Garton spent time in the majors with Tampa and Seattle the last two seasons, and figures to be a Rainiers reliever unless he dominates in Arizona and makes the big club. Jiminian has limited Triple-A experience and could go to Tacoma or Double-A Arkansas – but the organization is curious to see how he looks at the highest level in spring training.


  • Christian Bergman
  • Casey Lawrence

These are good Triple-A starters and returning Tacoma Rainiers who have previously pitched as starters and long relievers when in the majors. Both are non-roster invitees to big league camp.


  • Pat Light

Light finished the 2017 season with Tacoma and remains in the organization. He’ll report to minor league camp next week.


  • Matt Festa
  • Art Warren

This duo is joined at the hip. They both had breakout seasons at Class-A Modesto in 2017. They went to the prospect-laden Arizona Fall League as a pair, and reports were positive. They have been invited to big league camp. Might a strong Cactus League showing by one (or both) result in a leap over Double-A and an assignment with Tacoma? Stay tuned and find out.


  • Darin Gillies

Nobody ever talks about him, but the Arizona State product has a career 2.97 ERA since being selected in the tenth round of the 2015 draft. Gillies had a 3.32 ERA in 59 innings last year at Double-Arkansas and could be in line for a promotion.


  • Scott Kuzminsky

The Puyallup High School graduate toiled for three years in independent leagues before the Mariners rescued him late last season. He appeared in nine games – seven with short-season Everett, and two for Tacoma. He has only one month of affiliated experience, but his age (26) is Double-A or Triple-A appropriate.

That’s our look at the Rainiers relief candidates – and I apologize if I missed anyone, which is always a possibility in this large category.

The exhibition games started today. We’ll be back with a new post on Tuesday to see what we learned from the first four Cactus League games.


  • Ryan Divish has a fun story on local product Matt Hague, who we expect will play for Tacoma this year. The Kentwood High School and UW product grew up idolizing Edgar Martinez, and now Edgar is his hitting coach in spring training.
  • Divish also caught up with Hisashi Iwakuma. It sounds like ‘Kuma is working very hard on this comeback, and we may see the final stages of the process at Cheney.
  • Potential Rainiers outfielder Braden Bishop (maybe mid-season if he does well at Double-A?) has done massive work raising money to help fight Alzheimer’s disease. Matt Calkins has the story.
  • Pitcher Rob Whalen revealed that he left the Rainiers last year due to depression. He has gotten help, and is back in spring training. Good story from Greg Johns.
  • The Mariners made the Junior Lake signing official and he is now a Potential Rainier.
  • Greg Johns looks at a couple of dark horses to make the Mariners opening day roster.
  • The Mariners have not announced who the opening day starter will be, so the Seattle Times columnists had a mini-debate. Matt Calkins said it should be their best pitcher, James Paxton. Larry Stone writes that Felix Hernandez has earned the assignment.
  • Looks like the Mariners are going to open the 2019 season with a couple of games in Tokyo against the A’s.
  • Umpires get promotions, too: longtime PCL umpire Stu Scheurwater is now a full-time major league umpire.


Injuries Hit Mariners Early

February 20, 2018

Any hope that the Mariners used up all of their bad injury luck last year was dashed in the first week of spring training camp.

First it was first baseman Ryon Healy, out four-to-six weeks with wrist surgery.

Then it was starting pitcher Erasmo Ramirez, who is out for several weeks with a strained lat.

Now it is top prospect Kyle Lewis, who is still having trouble with his surgically repaired right knee. He underwent another surgery to have the knee “cleaned up” and the current hope is that he’ll be able to play by late April.

At least it is early in spring training. Healy should be able to return in early April; and the team has in-house candidates like Dan Vogelbach, Matt Hague, and Mike Ford to cover for a week or two if needed.

The loss of Erasmo Ramirez is concerning, due to the nature of the injury. The M’s are confident that they caught the injury early and he won’t be out long, but I’ve seen lat issues knock out pitchers for months.

The latest Lewis news is another blow to the farm system. He is considered a potential impact player in the majors, but he just hasn’t been able to get on the field. Hopefully this latest procedure will resolve the issue.

