Thursday, March 31, 2005

Mariners Claim Abraham Nunez 

In what appears to be a very curious move, the Mariners today claimed Abraham Nunez off the waiver wire from the Kansas City Royals.

Nunez used to be a highly touted prospect with the Marlins a few years back, and then age-gate added three years onto his age, and suddenly his lack of plate discipline wasn't so cute anymore. He hit for power in the minors, but it never translated into major league power (though last Spring he had serious buzz going for the Marlins by hitting 9 Spring Training home runs).

He is an average fielder with a strong arm, slightly above-average speed, and little command of the strike zone. At 28, he is in his peak years, but seems to provide very little upside as a #5 outfielder.

That the move may result in Greg Dobbs AND Ramon Santiago going to the minors and leaving Willie Bloomquist as our Opening Day shortstop further makes me scratch my head.

I don't see a logical reason for this move. Maybe the M's want to take advantage of their #3 waiver wire position to grab a player they think they can move in a trade?

Perhaps the thinking is that if they put Pokey on the 15-day DL, they can give Nunez a roster spot for that week, and then try to slip him through waivers to Tacoma, because a week into the season, most teams won't be wanting to claim a player. Its not like Nunez would be a huge downgrade over Greg Dobbs for last bat on the bench. If that's what happens, then no harm done, really.

If Pokey does start the season on the DL, and Ramon Santiago is not on the 25-man roster, that would leave us with Willie Bloomquist starting at SS and either Adrian Beltre or Scott Spiezio backing him up. That doesn't make much sense to me. Maybe Jose Lopez makes a triumphant return as the Opening Day shortstop?

The Mariners also announced that Bucky Jacobsen will start the season on the 60 Day DL. Essentially, this is retroactive to the beginning of Spring Training games and means that Bucky will not be eligible to appear in Seattle until mid May.

Two other moves included sending Dan Reichert to minor league camp, and George Sherrill to Tacoma. The Sherrill move is disappointing as George was the team's best reliever a year ago. But his lackluster Spring and the fact that he had options which fellow lefty Matt Thornton did not have spelled his doom.

The addition of Nunez was countered on the 40 man roster was countered by the move of Bucky to the 60 day DL. This means the Mariners will still have to move two players off the 40 man roster to make room for Aaron Sele and Jeff Nelson, who have made the team. My guess is that Rafael Soriano finds himself on the 60-day DL for one of the spots. Perhaps Scott Atchison goes to the 60-day DL for the other. If not Atchison, then I'm thinking a deal (Franklin?) has to be in the works, otherwise, it would have been Thornton losing his job.

I'm looking forward to seeing what the M's do next, as no one would have guessed this one.

Diamond Mind Sees Tight Race in AL West 

Diamond Mind just put out its 2005 projected standings.

Using their projections for the MLB universe in 2005, the Diamond Mind team simulated the 2005 season 100 times. In that simulation, the Mariners won the AL West 25 times, with the A's winning 31 times and the Angels 29 times.

Given 100 runs, here were the average results...

AL West         W   L   Pct  GB   RF   RA  #DIV   #WC
Oakland 85 77 .525 - 873 817 31.0 1.0
Los Angeles 84 78 .519 1 803 775 29.0 2.5
Seattle 83 79 .512 2 795 778 25.0 2.0
Texas 80 82 .494 5 852 875 15.0 1.5
Unlike most pundits who dismiss the Mariners because of their 99 loss season in 2004, Diamond Mind takes a more objective view of the Mariners talent and finds it comparable with the rest of the division.

And a 4-team dogfight to the finish looks to be the order of things. In that case, I'll give the edge to the Mariners and new manager Mike Hargrove.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

The Argument for Pokey 

Amongst Mariner fans, there is a lot of hand-wringing over the Mariners decision to give Pokey Reese the starting shortstop job, while sending Jose Lopez back to Tacoma.

The arguments against Pokey and for Lopez are many:
1) Pokey stinks at the plate.
2) Pokey gets hurt too much and will force us to keep Ramon Santiago over Greg Dobbs.
3) Pokey is being handed the job without winning the Spring competition.
4) Jose looked good on defense this Spring.
5) Jose looked great at the plate this Spring.

Essentially, the argument is that Jose Lopez will help the Mariners win more games in 2005 than Pokey Reese will.

The defense of Pokey has not been convincing. Jeff at Lookout Landing provides a nice numeric analysis comparing the runs created of Pokey Reese's defense to the less predictable runs created of Jose Lopez' offense and defense. But you can't get that excited about vague zone rating metrics that few people understand.

But again, I caution the Mariner faithful to have patience. The Mariners management has a plan here, and it is one that is attempting to win now AND win in the future.

Remember that Bill Bavasi preaches the need for flexibility in how the M's win. This use of flexibility is shown by the front office when the M's are able to recover from being spurned by Carlos Delgado, and are able to move quickly when Adrian Beltre practically falls in their laps.

