Minor League Roundup

In past seasons the sole purpose of the Seattle Mariners minor league clubs was to simply house the next generation of players for the 25-man major league roster until the current bunch was ready to be traded for younger players and prospects. These days each minor league affiliate has many extremely vital jobs to, beginning with teaching. Perhaps the most important point driven home is how to deal with adversity. That, afterall, is inevitable.

This past week many players at each level were forced to deal with adverse issues such as injuries, last second call-ups, delayed games, odd travel schedules, and behind the scene type issues that none of us see in the boxscore.

Triple-A Tacoma had their finest week of the season and the 6-1 record only proves it more. Only a mid-week 9-3 loss blemished their week. The Rainiers climbed to within six games of division-leading Edmonton even though they remained last place.

Led offensively by red-hot infielder Mickey Lopez, Tacoma scored 45 runs in seven contests. Lopez was 9-22 with two homeruns and seven RBI. 1B JR Phillips added eight hits in 24 at bats with four doubles and four RBI while leadoff man Jamal Strong pitched in with a 7-19 (.368) effort.

The pitching staff got a much needed boost from right-hander Brian Sweeney, who stepped back into the rotation and tossed 6.2 solid innings where he allowed just one earned run on six hits while striking out 10. In a week that saw ace righty Rett Johnson struggle and then be removed due to some shoulder stiffness, the Rainiers needed someone to step up. Sweeney did just that in picking up his 10th win on the year, tying him with teammate Craig Anderson for fourth in the PCL. The 29-year-old change-up specialist was called up to the big club and pitched three scoreless innings over the weekend.

Reliever Allan Simpson has found a groove and has not allowed a run in seven consecutive appearances. The right-hander's 5.1 innings this week saw him allow just four hits while striking out eight.

The Rainiers stand at 57-71 on the season and are seven games out in the PCL's Northern Division.

Double-A San Antonio seems to have hit the proverbial wall and suffer just the third losing week of their season. Going 3-4 isn't horrible but as a Missions player or manager, it's just not normal.

The offense has sputtered of late and their 26 runs scored on the week is the lowest total for a full week in their entire 2003 campaign. Texas League Leaders in many team and individual categories, the Missions offense is struggling with the simple things like moving a runner up or getting a man home from third with less than two down.

A.J. Zapp and Greg Jacobs provided most of the offense, combining for 19 hits in 50 at-bats. Zapp added two homeruns and six RBI to go with his 10-hit week that produced four multi-hit games. The 25-year–old slugger leads the league in homeruns (24) and is fourth in RBI (83). Jacobs continued his season long hot streak adding four multi-hit games of his own and is hitting .361 at two levels for the year.

27-year-old left-hander Bobby Madritsch had a fantastic week. The former Indy League star went 15.1 innings in two starts, surrendering just one run on only five hits. He added nine strikeouts. Right-hander Cha Baek went seven scoreless innings in a 1-0 loss. The 23-year-old allowed five hits and walked two while striking out three. Southpaw Travis Blackley went 6.1 innings allowing two earned runs en route to his league-leading 15th victory.

San Antonio is now 34-23 in the second half and lead the Western Division of the Texas League by a comfortable eight-game margin.

Advanced-A Inland Empire went 2-4 on the week and was saved from a winless week by a few super-solid pitching performances.

Right-hander Elvis Perez, 24, went seven innings and allowed one earned run while striking out nine. Lefty Troy Cate took things a step further and went 7.1 innings, allowed two earned runs on three hits, and struck out a career high-tying 14. The 22-year-old did not walk a batter. Fellow left-handers Glenn Bott and Ryan Ketchner followed suit, going 7 and 6.2 innings respectively.

Bott, 21, allowed three hits and an earned run while striking out six and walking two.

Ketchner, 21, gave up two earned runs on six hits while striking out six and walking three. Ketchner ranks third in the California League in wins with 11, and tied for first with teammate Troy Cate in strikeouts with 138. Bott ranks third in ERA at 3.07.