As Mariners fans, shouldn’t we be done with all of this? We’ve paid our dues.

Major League Baseball announced the pace-of-play rules it will be implementing in 2018, and they came up with an intriguing idea that does not include a pitch clock.

We use the pitch clock in the PCL, and it works wonders to shorten games when the rules are enforced by the umpires. However, the umpires rarely enforced the rules in 2017, and we lost the gains that had been made in terms of trimming time of game.

Maybe MLB doesn’t want to deal with umpires arbitrarily enforcing pitch clock rules, because the plan for 2018 is to cut down mound visits instead.

Each team is now allowed just six mound visits per game. This is total visits by coaches and players – including the catcher.

I like it. Catchers constantly visiting the mound to talk to the pitcher really bogs down the game. Some catchers are serial offenders (though the catchers might say it is certain pitchers that cause them to have many meetings).

This may cause a slight change in the way signals are delivered between pitcher and catcher, and also from the dugout to the battery. I’m curious to see the end result.

And look for a few early season blowups between managers and umpires regarding what actually constitutes a mound visit. The rules are pretty clear, but you can imagine all kinds of vague situations on the fringes. Here’s one: runners are on base, catcher walks several feet in front of home to flash defensive signals to the infielders, pitcher walks a few steps in front of the mound rubbing up a new baseball and they exchange words 20 feet apart from one another. Is that a mound visit?

It will be interesting to see if the new rules cut down dead time. You can find the new MLB rules right here.

For now, I have not heard of any changes in the PCL. I assume we are continuing with the pitch clocks, and I do think it makes sense to add the mound visit rule since the majors are using it. I’ll let you know what I find out.


  • Matt Calkins has a good column on the limiting of mound visits.
  • Ryan Divish has the entire Kyle Lewis injury history right here. One very nasty plate collision at short-season Everett has had a lasting impact.
  • Here’s the story on Erasmo Ramirez‘s lat strain.
  • James Paxton is doing many things to try to stay healthy this year, including changes to his diet.
  • John McGrath doesn’t think the relationship between Felix Hernandez and the Mariners is going to end well.
  • Mariners closer Edwin Diaz wants to pitch like a veteran on the mound.
  • Ryan Divish tweeted a photo of Rainiers manager Pat Listach and former manager Daren Brown from Peoria.
  • Celebrity Tacoma Rainiers fan and ceremonial first pitch thrower Isaiah Thomas had his number retired at the University of Washington on Saturday.
  • Bryce Brentz – who won the Triple-A All-Star Home Run Derby at Cheney Stadium last summer – is on the move. With no room for him in the big leagues, the Red Sox sold him to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Hopefully he’ll get a chance to play there.
  • Good read of the week: when utility infielder Ryan Flaherty left the Baltimore Orioles as a free agent a few days ago, a columnist wrote about how incredibly rare and difficult it is to reach the major leagues. It’s a reminder of how elite the Triple-A players we watch are.

Check back on Friday for our final spring training positional preview, when we look at the 2018 Tacoma Rainiers bullpen candidates.

Plenty Of Starting Pitchers In Camp For Rainiers

February 16, 2018

We continue our positional preview series by looking at potential 2018 Tacoma Rainiers starting pitchers.

Starting pitching is an area that the national media (and much of the fan base) sees as a weakness for the Seattle Mariners, but general manager Jerry Dipoto insists that he is happy with the big league rotation options.

At the Triple-A level, Dipoto has gathered a large group of arms to battle for spots in the Rainiers starting rotation.

The major league starting rotation appears to be Felix Hernandez, James Paxton, Mike Leake, Erasmo Ramirez, and Marco Gonzales. There is a chance Ariel Miranda or Andrew Moore or someone else could have a huge spring training and elbow his way into the group. Injuries are always a wild card, too.

Both Miranda and Moore have minor league options remaining and can be freely sent to Triple-A. Miranda has some added flexibility, with experience as a middle reliever – if he doesn’t make the M’s rotation, they might slide him into the major league bullpen as the long man.

