On To New Orleans

August 11, 2014

Fresno won the final game of the five-game series at Cheney Stadium on Monday afternoon, and now the Rainiers start an eight-game road trip to New Orleans and Round Rock.

Fresno won in 11 innings on Monday, 4-3. They scored the go-ahead run in the top of the 11th on a two-out wild pitch with a runner at third base.

The final out of the game was thrilling, but not quite what we wanted. Tacoma had runners at second and third with one out, and Humberto Quintero hit a fly ball to left. Tyler Colvin caught it, Stefen Romero tagged at third and tried to score the tying run – and Colvin threw a one-hop strike to home plate, nailing Romero to end the game.

Tacoma won the five-game series, 3-2. There were two thrilling finishes and both of them involved Romero at home plate – the walk-off grand slam on Saturday, and the sliding tag play on Monday.

Today the Rainiers do the longest possible travel you can do in the Pacific Coast League: they fly from SeaTac to Louis Armstrong International. Guys will be waking up at 3 AM to go to the airport, landing in New Orleans at 2:00 PM if everything is on time. There will be just enough time to check in to the hotel, eat something, start caffeinating extensively, and head to the ballpark.

New Orleans is the Miami Marlins Triple-A club, and they play at Zephyr Field – one of the PCL’s best pitcher’s parks. They currently have the Marlins No. 1 prospect on the roster in left-handed pitcher Andrew Heaney, and he’s scheduled to start the series opener today.

Top hitters on the Zephyrs are corner infielder Mark Canha (.314-16-68 and he’s a Cal Bear) and slugging corner outfielder Kyle Jensen (.268-24-79). First baseman Justin Bour has split his season between Triple-A and MLB; he’s in AAA right now and he has a .909 OPS in the PCL.

New Orleans just lost four of five in a road series at Memphis. It ended in very rough fashion, with three straight losses in which the Zephyrs were out-scored 39-6.

Tuesday’s game starts at 5:05 PM (Pacific) – the Alaska Airlines Pregame Show begins at 4:50 on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. Tacoma starts RHP Andrew Carraway (6-5, 5.54) against New Orleans LHP Andrew Heaney (4-4, 4.35).


  • Here is your Rainiers game story from The News Tribune. I should note that 20-year-old shortstop Ketel Marte went 2-for-5 and handled everything hit his way in a very solid Triple-A debut.
  • The Mariners creamed the Blue Jays yesterday, 11-1. Felix Hernandez did Felix things.
  • No link, but Reno got some sweet revenge after dropping three straight to Sacramento by annihilating the River Cats last night, 17-4. Standings: Sacramento in first, Reno is three games back, Tacoma six back, 21 games remain.
  • If you like really weird baseball stuff, this is for you: there was a wacky suspended-game combination no-hitter in the International League last night, in which Keslo’s Trevor May learned that he pitched a no-hitter via text message.

That’s all of the links for today due to the travel – I promise a full blog for you on Wednesday and hopefully I’ll get to type it while enjoying fine coffee and beignets (and not sweating profusely).


Rainiers Happily Done With Chihuahuas

June 29, 2014

Tacoma played its final game of the 2014 season against El Paso on Sunday, and that’s a good thing.

The Rainiers allowed three runs in the eighth inning and lost to the Chihuahuas, 6-4. That closed a miserable season series against the San Diego Padres Triple-A club, which saw the Rainiers lose 12 of the 16 games.

Tacoma didn’t get creamed by the C-Dogs (that’s what they call them here; I am not making that up). Ten of the 16 games were settled by two runs or less.

The games in El Paso were particularly crazy, as this is one of those hitter’s parks like Reno and Albuquerque and Colorado Springs where no lead is safe.

Tacoma made a nice rally in the 7th to take the lead, and two pretty cool things happened.

Xavier Avery homered for his fourth time in 36 hours. This from a man who hit two homers in his first 247 at-bats of the season. Avery told me he made a mechanical adjustment to help him stay back on the ball a little longer, and welp… here we are!

Abraham Almonte hit two triples in the game, and he switch-hit the them: one from the right side, and one from the left side of the plate. Two triples in one game is a very rare feat, but switch-hit triples? That’s gotta be super-rare.

Now the Rainiers return home and face division rival Reno in a four-game series. This will be an important series for the team if it is going to make a run at the division: you gotta make headway against the teams you are trying to chase down.

Reno just went 3-2 in a five-game series at Albuquerque. It appears that right now the Aces are getting good starting pitching but their offense is erratic. They are in transition, too: impressive infielder Nick Ahmed was called up, they claimed MLB veteran Ronny Cedeno off waivers, and they acquired another vet in Argenis Diaz.

The most shocking thing from my research was learning that Mike Jacobs is actually in a slump. He’s hitting .172 with two homers in June, and this guy has been crushing the PCL for three years.

