Minor League Roundup

The Seattle Mariners minor league affiliates have had their share of success this season as have the M's themselves. The road warriors of the Emerald City returned home after the 12-game trip to post a 3-3 week of their own due to a ton of pitching and a little bit of luck. The farm system had no such luck.

Triple-A Tacoma had yet another sub-par week, going just 1-6 and dropping six games back in the Northern Division of the PCL. There were many contributions to such a failed week but it all started with the pitching. Surrendering 49 earned runs in 7 games is not going to win many games and the Rainiers learned that the hard way. Neither the starting rotation, with two of their five hurlers on the DL (Cloude, Falkenborg), nor the bullpen did the job this week. The offense was inconsistent, as shown glaringly versus Las Vegas when Tacoma was no-hit by Lindsay Gulin. The Rainiers did however have some bright spots over the week. Kenny Kelly had a two-homer, four RBI game in a 5-4 loss to Tucson, and Andy Barkett's return from the DL was successful as he hit a grand slam homerun versus Tucson. Brian Sweeney may have been the lone standout on the pitching staff, going seven solid innings versus Las Vegas and allowing just one run, a walk, and tallying six strikeouts. That, his second start of the week, came after a weak outing on Monday. The Rainiers now stand at 31-40.

Double-A San Antonio of the hitters-friendly Texas League had a so-so week at the plate, resulting in a three-win, three-loss stretch that included the final five games of the first half. San Antonio finished the first half 47-22, the best record in the league and got a running start on the second half on Sunday in a 2-1 win vs. Frisco. The pitching was stellar once again, allowing just 14 earned runs in six games while giving the offense a chance to heat up (which it never really did). Just 16 runs all week is what the mighty Mission offense could muster, after a month of May in which they hit .303 as a team. The pitching staff was led by InsideThePark.com Minor League Pitcher of the Week, Chris Wright, who had two appearances, one as a starter and one as a reliever, and had similar success in both outings. Perfect for six innings, Wright gave the Missions a much-needed boost out of the bullpen for two innings and then for four more in a starting role. Closer Jared Hoerman continues to be solid, shutting the game down at the end, saving his 19th and 20th games of the year this week. Left-hander Randall Williams tossed out a perfect three innings of relief in his lone appearance of the week, not allowing a hit or a walk and striking out seven. The offense hasn't been clicking lately but OF Michael Curry is still swiping bases at a very high rate and leads the league with 29. Infielder Luis Ugueto is also among the league leaders in steals with 20. The Missions have tallied a Texas League-high 112 steals thus far in 2003.

Single-A affiliate Inland Empire of San Bernardino in the California League had a tough week as well. Winning just three of eight games, including a four-game losing streak to begin the week, the 66ers rebounded to salvage three of the final four games of the week. The theme once again is struggling pitching. Giving up 36 earned runs in eight games doesn't seem so bad especially considering the 15 given up in one game, until you see when the runs were scored. The Inland offense was fighting from behind a lot and when they did get a lead the bullpen found a way to give it back. The stars of the week were clearly starting left-handed pitcher Troy Cate, RP Brian Strelitz, and Cha Sueng Baek who all combined for 15.1 scoreless innings with 14 strikeouts and just two walks. The offense was led by InsideThePark.com's Minor League Player of the Week and newly promoted OF Dustin Delucchi, who hit a cool .400 in six games, and Greg Jacobs, who continues to tear the cover off the ball by smacking six extra-base hits in six starts. Inland's 36-34 record is still good enough for 3rd place in the division and leaves them just four games back of first.

Single-A Wisconsin had another mediocre week, going 3-3 in six games, but raised it's record to 38-28 and held onto it's divisional lead in the Midwest League. The pitching was good enough to win five of the six but the offense did not cooperate. The Timber Rattlers got solid starts from right-handers Juan Sandoval (4-5 4.24 ERA) and Tanner Watson (1-3 4.95 ERA) as well as lefties Bobby Livingston (9-2 2.29 ERA) and Cesar Jiminez (6-3 1.96 ERA), but it's mighty tough to win games when scoring a paltry 19 runs all week. The offense was inconsistent with runners in scoring position and couldn't seem to string many hits together. The hitting was left to C Rene Rivera (seven hits and four RBI), 3B Matt Hagen (four hits and two RBI, 11th HR), and 1B Jon Nelson (five hits, three RBI, 5th HR). Hagen is now 3rd in the Midwest League in homeruns (11) and extra-base hits (28), IF/OF Corey Harrington leads the league in triples (6). Livingston, 20, is second in the league in wins (9), while fellow lefty Cesar Jiminez, 18, is sixth in ERA (1.96), and right-hander TA Fulmer leads the league in complete games (3).

Overall the farm went 10-17 for the week after last week's stellar 16-9-1. With the halfway point here and gone for some, and creeping up on other leagues, look for mid-season promotions to shake-up rosters and give the stretch-drive a new look at all levels.

Jason resides in North Tacoma, Wa. where his father is his best friend, his mother has a better fastball than he does, and his nephew is the only person better suited for stardom. Feedback is always welcome at JasonAChurchill@cs.com.

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