MLB Openers Today; Rainiers Add Veteran

March 28, 2019

Welcome to Opening Day No. 2, the official Major League Baseball opener for 28 of the 30 teams. The Mariners and Oakland A’s already played on Opening Day No. 1 in Japan.

This is always a great day, with games on all day and night. It’s perfect background viewing while we prepare for Opening Day No. 3 – the PCL season openers one week from today.

Speaking of the PCL, we have some late Tacoma Rainiers roster news.

The Mariners signed veteran outfielder Eric Young Jr. to a Triple-A contract after he was released at the end of spring training by the Baltimore Orioles. Apparently Young did not make their opening day roster and decided to become a free agent rather than go to the Orioles Triple-A affiliate.

We’ve seen a lot of Young over the years, from when he was a prospect with Colorado Springs to his recent service with the Angels, where he played for Triple-A Salt Lake while serving as Mike Trout‘s fill-in.

Young is known to be an excellent clubhouse presence in Triple-A and a veteran leader. He’ll be good for what is going to be a young Rainiers roster.

“EY”, as he is often called, further adds to the team speed the Rainiers will feature. With just one power hitter (Joey Curletta) and at least three speed players in the lineup daily (among Young, Ian Miller, Tito Polo, and Braden Bishop) manager Daren Brown is really going to be putting the runners in motion a lot.

Infielder/outfielder Orlando Calixte still has not reported to spring training, supposedly due to work visa issues stemming from his native Dominican Republic. At this point it seems that once the issue is resolved, he’ll need some time in extended spring training before reporting to Tacoma.

Enjoy opening day!

Links:

  • Here’s the Seattle Times opening day feature on the Mariners decision to take a step back, complete with enough pop-up ads and animated art to make your computer freeze-up and need to be re-started. Good luck.
  • Gonzaga product Marco Gonzales is the Mariners opening day starter – at the same time his Gonzaga Bulldogs tip off their Sweet 16 game in the NCAA Tournament.
  • The Mariners optioned outfielder Braden Bishop and reliever Dan Altavilla to Tacoma, while Mallex Smith hopes to be ready for today’s opener.
  • MLB.com has a story on the signing of Eric Young Jr.
  • The Seattle Times took a stab at ranking the Mariners Top 15 Prospects. We’ll have several in Tacoma this year.
  • The News Tribune has a story on Mariners shortstop Tim Beckham, who played well during the Japan series.
  • Ryan Divish did a Mariners mailbag and he got some good questions. He also gives us four reasons to watch the Mariners, along with “four reasons to weep.”
  • The Seattle Times baseball writers made their preseason predictions.
  • In a column stating that the Mariners season is going to be like six months of spring training, Matt Calkins writes that there will be times following the minors will be more fun than following the big league club.
  • The M’s and manager Scott Servais are going to work out the bullpen roles on the fly, Lauren Smith reports.
  • The Mariners are going to continue with their original plan to regulate the number of innings pitched by Yusei Kikuchi, Tim Booth reports.
  • Here are recaps from the exhibition games against San Diego, in which Seattle did not score: Tuesday’s 1-0 loss featured some good pitching from both clubs, and then there was Monday’s 8-0 loss.
  • The M’s prospects enjoyed playing in the two games at Safeco.
  • The Mariners PR blog has an in-depth look at strength coach James Clifford, and his ties to UW football and former coach Don James.
  • Have a humongous back yard? Want something absolutely ridiculous hanging over your roof? Are you the CEO of a company based in an ugly high-rise building and are looking for some attention? The City of Nashville is auctioning off the iconic guitar-shaped scoreboard from old Greer Stadium.
  • There have been a pair of Player Development Contract extensions in the PCL: Albuquerque and Colorado added two years to get through 2022, and the Royals did the same with Omaha. Both of these extensions came in conjunction with major league exhibition games being played at the Triple-A ballpark.

Rainiers Spring Training Updates, Vol 3.

March 23, 2019

My final day at Mariners spring training did not go the way I thought it would.

With no Cactus League games left, and a true Triple-A game against Texas/Nashville on the back fields of the Peoria Sports Complex, I figured this would be the chance to see an entire lineup of likely Tacoma Rainiers players.

