This lineup looks a bit less like a Mariners starting lineup than it did yesterday. I can only assume that means that we cared an awful lot about charity, unlike those horrible Padres.
2B Jo. Wilson
Game time, again, is 12:05 pm, the radio dial tuned to 710 if you’re able to deal with that just yet.
I’m thinking this could be a regular thing for spring training, or at the very least, I’m hoping they still give me material for it throughout. Here are some mostly minor league tidbits from the past week with some commentary and the occasional tangent.
Do two tweets equate to some kind of confirmation in today’s world? We have one from a former teammate and one from a B.C. area radio personality, so that may qualify. James Paxton has signed, eight days after the date Josh Fields signed in 2009. That falls within deviation, I guess.
Most of what I said last June still holds true now. On the potential he showed two seasons ago, Paxton is easily in the top ten prospects of the system and maybe in the top five, but where Fields was still looking back to a recent college campaign, Paxton had all of 17.2 innings for Grand Prairie last season. Those innings did not constitute a return to form.
What’s next at this point is something that perhaps only Paxton, Boras, and some of the Mariners staff can guess at. We don’t know what kind of condition he’s in. Some Boras clients who have signed late came to camp ready to go. Pedro Alvarez, I seem to remember showing up to the Pirates camp out of shape. Paxton could end up joining the M’s for part of the Cactus League schedule or he could end up working with the coaches for a while and not get immediately assigned when camp breaks. His past history with various minor injuries might suggest the latter, along with a healthy dose of caution in handling him.
The 2009 version of Paxton is our best pitching prospect outside of Pineda. The ’10 version is more like a mid-rotation starter, if that, than a frontline one. Either would be a significant gain for us, though my feeling is that he might take a little longer to contribute than we might like.
For an utterly meaningless game, today’s game certainly had its share of interest.
1: As Dave noted in the game thread, this marked the first broadcast since Dave Niehaus’ passing. With Duke Snider’s death this morning and Jody Gerut’s retirement, the broadcast seemed suffused with loss and remembrance – two things not normally associated with the first game of the spring. Despite this (or maybe because of it), I found it easier to take than I expected. The broadcasters didn’t overdo it; everyone listening knew something was missing, and didn’t need to be reminded of it continuously. Everything was great until Peguero’s game-tying HR with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th. For the first of what I’m sure will be thousands of times, I started thinking of how Niehaus would’ve called it.
2: The middle innings featured a number of players fighting for a middle-relief job, and, well, let’s hope the next group of relief candidates fares a bit better. Denny Bautista had nightmarish results, giving up 5 runs on 2 hits (including a grand slam), 2 BBs and a hit batsmen. Manny Delcarmen’s lost some zip on his fastball, which has led to a lot fewer swings and misses (and a lot more hits/runs allowed). Today, his fastball velocity (which averaged about 96mph in 2008) was solidly below 90mph. Yes, it’s early, but this isn’t a good sign. If Delcarmen couldn’t get outs/whiffs at 93, it’s going to be awfully tough to do so at 90-91 (let alone 88). For comparison, Cesar Jimenez had a higher average velo, and threw 7 pitches above 90 (to Delcarmen’s none). I don’t care how big the sample is, Manny Delcarmen currently has less zip on his FB than a soft-tossing lefty who’d just lost a year to major surgery.
3: Carlos Peguero had both a game-tying HR and a game-saving assist in the top of the 10th, but the player of the game may be Erik Bedard who looked sharp in one inning. His velocity of 89-91 was about what it was in Tacoma last year, and not far behind where he was in 2008-9. I think we’re used to assuming the worst about Bedard’s health, and an inning in February against an anemic offense doesn’t mean he’s ‘back,’ but I don’t think his inning could’ve gone any better. Bedard told reporters afterwards, “That was probably the best inning I’ve had in spring training history.” (hat tip Greg Johns).
Doug Fister gets the abbreviated start tomorrow.
Padres vs Mariners, 12:05 pm. Pitchers and catchers are nice, intrasquads are okay, but this is an actual (exhibition, but still) game against another Major League team. Welcome back, baseball.
Jack Wilson, SS
Erik Bedard takes the hill for the M’s. While he won’t pitch very long, it will be interesting to see where his velocity and movement are. He’s still not someone the M’s can count on, but tracking his progress is probably one of the more meaningful stories of spring training.
In other news, Jody Gerut has decided to retire. He wasn’t likely to make the team anyway, so this doesn’t have much of an impact on the outlook this year, but it does give them a little less depth in the outfield. I still expect the M’s to make a trade for a right-handed hitting outfielder at some point during March.
I’m going to my father-in-laws 60th birthday party, so I won’t be around to listen to the game, but that’s probably for the best anyway. I’m not ready to listen to a Mariners game that isn’t voiced by Dave Niehaus yet. I wish good luck to those of you who have to try to get through today’s broadcast without openly weeping.