The Mariners wanted to get two big bats and one good pitcher (they went hard after Pavano and Odalis Perez, but to no avail) this offseason. Because they failed to add a pitcher, they felt that the next best thing would be to improve their defense.

This offseason, the Mariners found that they had not only acquired two big bats, but two of the better defensive players in baseball. 3/4 of their infield now had won or will win Gold Gloves. The only question mark was 20 year old Jose Lopez, who had been sent to the Winter Leagues to work on his defense, and had not improved.

At this point Bavasi gets creative, and says, hmmm... we have improved the defense already, lets go even further. Lets add the best glove in baseball at shortstop, since our current shortstop is light on defense. Jose Lopez would be better on offense, but we've already made substantial gains there by adding Sexson and Beltre, and we're hoping for improvements from Boone, Olivo (and of course, Ichiro! who will be hitting .400 this year).

And, by putting Jose Lopez in AAA, he can use the time away from the spotlight to work on his defense. In fact, we may even use this to plan for 2006 when we may need both a shortstop and second baseman. As a bonus, we save a year of service time for the phenom.

And if we need more help offensively, OR Pokey breaks down, OR Jose Lopez shows much improvement defensively, THEN we can bring up Jose Lopez, and move Pokey into the defensive replacement role that he had with the 2004 Red Sox.

So, for now, the Mariners will put out the best defensive lineup in baseball, and hope that it helps their pitching staff rebound from a disastrous 2004. In fact, we'll even use or Non Roster Invites wisely to bring in pitchers most likely to benefit from improved infield defense by adding Dan Reichert and Aaron Sele to the mix. No improvement on defense is gonna help us keep Ryan Franklin pitches from being blasted into the seats, so lets give him some competition.

And here we are. Despite an excellent Spring from Jose Lopez, the Mariners are sticking to the plan and sending him down. Lopez (and Reese) certainly made the decision a tough one, and the Mariners will likely be quicker to call Lopez back up as a result of his Spring.

Enjoy the brilliant glovework of Pokey Reese this April. If he gets hurt, or if the offense falters, he may not be our starting shortstop for long. But if we are winning in April (we will be), and Pokey stays healthy (that's the $64,000 question), you might get to see him all season long.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Franklin Tanks It 

What a pathetic performance from Ryan Franklin last night in the Mariners 11-7 win over the Cubbies. He just looked like a beaten man out there from the get go. Perhaps losing his rotation spot (seemingly) to Aaron Sele has worn him down. He gave up seven runs on nine hits and three walks in 5+ innings.

But his body language is what concerned me most. He just looked dejected and slumped, rather than the fighter we've gotten used to seeing out there.

After his last wind-addled start, Franklin said, “My versatility makes it (him going to the bullpen) an issue, and the team might be better with me in the bullpen, I don’t know. But I don’t think I’ve pitched badly enough to lose my job. I’ll accept it if that’s what they tell me to do – but I’ll say what I have to say first." Five days later, Franklin spoke a mouthful with his performance. I hope Ryan takes a good look at that last performance and decides he doesn't want to see that anymore. Otherwise, he's not even going to do us much good in the bullpen.

A few interesting things I've found recently. One commentor pointed me to Sportspyder, which is an excellent place to go for recent Mariner headlines. What we need is one aggregator that does news AND blog entries to one place.

I was worried when I saw the title of John Hickey's latest piece, Reluctant M's stopper Putz prefers to setup than finish. That sounds like Putz wants no part of the closer role. Reading the article, you find that Putz just says he learned a lot last year, and thinks he has more to learn in the setup role. He also thinks the Mariners are a better team with Eddie Guardado closer. Neither of these is a startling revelation. A better title would have been, "Putz looks forward to setting up Guardado." I do, too.

Finally, InsideThePark has a look at 20 Reasons the M's Will Win it All in 2005. There's pretty much a bullet for every player, but I think they missed one or two. One that I think will happen is that when the Mariners are contending this summer, Bill Bavasi WILL pull the trigger on a deal to pull in a major piece to the championship puzzle. And I think it will be important that Raul Ibanez continues to hit like he has all Spring. Ibanez is going to feast on the slew of righties this lineup should face.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Felix Falters 

Felix Hernandez got roughed up for the first time, giving up 6 runs while unable to finish his third inning of work, but the M's still beat the White Sox, 15-9.

Felix will supposedly get the final start of the Spring for the Mariners on Saturday against the Cubs in Las Vegas. Coach Hargrove says that the chances of Felix breaking camp with the Mariners is remote, but "he's still in the mix." I'd love to be a fly on the wall for conversations between Hargrove and Bavasi about Felix.