It was actually just the opposite.

Only Joey Curletta and Shed Long represented the actual Rainiers among position players in Saturday’s game. The other seven spots were filled by low-level minor leaguers, mostly teenagers who played in the Dominican Summer League last year, and a few guys from Everett or Clinton.

Ian Miller is feeling sick, and I’m giving Adam Law the game off,” said manager Daren Brown. “The rest of the guys aren’t here.”

What? Not here?

Turns out the Mariners flew ten Tacoma players to Seattle earlier Saturday morning. These players are going to appear at FanFest and play in the exhibition games against the Padres this week.

Then the players will fly back to Arizona for two or three days, and then fly to Tacoma to get settled in for a couple of days before finally flying to Sacramento to open the PCL season on April 4. That’s kind of a crazy schedule.

Still, there was a game on Saturday, and here’s how they lined up.

  1. Shed Long – SS
  2. Joey Curletta – DH
  3. Connor Hoover – 2B
  4. Freuddy Batista – C
  5. Nolan Perez – 3B
  6. Luis Veloz – RF
  7. Cash Gladfelter – !B
  8. Jepherson Garcia – LF
  9. Billy Cooke – CF

It would be interesting to check in 2023 and see how many of the 3-through-9 hitters made it to Tacoma. There are two guys in there who haven’t even played in an official game in the US yet.

Anyway, I settled in to watch some Shed and Curletta at-bats, and keep an eye on the pitching.

Long went 2-for-3 before being taken out. He hit a sharp RBI single through the infield in his second at-bat, and then beat out an infield chopper against lefty Zac Curtis in his final AB.

Curletta doubled in each of his first two plate appearances, and went 2-for-4. His first double was an opposite field liner to the right field corner, and his second one was a line drive over the head of the center fielder.

On the mound, Double-A lefty Anthony Misiewicz made the start and pitched the first four innings. He allowed a handful of what should be unearned runs due to a comedy of misplays in his teenage outfield. Hopefully he has a good sense of humor.

In the fifth Rainiers reliever Ruben “R.J.” Alaniz came in, working around an infield error, a foul ball that should have been caught and wasn’t, and a walk to pitch a scoreless inning. He showed a 94-95 mph fastball and a slider during his brief stint.

Right when I was starting to wonder what I was doing watching this game – other than for comedic purposes – the Rainiers brought in a relief pitcher whom I did not know was in the organization and looked like a Triple-A player.

Right-hander Parker Markel reached Triple-A Durham in the Tampa Bay Rays organization in 2016, and posted a 2.52 ERA in 34 games. He decided to play in Korea in 2017, signing with the Lotte Giants, but was released at the end of March and did not pitch (as far as my internet sleuthing can determine) the remainder of the season.

Returning to the States, Markel signed with Sioux City of the independent American Association in 2018. After 62 strikeouts in 41.1 innings last season, the Mariners signed him to a minor league contract.

Markel pitched two scoreless innings in Saturday, reaching 94 mph and showing a sharp-breaking slider. He looks like someone who might help the Rainiers at some point this year.

Sticking around for the later innings of this spring training game paid off.

That’s it for this trip to Arizona – now its time to head home and hunker down, studying up for 140 Tacoma Rainiers radio broadcasts.


More Notes From Spring Training, Vol. 2

March 23, 2019

Friday was a long day of baseball as there was a Double-A game on the Peoria Sports Complex back fields, then the main game in the big ballpark at night.

The Double-A game was against the Padres, and it was being played on their side of the complex (the Mariners and Padres use the same complex in Peoria with each team having 6-7 fields and its own office and clubhouse, but they share the main Cactus League park). It’s a bit of a walk but eventually I found the game.

The goal was to see the Mariners recently optioned-to-Tacoma players who are on the 40-man roster, and as discussed yesterday are prevented from playing in official Cactus League games. Specifically, I was looking for Joey Curletta, J.P. Crawford, and Shed Long. I went 2-for-3.

Curletta is a big guy with a powerful swing. I saw him take just one at-bat, against a hard-throwing Padres pitching prospect named Pedro Avila. Crawford fouled off a couple of knee-high fastballs before eventually taking a breaking ball for strike three. He played first base in the game.