If there’s been a story to come out of Spring Training so far, it’s probably been Eric Wedge‘s comments about opening up the shortstop job for competition, with Brendan Ryan expected to see time there and Jack Wilson to get some work at second base. Could we be seeing another Figgins-Lopez scenario where the team switches two players between the positions they were expected to play?
I don’t think so, and in the end, I don’t think any of this means anything. The reality is that the Mariners don’t really have two starting middle infielders, and they probably won’t all year. They intentionally built a three man rotation that gives them some depth and flexibility, and while those three names might not stay the same all year, I’d expect the allocation of playing time will follow a similar pattern.
Jack Wilson and Brendan Ryan will share time at shortstop. Wilson isn’t an everyday player – we all know that. No team in their right mind would go into the season planning on Wilson playing more than 120 or 130 games, and that’s a best case scenario. With his nagging injuries, Wilson’s going to need frequent days off, and Ryan will play shortstop on the days that Wilson sits. Given this inevitability, it’s natural for Ryan to get reps at shortstop this spring. It would be weird if they didn’t play him there.
At second base, Ryan will likely split time with Adam Kennedy to start the year. Kennedy gives the team a left-handed bat that they can slide into the line-up and a capable defender at second base. When Ryan shifts over to shortstop, or when they want another LH bat in the line-up, they’ll put Kennedy in at second base. Those three will share two jobs, giving Eric Wedge some ability to play with match-ups and keep Wilson off the field regularly.
It also sets them up for the expected summer transition. Sometime in June, Dustin Ackley will pass the expected threshold for Super-Two status, and the team will be able to call him up (if he’s performing well in Tacoma) without worrying about escalating his paychecks too quickly. At that point, they’ll have a couple of options. If Jack Wilson is playing well and has re-established some trade value, they’ll be able to move him to a contender, save some cash, maybe get a prospect, and create playing time for Ackley. Ryan would slide into the everyday shortstop role at that point, with Ackley taking over most of the second base duties. Kennedy would become more of a reserve than a part of a job share.
Alternately, if Wilson is doing his continued impression of an old man, and the M’s find that there isn’t much of a market for his services, they could jettison Kennedy in order to promote Ackley, make Ryan the full-time shortstop, and move Wilson into a reserve SS/2B role. Ryan and Ackley are the two guys with a future in the organization, so if the team gets to a buiilding-for-2012 point in June or July, Wilson will likely either be traded or see his role reduced in order to accommodate more playing time for the other two. In that role, it would help if Wilson could play second base if need be, which is likely why he’s getting work there this spring.
The alignments we’re seeing don’t appear to me to be the signs of any real change in thought on how the situation will be handled. Instead, it simply seems like the logical way to prepare several players to share two jobs. As long as the organization is working on building up Jack Wilson’s trade value, moving him permanently to second base would be a poor idea, as it would signal to other teams that they felt his range had been reduced. Teams are far more frequently in the market for shortstops (a position where talent is in short supply) than second baseman, so swapping Ryan and Wilson would mostly serve to downgrade the team’s ability to get something for Wilson this summer. I just don’t think we’ll see the club go with Ryan at shortstop and Wilson at second very often, and overall, I don’t think this is really all that newsworthy.
But, hey, it’s February and they’re just stretching, so this is what we get for now.
While part of me always wants it to just be the second week of April already so I can go back to doing what it is I do, there’s another part that revels in spring training and the opportunities it brings. For one thing, there’s radio coverage and the rare TV spot which may provide an opportunity to look at a prospect in the late innings, and for another there’s the media saturation of the camp which allows players normally only covered in minor league articles to get talked up by our various Mariners beat writers. Here are a few of those articles that I’ve been reading of late.
I’ll swing by around noon and we’ll talk Mariners baseball for a while. I’ll open up the queue a bit early so you guys can leave questions ahead of time.
The big news today is that the M’s announced that Ken Griffey Jr will join the team as a special consultant – I believe this means that he’s going to charge $150 an hour, come into the office once a week, and make the same suggestions that salaried employees have been making for years. Okay, so maybe he’s not going to be that kind of consultant. What he is going to do revolves mostly around PR, and his role will likely be more about capitalizing on his name value to attract fans and keep the team in the news. Greg Johns has more details on Junior’s role, along with some quotes and the like.
To be honest, this piece of news doesn’t really interest me all that much. Perhaps its a sign of how different my perspective is from that of the average Mariner fan, but I just don’t have any kind of enthusiasm about this. I’m not against it, I’m just ambivalent towards it. Junior was a great player, but I’m just kind of tired of talking about him, and his new position with the organization doesn’t really have any meaningful impact on the team from my perspective. I’m sure we’ll hear about how great he is working with players and such, but in terms of tangible benefits, I just don’t see this changing anything.
It will probably help the team financially, as I’d imagine they’ll get a pretty great amount of media coverage for what is probably not a very large salary, but that’s not really something that I care about all that much. I want the team to win, and I like talking about ways that the team can improve their on field product. From that perspective, this is something of a non-story, but because it’s Griffey, it’s news. If it interests you, that’s awesome – I’m just not in the same boat.
In terms of other things that are going on, I enjoyed Johns’ article on Josh Lueke, not necessarily because I agree with Lueke’s point of view, but it is interesting to hear his thoughts on how he’s perceived. I also liked this quote:
“I really don’t worry about what people think,” he said. “I guess I never have. I just try to stay positive in my day-to-day. Like my dad says, you were born with thick skin, so just keep it.”
To which I reply – have you ever accidentally inflicted a minor amount of pain on a baby? Said something that a three-year-old didn’t like? I would suggest that, if children are our evidence, we were definitively not born with thick skin. Your father lied to you, sir.
Besides that, not a ton of news to talk about. Erik Bedard threw and didn’t immediately report to the trainers room, so that’s something. But, realistically, the Mariners know that they can’t count on Bedard. He’s a wild card, and anything he gives them is a bonus. Once he’s actually throwing live in Cactus League games, we’ll start to talk about whether he’s a legitimate option for the Opening Day roster.
Also, just to let you guys know, I’m resuming my weekly chats with Toby Howell and the gang over at 1510 KGA in Spokane on Tuesdays this year. We did a segment tonight, and will be doing them every Tuesday at 5:15 going forward. I’ll try to post frequent reminders for those interested.
Finally, I’m looking at doing a live chat here on the site on Thursday, probably around noon. We’ll try to make those a somewhat regular feature going forward.
Sorry about the lack of content here lately, but hopefully you survived without daily updates on the minor league free agents the M’s were bringing in. I took a few weeks off to focus on other responsibilities, but with spring training set to kick off shortly, we’ll get back in the more regular writing swing of things. For now, let’s catch up on what the M’s have been doing the last few weeks, and we’ll go in order of things you should care about.
Yesterday, Ben Badler of Baseball America announced that the M’s had signed 17-year-old Gabriel Guerrero, the nephew of one Vladimir Guerrero, for $400,000 – an amount that suggests he’s a prospect of some potential beyond his bloodlines. Badler calls him a right fielder with good raw power and a strong arm, and given the last name, you can be sure he’ll draw a lot of comparisons to his famous uncle. Don’t get too excited yet, though – he’s just 17 and most of these kids don’t pan out. Still, it’s nice to see the M’s being proactive in bringing young talent into the system, and Bob Engle’s track record of identifying which kid to sign is better than most.
Today, the Mariners announced that charges will not be filed against Milton Bradley in the case involving his domestic dispute, and that they will have no further comment on the matter. With the courts deciding not to prosecute, this probably becomes something that the team will just ignore. They may still jettison Bradley at some point in March (I have a hard time seeing him opening the year on the roster, honestly), but they won’t be using his latest off the field incident as the reason.
Going back to yesterday, the Mariners also announced that they signed RHP Manny Delcarmen to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. What do you need to know about Delcarmen? He throws hard, but not as hard as he used to, and he hasn’t been any good for a while. If you like David Aardsma but wish he didn’t strike out so many batters, you’ll love Delcarmen. For more reasons to not be overly excited about his addition, read Jeff Sullivan’s note on his declining fastball. That isn’t to say this move is bad or worthless, as pitchers are weird and the general idea is to just get as many as possible and let them fight to the death, but don’t count on Delcarmen coming in and blowing the doors off down in Peoria.
Last week, the Mariners signed Gabe Gross to a minor league deal as well, and he also gets a minor league invite. I actually have a soft spot for Gross and think there’s still a chance he could help a big league team, but it’s hard to see how he’ll fit in with the Mariners. With Michael Saunders, Ryan Langerhans, and Jody Gerut already around, the organization wasn’t exactly running low on left-handed corner outfielders. Gross might be marginally more useful than Gerut, but he doesn’t have Langerhans’ defensive abilities or Saunders’ upside, and as a lefty, he’s not a candidate for a part-time platoon role. He’ll probably head to Tacoma and hope he can hit enough in Triple-A to impress someone.
Pitchers and catchers report on Sunday. For all the news on guys showing up and getting weighed, you should follow the likes of Larry Stone (@stonelarry), Ryan Divish (@ryandivish) Greg Johns (@gregjohnsmlb), and Shannon Drayer (@shannondrayer) on twitter. I probably won’t be providing minute by minute updates of how Player X is in the best shape of his life, but will weigh in (see what I did there?) when there’s something interesting to talk about.