From where I sit before spring training has really gotten under way, it appears that Moore is likely to be in Tacoma’s rotation at the start of the season.

Several other potential Rainiers starting pitchers are also hoping to make some noise in major league spring training.

Christian Bergman re-signed with the Mariners; he split his 2017 season between Tacoma and Seattle. He has a track record of success in the Pacific Coast League and would be a welcome member of the Tacoma rotation.

The M’s are recommitting to Max Povse as a starting pitcher after testing him in the bullpen last year. The gigantic right-hander should be taking the ball every fifth day for the Rainiers.

Strike thrower Casey Lawrence is back on a minor league deal. The one-man pace-of-play solution will battle for a big league rotation or bullpen spot, but we’ll take him with open arms if he comes to Tacoma.

Chase De Jong maintained his spot on the 40-man roster despite a rocky 2017 season. The 24-year-old deserves another look in Triple-A this year.

Former reliever Sam Moll was picked up during the offseason. The lefty was a starter in college, and when the M’s acquired him Dipoto said they may look at Moll as a starter this year – something he hasn’t done since 2013. We’ll keep an eye out and see if Moll is built up as a starter during spring training.

Minor league veteran Lindsey Caughel was a unicorn last year, spending the entire season in the starting rotation at Double-A Arkansas while the roster swirled around him. The 27-year-old put up strong numbers, too, posting a 3.71 ERA while issuing very few walks over 26 starts.

A few other names are in the mix. Rob Whalen – who suddenly left the Rainiers and went home after a mid-summer start in Reno last year – has been removed from the restricted list and is in camp, but it is difficult to determine where he currently stands in the eyes of the organization. Left-hander Andrew Misiewicz is back after a brief detour to the Tampa Bay Rays organization; he made a dozen solid starts at the Double-A level in 2017 and could pitch his way to Tacoma.

Finally, there is Hisashi Iwakuma, trying to come back from shoulder surgery. He’s on a minor league deal and Tacoma could be in his future once he is healthy.

Outside of the starting rotation, we have a new player in the mix. The Mariners signed veteran outfielder Junior Lake to a minor league contract, and he’s in camp now.

A former major leaguer with the Cubs and Orioles, Lake played in the Mexican League last year. I was surprised to see he is only 27 years old; his solid rookie campaign with the Cubs was back in 2013.

With the glut of Triple-A outfielders in camp (scroll down a couple posts for the outfield preview), it feels like Lake would have to show some ability to help in the majors this year in order to get an assignment to Tacoma at the end of spring camp.

The team also signed left-handed pitcher Tyler Matzek, and he’ll report to minor league camp. Matzek is a sort of “let’s take a look” signing: he’s a former Colorado Rockies first round pick who had great stuff but big control problems. Matzek harnessed his control and had a solid rookie season in 2014, then got detoured by injuries and a return of the wildness. He did not pitch in 2017, but he’s left-handed and lefties have nine lives, so the M’s are going to monitor him this spring.

You have probably heard that new Mariners first baseman Ryon Healy had minor wrist surgery and is out for 4-to-6 weeks. A couple quick thoughts:

If the recovery schedule holds, Healy should be ready to come back right when the season starts. If he’s on the longer end of the recovery period, Healy could have a few rehabilitation games with the Rainiers at the start of the season.

The injury paves an opening for Dan Vogelbach or Rule 5 Draft pick Mike Ford to possibly make the opening day roster. Both players should get lots of at-bats in the Cactus League.


Rainiers Radio: Same Station, New Format

February 13, 2018

If you have recently tuned in to the Tacoma Rainiers flagship radio station 850 AM you have noticed the change: it’s no longer an all-sports station.

South Sound Sports 850 is no more. The new name is South Sound Talk 850, and much of the programming is syndicated national conservative political talk shows.

This change was made by the owners of the station, iHeartMedia (formerly Clear Channel). iHeartMedia owns a cluster of stations in the Seattle/Tacoma market, including the sports station 950 KJR. iHeartMedia recently acquired 1090 AM, made that an all-sports station, and switched the 850 programming. Some of the national sports talk shows that used to be on 850 are now airing on 1090.