Long was starting at shortstop. A left-handed hitter, Long stands very close to the plate and doesn’t flinch on inside pitches. He walked on five pitches in the plate appearance I saw. At shortstop, he made one nice play ranging to his left while I was watching.

There was no sign of Crawford, but in positive news for the Mariners injured outfielder Mallex Smith took several at-bats as he hopes to be ready for the home opener on Thursday.

There were other players of note in this game. The Mariners starter was Ljay Newsome, the right-hander who made one emergency fill-in start at Cheney last year but spent the season with Modesto. I’d guess he’s heading to Arkansas next week.

Two former Rainiers appeared in the game, now playing for the Padres. Boog Powell signed a minor league deal and is probably going to El Paso, and the same can be said for reliever Tyler Higgins. I still can’t believe the Mariners didn’t re-sign Higgins after finding him in an independent league and watching him have success last year.

The Double-A game was only interesting for a few innings. The starters were pulled and some very young players came in, so I retired for a couple of hours to watch the UW hoops game (nice job Huskies!).

Then it was time for the Mariners final official Cactus League game of the spring, against an Angels split squad. There was a nice crowd for this game – over 8,000 – and I hope nobody was disappointed that there were only two major league players in it. The Mariners had none, of course, and the Angels only brought two: Zack Cozart and David Fletcher.

  1. Ian Miller – LF
  2. Tim Lopes – 2B
  3. Evan White – 1B
  4. Kyle Lewis – DH
  5. Jake Fraley – RF
  6. Tito Polo – CF
  7. Austin Nola – C
  8. Chris Mariscal – SS
  9. Adam Law – 3B

Found some Rainiers here – we’ve got five or six members of our opening day roster in this lineup. This group played the first five innings before manager Daren Brown started going to the bench.

The highlights here came from the speed players Ian Miller and Tito Polo.

Miller played all nine innings, continuing his Hardest Working Man of the Winter storyline (after the PCL ended last September he played in the Arizona Fall League, and when that ended he played in the Mexican Winter League, and when that ended he went to Spring Training. Not sure if he ever went home to Pennsylvania). Miller reached base three times (1-for-3 with a walk and a HBP), stole two bases, and scored three runs. Both of his stolen bases were parts of double steals – which might be something to look for this year, because Miller pairs with Polo in a true speed threat.

Polo only played five innings, but he made a big impact. He singled in the fourth inning and aggressively took second base with some smart baserunning when the Angels were a little lazy getting the ball back in from the outfield. Then he made a terrific catch in center field the next inning, laying out in a dive to steal an extra-base hit.

Double steals set up four of the Mariners runs in an 8-7 win. Brown may have to resort to speed tactics in a power hitter’s league, because it appears that Curletta may be the only true power hitter in the Rainiers lineup at the start of the season – and he’s a Triple-A rookie, so we don’t really know what to expect from him.

The starting pitcher was Tyler Danish, who is being groomed for the Tacoma rotation. He went four innings, allowing one run on four hits, and gave the appearance of being a fast working strike thrower.

Reliever Jorgan Cavanerio had a rough outing, giving up two home runs (including one tape measure shot) to Salt Lake Bees slugger Jared Walsh. He was hit for five runs in 1.1 innings.

At this point I was sitting in the stands with my uncle, and stepped away for a minute as the P.A announcer named new pitcher Sam Delaplane for the Mariners. By the time I get back to my seat just a couple of minutes later, my uncle says Delaplane struck out the side reaching 93 on the scoreboard gun. Delaplane had a great year for Low-A Clinton last year so this was interesting news.

“Delaplane” set down the side in order in both the eighth and the ninth, for three prefect innings to close out the game… and then afterwards, the Mariners PR staffer on hand said the pitcher was actually 26-year-old right-hander Zac Grotz, who was misidentified when he entered the game. This can happen when players from minor league camp come over and the jersey numbers don’t match (or are even double-numbered at times).

So nice job, Zac Grotz. Grotz was signed out of an independent league by the Mets last season, played Low-A ball in their system, and then came to the M’s as a free agent back in November.

Today we have a Triple-A game at noon, and hopefully we’ll see something approaching the Rainiers starting lineup in this game because everyone is eligible to play.

