Round Rock won the opening game of the series last night, 10-5, and a bigger problem was exposed for the Tacoma Rainiers.
After having a “bullpen day” instead of a traditional starting pitcher in nine of the first 13 games of the season, the Rainiers finally ran out of available arms and had to resort to using a position player to pitch in a close game.
The situation was set up by a first inning injury to starter Jaime Schultz, who had to leave the game mid-batter. Schultz, a veteran, called for the trainer after throwing a pitch to the fifth batter of the game. So far there hasn’t been any report on the nature of his injury, but obviously he felt a concerning amount of discomfort to come out of the game.
Schultz is a reliever who was making the spot start on a bullpen day, and the hope was that he would go two innings at least. Instead, the Rainiers had to go to bring in a different pitcher with one out in the first inning.
Each reliever that followed Schultz pitched what appeared to be a standard workload, and then we got to the eighth inning with Tacoma trailing 9-5. That’s when third baseman Jantzen Witte moved to the mound and started lobbing 45-mph eephus pitches to the Round Rock hitters.
The move was confounding, because the game was close and the Rainiers seemingly had available pitchers on the roster. Aaron Fletcher, Wyatt Mills, and David Huff all should have been fresh enough to take the mound. However, there could be extenuating circumstances for all three.
For all Triple-A clubs, the major league team often has certain pitchers it does not want the Triple-A team to use on a given day, to keep them fresh in case they are needed for a quick call-up. Fletcher and Mills have both recently been in the majors with Seattle and it is somewhat reasonable to believe that they were not available last night due to orders from above. I say “somewhat” reasonable because the Mariners had an off day yesterday and shouldn’t have a pressing need for fresh bullpen arms until Saturday at the soonest.
David Huff is a different story, and I’m not sure what it is. Huff was added to the Rainiers active roster last week in Salt Lake City, and he has not played in a single game. There’s definitely something holding him back, or else we would have seen him by now.
The expanded rosters can hide injuries. Since Tacoma is allowed 28 players on the active roster, a player with an injury can just stay on the active roster and doesn’t need to be placed on the injured list unless his spot on the 28-man roster is needed. We saw this with Salt Lake in the last series: the Bees had two position players on the active roster who did not appear in an entire six-game series, most likely because they were injured.
Regardless of how it happened, there we were in a close game in the eighth inning with a third baseman on the mound who had pitched one inning in his pro career and allowed seven runs. And wouldn’t you know it, he got the job done. Witte pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning and even struck out Anderson Tejeda. He did allow a run in the ninth, Round Rock’s bullpen shut down the Rainiers in the last two innings and Tacoma fell, 10-5.
Your player of the game would be Jantzen Shohei Witte, who went 2-for-4 at the plate and pitched two solid innings.
In the big picture, the Rainiers have a major problem in how the pitching staff is constructed and it needs to be resolved. Since Triple-A caliber starting pitchers are apparently not readily available on the market right now, perhaps stretching out a couple of the current relievers and building them as starters while signing some new relievers might be the way to go.
Another move that would help would be to use the starting rotation, as it is, to have a pitcher start once every six days instead of once every seven days. It’s a six-man rotation to mimic the major league team, which makes sense, but because of the weekly off-day on the schedule the Rainiers starting pitchers are actually throwing once every seven days. If they used the starters once every six days, it would cut down on the number of bullpen games over the course of the season. Short version: use the weekly off-day to delay the next bullpen game.
These are some ideas. But I’m just a radio guy, not a pitching guru, so what do I know. We’ll see what they decide to do.
YESTERDAY: Round Rock scored five runs in the first inning, getting two-run homers from both Jason Martin and Leody Taveras, and rolled to a 10-5 win over Tacoma. The Rainiers were down 9-2 at the stretch, but scored three times in the bottom of the 7th to make things interesting. Cal Raleigh hit a two-run double during the rally and finished with three RBI.
TODAY: Round Rock (10-3) at Tacoma (5-8), 7:05 PT.
OPPONENT AFFILIATION: Texas Rangers.
OPPOSING MANAGER: Kenny Holmberg.
SEASON SERIES: Round Rock leads, 1-0.
PITCHERS: LHP Wes Benjamin (1-0, 0.00) at RHP Darren McCaughan (0-1, 11.25)
McCaughan is stretched out as a starter, as is Hector Santiago who is supposed to go tomorrow. Hopefully this – plus some reinforcements – will help get the bullpen squared away again.
ROSTER MOVES: Lots of moves yesterday: Jake Fraley (strained left hamstring on April 7) started a rehabilitation assignment with Tacoma, catcher Jose Godoy was called up by the Mariners, catcher Luis Torrens was optioned to Tacoma and reported immediately, and pitcher Reeves Martin voluntarily retired.
HOT HITTERS: Taylor Trammell has gone 16-for-31 with four homers and 14 RBI in seven games since joining the Rainiers… Jantzen Witte has a six-game hitting streak… Luis Liberato has a five-game hitting streak… Eric Campbell, Cal Raleigh, and Sam Travis have four-game hitting streaks.
OPPONENT NEWS: Curtis Terry and Jason Martin are tied for second in the league with five home runs… Martin has homered in three straight games… Delino DeShields has a nine-game hitting streak… the Express have three former Rainiers players: pitcher Sam Gaviglio who is scheduled to start the third game of the series on Saturday; reliever James Jones who was an outfielder when he played for Tacoma; and catcher John Hicks.
BROADCAST: All games will be broadcast free on a live audio stream which is available right here.
As in the past, a streaming HD telecast is available through MiLB.TV. It’s a subscription service, but it’s just a one-time payment that gets you thousands of games from all levels of the minor leagues, including all 120 Tacoma Rainiers games home and away. That same link above has details on how to get it if you scroll down the page – there’s even a discount code.
Unfortunately, there is no traditional terrestrial radio station carrying the games at this time.
TRIPLE-A WEST SCOREBOARD: Follow all league games in real-time with links to Gameday screens right here.
STORIES YOU MIGHT LIKE:
- The News Tribune checked in on Rainiers outfielder Taylor Trammell.
- The Mariners were off yesterday, but they shook up the roster by swapping catchers with the Rainiers and designating Jose Marmolejos for assignment. Marmolejos would help the Rainiers lineup if he clears.
- The Seattle Times has a feature on how Julio Rodriguez is doing for Class-A Everett.
- MLB.com has a new article on the Mariners farm system.
- The M’s Modesto affiliate has the best record in all the minors at 12-3, and they are lead by top prospect Noelvi Marte. Baseball America has a story ($).
- Get caught up with former Rainiers outfielder Braden Bishop, who landed in a perfect spot with the SF Giants.
- For subscribers to The Athletic, here’s a fun one on former affiliated minor league teams in the Pioneer League who are now trying to figure out how to build there own player rosters.
Listen to every home and away Tacoma Rainiers game for free HERE. You can also download the MiLB First Pitch app for a free and easy one-click listening experience at home, work or in your car. Watch an HD video broadcast of every game with an MiLB.TV subscription. Use code: RAINIERS to save $10 on an annual subscription.
About the Tacoma Rainiers
The Tacoma Rainiers are the Triple-A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners. The Rainiers are a member of the Triple-A West. Tacoma has been a Mariners affiliate since establishing the Rainiers moniker in 1995.
The most up-to-date news and notes about the Tacoma Rainiers and Cheney Stadium can be found at WeRTacoma.com, or by following the Rainiers on Twitter (@RainiersLand), Instagram (@tacomarainiers) and liking the team on Facebook.
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