Tacoma Rainiers broadcasts are going to remain on 850 AM. A three-year deal was struck, lasting through the 2020 season.

We’re sticking with 850 despite the programming change because of one huge reason: signal strength in our market. The 850 AM transmission tower is located right here in Tacoma, where most Rainiers fans live.

Like the majority of AM stations, 850 AM is required to reduce its power at sundown due to FCC rules regarding emergency broadcast protocol. Even when 850 AM turns down at night, you can still hear it clearly in Tacoma and much of the surrounding area.

The majority of our games are at night, of course. We end up getting a booming signal for day games, and after sunset the reduced-strength signal is focused in the area where the majority of our fans are located.

Other benefits of staying with 850 AM include the ability to do marketing cross-promotions with other iHeartMedia radio stations, and being able to rely on their incredible engineering department when the inevitable “technical difficulties” arise.

If you live outside the 850 AM coverage area, don’t worry. Since you are reading this blog, that means you have the internet, and all Rainiers broadcasts will stream live around the globe via the World Wide Web.

And I promise there will be no political talk – conservative or otherwise – during the Tacoma Rainiers broadcasts.

Mariners pitchers and catchers report to spring training on Wednesday. We’ll have a fresh post for you on Friday, looking at the 2018 Tacoma Rainiers starting rotation candidates.


A Crowd In The Rainiers Outfield

February 8, 2018

Today we’ll take a look at the candidates to break camp as outfielders on the 2018 Tacoma Rainiers opening day roster. There are quite a few of them.

Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto has brought in four potential Triple-A outfielders from outside the organization. In addition, the outfield is one of the few areas (along with the bullpen) in which there are some homegrown prospects getting close to reaching the Triple-A level.

Let’s start with the established Triple-A outfielders.

Cameron Perkins was picked up from the Phillies during this offseason, he’s a member of the Mariners 40-man major league roster, and he has minor league options remaining. At this point it is hard to see him cracking the M’s opening day roster, although you never know how spring training will play out. At age 27, the 6-foot-5 right-handed hitter figures to put up good numbers if he is playing in the PCL. He hit .288 with seven homers and a .373 on-base percentage in 76 games for Lehigh Valley in the pitcher-friendly International League last year.

The Mariners signed veteran Kirk Nieuwenhuis as soon as minor league free agency opened in November. Nieuwenhuis has nearly four years of major league service time with the Mets and Brewers, and lots of PCL experience with Las Vegas and Colorado Springs. Nieuwenhuis is a good outfielder capable of handling center, he has some power at the plate, and at age 30 he brings veteran experience.

After three full seasons with the Iowa Cubs, John Andreoli became a free agent and the Mariners signed him to a minor league deal. He has something of a speed and power combination, batting .258 with 31 homers and 102 stolen bases over three years in the PCL. The power has come on the last two seasons, and he hit a career-high 14 homers in 2017. Andreoli draws quite a few walks and reaches base at a good clip (.366 OBP over the last three years).

A returner from last year is Andrew Aplin. The left-hand hitting Arizona State product was an early season acquisition from Fresno last season, but he appeared in just 47 games for Tacoma due to a knee injury. He hit .243 with five homers for the Rainiers, and I get the feeling we didn’t really see him at full strength.

Speedster Ian Miller should be back. He hit .326 and was 30-for-34 stealing bases in 83 games for Double-A Arkansas last year before being promoted to Tacoma in July. His average dipped to .268 in his first taste of Triple-A ball, but they couldn’t stop him when he reached base: he was 13-for-14 stealing in the PCL.

That’s five outfielders right there, but there are others in the organization who are ready for Triple-A now, or soon will be.

Two multiple-position players from last year’s Rainiers team are in the picture. Danny Muno can play both the infield and the outfield; he’s a PCL veteran who will be in camp. We’ll list Dario Pizzano as an outfielder, though he also plays first base and sees a lot of time as a designated hitter. The likable Pizzano has split the past two seasons between AA and AAA, putting up strong numbers for Arkansas but scuffling a bit in a bench role when in Tacoma.

