Cupboard Stocked at Triple-A Tacoma in 2005

The Tacoma Rainiers, Seattle's Triple-A affiliate, just might be more stocked in 2005 than the abundantly talented team from last season. Each area of the field – infield, outfield, starting rotation, bullpen – is loaded with talent heading into 2005.

Felix Hernandez and Shin-soo Choo are ranked as the Mariners No. 1 and 3 prospects respectively by, and both move up from strong performances at Double-A last season to get their first crack at Triple-A.

Hernandez may start the year pitching out of the bullpen to allow for his arm to stay lively when and if he's called up to the big leagues this season, but wherever he pitches he'll likely be his dominant self.

The soon-to-be 19-year-old is just one of many up-and-coming pitchers on the roster. Joining him are starters Cha Seung Baek, Jorge Campillo, Rich Dorman, Chris Buglovsky, Bret Evert and Dan Reichert. Bugslovsky and Reichert could each see time in the bullpen as well, joining promising lefties George Sherrill and Jared Thomas. Masao Kida has major league experience that could prove beneficial in the bullpen, further deepening the club. Almost an afterthought, Jeff Heaverlo is also back after missing almost all of last season with a reoccurring armpit injury. The once highly-touted right-hander will probably be used in a relief role for the majority of the season.

Clint Nageotte, the hard-throwing right-hander who was ranked the top prospect in the organization prior to last season by, will start the year on the DL to recover from a sore back. Damian Moss, a lefty who enjoyed success in Atlanta as recent as 2002, is another quality arm. Moss, however, will begin the year on the suspended list.

The infield was served a blow when Jose Lopez injured his wrist, forcing him to undergo surgery on a broken hamate bone that will force him out of the lineup for up to six weeks, but it is still loaded with talent. Aaron Rifkin is likely the team's every-day first baseman, while Michael Morse is set to man shortstop. Justin Leone and Hunter Brown are both capable third basemen, but both can play elsewhere. Brown may see time at second base and first base as he did last season with San Antonio. Ramon Santiago, a middle infielder coming off another great spring with the Mariners, is also in the mix.

Choo leads an impressive assembly of outfielders, and will likely spend the bulk of his time in right field again in 2005. As well-rounded as any hitter in the Mariners's system, Choo will look to build on the improvements he made in the power and speed departments a year ago. Jamal Strong returns to Tacoma after an injury-riddled year a season ago, and will be the team's starting center fielder. At 26, the speedster is one injury away from a callup to the big leagues. The third outfield spot will go to Dustin Delucchi for the time being. Other candidates for the left field spot are Chris Snelling (on the DL) and Greg Jacobs (serving a suspension), but neither will be available to start the season.

Wiki Gonzalez and Kit Pellow figure to handle the majority of the catching duties while Ryan Christianson begins the season on the suspended list. Bryce Terveen is also on the roster.

Rainiers Opening Day Roster

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