On the other hand, outfielder Alfredo Marte is currently with them, and he’s been terrorizing the PCL while waiting for his next big league opportunity. Marte hit two homers yesterday in Albuquerque.

A word of wisdom for Rainiers base runners: don’t try to steal when Bobby Wilson is catching. He’s been gunning down runners for years, and he’s nailing them at a 47% clip this season.

It should be a good series, and it is an important one for Tacoma considering the time of year. If the Rainiers are going to make a run, now would be a good time to start a winning streak.

Monday’s game starts at 6:05 PM – the Alaska Airlines Pregame Show begins at 5:50 on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. Tacoma starts RHP Erasmo Ramirez (1-3, 4.55) against Aces RHP Zeke Spruill (3-4, 6.75).


Sorry for the lack of links – the El Paso-to-Tacoma travel day is a real beast. Both of the Rainiers road trips to El Paso this year were there-and-back – which makes no sense from a league travel perspective. El Paso is an easy bus ride from Albuquerque, and the league should schedule teams to visit both cities on the same road trip.

Off my soap box – let’s see if the Rainiers can have a good series against Reno!

Rainiers Return Home

July 30, 2013

Reno is in the rear-view mirror – thank goodness – as the Rainiers open an eight-game homestand tonight at Cheney Stadium.

Bad things happen to the Rainiers in Reno, and that trend continued as they lost in the bottom of the ninth inning yesterday, 7-6. The game ended on a walk-off error.

Even though Tacoma has been one of the best teams in the PCL all season, and Reno has been one of the league’s worst all season, the Aces went 10-6 against Tacoma this year.

The Rainiers have never won a season series against Reno. Maybe next year?

Anyway, we’re done with those guys. Now the Omaha Storm Chasers come to town for a four-game series.

The Royals Triple-A club is coming in hot: they’ve won four of their last five games, and are 18-10 since June 29.

Omaha has a former Rainiers catcher in Adam Moore – although he is on the disabled list, and I’m not sure if he made the trip to Tacoma.

The Storm Chasers also have Ben Broussard on the roster. The 36-year-old first baseman is part of Mariners infamy: in a 2006 deadline deal, Seattle traded then-Rainiers outfielder Shin-Soo Choo to Cleveland for Broussard. It has gone down as one of the worst trades in Mariners history.

Omaha’s hot hitter to keep an eye on is Christian Colon. The former first-round draft pick homered in three straight games last week, and has four dingers in his last ten games. His season numbers aren’t impressive, but he’s hitting .309 in July and is young enough that this might be a case of a player improving over the course of the season.

Today’s game is at 7:05, and you can hear it on South Sound Sports 850 AM, streaming right here, and available via the TuneIn app for iPads and smart phones. Tacoma starts RHP Taijuan Walker (2-0, 2.42) against Omaha RHP Brian Sanches (7-2, 3.44).


  • We start with the Rainiers game story from The News Tribune.
  • The paper also has a huge feature on Jesus Montero, and where he stands in the Mariners organization.
  • The Mariners activated Michael Morse from the disabled list, and designated Jason Bay for assignment. It’s one of those ten-day deals for Bay – although it seems extraordinarily unlikely that he would come to Tacoma.
  • Larry Stone has a piece on interim Mariners manager Robby Thompson.
  • Someone punched the Mariners Moose.
  • Mariners pitching prospect Edwin Diaz gets some love from Baseball America in this notebook.
  • Tucson’s bullpen locked down Salt Lake, and the Padres 4-3 victory kept Tacoma just one game out of first.
  • Las Vegas swept a doubleheader from Sacramento, Jordany Valdespin “pimped” a homer, there was a beanball war, benches cleared, managers Wally Backman and Steve Scarsone went at it, and everyone got ejected. Vegas, baby!
  • Fresno’s game at Colorado Springs yesterday was rained out.
  • Everything you want to know about how Manny Ramirez is doing in Round Rock is right here.
  • Nashville’s Aaron Laffey prevented Omaha from sweeping the Sounds. In the notes, we learn that we are not going to get to see Omaha flamethrower Yordano Ventura.
  • Oklahoma City’s George Springer needs one homer for a 30-30 season.
  • I’m all-for pink jerseys to raise money for breast cancer awareness, but designers can make them look classy, right? Albuquerque won in these things.

It’s great to be home for an extended stretch, now let’s see if Walker can deal tonight.

Rainiers Open EIGHT GAME MEGA SERIES Tonight

June 6, 2013

The Rainiers dropped the final game of the Sacramento series on Tuesday, 6-2, settling for a split of the four-game series. The whole league had Wednesday off, and now we resume play tonight.

The Rainiers welcome the Las Vegas 51s to town, and tonight we start our first and only (use your monster truck rally voice) EIGHT GAME MEGA SERIES of the 2013 season.