Links:

  • Prospective Rainiers outfielder Eric Filia is out, since he got suspended 100 games for his third positive test for “drugs of abuse.” One more and he gets a lifetime ban.
  • The News Tribune has information on Mariners Fanfest this weekend and the upcoming exhibition games at T-Mobile Park.
  • No link, but I saw on the tweet box this morning that former Rainiers infielder Gordon Beckham has made the Detroit Tigers opening day roster. Congrats, Beck!

Notes From Rainiers Spring Training Vol. 1

March 22, 2019

The great Ichrio announced his retirement yesterday, playing in his final game for the Mariners, in his home country and in front of his most fervent fans. It was an amazing spectacle, if you were up at 5:30 to see it.

Ichiro played in one game at Cheney Stadium: in 2006 the Seattle Mariners played the Tacoma Rainiers in a preseason exhibition game, allowing the fans in Tacoma to see the Mariners stars up close. I seem to recall Ichiro playing center field in that game, in front of the giant wall.

Wish I had my scorebook handy to look that up. However, yesterday I flew to Arizona for some spring training action, and silly me I forgot to pack my 2006 scorebook.

Yesterday’s spring training game featured the Mariners taking on a Cincinnati Reds split squad at the Peoria Sports Complex. Because the major league Mariners are done with Arizona due to the trip to Japan, the spring training Mariners are made up of Tacoma players and other players filling in from minor league camp.

There is a rule that if a player on the 40-man roster is optioned to Triple-A during spring training, he can not appear in any “major league” spring training games. I had never given this rule any consideration until now. Last night the Mariners had to play without their optioned Tacoma players such as Joey Curletta, Shed Long, J.P. Crawford, etc. This meant that some younger guys were needed to fill out the lineup.

Here’s the Tacoma Rainiers – Arkansas Travelers – Modesto Nuts – West Virginia Power starting lineup that played as the Seattle Mariners against the Cincinnati Reds last night:

  1. Tito Polo – LF
  2. Jake Fraley – DH
  3. Evan White – 1B
  4. Kyle Lewis – CF
  5. Jarred Kelenic – RF
  6. Chris Mariscal – SS
  7. Bobby Honeyman – 3B
  8. Joe Odom – C
  9. Donovan Walton – 2B

Of this group, only Polo and Mariscal seem like possible Tacoma Rainiers players on opening day. But it was fun to watch anyway, due to the cluster of younger prospects in the middle of the order.

Meanwhile, the Reds split squad had a handful of major leaguers and some minor league guys to play the later innings. However, the Reds brought six legitimate major league relief pitchers and used them to cover the entire game.

The situation brought some unusual match-ups, to say the least. Consider the case of Jarred Kelenic, who has name recognition due to his status as a prospect, but is years away from the majors and extremely raw for a game like this.

Kelenic is in his first spring training. This time last year he was a senior in high school. In ten days he’s going to Class-A West Virginia to begin his first full season of professional baseball. And last night he had four at-bats against four different established major league pitchers – the type of pitchers no one expects him to have any success against for another three or four years.

For the record, Kelenic had a moment. After grounding into a double play on the first pitch he saw in his first at-bat against Matt Bowman, he laced a two-out, line drive RBI single to center his second time up against Matt Wisler. Nine-year MLB veteran David Hernandez struck him out swinging later, and Sal Romano got him looking his fourth time up.

Additional thoughts from what became a 6-3 Mariners win:

  • Possible Rainiers pitcher Justin Dunn started for the Mariners, and he had a nice game. After walking the leadoff man in the first inning (yikes!), Dunn mowed ’em down for a trip through the lineup. He retired nine straight batters, striking out six including whiffs of major leaguers Scott Schebler, Derek Dietrich, and Phillip Ervin.
  • Schebler connected for the first hit against Dunn in the fourth inning, a ringing double to left-center on a first pitch fastball. He would later score on a two-out double by Kyle Farmer.
  • All told, Dunn went four innings and allowed one run on three hits. He struck out six and walked two, with his fastball sitting at 91-92 according to the scoreboard radar gun (caveat: I have no idea how accurate that radar gun is). His fastball appeared to have some nice action to it, with late movement.
  • Dunn was followed by five different potential Rainiers relievers. David McKay, Robin Leyer, Tayler Scott, Ryan Garton, and Matt Tenuta each pitched one inning. Scott and Tenuta looked impressive, delivering quick scoreless frames. Garton and Leyer struggled with their control but survived, while McKay gave up a walk and a two-run homer to Courtney Hawkins.
  • Shortstop Chris Mariscal had the big hit for the Mariners, pulling a two-run homer onto the berm in left field giving the M’s a 3-1 lead in the fourth inning. The blast came against Wisler, and it was the Mariners only extra-base hit of the game. If I had to guess, I suspect Mariscal will open the season in Double-A and be ready to come to Tacoma when J.P. Crawford moves to Seattle.
  • Tito Polo and Evan White each hit opposite-field RBI singles off lefty Ian Krol in the fifth inning, giving the M’s the lead for good. Polo looks like he’ll be an entertaining speed-based player for Tacoma.

Today there is a Double-A game on the backfields, where I’ll hopefully be able to get my first look at the 40-man roster guys like Curletta, Long, and Crawford.

Later tonight in the main ballpark the Mariners face the Los Angeles Angels, with a lineup probably much like last night’s. It’s a spring training doubleheader!

Tyler Danish starts the night game for the M’s. Signed as a minor league free agent after a solid 2018 season as a multiple-inning reliever in the International League, the Mariners have decided to stretch him out and use him as a starter for the Rainiers.

Links:

  • We’ll start with the Seattle Times news story on Ichiro’s retirement, written by Ryan Divish who was in Tokyo.
  • Here is Larry Stone’s terrific column on Ichiro’s retirement.
  • There was still a game, which the Mariners won in extra innings to improve to 2-0 on the year. Now it’s back to spring training for a week – exhibition games at Safeco, before a season re-start (Opening Day No. 2) on the 28th.

Mariners Win Opener, Yet Spring Training Continues

March 20, 2019

Happy Opening Day No. 1!

The Mariners played the official MLB season opener earlier this morning in Japan, beating the Oakland A’s 9-7 at the Tokyo Homer Dome. For those of you who didn’t stay up to watch this game, the ball was jumping off the bat like it was being played in Albuquerque or Reno. There were five home runs, including a grand slam by Domingo Santana – the Mariners first opening day grand slam since Jim Presley in 1986.

The second and final game in Japan is tonight/tomorrow at 2:30 AM. Once again, it will be televised live by ESPN.

Meanwhile, spring training continues – and I’m off to Arizona in the morning. The Rainiers will be playing Cactus League exhibition games on Thursday and Friday nights, and we’ll have full reports here on the blog. Look for updates from Arizona on Friday and Saturday late mornings, and another on Saturday night or Sunday morning.

The M’s made two more roster moves prior to the game today, re-assigning LHP Tommy Milone and catcher Jose Lobaton to minor league camp. These are veteran major leaguers who will provide depth for the M’s, and give the Rainiers some needed experience.

Links:


M’s Pre-Japan Roster Moves Included Some Surprises

March 18, 2019

We have lots to get caught up on from late last week, as the Mariners pared their roster down to 30 players before departing for Japan. They play their two official games over there later this week.

The big news for Tacoma fans was the release of former Rainiers and Mariners infielder Dustin Ackley. The M’s gave him a look on a minor league contract, but apparently they ultimately decided that they couldn’t carry him on the Tacoma roster. When the big league club is rebuilding and trying to move young talent through the system, it can be hard to keep a guy like Ackley. Hopefully he’ll latch on with another club.

In a surprise, utility man Kristopher Negron was removed from the Mariners 40-man roster and outrighted to Tacoma. I was under the impression that Negron had a spot on the Mariners opening day roster, but that impression was wrong. If Negron opens the season with the Rainiers he’ll be a big help for manager Daren Brown, with his ability to play anywhere on the field and hit just about anywhere in the lineup. Players with his flexibility have a lot of value in the PCL.