The good news for the Mariners is that Matt Thornton arrived to bail Felix out of the third inning, and collected the win with 2 1/3 innings of solid relief with, get this, no walks. That, combined with Scott Atchison's elbow pain, may be enough to squeeze Thornton onto the roster in April. The bad news for Atchison, is that the M's need a roster spot to accomodate at least Aaron Sele and possibly Jeff Nelson, and they may find this spot by putting Atchison on the 60-day DL. The good news on Atchison is that his MRI showed no damage, and that he might be throwing again by the end of April. Rafael Soriano (reasonable) and Bucky Jacobsen (NO!) are also mentioned as candidates for the 60-day DL.

And, oh yeah, Ichiro is good. He is hitting a ridiculous .518 this Spring. This is going to be the year that Ichiro breaks .400, I tell you. He has hit in 16 consecutive games this Spring. He ended 2004 with 13 consecutive games. Will we see Joe DiMaggio's magic number of 56 straight games threatened? Sure would be fun if Ichiro could run off a big hit streak to start the season, just to hear sportswriters debate whether or not last year's 13 games should count toward the current streak.

Middle infielders are being purged. Mickey Lopez was sold to the Giants for cash, and he will get to play for the Giants AAA Fresno team. Benji Gil and Ricky Gutierrez have both been told that they will not make the club, so they will begin searching for a new gig. Jose Lopez was sent down to Tacoma, and Pokey Reese celebrated by leaving yesterday's game with a sore shoulder.

With all of the ailments that hinder Pokey, I sure hope that Mr. Lopez starts hot in Tacoma, and gets back to Seattle quickly. (For many diatribes against the cutting of Jose Lopez, go here). I don't want to see as much of Willie Bloomquist at short as I'm afraid I will with Pokey's ability to be hurt, tired, or just feelin' yucky 3 days out of every 7. One thought is that hot hitting (another triple yesterday) Ramon Santiago might slip into the backup spot, which at least would be a defensive improvement over Willie.

Finally, we'll end with a last bit of good news, is that the Mariners got Rule V pick Ryan Rowland Smith back from the Twins today. The Twins couldn't keep the pitcher on their 25 man roster, and the M's were unwilling to make a deal. Smith will work to build on his 5-3, 3.79 ERA at Class A Inland Empire last year.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Opening Day Roster 

For those of you who haven't read Grandpa Mariner at ST thread, here's an update. Grandpa has surveyed a collecion of knowledgeable Mariner insiders, and for the first time there appears to be consensus on what the M's Opening Day Roster will look like.

Franklin (until Joel comes back)

Franklin probably won't get any starts unless there is an injury or Joel suffers a setback.

The pen looks to be:


Reese looks to start at SS. This is the first day that I have asked that there has been universal agreement among those I corralled for an answer.


The disappointments/surprises are:
1) Aaron Sele over Felix Hernandez. My head says this is probably the best move. My heart can't wait for the Felix Era to begin.
2) Pokey Reese over Jose Lopez. The defensive specialist get his shot, and hopefully Jose Lopez gets motivated to crush AAA pitching and force his way back to Seattle. I'm guessing he is the starting second baseman in Tacoma.
3) Ryan Franklin over Jorge Campillo. Campillo's changeup is a thing of beauty. Ryan Franklin throws eight different pitches, none of which inspire poetry.
4) Jeff Nelson over Mateo/Thornton loser.

In all four cases, the Mariners took the safe, known veteran over the higher upside, but unknown youngster. This may disappoint some Mariner fans, but I look at this as the smart move for several reasons.

First, and foremost, all four players (except Thornton) can be sent to Tacoma and still be an asset to the team. Pokey, Sele, Nelson, or Franklin would be looking elsewhere for work.

Second, is that none of these "losers" with the exception of Mateo, have ever proved themselves against AAA competition. Just because we can see their upside is high, there is no proof that they are ready to reach their potential this year. Many young players have been hurt mentally by being called up to early. Let them prove it in AAA, at least for a month or two.

Third, is the BUZZ factor. The Mariners already have serious buzz working for them, in the forms of Ichiro, Beltre, and Sexson. Fans are going to be there for the month of April. If the Mariners struggle out of the gate like they did in 2004, there are 3 or 4 serious pick me ups ready to be called up over the course of the season. King Felix, Jose Lopez, Jorge Campillo, Rafael Soriano, and of course, Bucky Jacobsen. If these players were already in Seattle, and the M's got off to a terrible start, from where would the hope and just as importantly, the BUZZ come?

The M's are playing to win in 2005. We can turn around this team on the basis of returning to the norm, much improved defense, two big bats, and Ichiro being a .400+ hitter right out of the gate. And if one of these veterans falters, his replacement will likely be waiting in the wings. If these veterans excel, and the rookie is still tearing it up in AAA, then you've got a veteran available for trade. When you are managing a roster, flexibility is very important.