An EIGHT GAME MEGA SERIES is always a home-and-home affair. Tacoma plays Vegas four times here at Cheney Stadium (through Sunday), and then the two teams fly to Las Vegas and play four more at Cashman Field on Monday. (I think the PCL should charter a private airplane with “EIGHT GAME MEGA SERIES EXPRESS” emblazoned on the side of it to transport the teams – why they haven’t done this yet is a mystery to me. There would even be room in the back of the plane to ship the EIGHT GAME MEGA SERIES TROPHY, which as you can imagine is quite large and unwieldy).

This is a rematch of last year’s NINE GAME MEGA SERIES between the two teams, when Tacoma went 5-4 over a nine-day stretch ending on August 30. However, the 51s were a Blue Jays affiliate then; these new Mets players are EIGHT GAME MEGA SERIES rookies.

Tacoma had three MEGA SERIES last year, of varying lengths: a seven-gamer against Salt Lake (lost, 5-2), a nine-gamer with Tucson (originally scheduled for eight games, but a rainout forced a DH so let’s make it nine! Tacoma won, 5-4), and the nine-gamer with Las Vegas (Tacoma, 5-4).

This is the first EIGHT GAME MEGA SERIES of the year for Vegas, too. They have another EIGHT GAME MEGA SERIES right after the all-star break, against in-state rival Reno.

Las Vegas Preview

The 51s are the New York Mets Triple-A affiliate, managed by Wally Backman.

They’re coming in hot. Vegas carries a seven-game win streak into the EIGHT GAME MEGA SERIES, having just swept Fresno at Chukchansi Park, and winning three straight at home against Reno prior to that.

The top prospect on the 51s is starting pitcher Zack Wheeler, who is considered to be one of the best prospects in all of the minor leagues. He’s scheduled to pitch on Friday night (against James Paxton) in what the New York media thinks might be his final Triple-A start. If you like watching prospects, you should definitely come to the game tomorrow night.

Vegas outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis is on a home run binge, having gone deep nine times in his last 14 games. He has ten homers on the year, with nine in the last two weeks – ponder that for a moment. He homered twice on Tuesday in Fresno.

First baseman Josh Satin continues to be the 51s most consistent hitter, batting .311 with nine homers, 39 walks to 42 K’s, and a 923 OPS. Infielder Wilmer Flores leads the team with 39 RBI.

Two key players are on the disabled list: top catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud has been out for most of the season (as usual), and PCL slugger Andrew Brown is currently on the DL (I don’t have details yet on his injury and if he may come back soon, but he’s a terror at the plate when he’s in the PCL).

The Las Vegas pitching staff is a former Rainiers party: D.J. Mitchell, Matt Fox, David Aardsma, and Sean Henn are all on it. Mitchell, Fox, and Henn were all with Tacoma just last season!

You know who really wants to win this series? Rainiers hitting coach Howard Johnson. He and Wally Backman are old buddies and former teammates on the 1986 Mets, and there are bragging rights at stake.

Tacoma won the first meeting of the year between the two teams, a four-game series sweep at Cashman Field, April 25-28.

Roster Round-Up

The shocker of the 2013 season occurred on Wednesday, when Mariners catcher Jesus Sucre suffered a wrist injury and they called up Brandon Bantz from Tacoma.

I haven’t had a chance to talk to Bantz yet, but I can only imagine he was stunned by the news. We’re very happy for him in Tacoma, he spent all of last year as the Rainiers back-up catcher, and opened this year at Double-A to make room  for Mike Zunino and Sucre. He’s an extremely hard worker and what you might call a Mariners organization soldier, so it’s great to see him get a chance to be a big leaguer even if it is for only a few days. Now, we hope he gets into a game.

To make room for Bantz on the 25-man roster, Carlos Triunfel was optioned to Tacoma – I expect him in the lineup tonight.

The had to add Bantz to the 40-man roster as well – Franklin Gutierrez was moved to the 60-day disabled list for this purpose. It’s back-dated, so Gutierrez is eligible to come off the DL on June 22.

These moves leave Tacoma with one catcher, which ain’t gonna cut it. Luckily Double-A Jackson was carrying three catchers, so they sent us one of theirs: Carlton Tanabe is up from Jackson and will back up Zunino while Bantz is in the big leagues. I’m not yet sure how the Rainiers are going to squeeze Tanabe on the roster; that will be worked out before the game tonight.

Tonight’s Game

Tonight’s game is at 7:05, and you can hear it on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. Tacoma starts RHP Blake Beavan (3-2, 4.91) Scratched! Looks like a bullpen day against Las Vegas RHP D.J. Mitchell (2-1, 6.61).


Make sure you eat healthy, get some exercise, and sleep well because an EIGHT GAME MEGA SERIES is not to be taken lightly.

