Mariners Transaction Update: April 1-15

From the under-the-radar transactions in Single-A to the more publicized moves made on the big league roster, InsidethePark's Joseph A. Yencich breaks downs all the player movement that's taken place in the Mariners' organization since the start of April.

April 4th, 2005

Seattle:
LHP Ryan Anderson released
RHP Rett Johnson released

In another time, he was known as "The Little Unit," the bright future of the pitching staff and the left shoulder on which rested the hopes and dreams of Mariners fans everywhere. But that was a different era of Seattle baseball. In time, that shoulder was torn apart, rebuilt, then torn down again, and with it the dreams went. Every few months one fan would sound out the cry "What ever happened to Ryan Anderson?" but those cries will die down now. The book on his career with Seattle is now closed, though many of us knew how it was going to end years ago.

For Rett Johnson, the story was rather different. Afflicted with no detectable physical ailment, Rett just suddenly couldn't throw strikes one day. The Mariners spent half the year working on it with him, but when he returned to the California League at the end of last season, veteran managers weren't certain that they were even looking at the same pitcher who had dominated the league years earlier. Spring training came and things still didn't seem right, so the Mariners called manager Dave Brundage, already in San Antonio with the team, and told him he'd have to break the bad news. Though the final decision came in at the last minute, the seeds were already planted in the winter when they initially released him. The mystery of what happened to him may remain unsolved to the public, but here's to hoping that Rett figures it out for himself some day.


April 8th, 2005

Seattle:
OF Abraham Nunez outrighted to Triple-A Tacoma

Wisconsin:
IF Asdrubal Cabrera placed on the disabled list with a sprained left ankle

In the midst of a roster crunch, with Aaron Sele and Jeff Nelson both getting the inside edge on some spots on the pitching staff despite being non-roster players, the Mariners surprised just about everyone by picking up Wilson Valdez and Abraham Nunez off the waiver wire from the Mets and the Royals, respectively. The thinking was that, as rosters were set to 25 over the next few days, Valdez and Nunez could slip through waivers with less notice. Of course, Valdez ended up as the team's starting shortstop with Pokey Reese on the DL, but Nunez did slide under the radar a few days later, so the gamble paid off.

Asdrubal Cabrera started off the season on the wrong foot, rather literally. During the first game of the year, Asdrubal was standing on second base, thinking of advancing on what looked like a tricky pop up. When that ball was caught, he had to suddenly slam on the brakes, twisting his left ankle in the process and collapsing in a heap. As the trainers helped him off the field, he couldn't really put any weight on the foot. An x-ray the next day revealed a sprain, and he should be out four to six weeks, but with the glut of capable infielders on the T-Rats staff and their early season dominance, no corresponding move has been made.


April 9th, 2005

Seattle:
LHP Bobby Madritsch placed on 15-day DL with strained left shoulder, retroactive to April 7th
3B Justin Leone recalled to Seattle.

Though Ryan Franklin has been filling in quite well during his first few starts, the Mariners have to be a little concerned about their starting pitching at this point. While the MRI indicated that this is a new tear in a different area of the shoulder, the staples inside bear witness to the kind of trauma the arm has seen before. Madritsch has had a history of injuries, including his arm being reconstructed while he was in the Reds system, and while he claims that the pain this time around wasn't nearly as bad as before, anyone watching could see him wincing as he walked off the mound.

If you missed that Leone had even been called up to the Mariners again, you probably weren't the only one, as he spent his week riding the pine and trying to absorb the experience. Though he left without any sort of game time, his bat didn't seem to be slowed any when he got back to Tacoma; he's continuing his hot start, batting .400/.500/.667. Unfortunately for him, Spiezio and Dobbs are already competent backups at third, so it's not terribly likely that he'll be back soon, unless he starts playing other positions with some proficiency or his bat manages to force the issue.