The Mariners ARE making the safe moves. They also happen to be the right moves, for the individual players, for the franchise, and yes, for the 2005 season. Opening Day is just 10 days away!

"It's Vladimir Guerrero... I have to strike him out." 

That may be the coolest quote I've ever heard out of Spring Training.

Skipper Mike Hargrove's quote was pretty sweet too.
"I'm not sure that Superman could have hit that ball. That was some serious cheese in a tough spot. It's one of the better pitches I've seen this spring."
The Felix Hernandez Era cannot start too soon.

With the M's hiding the next starts of 3M (Madritsch, Meche, Moyer) against minor leaguers, Hernandez will get at least one more chance this Spring to shine against big league hitters.

The iPod Shuffle 

Aaron Gleeman's latest is a challenge to other baseball bloggers to list the first 40 songs that come up on random on their iPod. I'm not much of an iPod guy, but I've downloaded most of my CDs onto my computer at work so that I always have music going, so I'll use that instead.

As for his comment on Maroon 5, and having to admit that he liked one of their songs, I must say that I've enjoyed EVERY Maroon 5 song I've heard, which I think is all of them. Heck, I even went to see them live at the Austin Rodeo (now, that was an interesting crowd) about a week ago. Good show, and I had had no idea that lead singer Adam Levine not only played the guitar, but also played the drums for their cover of AC/DC's "Highway to Hell." They played one new song, and I am eagerly awaiting their sophomore album. I hope y'all can still respect me in the morning.

1) Chris DeBurgh - Don't Pay the Ferryman
2) Barenaked Ladies - Light Up My Room
3) Pink - Just Like A Pill
4) The Wallflowers - 3 Marlenas
5) Rick Springfield - Jessie's Girl
6) Gwen Stefani - What You Waiting For?
7) Alanis Morissette - Baba
8) Bruce Springsteen - Out In The Street
9) Billy Joel - You May Be Right
10) Poison - Every Rose Has its Thorn
11) Uncle Kraker - Memphis Soul Song
12) Berlin - The Metro
13) OutKast - Spread
14) Tonic - Lemon Parade
15) Black Eyed Peas - The Apl Song
16) Don Henley - You Can't Make Love
17) Heart - Will You Be There (In the Morning)
18) Robert Plant - Why
19) Elton John - I'm Still Standing
20) Chris Deburgh - Spanish Train
21) Dire Straits - Private Investigations
22) Fiona Apple - Criminal
23) Matchbox Twenty - Black & White People
24) John Mayer - Wheel
25) Icicle Works - Whisper to a Scream
26) Green Day - Basket Case
27) Garth Brooks - The Thunder Rolls
28) Night Ranger - Four In the Morning
29) Billy Joel - Prelude/Angry Young Man
30) Eminem - Kill You
31) The Killers - On Top
32) Bryan Adams - Heaven
33) R.E.M. - Tongue
34) Modest Mouse - Bukowski
35) Counting Crows - Perfect Blue Buildings
36) The Beatles - A Day in the Life
37) No Doubt - Hey Baby
38) Cake - Going the Distance
39) Robert Earl Keen - Feelin' Good Again
40) Queen - We are the Champions

Whither now, el Cartelua? 

Felix Hernandez certainly knows how to wow 'em! He went after one of the best hitters in baseball, and sat him down with a whimper. Vladamir Guerrero never knew what hit him. If this is the last outing for King Felix before he heads to Tacoma to fine tune his game, he certainly left a fine calling card.

What if the M's don't send Felix to Tacoma, but instead decide that the best way to baby his arm is to put Felix in the bullpen? What would your reaction be? Each outing this Spring has been of the two inning variety. Its not an unprecedented path, taken successfully most recently by Johan Santana and less successfully by Rafael Soriano (at least I hope they were planning to get him into the rotation). Maybe we'll see the same from Felix? Part of me likes the idea, but then I'm afraid they wouldn't make the transition from pen to ace by the end of the year like they should (say, about the time Rafael Soriano returns). Or worse, the transition would never happen. That would be criminal.

Jorge "Popeye" Campillo also looked strong last night with a nasty slicing curveball. However, he appears to nibble with the fastball rather than attack with authority. After the evening was over, Campillo was sent to AAA Tacoma. But he will be back this season. Count on it.