Miracle Comeback In Reno

May 28, 2013

Tacoma pulled off something new on Monday afternoon in Reno: a miracle comeback.

Trailing 10-6 going to the top of the ninth inning, Tacoma rallied to score five runs and claim an 11-10 win. Alex Liddi (he went 4-for-5) and Stefen Romero had big two-run doubles in the rally, with Romero’s game-winner coming with two outs.

The Rainiers earned a split of the four-game series, which was a nice turnabout seeing how it looked like it was going to be yet another series loss at Aces Ballpark.

Tacoma (31-21) gained a game on first place Colorado Springs, and the Rainiers are only a half-game out of first going into the big series that starts tonight.

Roster Round-Up

Prior to yesterday’s game we had six roster moves.

The Mariners called up Nick Franklin and Hector Noesi, sending down Dustin Ackley and Lucas Luetge. Both Ackley and Luetge are expected to join the team today in Colorado.

Tacoma sent Jimmy Gillheeney to Double-A Jackson, and brought up Forrest Snow from Jackson. Snow pitched in relief yesterday.

Colorado Springs Preview

The Sky Sox are 31-19 on the season, good for first place in the Pac-North. Tacoma will play the Sky Sox 16 times this season, and tonight is the first game.

Colorado Springs missed a chance to get a four-game sweep of Fresno, dropping the final game of the series yesterday, 8-1.

Despite that score, the Sky Sox are in first place because of offense. They have a formidable lineup, featuring major league types like Tyler Colvin and Josh Rutledge along with young, dangerous hitters Ryan Wheeler and Matt McBride. The Sky Sox lead the PCL in runs scored and have a team batting average of .301.

Their pitching staff ranks in the middle of the league – and that’s not bad, considering the environment. Colorado Springs sits roughly 6,200 feet above sea level, and baseballs fly around Security Service Field. They installed a baseball humidor last year to prevent balls from drying out, and it seemed to temper the scoring a little bit.

The Sky Sox ace pitcher is Drew Pomeranz, and he is scheduled to start the final game of the series on Friday.

Colorado Springs has a new manager this year: Glenallen Hill, former major league outfielder who spent part of the 1998 season with the Mariners.

Tonight’s Game

It will start at 6:05 (Pacific) and will air on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. Tacoma starts RHP Jeremy Bonderman (2-4, 4.68) against Sky Sox RHP Drew Carpenter (1-4, 6.38).


  • The Rainiers game story detailing the comeback has reaction from Alex Liddi.
  • John McGrath wrote about the Dustin Ackley transaction.
  • Aaron Harang tossed a shutout and the Mainers won their second in a row.
  • Geoff Baker wrote about the Jeremy Bonderman situation. Today may be Bonderman’s last game with Tacoma.
  • If you want to get depressed, read Baker’s blog post on the big picture.
  • Nick Franklin was John Sickels’ prospect of the day.
  • For ESPN Insiders: Keith Law updated his Top-25 Prospects list, and one Rainiers player appears.
  • Baseball Prospectus subscribers can read Ben Lindbergh’s take on the Michael PinedaJesus Montero trade.
  • In the PCL, the Sky Sox lost to Fresno yesterday, 8-1. Shane Loux pitched a complete game for the Grizzlies.
  • The Colorado Springs paper has a preview of the big series with Tacoma. It contains the unfortunate news that I will have to endure another Jimmy Buffett Night.
  • Tony Pena’s kid hit two homers and Las Vegas beat Salt Lake, 9-7.
  • One day after losing 20-1, Tucson shut out Sacramento 2-0. As River Cats broadcaster Johnny Doskow said on twitter, this is why baseball is the greatest game.
  • New Orleans was unable to finish off a sweep of Omaha. Kevin Kouzmanoff is getting healthy with the Zephyrs.
  • An Iowa reliever has returned from Tommy John surgery.
  • Albuquerque’s Alfredo Amezaga hit a three-run double in the ninth to beat Nashville.

This should be a fun series!

We Needed More Rain

May 24, 2013

It rained all day on Thursday in Tacoma, but it let up in time for the Rainiers to finish the homestand and go for the sweep against the Nashville Sounds.

Little did we know, what we really needed was more rain.

Nashville blasted four home runs and pounded the Rainiers, 11-2. The Rainiers five-game win streak came to an emphatic end, and so did Tacoma’s hopes of sweeping Nashville.

It was a rough outing for Jeremy Bonderman, who was charged with eight runs over five innings.

Tacoma’s lone highlight was a two-run homer by Nate Tenbink in the fourth inning.

After a 5-3 homestand, it is time to hit the road. The Rainiers visit Reno and Colorado Springs on an important (for this time of year) road trip against divisional rivals. Reno has been a house of horrors for Tacoma over the years, and Colorado Springs is just a half-game behind Tacoma in the standings.