Here are the Mariners pre-Japan roster moves:

Optioned to Tacoma

RHP: Erik Swanson

LHP: Justus Sheffield

Infielders: Shed Long, J.P. Crawford

Re-Assigned to Minor League Camp

RHPs: Jorgan Cavanerio, Justin Dunn, David McKay

Infielders: Orlando Calixte, Tim Lopes, Evan White

Outfielders: Kyle Lewis, Tito PoloJake Fraley

Catchers: Joe DeCarloAustin Nola

Outrighted to Tacoma

Infielder: Kristopher Negron

The club will have to make five more cuts before the U.S. home opener next week.

This is going to be a busy week.

Later today the Tacoma Rainiers and Minor League Baseball are going to announce Tacoma’s “alter-ego” team name for the Copa de la Diversion initiative, which will occur for five home games this season. Hopefully we’ll get a cool team name and logo!

The blog will update daily for a few days when I head to spring training on Thursday and get to see the 2019 Tacoma Rainiers in person. Look for fresh posts over the weekend.

Links:

  • Marco Gonzales gets the opening day start against the A’s on Wednesday night in Japan (or Thursday 2:35 AM for us). Manager Scott Servais revealed that Ichiro will be in the starting lineup.
  • The News Tribune has a story on likely Rainiers outfielder Braden Bishop and his little brother, who is a star at Arizona State and potential high draft pick in June. Bishop made the trip to Japan and could be on the active 28-man roster for the official games later this week.
  • The Mariners are in Japan and it turns out that Ichiro and Yusei Kikuchi are quite popular there.
  • Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager had hand surgery and is going to start the season on the injured list – the first time he has been placed on the injured list in his career.
  • Teenage outfield prospects Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez are becoming friends at spring training. They’ll probably start the season at Class-A West Virginia.
  • From Wednesday of this past week, Ryan Divish has a thorough injury report from M’s camp. He also tells us that outfielder Tito Polo is likely to break camp with Tacoma in what will be his first Triple-A season, so you might as well start practicing your “Tito! … Polo!” chants.
  • What happened this week on the field: on Monday, the Mariners had a ‘bullpen day’ in a 5-1 loss to the Royals. Matt Tenuta pitched two scoreless innings in the game… Tuesday’s game was rained out… Wednesday the team knocked off the San Francisco Giants, 8-4… Thursday and Friday the club traveled to Japan… on Saturday (our time) the M’s hit three homers and beat the Yomiuri Giants, 6-4… a pair of late-game homers helped the Mariners defeat Yomiuri again on Sunday.
  • MLB announced some rules changes, pending ratification by the teams. The rules that severely impact Triple-A roster movement (10-day injured list goes to 15-days, optioned pitchers must spend 15 days in minors) don’t take effect until 2020.

M’s Closing In On Departure For Japan

March 11, 2019

It was another busy weekend at Mariners spring training camp, as the team moves closer to settling on 28 players to bring to Japan later this week.

Complicating the decision-making process are weekend injuries to third baseman Kyle Seager and reliever Gerson Bautista. We are waiting to hear the severity of both – although it has been interesting to see Ryon Healy in the lineup at third base these past two days.

The M’s made a few more spring training cut-downs over the weekend:

Re-Assigned to Minor League Camp

  • RHPs: Nabil Crismatt, Tayler Scott, Ryan Garton, Tyler Danish, Robinson Leyer
  • LHP: Matt Tenuta
  • Catcher: Cal Raleigh
  • Outfielder: Eric Filia, Dom Thompson-Williams

Most of these players are pitchers we have discussed in the last couple of posts. Crismatt appears to be a Rainiers starter, the other four righties will fight for Tacoma bullpen spots, and Tenuta is the only left-hander in the upper levels of the farm system.

Raleigh was a high draft pick last year and will go to one of the Class-A teams (Modesto or West Virginia).

Filia is in the Tacoma outfield hunt, while Thompson-Williams seems headed for Double-A Arkansas.

We’ve got a weekend’s worth of links down below, and then this blog is taking the remainder of the week off as I go on my annual preseason vacation to the Pac-12 Basketball Tournament, which is a ton of fun if you love hoops (even if your favorite team is terrible!).

We’ll be back early next week with a news round-up, and then later next week its time for a spring training trip with daily reports on how the Rainiers players are looking.

Links: