Greetings from chilly (by their standards) and rainy (lol) Peoria, Arizona, where the Seattle Mariners and Tacoma Rainiers are wrapping up spring training.
I arrived in town on Tuesday night in anticipation of a full day of baseball on Wednesday. The Rainiers were playing Omaha in a Triple-A game on the backfields of the Peoria Sports Complex at 1:00, and then the Mariners were hosting the Dodgers in the main ballpark at 6:40. Might as well get this season started off with a doubleheader.
That plan was dashed when I received a text from the Rainiers clubhouse manager Shane Hickenbottom at 9:00 AM saying that the minor league games had all been rained out. I opened my hotel room curtains and peered out at a nice, sunny morning.
Apparently it had rained a few hours earlier and they decided not to have the Royals players bus over from their complex in Surprise. But Shane said that there would be some intersquad stuff on the backfields, so I decided to check that out.
Upon arriving at the complex and saying hello to some Mariners people, I wandered out to one of the backfields where a couple of classic crafty lefties were going head-to-head in a simulated game. Tommy Milone and Marco Gonzalez were taking turns facing a stream of hitters who are projected to play for the Mariners Triple-A and Double-A affiliates.
There was no umpire, no scoreboard, no fielders, and no baserunners. Once a batter walked, struck out, or put a ball in play, it was over. When Milone or Marco recorded three outs, the “inning” was over – outs were judged by where balls were hit, and if imaginary fielders would have made the play.
New Tacoma Rainiers pitching coach Jairo Cuevas observed the entire event from right behind the pitcher’s mound, protected by a screen. A Rapsodo unit was set up to the side of the mound, measuring the spin and movement of all of the pitches, with a technician standing in the first base line behind another protective screen. Pitching science 2023.
Hitters taking their hacks against the lefties included likely Rainiers Evan White, Leo Rivas, Delino DeShields Jr., and Zach DeLoach. Other players who could wind up in Tacoma or Double-A Arkansas included Logan Warmoth, Patrick Frick, Robert Perez Jr., Conner Hoover, Spencer Packard, and Tanner Kirwer.
The game, such as it was, was played in front of a crowd of six adults and Tommy Milone’s two young daughters. The buzz of a crowd was replaced by a cacophony of car alarms – several automobile transport trucks were loading up the Mariners players cars to haul them up to Seattle, and apparently that process triggers the alarm in just about any vehicle.
A couple of match-ups caught my eye. DeLoach, who we expect to see make his Triple-A debut next weekend, is a left-hand hitting outfielder. He hung in there well against the major league lefty Gonzales, lining a ball into right-center. The young slugger Perez Jr, on the other hand, struggled to make contact against the well-honed change-ups of the veterans.
The afternoon wrapped up with an inning from reliever Casey Sadler, who is coming back from shoulder surgery that caused him to miss the entire 2022 season. Sadler may open the season in Tacoma as he works his way back into form.
In the night game at the big league ballpark, a crowd of nearly 9,000 turned out to see something that looked pretty close to the Mariners opening day lineup. Julio Rodriguez hit a pair of RBI doubles, and George Kirby tossed five shutout innings without allowing a hit. After the starters came out, old friend Leonys Martin pulled a two-run single through the drawn-in infield to seal a 5-1 win for the Mariners.
On Thursday afternoon the Rainiers are scheduled to play El Paso on the backfields of the Padres side of the complex, but if anyone feels one (1) rain drop the game’s status is in question. I’ll be out there with my rain coat, hat, galoshes, and umbrella, and will have a full report for you on Friday morning – provided that a dollop of moisture doesn’t land on my exposed skin and cause me to dissolve.
A few items to catch up on. Here’s the latest round of spring training cuts:
Re-Assigned To Minor League Camp
Pitchers: JB Bukauskas, Emerson Hancock, Bryce Miller, Jose Rodriguez, Bryan Woo
Catcher: Harry Ford
Infielder: Kaden Polcovich, Leo Rivas, Kean Wong
Outfielder: Zach DeLoach
Optioned To Tacoma
Pitcher: Tyler Saucedo
Infielder: Drew Ellis
The release of Ellis was somewhat unexpected. He played for Tacoma most of last season, and was on the 40-man roster for the entire year. However, there are a lot of corner infielders in the mix for the Rainiers roster right now, and fallout had to happen.
Ellis is apparently being replaced by veteran infielder Pat Valaika, who was just signed to a minor league deal. Vailaka has big league time with the Rockies and Orioles, most recently in 2021. He had a huge season for Albuquerque in 2019, batting .320 with 22 homers and a .953 OPS. The 30-year-old played for Gwinnett in the International League last year, hitting .242 with ten homers for the Atlanta Braves affiliate.
- At The News Tribune, Matt Driscoll said goodbye to former Rainiers host Casey Catherwood.
- Veteran outfielder Delino DeShields Jr. is now a potential Rainiers player. The Mariners signed him to a minor league contract.
- Ryan Divish has his latest Mariners opening day roster projection.
- Top prospect Harry Ford returned to Mariners camp after taking a star turn in the World Baseball Classic.
- Julio Rodriguez reflected on his WBC experience.
- King 5 has a story on Rainiers reliever Riley O’Brien and his legendary grandfather.
- M’s top pitching prospect Bryce Miller threw well against the Rangers on Sunday. In the story we learn that it’s likely Miller will open the season at Double-A Arkansas, and that for now he will continue to work as a starting pitcher.
- The Times has a story on a day in the spring training life of catcher Cal Raleigh.
- Here’s a fun one on Mariners players reaction after watching the final game of the World Baseball Classic.