Roster Moves

Yesterday the Rainiers added Jesus Montero and Brandon Bantz to the roster.

Montero was optioned to Tacoma by the Seattle Mariners; he was hitting .208 with 3 home runs and 9 RBI with Seattle. Montero is going to learn to play first base with the Rainiers – minor league infield instructor Chris Woodward is accompanying the Rainiers to Reno and will work closely with Montero.

Bantz returns to the Rainiers after opening the season with Double-A Jackson. Bantz will serve as Mike Zunino‘s back-up at catcher.

To make room for Montero and Bantz, first baseman Rich Poythress was sent to Double-A Jackson, and pitcher Jimmy Gillheeney was placed on the Temporarily Inactive List.

Today, the Mariners are going to call up catcher Jesus Sucre from Tacoma. The announcement was delayed because the Mariners must remove somebody from the 40-man roster to add Sucre. I’m sure we’ll find out the exact move later today.

There could be more Tacoma roster activity today – I’ll update people via Twitter when I get the news; and we’ll have it on the blog tomorrow.

Reno Preview

Reno is pretty much the same team that Tacoma faced at the beginning of May, when the Rainiers took 3-of-4 from the Aces at Cheney Stadium.

The Aces are 18-30 and have lost four of their last five games, including a series loss in Round Rock (three games to one).

Reno ranks 4th in the PCL in runs scored, 5th in batting average, and 12th in home runs. Those numbers are all fine.

The Aces 5.54 team ERA is 15th in the circuit – and just 0.02 points away from being last. That, obviously, is their problem.

One big change since we last saw them is the addition of veteran major league outfielder Juan Rivera. The 35-year-old Rivera was released by the Yankees on the last day of spring training, and he had to wait a month before the Arizona Diamondbacks called. Rivera is batting .286 with eight RBI in his first 16 games for Reno.

Kila Ka’aihue is still the key guy in their lineup. The slugger is hitting .315 with 11 home runs and 43 RBI, although it should be noted that he enters today’s game in a 1-for-18 slide.

The Aces will have former Rainiers and Mariners infielder Willie Bloomquist on a rehabilitation assignment. The Port Orchard, WA native strained his right oblique during spring training and has not played in a game this season. I hope to catch up with “Willie Ballgame” for a pregame interview during the series.

Tonight’s Game

Tonight’s game is at 7:05, and you can hear it on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. For smart phones and iPads, use the TuneIn app. Tacoma starts LHP James Paxton (2-3, 4.35) against Reno RHP Zeke Spruill (1-1, 4.88).


  • Here is the Rainiers game story from The News Tribune. A 45-minute rain delay before first pitch meant that the game ended too late for the writer to get any quotes – deadline!
  • Ryan Divish showed up at Cheney Stadium and cornered Mariners GM Jack Z.
  • Jerry Brewer has a column on Jesus Montero.

Travel day today, that’s all I have time for on the links. I promise a full slate on Saturday.

Triunfel Does It Again

May 20, 2013

Carlos Triunfel has his second-straight game-winning hit on Sunday, launching a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the Rainiers a 6-5 win over Memphis.

This came after he had the go-ahead RBI double with two outs in the eighth inning on Saturday. That’s a nice little run of clutch hits for Triunfel.

Once again it was a comeback win for the Rainiers, who trailed 5-3 after five innings. Jonathan Arias was a big part of the comeback – he delivered 2.1 perfect innings of scoreless relief in his Triple-A debut.

Brian Sweeney earned the win with shutout relief in the eighth and ninth innings. Sweeney is now 5-1 on the year, with a solid 3.24 ERA.

Tacoma earned a series split by winning the final two games against Memphis.

Nashville Preview

The Nashville Sounds have not gotten off to a good start in 2013.

The previous sentence is a bit of an understatement.

The Milwaukee Brewers Triple-A club is 12-29 on the year. That’s the worst record in the PCL, and it is not close (Reno is next-worst at 17-27).

However, Nashville has started out its road trip with a decent result: a split in Salt Lake City. They almost won the series – Salt Lake catcher Luke Carlin hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the tenth inning for an 8-7 win yesterday.

Prior to the Salt Lake series, the Sounds had lost 15 of their last 18 games.

Nashville ranks 16th (last) in the league in team batting average, and 15th in runs scored. The pitching staff has a 4.86 ERA, which ranks 12th in the league.

The Sounds top hitter is infielder Scooter Gennett, who is batting .313. Outfielder Khris Davis is a very good hitter who is simply not hitting right now, batting .200 in 60 at-bats (with five homers, however).

Nashville has two starting pitching prospects of some regard, in Johnny Hellweg and Tyler Thornburg who start on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively. Both are struggling in some way – Hellweg has been wild, and Thornburg is getting hit. 

