Q&A Time

March 25, 2020

The wait continues, with no new knowledge about when we will return to our normal lives, and a return of baseball. It’s gonna be a while.

Despite having no idea at the moment when baseball will return, discussions have begin about how to handle the re-start. ESPN has a wide-ranging article on the many issues that have to be hammered out once we are cleared to play. In the story, it is revealed that the owners and players are quietly targeting/hoping for an early June opening day.

Meanwhile, the Mariners made some paper moves that will impact the Rainiers, once we get started:

Optioned to Triple-A Tacoma

Infielders (2): Donovan Walton and Patrick Wisdom

Right-Handed Pitchers (2): Zac Grotz and Taylor Williams

All of these players we expect to get Triple-A assignments once the season starts. Wisdom, in particular, is a nice add for the Rainiers as he is a proven powerful bat in the PCL. Walton should be Tacoma’s starting shortstop, while Grotz and Williams are relievers with good recent track records.

With little news to talk about right now – I was supposed to fly home from spring training today after four days of watching our team, which never happened – I put out a request for a Q&A last week. Got a few, so let’s hit ’em.

Hi Mike…

Thanks for sharing all the Mariner updates in your blog as well as your great work broadcasting Rainier games.

We often hear in the latter weeks of spring training that players are either optioned, or reassigned to minor league camp. I’ve spent many days the last few years watching workouts, sim-games and minor league games on the back fields. And regardless of current status, several minor league players not on MLB 40 or Non-roster camp invites, still get called up to play in MLB exhibition games.  Is this declaration just a procedural, contractual related announcement ?  What actual changes occur.  Do players move to different clubhouses on the Peoria complex?…if so what does that entail.

-Pat from Olympia

Thanks for the kind words, Pat – that gets you to the top of the line. To answer your question, the minor leaguers who get called to play in the occasional MLB exhibition game are usually selected as a reward, or in the case of pitchers because it is their day to throw. It’s not contractual, and they don’t change locker rooms or anything. The locker rooms are right next to each other in the Peoria complex, so there isn’t much change there. The players do get the experience of being closer to the major leaguers during the game, and benefit from that learning setting. Sometimes they play in the last inning or two.

Do you anticipate a change to roster limits, at both the MLB and minor league level, once the 2020 season starts? Perhaps more pitchers will be needed, and so rosters will be expanded. What might be some other structural changes to the 2020 season, due to the reduced schedule, disrupted spring training, etc.? In 1981 they improvised a split season with a division series.

-Arne

MLB is already moving to 26-man rosters, although we have not received official word about an increase for Triple-A. I could see a temporary increase if spring training is brief and there is an industry-wide belief that more pitchers are needed until the starters build up to full strength.

One change I could see being implemented is a schedule extension beyond the traditional Minor League Baseball end date of Labor Day. Adding another week or two could benefit all parties: player development to make up for lost time, minor league teams to recoup some of their financial losses, and fans who want to see more ball. Many cities in our league have great weather in September.

hey! my name is Jay! who is your favorite baseball player?

Hi Jay! My favorite player as a kid growing up was Darrell Evans. He played third base for my local team, the San Francisco Giants. He became my favorite because at the first game my dad took me to when I was eight years old, he hit a home run and had several of rockets hit to him at third base. I remember my dad explaining to me that’s why third base is called the “hot corner,” and I thought that was cool.

Today I don’t really have a single favorite player, but I root for guys who played for Tacoma and are now in the major leagues – even if it’s not with Seattle. If I get to know the player a little bit while they are Rainiers, I end up rooting for them down the line.

I’m sure Bishop is disappointed, that being said he is a tremendous asset for the Rainiers. Tacoma it seemed to me was playing much better last year when he was here. He reminds me of Daniel Robertson (2016) both were kind of a catalyst for their respective teams.

-Mark

I pulled this from the comments section in a previous blog post about Braden Bishop being optioned to Tacoma, because I thought it was interesting and made me wonder: is Mark right? Did the Rainiers play better when Bishop was in the lineup?

Bishop played in 43 games for Tacoma last year. Adding it up, Tacoma went 20-23 in the games he played in and 41-55 without him. That’s a winning percentage of .465 with Bishop, and .427 without him.

So yes, Mark, the Rainiers definitely played better with Bishop in the lineup.

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In the PCL:


Now, We Wait.

March 17, 2020

I hope all of you are practicing your social distancing. Anything we can do to get things under control and bring back normalcy to our lives is a good step.

The Rainiers have sent all the front office employees home, of course. We even closed the team store – although the website is open for online orders.

We’re just waiting, like everyone else, for time to pass and the spread of the coronavirus to slow down.

As for baseball games, we in Triple-A will operate in the footsteps of MLB. Eventually the spring camps will re-open for the players. Some exhibition games will be loosely organized, the government will permit large gatherings once again, MLB and PCL schedules will be hastily thrown together, and a new season will begin.

That’s the hope, anyway. Let’s keep following advice from our health professionals and try to prevent as much further spread of the disease as possible.

When baseball does return, we are really going to need it.

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Not real sure what we’re going to do on this blog during the hiatus. If any baseball news develops, we’ll have it here of course. I thought about making it a personal space and tell you what books I’m reading and music I’m enjoying the most during The Distancing, but that’s not really what any of us are here for.

Maybe we should try a questions and answers post? Let’s see if that works. If you have a question or two, fire ’em off: mcurto@wertacoma.com.


M’s Make Roster Moves

March 10, 2020

Let’s catch up on the Mariners last round or roster moves, along with a bevy of links.