Chuck Taylor hit .274 with a .367 on-base percentage as an everyday player for Arkansas last season; he showed a little power with nine homers. He kept it going in Winter Ball, travelling to Venezuela and getting a whopping 228 extra at-bats in, batting .333 on the nose for Cardenales de Lara. He’s a 24-year-old switch-hitter who has not yet appeared in a Triple-A game.

University of Washington product Braden Bishop is generally considered one of the better prospects in the M’s system right now, and he could reach Triple-A at some point this season. Bishop spent most of 2017 at Class-A Modesto, where he hit .296 in 88 games, but he also hit for Double-A Arkansas after a late-season promotion: .336 in 31 games. Bishop carries the reputation of being a good defensive outfielder who figures to hit for average without much power. He’s slotted to open at Arkansas, but a mid-season promotion looks like a possibility if things go well.

A notable omission from this list is Eric Filia, who crushed it last year at Class-A Modesto and then tore up the Arizona Fall League. He was a candidate to possibly jump Double-A with a good spring, but alas: he tested positive for “drugs of abuse” (which is not PEDs – quite the opposite, some would say) and has to serve a 50-game suspension to start the year. Hard to see him jumping Arkansas now.

Also ommitted is top prospect Kyle Lewis, who will be playing in the lower levels of the farm system if he is healthy. Hopefully we’ll be writing about him at this time next year!

All told, the outfield is an area of strength for the Rainiers as we head into spring training. Looks like a good group.


  • As he packs his bags for six weeks in Arizona, Ryan Divish is churning out his pre-spring training articles for the Seattle Times. Here’s one on the Mariners expected strength: the starting lineup. Another article focuses on the bullpen.

Several Ex-Rainiers Sign With New Teams

February 6, 2018

The major league free agent market is stagnant as spring training approaches, but there has been movement in the minor league ranks. Several former Tacoma Rainiers players have found new teams in the past week, so let’s take a look at where they landed.

Two successful pitchers from last year’s Tacoma club have new clubs. Starting pitcher Ryan Weber has signed with the Tampa Bay Rays, and reliever Ryne Harper inked a deal with the Minnesota Twins.

Weber was the Rainiers ace starter in April and early May, posting a 0.85 ERA in six appearances before getting called up to Seattle. In his Mariners debut on May 13, he had allowed one run in 3.2 innings when he left the game with a biceps injury and missed the rest of the season. I thought the M’s might bring him back on a minor league deal, but Tampa signed him instead.

Ryne Harper pitched in Tacoma’s bullpen all of last year, with the exception of three days: he was called up to Seattle for his first time, but did not make his major league debut as he sat in the ‘pen and watched three games. He was optioned back to Tacoma and finished the season with the Rainiers. Harper will try to get into a big league game with the Twins this year.

In 2016 the Tacoma Rainiers ended a five-year playoff drought, and one of the top starting pitchers was Donn Roach. Roach also appeared in four games for the Mariners that season, but with no clear path (at the time) to the Mariners roster for 2017 he decided to play in Korea and make some major league level cash instead. Well, he’s back in the USA now, having just signed a minor league contract with the Chicago White Sox.

Going back a few years, infielder/outfielder Ty Kelly played for Tacoma in 2013 and 2014. He’s kicked around several organizations since then, including an extended stretch as a utility man in the majors for the Philadelphia Phillies in 2017. A free agent after the season, Kelly has signed with one of his previous teams: the New York Mets.

Finally, “The Bartender” is still at it. Former Mariners and Rainiers reliever Tom Wilhelmsen is not ready to close the doors and sweep the floor just yet. He’s going to take a shot with the San Diego Padres, who announced today they have signed him to a minor league deal with a spring training invitation. If he doesn’t make the opening day roster and decides to stick it out in Triple-A, Wilhelmsen would be an El Paso Chihuahua.

On Thursday we’ll continue our Rainiers position previews with a look at possible 2018 Tacoma outfielders.


