Game Today!

March 4, 2015

Not here in Tacoma – it’s down in Peoria, Arizona. But it’s on TV here, at noon on Root.

A real, live baseball game featuring several players who will be members of the Tacoma Rainiers on opening day.

The exhibition season is underway at Mariners spring training camp, and we’ll finally start getting some reports on how players are looking in real-game situations.

Taijuan Walker gets the start for the M’s today, and he’s a guy who is hoping to not be in Tacoma this season. It’s a battle for him: he’s trying to beat out Roenis Elias and Erasmo Ramirez for the Mariners No. 5 starter spot.

Walker gets a bit of a test today, as he faces the San Diego Padres. The Padres have both of their shiny new acquisitions in the starting lineup: Matt Kemp and Justin Upton.

The majority of the Mariners lineup is filled with likely Rainiers players. Check out the full lineups in the first link down below.

It’s nearly game time. Prepare yourself accordingly.

Links:

Our next update will be on Friday afternoon.


Spring Training In Tacoma?

March 2, 2015

Down in Peoria, Arizona, the Seattle Mariners intended to play their first intrasquad game today.

It was rained out.

Meanwhile, it is nice and sunny here at the Tacoma Rainiers North End Satellite Office (aka my house), and the weather has been quite nice here for most of the last ten days.

We should have spring training in Tacoma. OK, that’s probably not a good idea – but at least we would have gotten today’s intrasquad game played.

Exhibition games start for real on Wednesday, when the Mariners play the Padres in the annual charity game in Peoria, which does not count as an actual exhibition game, so it is a pre-exhibition game of sorts. Whatever – it’s a baseball game. With uniforms, fans, umpires, and everything. Wednesday.

In the meantime, here is a boatload of links:

Next update will be Wednesday.


Tacoma Infield Looking Stronger

February 27, 2015

This latest round of stories from Mariners spring training shed some light on a few items of interest for Tacoma Rainiers fans.

First off, it’s beginning to look like the Rainiers are going to be real strong in the middle infield. This is because indications from Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon (link to the news story is down below) reveal that unless there are spring training injuries, either Chris Taylor or Brad Miller will be optioned to Tacoma. One of those two players will be the Mariners starting shortstop, and the other will be in Tacoma playing every day.

The Rainiers already have a promising shortstop inked onto the roster in Ketel Marte. I suppose this means that Marte and Taylor/Miller will be bouncing between second base and shortstop for Tacoma – all in the name of positional flexibility, which the Mariners value. And that will be a good thing for the 2015 Rainiers.

The other potentially Rainiers-related story in the below links is on veteran outfielder Franklin Gutierrez, who is in spring training camp after sitting out all of last year. Gutierrez spent his year away from the game in Miami trying to get healthy, and from the story you can tell that he definitely missed being a part of it.

The story will make you root for Gutierrez. Landing a spot on the Rainiers opening day roster would be a big step forward for him.

Links:

That light on the horizon is becoming a little bit brighter: the Mariners first exhibition game is on Wednesday.


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.


First Round Of Spring Training News

February 23, 2015

We’ve got a weekend of spring training under our belts, baseball is in the air, and the stories are starting to flow.

Pitchers and catchers reported to camps around Florida and Arizona last week, with the Mariners starting on Friday. Mariners position players are required to report tomorrow.

So far, so good from M’s camp. James Paxton has a stiff wrist and won’t throw for a few days – there’s your injury update.

That’s the bad news – things could be a lot worse, you know. Just across the desert in Glendale, the Chicago White Sox are having a scorpion problem. Yikes!

We have lots of news stories from the weekend, so let’s get to them.

Links:

Check back on Wednesday for a new update.

* just did a search and apparently I’ve never written about the time Gipson stole home. We’ll have to get to that soon!


Spring Has Sprung

February 20, 2015

Seattle Mariners pitchers and catchers officially reported to spring training today, and we’re off!

Forty-nine days until Rainiers opening day in lovely El Paso, Texas – and 57 days to Tacoma’s home opener at beautiful Cheney Stadium.

Today Major League Baseball announced their new pace-of-play rules and guess what: there is a clock! But it’s not a “clock” it’s a “timer.” They claim they are going to strictly enforce the length of the between-inning breaks, and have a countdown schedule to resume play.

That’s quite a bit different from the pitch clock which is reportedly being introduced in Triple-A and Double-A this season – although there has been no official announcement about that.

MLB is also making a half-hearted attempt to force the batter to stay in the batter’s box between pitches – but there are so many exemptions that it won’t have an effect on the game.

Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospects list came out today, and they are very high on Mariners 2014 first-round draft pick Alex Jackson.

They have Jackson listed No. 20 on their ranking – much higher than Baseball Prospectus placed him (68).

Baseball America has one other Mariners player on the list: D.J. Peterson comes in at No. 85.

The complete Baseball America Top 100 Prospect package can be found here.