There are no former Rainiers on the Nashville Sounds.

Of note, Sounds manager Mike Guerrero is not going to be with the team during this series due to personal reasons. Brewers field coordinator Charlie Greene will be managing in his place.

Tonight’s Game

Monday’s game will start at 6:05. The broadcast is on South Sound Sports 850 AM, streaming online right here, and available on your phone or iPad via the TuneIn app. Tacoma starts RHP Blake Beavan (1-2, 4.86) against Nashville RHP R.J. Seidel (0-0, 5.40).


Looking forward to Triunfel’s third straight game-winning hit tonight!

Rainiers Home For Prospect-Palooza

May 16, 2013

It’s great to be back in Tacoma to start an eight-game homestand this evening, with the prospect-laden Memphis Redbirds in town.

Tacoma wrapped up the road trip with a 4-2 win at New Orleans on Tuesday afternoon – a very nice win, because it salvaged the trip. Tacoma opened the trip by getting swept in Oklahoma City, but rebounded to win three-of-four at New Orleans. A 3-5 road trip is not good, of course, but it certainly wasn’t the disaster that it could have turned into.

The Rainiers host Memphis tonight, and this is a fact: seven of Baseball America’s preseason Top 100 Prospects will be at Cheney Stadium this weekend. If you like watching prospects, this is the series of the year.

However, there are some injury issues.

Memphis outfielder Oscar Taveras – ranked the No. 3 prospect in baseball preseason, and considered the top hitting prospect in all of the minors – is day-to-day with a sprained ankle suffered on Sunday. My spies with the Redbirds say he is unlikely to play until Saturday or Sunday – but that is not for sure, he is “day-to-day” in the truest form.

The St. Louis Cardinals are treating Taveras like the Mariners treated Danny Hultzen when his arm was “a little stiff” – very, very carefully, because he is a huge part of the future of their organization.

Hopefully we’ll get to see Taveras play; it’s fun watching these elite talents when they come through. It’s one of the most fun parts of minor league baseball. The memories can remain for years – I still clearly recall Prince Fielder lining balls of the tall old right-field fence when he was with Nashville in 2005, Tim Lincecum striking everybody out for Fresno back in 2007, etc, etc, etc.

Injury Update

Speaking of Hultzen, he should be working out with the Rainiers this week, and progressing on his return from the disabled list. Danny did not go on the last road trip, instead doing rehabilitation work with the specialists at Safeco Field. I’m not sure where things stand right now, but if we see him throwing early bullpen sessions this weekend, that would be a big step toward his return.

Tacoma will get some help this week: Mariners Josh Kinney (oblique) and Franklin Gutierrez (hamstring) will begin rehabilitation assignments with Tacoma tonight. Both could be here for a while.

Kinney strained his oblique in spring training and was placed on the 60-day disabled list – meaning he’s not eligible to be activated until roughly May 31. As a pitcher, he’s allowed to rehab for up to 30 days.

Gutierrez could also be here for a while, based on the recent quotes from Mariners manager Eric Wedge. Paraphrasing rather than looking it up (because I am lazy), Wedge said that Gutierrez needs to prove he can play every day – like 4-5 days in a row – before being activated from the disabled list. As a position player, Gutierrez is limited to 20 days on a rehabilitation assignment.

Memphis Preview

The St. Louis Cardinals Triple-A affiliate comes into Tacoma with a record of 20-17. They got hot in early April, went on a 6-1 stretch to move three games over .500 on April 18, and they’ve been sitting right there for the last month, playing .500 ball.

Memphis just had an eight-game homestand against Sacramento and Fresno. They beat Sacramento 3-of-4, then lost 3-of-4 to Fresno avoiding a sweep with a win on Tuesday.

Other than Taveras, Memphis features Top-100 prospects Michael Wacha and Kolten Wong.

Wacha will be the starting pitcher tonight. He’s the Cardinals version of Mike Zunino, at least in terms of the fast track: like Zunino, Wacha was a big star in college, was a 2012 first round draft pick, was rushed to Triple-A, and is holding his own. Wacha is 4-0 with a 1.99 ERA, so this will be a tough one for the Rainiers tonight.

Wong is a 22-year-old Hawaiian second baseman who is receiving glowing reviews around the PCL. He’s hitting .309 and has ZERO errors in 35 games at the keystone in his first taste of Triple-A ball.

The Redbirds have one former Rainiers player: catcher Rob Johnson, who is of course a former Mariner, too. Johnson is currently on the 7-day disabled list with some minor ailment, he’s supposed to come off it and play this weekend.

