Carraway Calls It A Career

March 23, 2015

Word developed late last week (on this very blog, in the comments section) that Rainiers pitcher Andrew Carraway retired from baseball, and Bob Dutton of The News Tribune confirmed it with the Mariners over the weekend.

Carraway, 28, was a steady member of the Tacoma Rainiers starting rotation over the past three seasons. He made a total of 64 starts for Tacoma during that time, going 19-20 with a 5.13 ERA.

He arrived with a statement: in his Triple-A debut on May 11, 2012, Carraway tossed seven innings of one-hit ball against Albuquerque at Cheney Stadium. The following month he pitched a complete-game two-hitter against Fresno.

A finesse-style right-hander, Carraway relied on exceptional command of his pitches in order to have success. On days where he could place the ball exactly where he wanted to, he was very good. But when his command slipped a little bit, hitters got to him.

Carraway has always had things going on outside of the world of baseball. Formerly an elite academic student at the University of Virginia, Carraway spent his off-seasons working for a venture capital firm in Richmond, Virginia. Carraway whittled away the PCL travel days by reading advanced business books on his Kindle – I like to read, too, so I’d ask him what he’s reading and find out he’s plowing through some mammoth tome on the 2008 collapse of the housing bubble.*

We wish Andrew the best with his new career path, whatever it may be. I reached out to him via text and haven’t heard back yet – but if he responds with an update, I’ll let you know.

Andrew Carraway - click to enlarge (photo credit Richard Trask/Tacoma Rainiers)

Andrew Carraway – click to enlarge (photo credit Richard Trask/Tacoma Rainiers)

Links:

  • The News Tribune reporter Bob Dutton put on his analyst hat and looked at the final four position battles in Mariners spring training.
  • Bob Condotta looked at one of those battles, the duel between Taijuan Walker and Roenis Elias for fifth starter.
  • Dustin Ackley is using his ears to get better in left field. Also in this story, Felix Hernandez reminds us (and all of the Kris Bryant fanatics) “it’s just spring training.”
  • Mariners 2014 first round draft pick Alex Jackson hit his first spring training home run in a Cactus League game against Texas on Friday. The game was not televised and there was no video footage… until now. Like the Zapruder film, or the recently unearthed footage of the 1919 World Series, we have some late-emerging documentation. Looks like the 19-year-old prospect went deep off major league reliever Shawn Tolleson.
  • On Sunday, James Paxton made his Cactus League debut and was effective if not exactly in midseason form.
  • Here’s the news story about the big round of cuts the Mariners had on Friday (I wrote about these on Friday – scroll down for the Tacoma take).
  • Catching up on Ryan Divish’s Morning Mariners Musings: today he looks at an apparently improved Mike Zunino, on Sunday he dealt with Rickie Weeks (not really) playing first base, and Saturday‘s edition focuses on the fifth starter battle.
  • Friend of the Rainiers Jim Moore predicts that the Mariners will hit 200 home runs. He breaks it down by player and even by radio announcer.
  • ESPN’s Buster Olney made his World Series predictions – and he has the Pittsburgh Pirates defeating the Seattle Mariners in the Fall Classic. A quick check shows that the planet is still spinning on its proper axis, so I dunno.
  • Ex-Rainiers star Michael Pineda is throwing so well in Yankees camp that “scouts are drooling.”
  • One ex-Rainiers fortune is another ex-Rainiers folly. Asdrubal Cabrera beat out Nick Franklin for the starting shortstop job in Tampa – though Franklin still has a good chance to win at least a share of the second base job.
  • In Texas Rangers camp, Carlos Peguero is having his typical great spring and the team is trying to figure out what to make of it.
  • Chris Young – who was the Mariners starting rotation surprise last year – is working out of the bullpen for Kansas City.
  • Great article by former major leaguer CJ Nitkowski on the anxiety of spring training cut days. It includes tips on how to get cut.
  • In the PCL, Colorado Springs (now a Brewers affiliate) will have two former first round picks on the roster.
  • Weird things happen in spring training, like Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer allowing four triples in one inning. That’s a radio guy dream right there. Four triples in one inning!
  • Great story from Jorge Arangure on the autograph-collecting kid from the suburbs who ended up working for Vladimir Guerrero‘s baseball academy in the Dominican Republic.