Links:

  • At the newly revamped Seattle Times website, Ryan Divish has a story on five things for Mariners fans to follow at spring training.
  • Larry Stone has an update on injured pitching prospect Victor Sanchez, including remarks from general manager Jack Zduriencik.
  • At The News Tribune, Bob Dutton previews the Mariners outfield situation.
  • Dutton reports that the Mariners are going to take a look at veteran left-hander Joe Saunders, and Tom Wilhelmsen‘s arbitration hearing is today.
  • John McGrath doesn’t want to hear anyone talk about the Mariners “grueling travel schedule.”
  • Jerry Brewer writes that it is time for the Mariners to put the nostalgia of 1995 behind them.
  • Here’s the story from MLB.com on their new pace-of-play rules.
  • Ken Rosenthal writes that if the MLB players don’t want a pitch clock, they need to take matters in their own hands and simply play more quickly.
  • If you don’t mind click-bait, here’s a look at 30 of the best logos in minor league baseball.

Have a great weekend!


Triple-A Tidbits From Mariners Media Day

January 23, 2015

The Mariners held their annual pre-spring training media day yesterday, and I had the opportunity to attend with a couple of other Tacoma Rainiers employees.

There is always a lot of news from this event, and much of it involves the major league team. For that stuff, use the links below. What I’m going to do here is cover the minor league news that came from the event, and we’re going to do it bullet-point style because I’m feeling lazy and depressed today.

  • First up was trainer Rick Griffin and he opened the day’s main subject, which amazingly enough turned out to be Jesus Montero. Montero has lost about 40 pounds and apparently looks great. He’s turnaround is covered in detail in the links below.
  • Griffin also said that Rainiers pitcher Danny Hultzen will be treated like any other pitcher during spring training. Hultzen missed all of 2014 with shoulder surgery, but Griffin said “when he shows up he’ll do what everyone else is doing. He’ll be on a regular program.”
  • M’s General Manager Jack Zduriencik was next, and he talked about a lot of major league stuff but he did have a few comments that were Rainiers-related. First off, he said that shortstop will be a battle between Chris Taylor and Brad Miller, but he was unsure if the loser of that battle would play for Tacoma or remain in Seattle. He said that would be determined in spring training.
  • Jack Z talked about expected Rainiers corner infielder Patrick Kivlehan. Here are some words he used about the former Rutgers football player: “good athlete” “really tough kid” “very intense” “hard-working” so I think we get the picture here. It sounds like Kivlehan is going to move around the diamond but see a lot of outfield time for Tacoma.
  • Jack’s exact quote on where D.J. Peterson will play was “he’ll play third, he’ll get a shot at first, who knows where he ends up.”
  • The Mariners announced they signed Richland native Shawn O’Malley to a minor league contract. O’Malley was Salt Lake’s lone PCL all-star last year, batting .330-3-38 for the Bees. He can play nearly any position and he got his first big league call-up last September with the Angels. O’Malley is a very good middle infield depth player for the Mariners and Rainiers.
  • Mariners Director of Player Development Chris Gwynn discussed a number of things, including one stunner: Ji-Man Choi has spent his winter working on switch-hitting. He’s always hit left-handed. Choi is 23 years old and that is a very late age to try to learn to switch-hit. This was not a Mariners suggestion – Choi did it on his own, causing Gwynn to just shrug his shoulders and say “kids..”
  • Gwynn said that if Montero gets optioned to Tacoma, he’ll play a lot of first base and not be a permanent DH.
  • It sounds like Gwynn is in favor of a slow-go for the Mariners top teenage investments. Last year’s No. 1 draft pick Alex Jackson will get a chance to make the Low-A Clinton club in spring training, but Gwynn said Jackson would have to earn it and they aren’t going to force the assignment. Sixteen-year-old Venezuelan bonus baby Brayan Hernandez may spend the summer in the Mariners new complex in the Dominican Republic.
  • Mariners Assistant GM Jeff Kingston spoke about the small number of minor league free agents that have been signed. He noted that Triple-A free agents haven’t been that interested in the Mariners, because they don’t see a lot of opportunity to make the big league team. In particular, he said Triple-A relief pitchers have not been interested in signing with Seattle because they see little opportunity for advancement.
  • The one reliever he did sign was Mark Lowe, who Kingston said “has a big-time fastball, a good slider, and he’s happy to be back.”
  • Kingston indicated that veteran pitcher Justin Germano could be used as a starter or a reliever for the Rainiers, and can fill-in in the big leagues in a pinch.
  • Someone asked Kingston about the pitch clock, which is expected to be implemented in Double-A and Triple-A this season (although that is not official yet). He saw some games with it in the Arizona Fall League and said “the pace of play sped up. I don’t think it’s very popular with the players.”
  • Then we had lunch, which included chicken and salmon. Mmmmm…. lunch!

After lunch I recorded some comments from Gwynn about the hiring of new Rainiers manager Pat Listach. We’ll get to that in Monday’s blog update.

Links:

Have a great weekend!


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