In other news, hearts throughout Marinerland raced with excitement at the news that Aaron Sele had been sent to the minor league camp. Unfortunately, this was just a Jim Street case of mistaken Aarons, with confused Sele with Looper. Just in case they edit the article in the link above, here is the quote for anti-Sele fans to savor.
Two more roster cuts made: The Mariners reassigned catcher Wiki Gonzalez and right-handed pitcher Aaron Sele to the minor league camp. The move leaves 43 players in camp, including nine non-roster invitees and pitcher Travis Blackley, who is on the 60-day DL.
Actually, I'm firmly in the "give Sele a chance" camp. If there is one pitcher who has looked ready to go all Spring, its been Sele. Let him hold down the 5th starter spot until King Felix or Popeye are ready to take it over.
He is only 34 years old, and looks 100% healthy for the first time since 2001 when he last wore the M's uniform. Many complain that at his peak, he was just "league average" and took advantage of luck and excellent defense. Well, if no one has noticed, our defense looks excellent again, and our luck has got to turn from 2004. Give Aaron a chance.

Finally, some good news for Bucky and his Backers. After weeks of being restricted to riding a stationary bike and getting physical therapy on his surgically repaired knee, Bucky Jacobsen will begin hitting off a tee Saturday. Heal Bucky!

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The King's Final Spring Appearance? 

Tonight might be a good night to set your VCRs to Fox Sports Network. Felix Hernandez is scheduled to appear on tonight's televised game, as the second pitcher after Jorge Campillo. It is assumed that after this start, Felix will be sent to AAA to fine tune his game and save his service time before making a June 1 debut.

Kirby Arnold gets some insight from Bill Bavasi. From this article, it sounds like Matt Thornton's days are numbered, Aaron Sele will make the rotation, and Ryan Franklin better get used to being a reliever again.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Madritsch Looks Sharp 

I finally got to watch a bit of the M's today with the ESPN2 televised tilt against the Giants. Here's what I saw, let me know if you saw things differently.

Bobby Madritsch has a rotation spot locked up. 3 innings, 4 K's, no hits, no walks. The bulldog looked completely dominating, even if the announcers wondered if he was just "working out of the stretch for practice." (Bobby has worked out of the stretch exclusively since his time in the Independent Leagues).

Gil Meche has a rotation spot locked up. His four innings were shakier in appearance, but were still solid, giving up no runs and a couple of hits.

Joel Pineiro threw 35 pitches on the side today with no pain. He'll throw another bullpen session on Friday. Hooray! Still, there should be no need to rush him. The M's don't need a fifth starter for the first couple of weeks. With Gil, Bobby and Jamie as locks, it becomes a question of who starts in the #4 hole out of Aaron Sele, Ryan Franklin, Jorge Campillo, and Felix Hernandez.

The fact that Hargrove was at the Aaron Sele STRONG start yesterday (7 K's) and chose not to be present for King Felix and the Franklin homer fest, indicates that that Felix is going to be in Tacoma. My guess would be at least until June 1st so that his time in the majors does not start his clock ticking toward free agency in 2005.

Personally, I'm hoping Felix is pitching 25 minutes away from me in Round Rock when the Rainiers come to visit May 10-13th. If any M's fans would like to go to the Express-Tacoma game here in Texas with me that week, let me know, and we'll work out a trip together.

I still think Sele will get the starting nod and Franklin will be in the bullpen. Campillo may also get a bullpen slot, but I'm guessing he gets some times to work on his confidence against AAA hitters.

One pitcher who is not exuding confidence is Matt Thornton, who entered the game against the Giants youngsters in the 7th with a four run lead, and proceeded to nibble and miss the plate, eventually allowing a run to score, and surviving only thanks to some excellent defense. Matt Thornton is out of options, so the M's have a tough decision with him. Perhaps he is packaged in a late Spring deal to strengthen our bench with a AAAA hitter? He could certainly has the talent in that arm, but the results have not been there, and it may be time for the M's to move on.

Finally, Pokey Reese returned to the lineup in the 7th inning, and proceeded to flash the leather that we will come to know and love. His surprising battle with Jose Lopez will continue to develop over the next two weeks. Lopez will either start, or end up in Tacoma, while Reese could easily find himself in the slick glove/speed guy off the bench role that he has become accustomed to in recent years.
The rest of the bench candidates gave an effort in today's game, with Jamal Strong stealing a base, Ramon Santiago lacing a double and a triple(!), Benji Gil making a nice 3-6-3 double play from first and hitting a ball near the track, and Willie Bloomquist, uh, looking like he may need a few big days to land a job. Of course, the skinny Scott Spiezio could conceivably find himself on the outside looking in, but both his past history and contract seem to preclude that.

Happy St. Patrick's Day to y'all! I'm looking forward to cutting out of work early, drinking some green beer, and gorging myself on March Madness! I hope you get a chance to do the same.

Knee Shuts Down Bucky Bandwagon... For Now 

Damn... this latest article from Larry Stone on Bucky tells us that the ETA for his return in unknown. But it definitely won't be Spring.

Until Bucky is healthy, there is no need to push for his playing time, so for now, I'm gonna shut down the Free Bucky! links. But once he proves he's healthy, then he better get the chance to start or I'm gonna come breathing down Grover's neck!

Get well soon, Bucky!

M's Trim Roster 

Today the Mariners trimmed the roster by 9 players.

Going to AAA Tacoma:
Shin-Shoo Choo: Removes any temptation to keep him as 4th/5th OF. Getting full-time at bats in AAA as a top prospect should.
Michael Morse: Looks like he stays at shortstop, for now.
Justin Leone: Has slipped behind Greg Dobbs again, as Dobbs contends for a bench spot.
Clint Nageotte: Will he continue to start, or will he be groomed for MLB relief role?

Heading to AA San Antonio
C Rene Rivera: Looks like Wiki will get the Tacoma catching chores.
SS Rafael Bentacourt: Should be interesting to see how he fares here.

Heading to A+ Inland Empire:
Wladamir Balentien: Took his hacks.

Location TBD: Jon Huber, Mickey Lopez

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Damian Moss 

Apparently, we signed Damian Moss to a minor league contract about a month ago, but forgot to tell anybody. Until now. Here's a little background on the portly Aussie who I would assume is headed to Tacoma.

The 28-year-old lefty was a top prospect in the Braves organization, and seemingly broke out in 2002 with a 12-6 season and 3.42 ERA as the Braves fifth starter. The shiny ERA masked a walk rate of 4.5 per nine innings. But he was effectively wild in 2002, as he only allowed 140 hits in 180 innings, holding batters to a .221 batting average which was fifth best in the NL.

The Braves decided to sell high on Moss after 2002 and in December, 2003 traded Moss to the Giants for pitcher Russ Ortiz. He struggled with the Giants with 63 walks, 57 strikeouts and 121 hits in 115 innings. The mystique of unhittability was long gone.

At the trade deadline, Moss was dealt along with Kurt Ainsworth to the Orioles for Sidney Ponson. Moss had mechanics that were so fouled up that the Orioles tried just shutting him down to work on the side for a little while in an attempt to straighten himself out. Damian himself admitted that his lack of physical conditioning had created some mechanical problems and that he intended to work hard in the off-season to return to the form he showed with the Braves. But the pitching-starved Orioles gave up on him, letting him walk rather than offering arbitration.

2004 found him signing with the Devil Rays organization for $850,000, but Moss struggled from the outset and soon found himself in AAA after giving up 15 runs in 8 innings in 2 April starts and 3 relief appearances that lasted all of 8 innings.

Essentially, Damian Moss encountered Lou Piniella. "We're really trying to find out if Moss is going to stay in the rotation," Piniella said on April 27. "Once Moss tells us, yeah, he wants the job, then we can act. And hopefully that's what he'll do."

On May 4th, Moss was sent to AAA Durham. By August 14th, he had compiled a 5.87 ERA in 17 starts, and was released by the D-Rays. The Reds picked him up, but he didn't do much in Louisville either with a 10.61 ERA in 3 starts. He became a free agent, and played this winter for Cibao in the Dominican Winter League. Through 10 innings he had given up 6 walks.

So, Moss is essentially a failed prospect who is now joining his sixth organization in 3 years. Don't expect miracles.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Injuries Shaping Lineup Decisions 

Injuries are never a good thing, especially when you are talking about some key players on your team. However, a couple of lingering injury issues could be a golden opportunity for several Mariner youngsters to impress manager Mike Hargrove.

First and foremost, there is the nagging aches that our hero, Mr. Bucky Jacobsen, is suffering. It looks unlikely that Bucky will get much meaningful time to play in Spring Training. Once the knee is healthy, Bucky will need time to work back into playing shape. In the meantime, Hargrove has stated that he will be starting the season with 12 pitchers and therefore only 4 players on the bench. I'm guessing that Bucky's return to health may coincide exactly with the M's going to a 5-man bench, but as for the timetable, only Bucky's knee knows.

Next, there is the nagging day-to-day problems that Pokey Reese is working (well, "working" may be a poor choice of words) through. With each day that Pokey misses due to "tweaked" ankles and "flu-like symptoms" (which my wife is also suffering from after an encounter with Mexican martinis last night), the M's supposed starter misses a chance to gel with the rest of the infield defense. Instead, Jose Lopez is taking advantage of the opportunity to play in front of Grover every day, hitting the ball with authority, and fielding with a fluidity that has to make the M's question their resolve to start him at 2B in Tacoma.

If Lopez continues to impress, he may win the starting shortstop job, and relegate Pokey to the backup infielder role that he seems to be born for. In this case, our bench would have Spiezio backing up the corners and maybe as a spot outfielder, Dan Wilson at catcher, and Pokey backing up the middle infielders. The fourth bench spot looks designated for Willie Bloomquist, who is putting together a solid Spring. But with a solid defender in Pokey on the bench, the M's may decide that a stronger outfielder is more important than a "versatile" defender like Willie. This might mean a chance for Jamal Strong, or even Shin-Soo Choo to stick with the club. And don't forget that GM Bill Bavasi is not averse to using a late Spring trade to shore up the bench, as he did last year by acquiring Jolbert Cabrera late in camp.

While injuries may play a role in deciding our starting shortstop and our bench, they could play an even larger role in picking our pitching staff. Right now, the M's are waiting with baited breath for the return of staff ace Joel Pineiro and closer Eddie Guardado.

Pineiro has been halted due to shoulder soreness, and has already missed one turn in the rotation and is likely to miss at least one or two more. With Opening Day just a few weeks off, it is likely that Joel will not have enough time to build his stamina towards starting, and may not be available until mid-April or even May. This is a golden opportunity for the loser in the #5 starter battle to get a few more chances to earn the job by starting for the M's in April.

Rumors have the M's talking trade for pitchers, but if that doesn't happen, then they will open the season with two of these pitchers in their rotation: Jorge Campillo, Ryan Franklin, Aaron Sele, or Felix Hernandez.

Franklin has solidified his hold on a rotation spot with a decent Spring. The reviews on Sele have been mixed, and Campillo looked solid in his first Spring innings, but is definitely playing catchup. The wild card could be King Felix, who has not had any command in his first two outings, but that is just a small sample after a four month layoff. If he knocks the rust off, he could force his way onto the staff.

If the M's think that Sele is going to contribute to a winning season, then that will be the easy call. Essentially, April will continue the battle between Franklin and Sele for the final rotation spot.

But if the M's want to take a chance and see what they have, then this might be an opportunity to see what Campillo can do in the big leagues, or if Felix is ready. That would certainly make April even more exciting! Personally, I'm hoping Campillo earns the job, and shows that he's ready to take MLB by storm, and cements his hold on the #4 spot when El Cartuela is called up on June 1.

Finally, the pitcher formerly known as "Everyday Eddie" looks to be anything but, as a strained hamstring will further limit his Spring Training innings, perhaps eliminating them altogether.

JJ Putz is the most likely candidate to jump in and take over the closer role, as he finished strong there last year with 9 saves in 9 chances to end 2004. Jeff Nelson looks like his nasty stuff is back, so he will be joining a bullpen that also will likely have Shiggy, Mateo, Sherrill, and Villone in it. There's room for one more in this bullpen while Guardado is out. Scott Atchison and Matt Thronton both could claim the final spot.

A thought? If Sele is going to get a spot, give the 12th pitcher spot to Campillo, and let him and Villone take the long relief role that is so needed in April, when pitchers are only going 4, 5, or 6 innings.

We'll see how the bullpen shakes out over the next few weeks, but it looks like injuries to Pineiro and Guardado could keep the battle for spots on the pitching staff going well into April.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Caple on Madritsch 

Jim Caple's latest article is titled Relentless drive pushes Madritsch. It has enough information on Bulldog Bobby to make you fall in love all over again.

My favorite part was the quote from Madritsch, talking about his complete game victory 4-2 victory that knocked Oakland out of first place in September.
"The only thing that got me through that game was the fact they hit Ichiro with a pitch and it pissed me off. That got me through the last inning, because I was going to go out there and hit the first guy. I was kind of tired. I threw 135 pitches that game and had 118 after the eighth, but after Ichiro got hit, the adrenaline all came rushing back and I'm like, 'Get me out there.' I couldn't sit down. I was pacing the dugout and everyone was like, 'Sit down, sit down – relax.' Ichiro is like, 'Don't hit him because that could start a big inning.' When a veteran like him tells you something like that, you listen."
Its a beautiful time of year. Two weeks of basketball frenzy coming up to distract me from the fact that Spring Training games are meaningless, and before you know it, its Opening Day! Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Quick Hits 

The Badass (El Cartelua), Felix Hernandez, gets the start today against the Royals at noon PST. I know I'll be listening. Felix is scheduled for two innings. I hope Grover puts out the "A" team on defense with him.

Jason at Mariner Minors pointed out a scary article highlighting past injuries to Mariner prospects and the future of King Felix. I think Felix shows he's ready this Spring, and comes up on June 1st, never to return to the minors.

Scary news from Peoria yesterday. First bad news is that Joel Pineiro is having some stiffness in his pitching shoulder and will be rested for a couple of days. Second is Bret Boone limping off the field and will be examined further today. Jose Lopez steps up to say he is ready for shortsop OR secondbase by hitting the game-winning triple. Will be interesting to see if Lopez gets the start at second if Boone can't go today.

Another trade market for Randy Winn may open soon. Our favorite trading partner, the Padres, who may have lost backup centerfielder Freddy Guzman for the year. And with Dave Roberts only another hamstring pull away from going down, the Padres may pick up the red phone to dial Bavasi direct.