I’m off to Arizona for spring training on Tuesday morning. Our blog-posting schedule will be daily but erratic – I’m going to have daily updates on what I see down there, and I’ll be getting those posts up whenever time permits.

* Call me crazy, but I did not dive into any of Andrew’s reading recommendations.


When Super Charles Stole Home

February 25, 2015

In Monday’s post I linked to a story from John McGrath in which he wrote about the lost art of stealing home.

My plan at that time was to link to a blog post that I was sure I had written before, about the only time I’ve ever seen a straight steal of home plate. But according to the search feature on this page, I have never written about the day Charles Gipson stole home. So let’s do that.

Some of you guys may remember Charles Gipson. He was a utility player in the major leagues: he could run like the wind, he could play excellent defense at many different positions, and he wasn’t much of a hitter.

Gipson played a key reserve role on the 2001 Mariners team which won 116 games: he played in 94 games, mostly as a pinch-runner and defensive specialist. He had just 72 plate appearances in 94 games!

But in 2000, Gipson was riding the shuttle back-and-forth between Tacoma and Seattle. When he was in Seattle, he would sit on the bench. When he was in Tacoma, he would start every game and work on his hitting.

“Super Charles” had a great attitude about riding the shuttle. Usually when a player gets sent down he takes his time reporting to Tacoma, and might mope around for a day or two. Not Gipson – he would burst right into the clubhouse with a big smile on his face – sometimes the same day he was sent down – and jump right into the lineup.

Gipson had superior athleticism and a knack for the spectacular play. I’ve heard tales of a catch he made at Cheney Stadium in 1998, playing third base: foul pop-up, he dived onto a front-row table on the (original version) party deck, sending cups of beer flying all over the place while making the catch.

Which brings us to June 4, 2000.

The Rainiers were on a road trip to one of my most-missed ex-PCL cities, Edmonton. The Edmonton Trappers were the Angels affiliate that year, and one of their top prospects was right-handed pitcher Ramon Ortiz (who would go on to have a nearly ten-year MLB career).

In the top of the sixth inning, Gipson laced two-run triple to give the Rainiers a 4-3 lead. After Joe Oliver lined out, there were two outs and Carlos Guillen was up.

The Rainiers manager was Dave Myers, who was in his fifth and final year at the helm of the club. Like all Tacoma managers he also coached third base.

Myers had managed Gipson for years – not just for the preceding four years in Tacoma, but also in Double-A and Single-A. After the game, Myers said it happened something like this (I am paraphrasing from memory, so this is not an exact quote):

“For years, every time Gipson gets to third base he asks me if he can steal home. It’s always the same thing – ‘Let me go, I can get this guy.'”

Like a father who gets tired of repeatedly telling his young son he cannot stay up past his bedtime and play video games, Myers gave in. To hear Dave tell the story, he sighed and said, “Alright, go ahead.”

Myers knew there were a few factors in Tacoma’s advantage:

  • Ortiz was a right-handed pitcher (not good for a steal of home), but for some reason he was working out of a full wind-up with a runner at third base.
  • Telus Field in Edmonton had an Astroturf infield and real grass outfield. The turf infield had dirt cutouts around the bases and home plate, but the base paths were 1980s-style carpet. It was a “fast track.”
  • Guillen was a switch-hitter and was batting left against Ortiz. I’m not sure if this works for or against an attempted steal of home – the batter is not in the way (and you don’t have to worry about him swinging), but the catcher can see the runner out of the corner of his eye.

Up in the broadcast booth, I was very lucky to see the whole play develop. This is a classic example of a tough play to call, because you never anticipate a straight steal of home – it’s the only one I’ve seen in my career! Due to some stroke of fortune, I actually saw Gipson break to the plate and had a decent call.