  • The San Diego Padres and El Paso Chihuahuas announced a two-year extension of their Player Development Contract today, extending through 2020. There had been some scuttlebutt that El Paso might be a key cog in the affiliation shuffle after the coming season, due to the great ballpark and close proximity to major league teams in Texas, but that is no longer the case. We’ll talk more about it in the Fall, but the Colorado Springs franchise relocating to San Antonio after the 2018 season might trigger a few affiliation changes – none involving Tacoma, thankfully.
  • The Mariners named Tacoma native Gary Hill as producer/engineer of the radio broadcasts, replacing the recently retired Kevin Cremin. Congrats to Gary – a one-time Tacoma Rainiers public address announcer.
  • Fun story from ESPN: who is the greatest player in the history of each major league team? Which teams may have its greatest player active right now?
  • If you are an ESPN Insider you can read Keith Law’s write-up of the Mariners farm system.

At The Corners: Vogelbach Back

February 1, 2018

Today we’ll preview the potential Tacoma Rainiers corner infielders for 2018.

We’ve gotten into a habit of previewing third and first base together because for several years the Rainiers had players who appeared at both positions, often moving across the infield from day-to-day. That may happen again this year – but not with our most notable returning player for 2018.

Dan Vogelbach is expected to return as a Rainiers first baseman and designated hitter. A Triple-A All-Star last season, Vogelbach hit .290 with 17 homers and 83 RBI for the Rainiers. He’s still on the Mariners 40-man roster, and he’ll get a chance in spring training, but unless there is an unexpected injury it is hard to see how he could carve out a spot on the Mariners 25-man opening day roster. It looks like either a trade or an option to Tacoma is in his future.

If it’s an option to Tacoma, we’ll happily take him. Vogelbach has hit well in the PCL for two straight seasons, and he’ll fit right into the middle of the Tacoma lineup.

Joining Vogelbach in the middle of the lineup is local product Matt Hague. The 32-year-old product of Kentwood High School hit .297 with ten homers for Rochester last season. Hague has plenty of Triple-A experience in the International League, and he spent the 2016 season playing in Japan. The veteran can play both first and third base, giving manager Pat Listach some defensive flexibility.

Three players we covered in the middle infield section (scroll down two posts) have experience playing third base: Rey Navarro, Gordon Beckham, and Zach Shank can each handle the hot corner.

And while we will be listing him in the outfield group next week, Danny Muno is another possible Rainiers third baseman, having played 50 games at the position in 2017. Muno posted a high on-base percentage (.387) for Tacoma last year after being signed out of an independent league, and the M’s decided to bring him back for another season.

Seth Mejias-Brean is, as far as I can determine, still in the organization. He was acquired in a trade from the Cincinnati Reds early last season, played in 19 games at third for Tacoma, then was sent to Double-A Arkansas where he finished the season. He hit .268 with three homers in 74 games for Arkansas. He does have additional Triple-A experience from when he was in the Reds system.

One corner infielder who will probably see a lot of time in spring training games but is unlikely to appear for Tacoma is first baseman Mike Ford. As a major league Rule 5 Draft pick, Ford has to either make the Mariners opening day roster or be returned to his previous organization (the Yankees). However, there is always the possibility that the M’s work out some sort of trade with the Yankees, enabling them to keep Ford and send him to the minors. But this doesn’t happen often with Rule 5 picks, so for now Ford is unlikely to play for Tacoma.

At this juncture it looks like we’ve got Vogelbach and Hague handling first, and a real hodgepodge of players at third. Bring ’em all to spring training and let the baseball gods sort ’em out.


  • John McGrath has five reasons to be excited about the coming Mariners season. The column comes complete with a classic McGrath opening paragraph.
  • The Mariners announced they are expanding the protective netting behind home plate to the ends of the dugouts. This is a common move across the majors and much of the minors now, for the purpose of fan safety.
  • Outfielder Oscar Gamble – owner of the most famous Afro in baseball history – has passed away.
  • College baseball starts soon. In its Pac-12 Preview (free), Baseball America projects Washington as an NCAA tournament team.