2 1/2 Weeks

February 3, 2015

Tough weekend, eh? Certainly not what I expected out of Super Bowl Sunday. And now we have to wait 17 more days before Spring Training starts.

Getting to baseball, for older Tacoma fans let’s take a moment to remember a longtime opponent in the visiting dugout.

Rocky Bridges passed away in Coeur d’Alene at the age of 87. While he’s mostly known for his long career as a back-up infielder in the major leagues, he later became one of the longest-running Pacific Coast League managers of the modern era.

Bridges managed 12 full seasons in the PCL – mostly with the San Francisco Giants affiliate. He managed the Hawaii Islanders in 1972 and part of 1973 before starting his nine-year term piloting the Phoenix Giants from 1974 through 1982. Bridges returned for one last year in the PCL in 1987, with Vancouver. He won one PCL Championship – in 1977, with Phoenix.

All of this occurred well before my time in the PCL, but if you happen to bump into Stan Naccarato around town I bet he has some Rocky Bridges stories – Bridges was known for having a steady stream of one-liners, and was the favorite manager of many players.

We’ll get back to the upcoming season on Wednesday, when we take a look at the 2015 Tacoma outfield situation. Lots of uncertainty in this group.



New Rainiers Manager Brings Experience

January 26, 2015

At the Mariners media event last week I had a chance to pull aside Director of Player Development Chris Gwynn and ask him about new Tacoma Rainiers manager Pat Listach.

Gwynn was more than happy to discuss the hiring of Listach, which he perceives as a coup for the Mariners organization.

“His resume, his experience – he was in the big leagues five of the last six years,” said Gwynn. “Our players (in Triple-A) need to be finished before they show up to the big leagues, and I thought it was a great fit.”

Listach was previously a minor league manager in the Chicago Cubs system, most recently in 2008 when he piloted the Iowa Cubs to an 83-59 record and won the PCL Manager of the Year award.

Since then he has worked on major league staffs, mostly as a third base coach but also as a bench coach. His name has been mentioned as a potential major league manager.

Listach was the Houston Astros third base coach in 2014. When manager Bo Porter was let go, it meant the new skipper would select his own coaching staff. That made Listach a free agent, and he was considered for several MLB coaching positions before committing to the Mariners.

“I was keeping my fingers crossed that he would still be available, because there was so much movement at the big league level,” said Gwynn. “I’m happy that it worked out the way it did.”

One concern for Gwynn was how Listach would handle a return to managing in Triple-A after getting accustomed to the major league coach role.

“We had long talks,” said Gwynn. “We wanted to make sure that we were all on the same page. He’s excited and ready to go. He’s going to be hungry; he’s going to push our kids. That’s exactly what we are looking for.”

From his post as a coach with an American League West team last year, Listach saw the Mariners young talent – including some players who might be with the Rainiers this season. Gwynn has talked to him about other players he’ll be working with.

“He knows what we have, because he was with the Astros last year as third base coach he knows the young kids that came up,” said Gwynn. “He can’t wait to put his hands on (Ketel) Marte and some of the other players we have down there. I think it’s the right fit at the right time.

Listach won’t be coming to Tacoma until he arrives with the entire team on April 16th – the night before the Rainiers home opener. Tacoma starts the season on the road in El Paso, and the team will fly directly from spring training in Arizona to Texas.

It’s likely that Listach has not been to Cheney Stadium since 2005, which was his final year as the Iowa Cubs hitting coach. In 2008 (the year he managed Iowa) the I-Cubs did not visit Tacoma.

Hopefully nobody told him that the stadium has been renovated – that would be funny!


  • Looks like Tacoma will probably have Endy Chavez and Franklin Gutierrez in the outfield, according to numerous reports. Bob Dutton mentions it in this Mariners notebook.
  • Ryan Divish has a post from Fanfest with the Endy & Franklin news, and also some tidbits from players he talked to at the event.
  • Hall Of Famer Ernie Banks passed away at age 83 – here is his New York Times obituary. The front page of the Chicago Tribune was something to see. For some fun footage, the Banks vs. Mickey Mantle episode of Home Run Derby (1960) is available on YouTube. Larry Stone resuscitated a 2002 column about a phone call with Banks and it is a fun read.
  • We can cross Humberto Quintero off the list of veteran catchers the Mariners could sign – he inked a deal with the Red Sox, according to Baseball America’s minor league transactions.
  • Jeff Sullivan compared Jesus Montero to the volcano that created Crater Lake. Read it if you dare.
  • Some Houston Astros met a penguin.
  • Russell Wilson‘s minor league managers are rooting for the Seahawks.
  • Tony Blengino of Fangraphs has a preview of the AL West. If you don’t like all of math at the top of the story, scroll down to his team-by-team write-ups.
  • New Commissioner Rob Manfred is willing to look at a lot of options to modernize and speed up the game.
  • Later this spring a new book is coming out on the strike season of 1981. Tacoma native Ron Cey used the break in the season to appear in a horror movie.

Check back Wednesday when we preview the 2015 Tacoma Rainiers middle infield situation.

Pat Listach – New Tacoma Manager

November 19, 2014

The Seattle Mariners and Tacoma Rainiers announced on Tuesday that Pat Listach will be the new Tacoma manager for 2015.

This marks the second year in a row that the Mariners have gone outside of the organization to hire a Triple-A manager. They did the same thing last year, hiring Rich Donnelly to manage the Rainiers – only to have plans change during spring training, with Donnelly ending up was the major league third base coach and Roy Howell taking over Tacoma.

Howell managed the Rainiers to a 74-70 record last year – and he’ll stay in the Mariners organization. He was supposed to be the Double-A hitting coach last year before the dominoes fell during spring training, and he ended up doing a fine job as Tacoma manager. I suspect he’ll go back to his prior role as hitting coach – possibly at Double-A Jackson, where he was expected to be last season.

Rainiers fans should be excited about Listach running the club.

Listach last managed in the Pacific Coast League in 2008, leading the Iowa Cubs to an 83-59 record and a first-place finish in the American-North (they lost to Oklahoma in the American Conference playoffs, three games to two). Listach was named the PCL Manager of the Year for his efforts.

At that time, Listach was considered to be a strong major league manager prospect. Lou Piniella was the Chicago Cubs manager, and he recommended Listach for a big league coaching job in Washington. Listach served as a third base coach for the Washington Nationals and manager Jim Riggleman for two seasons, 2009-2010.

Listach left the Nationals to take an opportunity as the Chicago Cubs bench coach under then-manager Mike Quade (bench coach is considered a better job than third base coach for aspiring managers). Listach survived two tumultuous and ultimately very Cub-like seasons in Chicago before being let go after the 2012 season.

The Dodgers hired Listach to work with their minor league infielders during the 2013 season, and then he returned to the big leagues as Houston Astros third base coach in 2014. That lasted one season, as the Astros manager and staff were flushed out, and now Listach will be managing in Tacoma.

That’s a lot of stops over a short period in the big leagues, but a theme can be seen: Listach has been a coach for three poor teams that had no chance of winning right away, and twice when changes were made he was one of the guys looking for a new job. That’s the way it goes on the big league coaching carousel.

The revolving door of managers and coaches is exactly how Listach got his first managerial opportunity: he was serving as the Iowa Cubs hitting coach in 2002 and had never managed before. The Chicago Cubs made a mid-season move, firing manager Don Baylor and promoting Iowa manager Bruce Kimm to big league skipper. They asked Listach to stay with Iowa and manage the rest of the season – and he went 27-28 the rest of the way, decided he liked it, and a few years later was managing at the Double-A level in the Cubs system.

Listach is only 47 years old, and he still has a chance to be a major league manager. Being in charge for another season – even if it is at the Triple-A level – can get him back on that path.

The remainder of the 2015 Rainiers coaching staff will be announced soon – but as a preview, I’m not expecting any changes. In the meantime, let’s welcome Pat Listach to the Tacoma Rainiers family!


  • We’ll start with the The News Tribune’s story on the Pat Listach hire. Included is a list of all Tacoma managers since the city fielded a PCL team in 1960.
  • Listach was a finalist for the Texas Rangers third base coach job, but when that didn’t work out he accepted the Mariners offer.
  • Like all Tacoma managers, Listach will also coach third base. This 2009 story from the Washington Post details his strategy.
  • Listach has a reputation as a terrific coach of infielders. When Listach was let go by the Chicago Cubs, second baseman Darwin Barney gave Listach a lot of credit for his record-setting errorless streak.
  • As a player, Listach is most known for winning the 1992 American League Rookie of the Year award. As detailed in this story, he was given an unexpected opportunity due to an injury, and he took advantage of it. The story includes some personal details on Listach.
  • Thursday is a big day in the off-season maneuverings of MLB teams: it’s the deadline to set the 40-man roster prior to the Rule 5 Draft. Bob Dutton has a look at the Mariners players who may need to be protected.
  • Ryan Divish thinks that Braves outfielder Justin Upton may be available via trade, and he notes that the Mariners could be in play this time around.
  • Sad news: a historic stadium in the Dominican Republic was destroyed by fire. This is the home of Aguilas Cibaenas – currently Mariners Minor League Co-Player of the Year Jordy Lara is playing for this team.
  • Here’s an interesting story on the struggles top prospects are facing when they make the jump from Triple-A to the major leagues. The takeaway: video scouting seems to favor the pitchers when a hitter first reaches the majors.
  • They are putting together the broadcast team for the 2015 Chamber’s Bay US Open. I guess this thing really is going to happen, eh?

Our next blog update will come on Friday.

Welcome New Rainiers Manager Roy Howell

March 12, 2014

The Seattle Mariners decided on Roy Howell to manage the Tacoma Rainiers this season.

In case you are just tuning in, original manager Rich Donnelly was promoted to major league third base coach after John Stearns had to step down due to hernia surgery.

Howell was brought into the organization as a hitting coach, spending the last two seasons with Advanced-A High Desert. He was supposed to do the same job at Double-A Jackson this year, but he ended up getting a rather nice promotion in the shuffle.

Howell played in the major leagues from 1974 to 1984, with the Toronto Blue Jays, Milwaukee Brewers, and Texas Rangers. He played on the 1982 Brewers World Series team along with former Rainiers pitching coaches Jim Slaton and Dwight Bernard. He was an all-star in 1978, and to this day he holds the Blue Jays record for most RBI in one game (nine, September 10, 1977 at the Yankees).

Howell has limited managing experience – three years for short-season Eugene, although he did manage in the independent Atlantic League in 2011 and that league has a few Triple-A calibre players in it. He also has PCL experience from his days as the Portland Beavers hitting coach from 2000 to 2002.

Howell played in the PCL at the end of his career, in 1985 with the Portland Beavers.

I’ll get a chance to talk to Howell when I go to spring training later this month. Furthermore, I assume we’ll have some newspaper stories to link to on Howell for Friday’s blog update.

The Mariners made their second round of spring training moves yesterday, and quite a few players were optioned to Tacoma.

Optioned to AAA TACOMA (5):

Left-handed Pitcher (1):    Bobby LaFromboise

Right-handed Pitcher (1):  Logan Bawcom

Catcher (1):                      Jesus Sucre

Infielder (2):                      Ji-Man Choi, Carlos Triunfel

Re-Assigned to Minor League Camp (6):

Right-handed Pitcher (2):  Logan Kensing, Matt Palmer

Left-handed Pitcher (1):    Nick Hill

Catcher (1):                      Mike Dowd

Infielder (2):                      Ty Kelly, Nate Tenbrink

A couple of things strike me here: first off, Bawcom and LaFromboise did not get very long looks to make the Mariners bullpen. Perhaps their relief crew is a bit stronger than expected.

The other interesting thing is the wording that Ji-Man Choi was optioned to Tacoma. When I covered the Tacoma first basemen a few weeks ago, I wrote that he could end up starting the season in Double-A because Tacoma is expected to have Jesus Montero and Rich Poythress as the 1B/DH. That could still happen – the “to Tacoma” part of “optioned to Tacoma” is not binding – but for now it looks like Choi will be on his way to Cheney Stadium on April 3.

All of the players “assigned to minor league camp” have a Triple-A profile except for catcher Mike Dowd. He’ll probably go to Jackson.


That’s it for me today – I’m off to the MGM Arena for the late games on the opening day of the Pac-12 Tournament. Related: I bet I’m the only person in a Las Vegas hotel room who spent his morning googling Roy Howell.

We’ll be back with a full blog post on Friday, and remember that the Rainiers open house is Saturday so plan accordingly!

Looking For A Leader

March 7, 2014

A Recent History of Tacoma Managers

2010: Daren Brown manages the first-place Rainiers until August 7, when he is named Mariners interim manager after Don Wakamatsu is fired. Hitting coach Jose Castro manages the Rainiers for the remainder of the season, and into the playoffs.

2011: Daren Brown manages the Rainiers all season.

2012: Daren Brown returns and manages the Rainiers all season.

2013: Daren Brown manages the Rainiers for one month, then is promoted to Seattle to be the third base coach. John Stearns takes over the Rainiers and finishes the season.

2014: Rich Donnelly is brought in from outside the organization to manage in Tacoma. The longtime MLB third coach gets promoted to Seattle on March 7, after M’s third base coach John Stearns steps down due to health-related issues.

Here we go again. The Rainiers don’t have a manager, and opening day (April 3) is fast approaching.

Stearns had surgery for a hiatal hernia. He’s going to be out of action well into April, it seems. He stepped down today, saying (according to a Mariners press release) “It is not fair to the organization, to Lloyd (McClendon) or to the players for me to expect to jump back in after not being able to participate in the bulk of spring training. Instead, I have asked Jack (Zduriencik) to re-assign me within the organization, and he has agreed to do so.”

Stearns will work as a pro scout this season – something he has done before. This means we might see him at Cheney Stadium at some point this season, which would be fun.

So now we once again need a manager in Tacoma.

Who are the in-house candidates for the Rainiers manager job?

Brown is still around and we would love to have him back, but his status in the organization is a bit cloudy after Jack Z broke up Eric Wedge‘s staff last Fall.

Jim Pankovits managed Double-A Jackson for three years, and now he is the roving minor league infield instructor. The story I heard (second- or third-hand) is that Pankovits wanted and requested the roving job – so switching back to a manager role might not be what he had in mind. That being said, he has the experience to do the job.

Jack Howell oversees all of the Mariners minor league managers and coaches. He might just say, “what the heck, I’ll do it.” He’s done some managing in the low minors.

Scott Steinmann served as Rainiers bench coach last year after Stearns came in. He’s currently slotted to be with short-season Everett as hitting coach (Steinmann enjoys working with the younger players). His experience last year might cause him to be reassigned to manage Tacoma.

Former Rainiers catcher Jim Horner managed in High Desert last year, got promoted and is currently set for his first season of managing at Double-A Jackson. They could bump him up to Triple-A – but this would cause an organization-wide chain reaction that might be more trouble than it’s worth.

Roy Howell (no relation to Jack Howell) is the new Double-A hitting coach. He has managed in the lower minors in the Padres system, and he has three years of PCL experience as the hitting coach for Portland from 2000 to 2002. He managed in the Atlantic League two years ago. I have no idea if he’s interested in managing again.

These seem like the most likely candidates to me. It’s probably too late to go outside of the organization. Baseball people commit to a job once spring training starts; the off-season is when managers/coaches shuffle between organizations.

However, the independent leagues could be raided. Maybe it’s time for a blast from the past… Dan Rohn was just named manager of the Traverse City Beach Bums, who are an independent team in his home town. Has enough time passed to bring back Rohnie?

Thank goodness they made the move before the season starts. Whoever the new Tacoma manager is – sources from Arizona say we should find out within a few days – at least he will have the last few weeks of spring training to work with the team.

Here’s an idea that we should actually employ: let the fans manage.

Believe it or not, this has been done before. In the Major Leagues.

Maverick owner Bill Veeck once had a “Grandstand Manager Night” when he owned the St. Louis Browns. He gave fans sitting around the dugout signs to voice their opinion, and let them vote on key decisions. Meanwhile, actual Browns manager Zach Taylor sat in a rocking chair next to the dugout, smoking a pipe.

This really happened in 1951. And the Browns won, too. Fans all-time managerial record, in Major League Baseball history: 1-0.

We can do this.

We can do this.

Should the Rainiers managers be in the bleachers, or down in the Dugout Club?

I can just picture the new Dugout Club sales brochure: “The Dugout Club puts you closer to the action than ever before. You are intensely involved in the on-field action – in fact, each Dugout Club ticket now includes the right to vote on the starting lineup and key strategic decisions during the game. The Dugout Club puts you in the manager’s chair. Each Dugout Club ticket includes unlimited hot dogs, soda, beer, wine, and peanuts.”

The pressure is on you - the fans.

Fans: the pressure is on you.

Here’s more on The Day The Fans Managed. It’s an amazing story – give it a read.

Let the fans manage the Rainiers in 2014!

Needless to say, our final positional preview (the Tacoma bullpen candidates) has once again been postponed. Monday! I really, really, really mean it this time! Unless, um, they name the Tacoma manager that day.


  • Ryan Divish has a story on the Rainiers manager situation.
  • Those of you who watched a lot of Rainiers games last year are just like me: not surprised at all that it looks like Abraham Almonte will make the Mariners. I’d wager he ends up starting a lot of games, too.
  • The Mariners don’t need Kendrys Morales, John McGrath writes.
  • Lookout Landing has a thorough look at James Jones, who is likely to take Almonte’s spot in the Tacoma outfield.
  • James Paxton is a survivor, Jerry Brewer writes.
  • Meanwhile, after a week of rest Taijuan Walker played catch yesterday. So far, so good.
  • Bob Dutton ran through the Mariners bullpen options.
  • Dutton also talked to new closer Fernando Rodney about his crooked cap.
  • Baseball America’s Matt Eddy reminds us that three potential Rainiers in spring training camp have special contract provisions.
  • If you’re an ESPN Insider, here is Buster Olney’s take on Ken Griffey Jr.
  • Dr. Frank Jobe changed baseball forever. He passed away at age 88 – here is his New York Times obituary.
  • Exhibition round-up: Rodney made his Mariners debut, and Brad Miller turned in a web gem during Thursday’s 7-4 win over the White Sox… defensive problems cost the Mariners in an 8-5 loss to Cleveland on Wednesday. Almonte hit a leadoff homer.
  • We’ve got some PCL news today. The Omaha Storm Chasers will host the 2015 Triple-A All-Star Game. I know many of you want it in Tacoma (and so do I) – the Rainiers did not bid for the 2015 game, due to the Chambers Bay US Open happening at roughly the same time. Patience…
  • The Salt Lake Bees have a new name for their stadium: Smith’s Ballpark. Smith’s is a large grocery chain in Salt Lake City. So long, Spring Mobile Ballpark. This is the third name for the ballpark in my time in the PCL – whatever the name is, it’s one of the finest facilities in the league.
  • Former Tucson General Manager Mike Feder was hired by the Arizona Diamondbacks in a promotional capacity.

Weekend reading idea: baseball strategy books. We might need YOU.

New Skipper For Rainiers

January 15, 2014

The Seattle Mariners announced their minor league coaching staffs today, including a new one for the Tacoma Rainiers.

Rich Donnelly will be the 29th manager in Tacoma baseball history, replacing John Stearns who became the Mariners third base coach. Donnelly will be joined by pitching coach Jaime Navarro and new hitting coach Cory Snyder.

Rich Donnelly is the definition of a baseball man. He’s 67 years old, and has been working in the game since he was signed as a minor league catcher by the Minnesota Twins in 1967. He managed in the minors in the 1970s before embarking on a long career – we’re talking decades here – as a major league coach. Much of that time was spent as Jim Leyland‘s third base coach, a role he held with three different teams (the Pirates, Marlins, and Rockies).

The past three seasons, Donnelly has managed the New York Mets short-season Class-A team in the New York-Penn League, the Brooklyn Cyclones. However, he has plenty of Triple-A managing experience – but it was quite some time ago: Donnelly managed the Sacramento Solons in 1976, and the Tucson Toros for three years from 1977 to 1979. So, he’s been to Cheney Stadium before – but I’m guessing it’s been decades since he set foot in our ballpark.

Donnelly is from Steubenville, Ohio and attended Xavier University. I look forward to meeting Rich in spring training. I’ve been told by media members who have dealt with him in the major leagues that he is – in the parlance of the business – a great quote.

One other thing about Donnelly: apparently he is some sort of world-class racquetball player – check out the links down below.

Jaime Navarro you probably already know. The longtime major league pitcher served as the Rainiers pitching coach in 2010, when Tacoma won the PCL title. Navarro received a lot of credit that season for the progress that Michael Pineda made under his watch. Navarro has spent the last three years as the Mariners bullpen coach. We welcome Jaime back to Tacoma – he is part of the Tacoma family in a literal sense: his father Julio pitched for the Tacoma Giants from 1960 to 1962.

Former major league slugger Cory Snyder gets the promotion to Triple-A and will serve as the Rainiers hitting coach. He held the same role for the Mariners Double-A Jackson affiliate the last three years – that will be an advantage, as he’ll be accustomed to working with hitters that move up in the organization.

Snyder hit 149 major league home runs for five different teams, with a career-high of 33 for the Cleveland Indians in 1987. His best overall season was 1988, when he hit .272 with 26 homers and 75 RBI.

Snyder played in just eight PCL games, at the end of his career in 1995 with Las Vegas. Thus, it seems unlikely that he has been to Cheney Stadium before.

Snyder was a three-time All-American at Brigham Young University and he played for Team USA as a collegian – anyone else remember this card?

Rounding things out on the medical side, we have returning trainers Tom Newberg and B.J. Downie, along with a new performance coach in Gabe Bourland.

That’s our crew for 2014. Hopefully they will lead this team to a boatload of victories!

I have received many messages this off-season inquiring about the fate of former Rainiers manager Daren Brown.

Brown started the last seven years as Tacoma’s manager and is the winningest skipper in franchise history (by far). Two of the last four years he was promoted mid-season to serve as Mariners manager (2010) and third base coach (2013).

When he was asked to fill-in in Seattle last May, Brown was promised a job for 2014. Jack Z made good on that promise, creating a new position called “Bunting and Baserunning Coordinator.” Brown will travel through the Mariners minor league system, teaching the finer points of bunting and baserunning.

Hopefully Brown will come see us in Tacoma, but he lives in Amarillo, Texas – and that is close to Rainiers road stops in El Paso and Albuquerque.

Daren is a good friend, and his new job enabled me to send one of my better gag gifts to the former pitcher: this well-worn 1970s instructional book I found on Amazon:



  • We’ll start with the link to the Rainiers media release on the new coaching staff.
  • Here is a story on the Rich Donnelly‘s prowess on the racquetball court. The story is from last August and it has a strange error early on, saying he first picked up a racquet while managing the Tacoma Rainiers – that’s not true at all, but… foreshadowing? I suspect the writer got Tacoma confused with Tucson.
  • Donnelly’s minor league managerial record, along with a brief write-up, can be found here.
  • Wanna see something amazing? Check out Cory Snyder‘s college stats at BYU.
  • Ryan Divish posted the entire Mariners minor league coaching staffs, including the roving instructors. Some ex-Rainiers were promoted: Jim Horner will manage Double-A Jackson, Eddie Menchaca (manager) and Andrew Lorraine (pitching coach) move up to High Desert, and Mike Kinkade will be hitting coach in Clinton.
  • Jeff Sullivan writes that Mike Zunino and John Buck serve as bookends on a timeline.
  • If you haven’t seen the video of the Australian League player going all Rodney McCray on the right field fence, you better check it out now.

OK, we have a coaching staff. Time to really start looking forward to the 2014 season.

Mariners Have A Manager, What About Rainiers?

November 6, 2013

Yesterday the Seattle Mariners named Lloyd McClendon the 16th “fulltime” manager in franchise history. McClendon has previous managing experience with the Pittsburgh Pirates, and most recently he was Jim Leyland‘s hitting coach in Detroit.

I don’t really have an opinion on McClendon’s hiring. The Mariners struggles in recent seasons have had nothing to do with the manager, and everything to do with the talent on the field – which the manager does not control.

There is lots of stuff to read about McClendon in the links down below.

Now that the Mariners have filled the top spot, they have work to do in the minors. The Rainiers don’t currently have a manager – let’s take some guesses, and handicap the field.

Tacoma Manager Candidates

Jim Pankovits – the manager of the Mariners Double-A Jackson affiliate has been there for three years, and he’s in line for a promotion. Odds: 3 to 1.

Daren Brown – the man who has started the past seven seasons as Tacoma manager keeps getting promoted mid-season. I was hoping he would get the Mariners manager job, and now I’m hoping he gets a spot on the major league coaching staff. However, if that doesn’t happen he could be right back in his office at 2502 S. Tyler. Odds: 9 to 2.

The Field – this is everybody not listed, or alternately “some former Mets or Brewers employee who Jack Zduriencik trusts.” This is one of the most important parts of the Triple-A manager’s job: Jack Z has to trust the opinion of the skipper, when it comes to determining if a player is ready to get called up. Brown told me when he was Tacoma manager he talked to Jack Z almost every day – and when he was major league third base coach, he hardly ever talked to him. Don’t be surprised if the next Rainiers manager comes from outside the organization. Odds: 5 to 1.

John Stearns – the Rainiers “interim” manager after Brown was promoted last year, Stearns told me after the season he was going back to his previous duty as roving catching instructor. However, he could be asked to manage Tacoma again. Odds: 8 to 1.

Chris Woodward – the former Rainiers infielder retired after the 2012 season, and served last year as the minor league infield coach. Woody wants to manage and I think he’ll get the opportunity. However, he’ll probably have to start out in the low minors – although he has a ton of PCL experience and should be able to handle the players here. Odds: 12 to 1.

Scott Steinmann – served as Stearns bench coach after the mid-season shake-up last year. Steinmann has filled just about every role in the Mariners minor league system, but last season was his first in the upper levels of the organization. Odds: 15 to 1.

Jack Howell – currently the Mariners field coordinator, Howell oversees much of the Mariners minor league program. He’s a longshot simply because I’m not sure if he wants to manage – but we’ll list him, because he’s in the picture. Odds: 100 to 1.

Brian Sweeney – the consummate professional and ultimate Rainier, let’s bring in The PCL Dream as a player-manager! Odds: 2,500 to 1.

Roger Hansen – a former PCL player and longtime minor league instructor, the crusty Hansen has been working as a special assignment scout in the Mariners office. He could be asked to manage in Tacoma, which woild be quite a surprise. Odds: 1,000,000 to 1.

We should start to get a good idea which way this is going to go once McClendon’s coaching staff is announced.

The first Mariners Top Prospects list came out today, courtesy of Baseball Prospectus. They are a subscription-based site and their list has a ton of information about the players, and a farm system overview.

If you are a subscriber, you can read it all right here.

Here is their Top-10:

  1. RHP Taijuan Walker
  2. 1B D.J. Peterson
  3. LHP James Paxton
  4. RHP Victor Sanchez
  5. RHP Edwin Diaz
  6. LHP Luiz Gohara
  7. SS Chris Taylor
  8. LHP Tyler Pike
  9. Tyler Marlette
  10. OF Gabriel Guerrero

It’s a big change from last year’s list, due to the graduation of upper-level prospects. Seven of the ten players could begin the 2014 season in Class-A. Only three have a chance of appearing in Tacoma next season: Walker, Paxton, and Taylor. Hopefully Walker and Paxton are in the big leagues instead – we’ll almost certainly see Chris Taylor in Tacoma.

The official list of minor league free agents was published by Baseball America, and several 2013 Rainiers players are currently on the open market.

They are: pitchers Brian Sweeney and Jonathan Arias, catcher Jason Jaramillo, infielder Leury Bonilla, and outfielders Joe Dunigan and Denny Almonte.


That’s it for this week – the next blog update will be on Tuesday.

* I disagree with their rankings – Green Chone Figgins is ranked way too low; that’s easily a Top-5 shirsey.

Manager News

October 15, 2013

How’s that for a misleading title? You thought I was going to tell you how the Mariners manager search is going, or who Tacoma’s manager will be next year, didn’t you?

Nope. I have no clue.

But we do have some manager news in the PCL.

First and foremost, the only manager in the history of the Reno Aces is moving on. The Miami Marlins hired Brett Butler to be their third base coach next year.

Butler was the Reno manager from their first season (2009) up through this year. He even has a bar at the stadium named after him, called “Bugsy’s.” I suppose it could be named after Bugsy Siegel, but I prefer to believe it is named after brett “Bugsy” Butler.

I enjoyed interviewing Bugsy a couple of times each season for the pregame show, he was always available and very forthright. Best of luck to him in Miami.

Also on the manager front, former Seattle Mariners outfielder Darnell Coles was named manager of the Nashville Sounds late last week.

Coles was the Mariners first round draft pick in 1980, and he reached Seattle in 1983. He was an up-and-down guy for three years with the Mariners before blossoming after (stop me if you’ve heard this before) being traded to Detroit.

He was a starter for a couple of years in the majors, but was able to hang around for a long time as a fourth outfielder.

Cole had been working as a hitting coach in the minors, but two years ago he got the Brewers Double-A manager job, and they just promoted him to Triple-A for 2014.

I look forward to interviewing Coles when we play Nashville this year. Gotta ask him what it was like being traded for Rich Monteleone.


  • Brett Butler talked to the Reno newspaper about his decision to go to Miami.
  • The Nashville Tenneseean has a few notes on Darnell Coles.
  • Baseball America has its Top 20 Prospects from the PCL now online. The list is free (at the bottom-right of this link), but the good stuff is in the scouting reports which require a subscription.
  • Today is the 25h anniversary of Kirk Gibson‘s limp around the bases. If you have some time to kill, enjoy this oral history from ESPN.

Mariners Season Ends, Manager Search Begins

September 30, 2013

The Mariners lost the final game of the season on Sunday afternoon, finishing with a record of 71-91. It was the last game of the three-year tenure of manager Eric Wedge.

Wedge walked away from the job saying that he did not agree with Mariners upper management on their plans moving forward. This was a surprise, after GM Jack Zduriencik had stated that he and Wedge were in agreement on everything baseball-related.

Wedge quitting isn’t an unusual move in the normal working world: he didn’t like the direction his job was going, so he quit. But for a Major League Baseball manager? That’s really unusual.

The Mariners didn’t emerge from this situation looking very good. They may have trouble drawing interest from experienced managerial candidates, so we could be looking at a rookie manager next year.

Personally, I’m hoping Daren Brown is a candidate. I’d like to see him get another shot – a full season, this time.

Three other names I’ve seen thrown out there by respected baseball writers on Twitter: ex-Mariners infielder Joey Cora, former pitching coach Bryan Price, and A’s third base coach Chip Hale. You may remember Hale: he managed Tucson to the PCL Championship in 2006.

Yesterday was supposed to be the last day of the MLB regular season, but no! Texas and Tampa finished in a tie for the final wild card spot in the American League, so they will play a rare Game 163 tonight to break the tie and see who advances to the playoffs.

Tonight’s game is at 5:00 (Pacific, televised on TBS) and the winner will fly to Cleveland and face the Indians in the do-or-die AL Wild Card Game on Wednesday.

In the NL Wild Card Game, it will be Cincinnati at Pittsburgh on Tuesday.

So, we have three days of win-or-go-home baseball. This will be fun to watch.


  • We’ll start with Ryan Divish’s season wrap-up.
  • Geoff Baker’s news story for the Seattle Times has all of the surprising quotes from Eric Wedge.
  • Larry Stone wrote that the Mariners manager position is something of a joke.
  • Jerry Brewer has a column about the disconnect in the Mariners front office.
  • It’s hard to disagree with Dave Cameron’s assessment of the Mariners season.
  • The Mariners will have the No. 6 pick in the June draft. That’s a protected slot, so they can sign free agents without losing their first round pick.
  • In case you missed it amid all of the Seahawks mania, Marlins pitcher Henderson Alvarez tossed one of baseball’s oddest no-hitters on Sunday. He was standing in the on-deck circle when he finished his no-no.
  • Nashville manager Mike Guerrero has been promoted to major league coach for 2014 by the Milwaukee Brewers.

I’m pulling for the Rays tonight.

New Manager? No Problem!

May 3, 2013

New Rainiers manager John Stearns had about as easy of a debut as possible yesterday. Tacoma beat Tucson, 8-0, in a no-drama affair that included four home runs and a sterling two-hit shutout performance over eight innings by Jeremy Bonderman.

The victory was Tacoma’s ninth in a row, and it completed the team’s second consecutive four-game series sweep.

Tacoma has not won ten straight games since the 2008 season, when the Rainiers terrorized American Conference foes Round Rock and Albuquerque, sweeping an eight-game homestand (the team book-ended that homestand with a pair of road wins). That streak started on July 29, and it kicked off a 26-8 sprint to the finish line – the Rainiers were 54-56 when it started, and finished the year at 80-64.

One thing seems clear right away about new manager John Stearns: he’s going to bring a lot of energy to the table.

This didn’t reveal itself during the game; it came out during batting practice. Stearns threw to all three groups before the game – 45 minutes of BP pitching; normally three coaches each throw one 15-minute round. All the while he was shouting encouragement to the hitters, on nearly every pitch. It got to a point where if he didn’t yell something on a particular swing, you noticed the silence.

Tacoma players all know Stearns from spring training camp, and they have all hit against him in BP – this was nothing out of the ordinary for them.

There was one funny moment where he was pitching to one of his starters and calling him by his last name, and when the batter finished his round and started around the bases, Stearns looked to a Mariners Assistant GM behind the cage and said, quietly, “what’s his first name?” The Assistant said, “His name is —, and we’ll get you a roster!”

When it’s 8-0, with four homers and a two-hit shutout, no roster is needed.

Reno Series Preview

The Aces come stumbling into Tacoma ten games under .500 with a 9-19 record – a rare sight, indeed, for a Brett Butler-managed team. Reno is the defending PCL and Triple-A Baseball champion, so this is a bit of a surprise.

The Arizona Diamondbacks affiliate managed to avoid being swept at home by Las Vegas, salvaging the final game of the series last night 5-1 behind the pitching of Triple-A rookie Zeke Spruill. Still, the Aces took six losses during an eight-game homestand against Vegas and Fresno.

Reno has struggled at Aces Ballpark. They are 4-12 at home, and 5-7 on the road. Offensively, they haven’t been lighting up the scoreboard like they need to in order to win at Reno (Aces Ballpark is the most hitter-friendly ballpark in the league).

Still, the Aces are a threat. In typical Brett Butler fashion, this team will steal bases until you have no bases left for them to steal – if you let them. They have 35 steals and have only been caught seven times this year, for a remarkable 83.3% success rate as a team.

Outfielder Tony Campana is the primary thief. The former Cub has already stolen home plate – on a straight steal – and he has stolen second, third, and home on the same trip around the bases. He is a threat to go at any time – I can only imagine that Campana enjoys playing for Butler, who will encourage him to use his speed all of the time.

Triple-A slugger Kila Ka’aihue has patience and power – he can change the game with one swing, and if pitchers try to nibble around the corners he’ll take a walk down to first base. Veteran outfielder Brad Snyder (.293-4-24), infielder Chris Owings (.349-2-17), and catcher Ed Easley (.373-2-10) have been the Aces other top offensive performers.

Pitching-wise, Reno’s team ERA of 6.25 is last in the PCL with an (upside-down) bullet. Their staff just hasn’t been very good so far this year, and of course the home ballpark isn’t helping matters at all.

Reno is pulling an ace out of its sleeve for this series: major league center fielder Adam Eaton is starting a rehabilitation assignment tonight in Tacoma. Eaton was slated to be the Diamondbacks center fielder and leadoff hitter this season, but he sprained his left elbow during spring training and has been out all season. Eaton won the PCL Most Valuable Player award last year – hopefully he’ll be a little rusty as he begins his rehab.

Prospect watchers: keep an eye on Eaton and third baseman Matt Davidson. Top pitching prospect Tyler Skaggs is scheduled to start Sunday’s game.

The Reno Aces have no former Rainiers on the team. Pitching coach Mike Parrott is a former Mariner.

Tonight’s game is at 7:05, and it’s Friday Night Fireworks. Tacoma starts LHP James Paxton (1-2, 6.00) against Reno RHP Chase Anderson (1-3, 6.26). The broadcast is on 850 AM and streaming online through this link. Also, you can get it on your mobile device through TuneIn.


  • The Rainiers game story from The News Tribune leads things off. A correction: the Tacoma record winning streak is 16, set in 1961. We’re not even close yet.
  • On his Minor League Report, Ryan Divish includes a video shot of Carlos Triunfel‘s three-run homer.
  • John McGrath has a column on baseball lifers Daren Brown and new manager John Stearns. Stearns has an interesting background.
  • Larry Stone also wrote about the manager change, with lots of quotes from Stearns.
  • Tacoma hitting coach Howard Johnson will miss the Reno series, to attend his daughter’s college graduation. It’s probably for the best, since we are going to play his unfortunate “Get Metsmorized” rap on the big screen for Thowback Weekend.
  • No Mariners made Baseball America’s weekly Prospect Hot Sheet – but hey, at least they avoided the Not-So-Hot Sheet.
  • In the PCL, here is the story on Reno’s victory over Las Vegas last night. The Aces are adding a new front office executive.
  • Salt Lake defeated Colorado Springs, 2-1, on a game-ending sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth.
  • Fresno waxed Sacramento and earned a series split.
  • Oklahoma City is nearly as hot as Tacoma – the RedHawks won their seventh in a row yesterday, crushing Nashville, 9-1. The Rainiers visit OKC on Tuesday – wouldn’t it be cool if both team’s streaks were still going?
  • Everybody in Albuquerque has a book coming out this season (Traub’s seems interesting to me – I’ll pick that one up when we go down there in August). Meanwhile, Oscar Taveras went off and Memphis beat the ‘Topes last night.
  • Omaha shut out New Orleans, 1-0.
  • Even in Iowa they are surprised to have a game snowed out on May 2nd.


Last chance to get that ticket deal for Throwback Weekend – check it right here!