Gipson took off as soon as Ortiz started his big, slow wind-up. He raced down the artificial turf baseline, went into an aggressive feet-first slide as soon as he hit the edge of the dirt cutout, a startled Carlos Guillen leaned back and took the pitch, the catcher handled the ball and tried to make a tag, there was a giant cloud of dust, and the umpire spread his arms and yelled “safe!”

It was a classic example of one of the most exciting plays in the game – and one I haven’t seen in 14 seasons since.

(The Seattle Times was not impressed)

Links:

Check back Friday for more spring training tidbits.

* so Edgar Olmos was olmos almost on the Rainiers. We were going to play this song every time he came in from the bullpen. Bummer.


Mariners Trade For Ruggiano; Bawcom In Baseball Limbo

December 17, 2014

The Mariners made a trade today, and two current or former Tacoma Rainiers players will be affected by the deal.

The M’s traded Double-A reliever Matt Brazis to the Chicago Cubs in order to get 32-year-old outfielder Justin Ruggiano.

You can see Ruggiano’s stats right here – he’s a right-handed hitter who usually wallops left-handed pitchers, but isn’t nearly as good against right-handers. He’s a perfect platoon outfielder.

The acquisition of Ruggiano is bad news for Stefen Romero, who now is going to have a much more difficult time cracking the Mariners opening day roster. If that means Romero starts the season in Tacoma, well… we could certainly use his bat in the lineup!

It’s also bad news for Rainiers reliever Logan Bawcom. The Mariners had to make space on their 40-man roster for Ruggiano, so they designated Bawcom for assignment.

That means Bawcom is on waivers and any other team can claim him as long as they put him on their own 40-man roster. So for the next few days, Bawcom has to sit around down there in Dallas and wait for the phone to ring. He’s in baseball limbo.

If no team claims Bawcom off waivers, he will be assigned a minor league contract with the Mariners and will likely return to the Tacoma bullpen in 2015.

Bawcom had an excellent season for Tacoma in 2013, saving 21 games and posting a 2.91 ERA – he earned his spot on the 40-man roster after that campaign. But in 2014 he had trouble getting into a groove, he landed on the disabled list for the first time in his career, and his ERA went up to 4.93.

I never now what to root for in these situations. It would be good for Bawcom’s career if he was claimed by another club and got to stay on a 40-man roster. On the other hand, Bawcom has been a valuable member of the Rainiers both on and off the field – he even shared the 2014 Rainiers Community Award with Forrest Snow.

All we can do is wait and see how it plays out.

Links:

  • Here’s more from the Seattle Times on the Justin Ruggiano acquisition, and here we have Baseball America’s run-down on the deal.
  • Ruggiano is a useful player who provides a lot of roster flexibility, Jeff Sullivan writes as only he can.
  • From Baseball America’s latest batch of minor league transactions, we learn the Mariners signed Carlos Rivero to a minor league deal. Rivero was originally claimed off waivers from Boston, then was non-tendered and became a free agent. Now the M’s have signed him on a minor league deal and Rivero is a candidate to hit in the middle of the lineup for your 2015 Tacoma Rainiers. He’s currently leading the Venezuelan Winter League with 14 home runs.
  • The Mariners are still looking for outfield help – Ryan Divish runs through a litany of uninspiring choices.
  • Bob Dutton explored the possibility of the Mariners trading for Justin Upton.
  • Old pal Mike Morse inked a two-year contract with the Miami Marlins. I think Morse still lives in Florida – if so, that may have been a factor in his decision.
  • Matt Tuiasosopo is going to spring training with Baltimore on a minor league contract.
  • Former Rainiers and Mariners pitcher Brandon Morrow will try to get healthy with a new team: the San Diego Padres.
  • Larry Stone has a column on Rod Belcher, the longtime Seattle sports broadcaster who passed away last weekend.
  • In the PCL, the Salt Lake Bees announced their coaching staff led by new manager Dave Anderson.

Mariners Make Moves

November 21, 2014

We’ve got a whole lot of player news today, so let’s jump right into it:

The Mariners had to set their 40-man roster prior to the Rule 5 Draft by 9:00 pm yesterday, so that caused a bunch of moves to be made.

The team added prospects John Hicks, Ketel Marte, and Mayckol Guaipe to the 40-man roster.

Hicks and Marte finished last season with Tacoma and will probably return to the Rainiers in 2015. Guaipe is a relief pitcher who had good numbers at Double-A Jackson in 2014 and I suspect we’ll see him in Tacoma next year, too.

Not getting protected on the roster was Tacoma’s 2014 standout pitcher Jordan Pries. The team must believe that they won’t lose him in the Rule 5 Draft – we’ll find out next month.

We lost one of our stalwarts when the Mariners traded infielder Ty Kelly to the St. Louis Cardinals for Double-A starting pitcher Sam Gaviglio.

Kelly played very well in his one-and-a-half seasons with the Rainiers, but there wasn’t much opportunity for him in the big leagues with Seattle – hopefully he’ll get a better chance with the Cardinals. The Cardinals added Kelly to their 40-man roster, so that’s a good sign.

Gaviglio is a right-handed starter out of Oregon State – he was the Cardinals 5th round draft pick in 2011. He pitched for AA-Springfield last year, going 5-12 with a 4.28 ERA in 24 starts. Two stats stand out on his page: he had a 126-to-46 strikeouts-to-walks ratio in 136 innings, and he surrendered only eight home runs. The Texas League is tough on pitchers so the stat line is pretty good (other than the dismal win-loss record, but he can’t control that).

Gaviglio will have a chance to make the Tacoma starting rotation out of spring training.

The Mariners claimed left-handed relief pitcher Edgar Olmos off waivers from the Miami Marlins.

Olmos split 2014 between Double-A Jacksonville and Triple-A New Orleans last year. In the PCL, he appeared in 33 games and went 2-3 with a 3.86 ERA. He pitched twice against Tacoma in August, with the Rainiers handing him a loss in the 12th inning to finish a 4 hour, 48 minute game on the August 14th.

Olmos is bullpen depth. He is on the 40-man roster and he has one option year remaining, so he is a very strong candidate to be with the Rainiers next season.

Outfielder Xavier Avery is the first of the 2014 Tacoma players who was a free agent to sign with another club.

Today the Detroit Tigers inked Avery to a minor league deal and invited him to major league spring training.

Avery spent the entire 2014 season with Tacoma, appearing in 120 games. He batted .275 with ten homers and stole 31 bases. His most memorable part of the season came in El Paso at the end of June: after hitting just two home runs all season up to June 27, he launched four homers in three days against the Chihuahuas.

If Avery goes to Triple-A with the Tigers organization, he’ll be playing for the Toledo Mud Hens.

Two of my favorite Rainiers from the past were hired by the Philadelphia Phillies as minor league coaches.

Former catcher Pat Borders was named manager of the Williamsport Crosscutters of the short-season New York-Penn League. This is Borders first job in a non-playing capacity.

The Phillies also hired Brian Sweeney to serve as pitching coach for their rookie-level team in the Gulf Coast League. Sweeney will work with teenagers down there – many of whom will be in their first professional season.

Sweeney and Borders share a trait: both continued to play in Triple-A as they approached age 40 (or in Borders case, beyond 40), mostly for a love of the competition. These are the type of men who become good coaches.

Links:

  • Bob Dutton rounds up all of this news in his Mariners notebook.
  • Here is the report on Xavier Avery signing with the Detroit Tigers.
  • You will see a distinct ex-Rainiers flavor in the list of Phillies minor league coaches. The main reason: former Mariners front office folks Pat Gillick and Benny Looper are calling the shots in Philly.
  • The Salt Lake Bees have a new manager: former major league infielder Dave Anderson.
  • Want to get lost on the internet on a Friday afternoon? Enjoy Grantland’s MLB transaction trees. Credit Rainiers executive Jim Flavin for the solid link.
  • A fellow Rainiers executive – Ben Spradling – requested I link to this story. Please don’t click on it – you will regret it.

Have a great weekend!


Tacoma Tigers Slugger Kelvin Moore, 1957-2014

November 13, 2014

We lost one of our all-time greats this week.

Original Tacoma Tigers slugger Kelvin Moore passed away at the age of 57 on Sunday due to cardiac arrest in his home state of Georgia. The Oakland A’s made the announcement.

Moore was the star of the 1981 Tacoma Tigers – the second year Tacoma’s Triple-A club held the Tigers name, and the first year of its affiliation with Oakland. The A’s/Tigers union lasted through 1994.

Moore’s 1981 season still stands as one of the all-time greats in Tacoma franchise history (which dates to 1960).

A right-handed first baseman, Moore hit .327 with 31 home runs and 109 RBI, leading the Tigers into the PCL playoffs. The team won the opening round against Hawaii before losing to Albuquerque in the PCL Championship Series.

Moore was not with Tacoma during the PCL playoffs. Oakland A’s manager Billy Martin noticed what he was doing up in our neck of the woods, and he made Moore a late-August call-up as the big league club was on a playoff push of its own. Moore made the A’s playoff roster and he even got a couple of hits in the ALCS against the Yankees.

Moore returned to Tacoma in 1982 and saw his batting average fall to .264 but he still ripped 21 homers with 82 RBI. He appeared in just 35 more Triple-A games in 1983, adding five more dingers.

Moore’s 57 career Tacoma home runs ranks 8th on our all-time list, and his 213 RBIs is 10th all-time.

And that 1981 season stands up for the ages. Here are Moore’s 1981 numbers, where they rank on the Tacoma single-season list, with the all-time leader in parenthesis:

  •  .327 AVG – 6th all-time (Brian Raabe .352 – 1997)
  • 31 HR – 5th all-time (Adrian Garrett 43 – 1971)
  • 109 RBI – 5th all-time (Dan Rohrmeier 120 – 1997)
  • 166 Hits – 6th all-time (Jesus Alou 210 – 1963)
  • 291 Total Bases – 2nd all-time (Adrian Garrett 292 – 1971)

What a massive season.

Kelvin Moore’s Major League career was pretty brief. Here is his baseball reference page.

By now you know that Felix Hernandez did not win the American League Cy Young Award. He finished a very close second to Corey Kluber of the Cleveland Indians.

I was surprised by this result – I thought Felix had it in the bag, even though the stats are very close. I figured his star power and standing as a previous winner would help carry him in a tight race. I was wrong.

Lots on this in the links below.

Jake deGrom of the New York Mets won the National League Rookie of the Year award. He pitched against Tacoma in April.

deGrom opened the season with Las Vegas and faced the Rainiers on April 26 at Cashman Field. The Rainiers managed seven hits and two runs against him in five innings (Gabriel Noriega doubled twice off deGrom). However, deGrom and the 51s won the game, 11-3.

He was in the big leagues shortly thereafter. deGrom made two more Triple-A starts before the Mets called him up in mid-May, and then he rolled right on through the NL.

Links:


Seager’s Gold Glove A Rainiers-Mariners First

November 6, 2014

Seattle Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager was honored with his first Gold Glove award on Tuesday, and it marked a first in the long Tacoma Rainiers/Seattle Mariners relationship.

After twenty years of affiliation, Seager became the first former Rainiers player to win a Gold Glove as a member of the Mariners.

There have been other players who played in Tacoma and won the Gold Glove – but they have all done it with other teams after a trade or free agency. Adam Jones is a perfect example – he won his fourth for Baltimore on Tuesday.

But nobody came up though the Mariners farm system, stopped in Tacoma on their way to the big leagues, and won a Gold Glove for the Mariners in the last 20 years. Until now.