Optioned to Triple-A Tacoma (3):

Outfielder (1): Braden Bishop

Left-Handed Pitcher (1): Nick Margevicius

Right-Handed Pitcher (1):   Art Warren

Optioned to AA Arkansas (1):

Outfielder (1): Jose Siri

Re-Assigned to Minor League Camp (6):

Outfielders (2): Rymer Liriano, Julio Rodríguez

Catchers (2): Joseph Odom, Joe Hudson

Left-Handed Pitchers (2): Manny Bañuelos, Ian McKinney

These moves leave 52 players in Major League camp.

The surprise here is the early option of outfielder Braden Bishop, who figured to have a strong chance to make the club as a reserve outfielder. Tim Lopes’ chances of making the squad improved a lot today.

It was unexpected to see Jose Siri optioned to Double-A instead of Tacoma, but we swiftly found out why: he had been placed on waivers, and today he was claimed by the San Francisco Giants. Siri, we hardly knew ye.

The M’s now have a spot on the 40-man roster to play with, in case a non-roster player makes the M’s opening day squad or they want to claim a player off waivers from another organization.

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Friday Afternoon Links

March 6, 2020

Posting today just to share all of these links from the past few days – do we call this a Friday afternoon links dump? Something like that.

Expect a round of roster cuts over the weekend. Mariners opening day is less than three weeks away and they still have 62 players in camp. so it’s about time for them to start trimming down.

For the soccer fans, the Tacoma Defiance home opener is tonight – check the WeRTacoma.com site for more info.

Links:

  • Infielder/outfielder Alen Hansen – who we expect to be with the Rainiers next month – is playing for Team France in a World Baseball Classic qualifying tournament played in Tucson next weekend. Team France will be generating a lot of interest because it is managed by future Hall of Famer Bruce Bochy, who was born in France.
  • Projected Rainiers first baseman/outfielder Jose Marmolejos has had a strong camp so far.
  • Larry Stone returned from Mariners spring training and tells us that its going to be a rough 2020, but he can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
  • Tuesday was an off day in M’s camp, so Ryan Divish decided to project the Mariners 26-man opening day roster.
  • After imagining it many times, Justin Dunn faced Mike Trout in real life.
  • The News Tribune has a feature on first baseman Evan White.
  • Dan Vogelbach is locked in on improving in 2020.
  • Mallex Smith is hoping to bounce back from an “embarrassing” season.
  • Game reports: Yesterday the Mariners were shut out by Cincinnati, 3-0, although Yusei Kikuchi pitched well… the M’s pitched well but didn’t hit in a 2-0 loss to the Angels on Wednesday… Tuesday was a rare spring training off day, so everyone probably went golfing…. and on Monday the Mariners scored some runs but lost to the Rockies, 9-6, as The Future had a big day with both Evan White and Jarred Kelenic having good games.
  • In the PCL, the home of the Nashville Sounds was hit by tornados earlier this week. Minor damage was done to the ballpark and the famous guitar-shaped scoreboard.

Roster Moves, An Injury, And A New Lefty

March 2, 2020

We have the first round of spring training roster trimming today, as the Mariners have made some moves.

A reminder on the wording: players who are on the 40-man roster are “optioned to” a specific minor league team, and we can be fairly certain that is the team they will open the season with. Players in major league camp who are not on the 40-man roster are “reassigned to minor league camp” and will open the season with an affiliate which will be determined later.

In the first round of moves there were no options – just reassignments.

Reassigned to Minor League Camp (9):

  • Right-Handed Pitchers (4): Jack Anderson, Darren McCaughan, Wyatt Mills, Penn MurfeeMatt Festa
  • Infielders (2): Jordan Cowan, Connor Hoover
  • Outfielders (2): Eric Filia, Luis Liberato

These moves leave 62 players in Mariners big league camp.

The first major injury of spring training involving a Tacoma Rainiers player has occurred, with Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto announcing this morning that reliever Matt Festa requires Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. He’ll be out for the year.

We had Festa projected unto the Rainiers bullpen and possibly the closer at the start of the season. We wish him a full recovery and hope to see him on the mound in 2021.

Baseball America’s latest installment of Minor League Transactions informs us that the M’s have signed left-handed pitcher Dietrich Enns to a minor league contract.

Enns pitched for El Paso last year, making 25 starts among his 28 appearances with an 11-11 record and a 6.70 ERA.

El Paso, of course, plays its home games in an absolute launching pad. It is surprising to check the stats and see that Enns’ ERA was a full two runs lower in home games (5.56) than in away games (7.77). He led the PCL with 37 home runs allowed last year – and oddly, only 14 of those came at home.

Enns, like all pitchers (and many fans, and this broadcaster) in the PCL, are hoping the ball isn’t as juiced this year as it was last year.

Enns pitched in two major league games for the Minnesota Twins in 2017, logging four innings. While he did not get his first major league win, he did get his first major league hit by going 1-for-2 in an interleague game against the Brewers. He’s a lifetime .500 hitter in the big leagues. Hopefully he reminds people of that all the time.

Some recent former Rainiers who have new teams:

  • Gordon Beckham – San Diego/El Paso
  • Ryan Court – Oakland/Las Vegas
  • Shirtless Rob Brantly – San Francisco/Sacramento
  • Erasmo Ramirez – New York Mets/Syracuse
  • Rob Whalen – New York Mets/Syracuse
  • Tuffy Gosewisch – Milwaukee Brewers/San Antonio
  • Jose Lobaton – Los Angeles Dodgers/Oklahoma City

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