Look for Memphis first baseman Brock Peterson to have a fan club at Cheney Stadium. He was born in Centralia, and attended W.F. West High School in Chehalis (Class of 2002, I believe). He played in the Twins system for a few years, ended up in independent ball, and then was rescued by the Cardinals late last season. Peterson is off to a good start for Memphis, hitting .276 with five homers and 17 RBI.

One other important note on Memphis: certified Rainiers Killer Justin Christian is on their team. Let’s see if Tacoma can get him out this time around.

Tonight’s Game

Tonight’s game is at 7:05, and it is Thirst Thursday at Cheney Stadium. Tacoma starts LHP Jimmy Gillheeney (2-1, 2.37) against Memphis RHP Michael Wacha (4-0, 1.99). Catch the broadcast on South Sound Sports 850 AM, or streaming online right here. If you are using an iPad, try this link.


  • The Rainiers game story from the final game of the road trip on Tuesday has reaction from Blake Beavan.
  • Raul Ibanez ripped the Yankees yesterday, with two homers and a grand slam.
  • Taijuan Walker is showing improved consistency at Double-A Jackson, Baseball America reports. If things continue to go well for Walker, I suspect we’ll see him in Tacoma in the second half.
  • Ryan Divish’s minor league report notes that outfielder Julio Morban is on a tear at Double-A Jackson. The oft-injured Morban always hits when he is in the lineup…
  • The PCL was off yesterday, but there are a few stories of note. For instance, the Colorado Springs mayor is checking to see if a downtown ballpark is feasible.
  • Construction has begun on the new ballpark in downtown El Paso, Texas. The Tucson Padres are moving there next year.
  • The Nashville newspaper is getting to know Scooter Gennett – one of my favorite names in the PCL; he’ll be here Monday.
  • Round Rock Express team president Reid Ryan is getting a big promotion to the Houston Astros. Huge move for Reid, but a big loss for the PCL, where Reid is one of the top executives.

It’s going to be a great weekend. See you at the ballpark!

Swept Off To New Orleans

May 11, 2013

The last game in Oklahoma City was a real nail-biter, and the Rainiers lost it, 1-0.

That completed a four-game series sweep for Oklahoma City – their first against Tacoma since 2005. Hmmm…. the Rainiers won their division and reached the PCL Championship Series that year. Maybe the sweep is a good omen?

In any 1-0 game there are always a couple of turning points. Mistakes get magnified, and so do plays involving luck. For example, right fielder Eric Thames plunging through a faulty bullpen gate while trying to catch a deep fly may have cost the Rainiers the game.

I wrote the details in the game story – the first link down below – if you want to read about the turning points, and the great start by Jimmy Gillheeney.

Now we are in The Big Easy. However, New Orleans isn’t New Orleans anymore: the Zephyrs changed their visiting hotel, and we no longer get to stay in the French Quarter. Instead, we stay out by the airport (and near the ballpark). This change deserves a gigantic BOOOOOOOOO!!!!

New Orleans Preview

The New Orleans Zephyrs are the Triple-A affiliate of the Miami Marlins. They moved over the .500 mark with an extra-innings win over Salt Lake last night, 3-2, to improve their record to 17-16 on the year.

Their coaching staff is manager Ron Hassey, pitching coach Charlie Corbell (a former Tacoma Tigers pitcher), and hitting coach Damon Minor (Fresno Grizzlies For Life!).

New Orleans has won five of their last seven games, including a 3-1 series win against Salt Lake. The Zephyrs have lingered right around .500 since opening day: they have not been more than two games over or under .500 yet this year.

The position players are mostly a veteran group. Ed Lucas is off to a good start this year; the former Omaha infielder is batting .319 with five homers. Bryan Peterson is a tough out, he’s hitting .282 with a .386 OBP. Ben Lasater is hitting just .230 but he leads the team with 18 RBI.

The Zephyrs have an excellent pitching staff, and they play in one of the true pitcher’s parks in the PCL. Their team ERA of 3.73 is one of the few in the league better than Tacoma’s 3.81.

They don’t have many top prospects – the Marlins top young talent is in Double-A and they have already jumped a couple of guys straight from AA to the big leagues (most notably power outfield prospect Marcel Ozuna). Twenty-two year old starter Jacob Turner is a pitcher to watch – he’s coming off a gem in his last outing and starts game three on Monday.

There is one former Rainiers and Mariners pitcher on their roster, and he’s a good one: reliever David Aardsma is throwing well, with a 3.38 ERA in eight games. I hope to catch him for a pregame show at some point during this series.

Tonight’s Game

The series starts this afternoon at 4:00 (Pacific). Tacoma starts RHP Andrew Carraway (4-1, 3.40) against New Orleans RHP Doug Mathis (1-2, 2.22). The broadcast will be on 850 AM and streaming online right here, with you iPadders going here instead.