The award is a result of the hard work Seager put in to improve his defense, which was pretty solid but not raved about when he was in the minor leagues.

There have been a few players who won the Gold Glove earlier in their careers who played for Tacoma on rehabilitation assignments, and I figure we should mention that.

Ken Griffey Jr. jumps to mind as one, and then there is the curious case of Franklin Gutierrez.

After being acquired in a trade, Gutierrez won the Gold Glove for Seattle in 2010. He then played in a whopping 75 games for Tacoma on various rehabilitation assignments from 2011-2013.

Links:

  • Here is the report on Kyle Seager winning the Gold Glove. He got the news while on vacation.
  • A pair of Mariners won Player’s Choice Awards. The major awards will be announced next week.
  • The M’s are taking a look at Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas, Jon Heyman reports.
  • The PCL’s 2014 leader in Earned Run Average was traded yesterday. Nick Tropeano went from the Astros (Oklahoma City last year) to the Angels in a deal for Federal Way native Hank Conger. I believe the Angels are hoping Tropeano makes the big league rotation out of spring training.

I’m off for a few days. We’ll be back with a new post on Tuesday.


Smoak Moves On; Game Seven Tonight

October 29, 2014

Yesterday the Toronto Blue Jays acquired Justin Smoak on a waiver claim, ending Smoak’s time with the Seattle Mariners.

We saw quite a bit of Smoak over the last few years at Cheney Stadium, and he always provided a solid bat in the middle of the Tacoma Rainiers lineup. Smoak appeared in games for the Rainiers each of the last five seasons, including a 56-game stay in 2014.

Adding up the total numbers, you get just about one full PCL season’s worth of plate appearances. Here is how Smoak hit for Tacoma over the last five years:

  • Games: 120
  • At-Bats: 436
  • Hits: 126
  • Doubles: 28
  • Triple: 1
  • Home Runs: 14
  • Runs Batted In: 70
  • Walks: 75
  • Strikeouts: 95
  • Stolen Base: 1
  • Batting Average: .289
  • On-Base Percentage: .396
  • Slugging Percentage: .454

Those are pretty good numbers for a first baseman in Triple-A. Unfortunately he wasn’t able to approach this level of production in Seattle, and now he’s a Blue Jay.

I enjoyed having Justin on the club. He’s a likable guy and I wish him the best with his new team.

Justin Smoak 2014

Here is some good news: we won the baseball lottery!

We’re getting a World Series Game Seven tonight, and it should be awesome. I know I’ll be stationed directly in front of the television starting at 5 pm.

Do you have a favorite Game Seven?

In recent years, 2001 Diamondbacks-Yankees stands out as a thriller, but my favorite of the last 20 years is 1997 Marlins-Indians. That game saw the Marlins rally to tie in the bottom of the ninth before winning in the 11th. The Indians were loaded with hitting talent and somehow the Marlins won the series. Here is the box score.

Links:

  • Roger Angell is 94 years old, a Hall Of Fame baseball writer, and he’s seen more Game Sevens than we have, so let’s start with his musings on tonight’s contest. His thoughts on the players reaction to last night’s blowout are spot-on.
  • It’s a free week at Baseball Prospectus, and their stats have the Giants as a 59% favorite tonight. However, Rob Neyer says you can throw the stats out the window for tonight.
  • Jonah Keri has a Game Seven preview over at Grantland, with four key factors.
  • The road team is a big underdog in Game Seven, Grant Brisbee writes. This story also serves as a quick review of the Game Sevens of the past 35 years.
  • Ryan Divish has the news story on the end of the Justin Smoak era.
  • John McGrath rehashed the trade that brought Smoak to the Mariners.
  • As usual you can find some good tidbits in Bob Dutton’s Mariners notebook.
  • Congratulations to Salt Lake Bees broadcaster Steve Klauke, who won an award!
  • If you were forced to guess which former Tacoma Tigers player shot himself while cleaning his gun, there is one obvious answer, isn’t there?

OK that’s enough for today. I need four hours to prepare for Game Seven.


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