Seven hours until Rice plays UT here at the Disch. Should be a great game in this growing college baseball rivalry. Go Owls!

If Aaron Sele doesn't make the Mariners, he won't be going to Tacoma. Hopefully that won't figure into anyone's math. For those watching the fifth starter battle, both Sele and Franklin were unexceptional yesterday. Sele gave up a two-run bomb to Prince Fielder, and Franklin gave up two unearned runs.

Rett Johnson was Rick Ankiel-esque to start his outing yesterday, putting pitches 10 feet from the plate and into the backstop as he walked the first three batters. I think I heard Olivo saying to the batter, "Don't dig in. I don't KNOW where the next ball is going! Johnson obviously settled down, as he got out of the bases loaded, no out jam without allowing a run. Rett's mother is a forum member over at Sportspot, and she says not to worry. That outing was only Rett's second in the big leagues, so he was just a little nervous. Don't count out Rett yet.

Scott Spiezio continues to get work in the outfield, and he may get work at second base, where he started his career. Why not?

Miguel Olivo is making a believer out of me and the Mariners coaching staff. He has got a gun back there, and nothing is getting by him this Spring.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Quote of the Day 

This little tidbit might have been overlooked in your first pass through the PI today. Mike Hargrove that Jose Lopez could still end up as our starting shortstop.
"Lopez can force the issue at shortstop. I've been very impressed with him. If it happens, then Pokey would be a utility player. As is the case with [Felix] Hernandez, though, you can't let the short term blind you to what's best. And what's best for Lopez is what's best for the Mariners. We are all impressed that the kid can bat. We just need to see consistency of defense."
If Lopez can field shortstop adequately, the 2005 Mariners get an even more potent lineup. Plus, Pokey is already appearing fragile and will likely be unavailable for a game here and there on a regular basis. I'd rather have Pokey as a late-inning defensive replacement and part-time sub at second and short, then have Willie Bloomquist playing a lot while Pokey is out.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Choi Hoon Interview 

Nice Choi Hoon interview up at Korea Times. Fun read for new followers of his work!

Midseason Form 

Richie Sexson's first at bat against Woody Williams - home run.

Adrian Beltre's second at bat against decent reliever Rudy Seanez - towering, mammoth home run that has still not come down.

Later in the game, the trifecta is completed by the resurgent power bat of Dan The Man.

On KJR, Bret Boone comments on the fact that Dan Wilson's home run completely devalues Sexson's and Beltre's blasts.

We are Soooo ready for Opening Day.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Your 2005 Rookie of the Year 

Will be Jeremy Reed. You can set it in stone right now. Not only is the kid one of the best prospects coming to the big leagues, but he is in a dream situation for a rookie. Look at how things are shaping up for Mr. Reed.

He should be the #2 hitter, with new slugger Adrian Beltre batting behind him. He is going to get good pitches to hit.

Batting ahead of him is Ichiro Suzuki, who will not only get on base at a .400 clip. Not only that, listen to these quotes that Grandpa Mariner overheard from manager Mike Hargrove.
"....with his speed and how often he is on base, there is no reason Ichiro can't break the stolen base record"

"...our 1,2 and 7,8,9 slots are all going to be good to excellent speed wise. By aggressively running more, we can keep the pressure on and help our power guys see better pitches"

"...there is a time and a place for bunting, but trying it too early in the game is a sign of no-confidence in your line up."
First of all, let me catch my breath as my heart is beating very fast. Ichiro break the stolen base record?!?! If Hargrove can unleash Ichiro to go for 100+ stolen base attempts, this may be the most fun season in Mariner history.

So, Ichiro is going to be on base a lot, and Hargrove has publicly proclaimed that the Mariners, and especially Ichiro, are going to be very aggresive on the basepaths. Ichiro is taking a big lead in a close game, and Adrian Beltre is sitting in the on deck circle licking his chops, what is the pitcher going to do? Once he gets his composure back, he is going to rear back and fire fastball after fastball at Jeremy Reed.

All Jeremy has to do is sit dead red on the fastball and begin feasting.

And if that isn't enough, look at the composure of the Mariners lineup. One lefthanded power hitter in Raul Ibanez. Then its a murderers row of right handers in Adrian Beltre, Richie Sexson, Bret Boone, and Bucky Jacobsen. Mix in the fact that Safeco favors left handed hitters, and you are likely to see opposing teams bringing out a stream of right handed pitchers.

As a lefthanded hitter, Reed gets the cozy confines of right field to try out his power swing, and he gets to feast on righty after righty.

A .300 average looks like a safe bet to me. Mix in a dozen or so home runs, and 80 RBIs, and you have your ROTY winner. Of course, all bets are off on Reed if King Felix starts the season in Seattle.

Enjoy 2005, Mariner fans! There is a good chance you will get a firsthand look at the 2005 Rookie of the Year.

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