  • We start with the Rainiers game story I wrote for The News Tribune.
  • In Baseball America’s Minor League Transactions, we learn that former Rainiers outfielder Johan Limonta was picked up by the San Diego Padres. For now, he’s at Double-A San Antonio.
  • Rob Neyer wrote about Jack Z and the problem with prospects.
  • The Mariners beat the A’s yesterday, and if they win today they’ll move into second place in the AL West.
  • In the PCL, Drew Pomeranz was dealing and Colorado Springs sporked Iowa, 11-1. The Sky Sox moved into first place and lead the division by a half-game over Tacoma.
  • New Orleans needed ten innings to dispatch Salt Lake, 3-2. Gorkys Hernandez had the game-winning sacrifice fly.
  • Omaha had a big sixth inning to beat Reno and earn a series split.
  • Tucson beat Albuquerque, and the paper has a story on players getting their first MLB call-up. Excellent Daren Brown story in here, involving catcher Rene Rivera.
  • Port Orchard’s Aaron Cunningham had four hits as Round Rock rolled in Las Vegas, 12-6.
  • It didn’t end until 1:00 AM, but Fresno topped Nashville in 12 innings, 5-4. Heath Hembree nailed down a difficult save.
  • Sacramento got lit up in Memphis, 10-3. Oscar Taveras was 4-for-5 with a homer for the Redbirds.

We got off the plane and could immediately feel the humidity. Haven’t had this yet this season – maybe it will get all of our Southern guys hot at the plate.

Rainiers Take Hot Streak On The Road

May 7, 2013

Tacoma topped Reno on Monday afternoon, 7-4, to complete a highly successful homestand. The Rainiers went 7-1 against Tucson and Reno, moved into first place in the Pac-North, and established themselves as the first team in the PCL to go ten games over the .500 mark.

Andrew Carraway earned the win, going seven innings and allowing three runs. It was Carraway’s fourth straight victory.

The score was tied, 3-3, in the bottom of the seventh when Corey Patterson blasted a two-run homer in his Tacoma Rainiers debut. Corey Patterson? Yeah, you see…

Roster Move

Prior to yesterday’s game, Tacoma added outfielder Corey Patterson to the roster. He was signed to a minor league deal about a week ago, and had been working out in Peoria, AZ. Patterson is a long-time major leaguer; last year he spent the entire season with Nashville. It was the first time the 33-year-old didn’t appear in the majors since 2001.

To make room on the roster, reliever Tyler Burgoon was transferred back to Double-A Jackson.

The Trip

This is an eight-game road trip to two American Conference cities. The first four games are in Oklahoma City, and the next four are in New Orleans. Tacoma has not visited either city since the 2011 season.

The Rainiers next home game is on Thursday, May 16.

Oklahoma City RedHawks Preview

The RedHawks have one of the best records in the American Conference, entering play today at 18-12. The recently had a seven-game win streak, but it ended during a weekend series in Iowa that saw them drop two of the three games.

Oklhoma City is the Houston Astros top farm club. As you know, the Astros are terrible (when they are not playing the Mariners). They have made multiple roster moves to try to make their big league club better, including some today (they called up Jimmy Paredes and Trevor Crowe, and sent Brandon Laird back to Oklahoma City).

The fact that the Astros are so bad has a grand effect on the Triple-A team: the players in Oklahoma City are super-hungry. Opportunity to get promoted to the majors exists every day with the Astros struggling like this. Players are quite literally a hot streak away from a big league call-up.

The RedHawks have a team batting average of .296, but much of that offense has been promoted to Houston. Still, they have a few quality hitters – notably Laird, who is a very tough out in Triple-A. Infielder Jake Elmore was outstanding for Reno last year, and shortstop prospect Jonathan Villar is hitting over .300. Outfielder Marc Krauss is batting .297 with 6 home runs and 25 RBI, he’s been the top run-producer.

The top prospects are starting pitchers: Jarred Cosart – who starts tonight – has a power arm and good results so far. Thursday starter Asher Wojciechowski is coming off a real strong Triple-A debut, and the Rainiers will face former Sacramento River Cat Brad Peacock on Wednesday morning.

There are no former Rainiers on the Oklahoma City roster.

There is a familiar face managing the club: longtime Sacramento skipper Tony DeFrancesco is back at the helm of the RedHawks.

Tonight’s Game

Tonight’s game is at 5:05 at Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City. Tacoma starts RHP Jeremy Bonderman (2-2, 3.57) against Oklahoma City RHP Jarred Cosart (3-0, 2.63). It’s an interesting match-up: Bonderman just won the PCL Pitcher of the Week award, while Coasrt is considered to be one of Houston’s top prospects. The broadcast airs on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streams online right here.


The street in front of our hotel is closed to traffic due to the Oklahoma City Thunder playoff game tonight. Think anyone here will go to the baseball game? I’m projecting a tiny crowd.