The offense scored just 26 runs in six games but not without some stellar performances. 2B Enrique Bastida-Martinez had a five-hit game that led him to a 9-19 week with four runs scored and three RBI. 3B Hunter Brown, 23, went 7-22 with his 14th homerun of the year and added four RBI. OF Dustin Delucchi, 25, was 8-22 on the week with three RBI.

OF Shin-soo Choo, 21, hit his ninth homerun of the year to add to his league leading 13 triples.

Inland is 31-24 for the second half and sit just 1.5 games backof first place in their division.

Single-A Wisconsin went 2-4 for the week and this time you can blame both the pitching and the hitting. Scoring 26 and yielding 26 doesn't sound all that bad in either direction until you realize it's the Midwest League, a notorious pitchers league. How can I put blame on the offense you ask? Here's how: In six games the Timber Rattlers hit just .177 with runners in scoring position and were hitless in 14 at-bats with runners in scoring position and two outs. How can I blame the pitching staff you ask? Here's how: of the 15 inherited runners that the bullpen took on, 6 scored. The starters had nice overall numbers but in the final innings of work, the starters gave up a .373 average and twice let teams back into games and eventually lost both. The Midwest league is an odd league where the parks are pitcher friendly, the weather is extreme and the games seem boring in the boxscore but are anything but that.

Offensively the Rattlers were led by SS Michael Garciaparra and catcher Rene Rivera. Garciaparra continued his hot hitting by going 9-26 for the week, highlighted by a 4-hit game on Friday. The 20-year-old had 38 hits in his last 107 at-bats. Rivera, 21, went 7-19 on the week with five RBI and added his own 4-hit game on Friday.

3B Matt Hagen, 23, is 3rd in the league in homeruns with 21. 1B Jon Nelson, 23, is 3rd in RBI with 8o, and 2nd in doubles with 34.

The pitching staff was led by righties TA Fulmer, 23, and Juan Sandoval, 23. Fulmer went 7 scoreless innings, allowing just five hits and two walks while striking out five.

3B Matt Hagen, 23, is 3rd in the league in homeruns with 21. 1B Jon Nelson, 23, is 3rd in RBI with 80, and 2nd in doubles with 34.

Right-hander TA Fulmer is now 7th in the league in ERA at 2.54 while left-hander Bobby Livingston, 20, ranks 9th at 2.60. Livingston leads the league in wins with 14 and Fulmer leads in complete games with five.

Wisconsin is now 24-30 and 11 games back in their division.

Short-season A-Everett went 3-4 on the week. In seven games the offense scored a solid 41 runs while the pitching gave up 39. Not a ton of wins follow a team ERA of 5.13. It was a week full of blowouts as there was just one game decided by less than five runs.

The Everett offense was led by infielders Jeremy Dutton and Eric Blakeley and OF Chris Colton.

Dutton, 22, used a 5-5 game on Tuesday to go 9-23 on the week and also slugged his second homerun. Blakeley, 23, went 7-23 for the week with five runs scored, two RBI and two steals. Colton went 9-27 with four RBI and four runs scored. Colton, 20, also added three multi-hit games.

2B Nick Orlandos, 23, ranks 5th in the Northwest League in hitting (.320) and Blakeley is 8th (.311). Orlandos is 3rd in hits with 64. SS Oz Navarro, 18, and Colton are tied for 4th in steals with 16.

The pitching was once again led by right-hander Felix Hernandez. The 17-year-old went six string innings in his only start of the week. The phenom allowed one earned run on seven hits while striking out 10. He didn't walk a batter.

Hernandez leads the league in wins (7) and ERA (1.80) and is 4th in strikeouts with 65.

Everett stands at 25-33 for the year and go into the last stretch of the year sitting six games back.

Jason resides in North Tacoma, Wash., 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 DiamondGenius@hotmail.com.

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