April 10th, 2005

Inland Empire:
RHP Kevin Olore placed on the DL with torn ligaments in his right arm
RHP Oliver Arias called up from extended spring training

Midway through the 2003 season, Kevin Olore was one of the more intriguing right-handers in the system, boasting an above-average fastball and a nasty curve. As is too often the case with rising pitching prospects, he tore his labrum in a game with Double-A San Antonio and all but disappeared from view. He missed the rest of the season and rehabbed all through 2004, just to get back into a game that counted. After two and a third innings where he allowed four runs and was occasionally bouncing pitches to the catcher, he felt a tear in his arm, motioned to the manager, and walked off the mound. Though all the other players were looking forward to 143 more games, for Olore, the season was already over. Where he goes from here is up to him, but best of luck whatever route he decides to take.

For Arias, the journey was strange to say the least. The 50th and last pick by the Mariners in the 2002 draft, Arias didn't pitch professionally in 2003 and turned up unexpectedly in Peoria last year. His first season didn't go so well, and he posted a 5.59 ERA while giving up more than a hit per inning, disappointing numbers even considering the conditions in the Arizona League. Still, he worked at it in spring training and when the call came for a pitcher, he was bumped up a few levels to Advanced-A Inland Empire. As was to be expected, he has been overmatched at times, but for the most part has kept his composure and pitched effectively. How long he'll remain with the team remains to be seen.


April 12th, 2005

Tacoma:
LHP Scott Mullen sold to the Yomiuri Giants of Japan
LHP Andrew Lorraine signed
1B/C Kit Pellow sold to the Lotte Giants of Korea
IF Luis Valbuena called up from extended spring training

Few seemed to even be aware that Mullen had signed until he showed up on the Rainiers' opening day roster. A 30-year-old who had spent time in the Kansas City and Los Angeles systems with cups of Joe in both cities, Mullen spent all of last season playing in Japan for the Yokohama Bay Stars. Like a growing number of players, he found the conditions (and the pay) in Japan to be favorable, and decided to give it another spin this year.

Lorraine, who will be taking over Mullen's role in the ‘pen, is actually in his second tour of duty with the Rainiers, the first coming in 1998 when he had a 7-4 record and a 4.82 ERA over 80.1 innings, eventually earning him a late-season call up by the Mariners. He was a 4th round pick by the Angels back in 1993, though his minor league track record is nothing special. More likely than not, he'll just be filling the role of additional lefty out the ‘pen in Tacoma, which may be needed if/when George Sherrill is called up.

Pellow found himself pretty much in the same situation as Mullen; on the outside looking in with no real chance of getting that special phone call unless there was a serious string of injuries to the big league club. While a Pat Borders-type might still enjoy the experience, Tacoma is not really for everyone, so Pellow decided to try his hand at playing in the Korean League. He'll probably be making more money than he would otherwise, too. Best of luck to him.

It's not often that players make a direct jump from the Venezuelan Summer League to Triple-A baseball in the U.S., and Valbuena's trip wasn't meant to be much of an exception to the rule. The 19-year-old just happened to be performing well in extended spring training around the time Tacoma really needed an emergency infielder. Two strikeouts, a groundout and a walk later, he was sent packing again, back to Peoria for more practice with those closer to his skill level. Expect to see him manning second for the AquaSox come June.


April 15th 2005

Seattle:
RHP Joel Pineiro reinstated from the DL
3B Justin Leone optioned to Tacoma

Tacoma:
OF Chris Snelling reinstated from the DL
IF Hyung Cho sent down to extended spring training
IF Luis Valbuena sent down to extended spring training

Inland Empire:
RHP Austin Bilke retires
LHP Shawn Nottingham called up from extended spring training

Pineiro missed parts of the second half of last season with a strained flexor bundle in his right elbow. The Mariners decided to play it safe over the offseason, and had him rest his arm for the duration. As was to be expected after that kind of layoff, Pineiro wasn't completely ready to start pitching competitively again by spring training, so the Mariners decided to give him some extra time to get things in working order. After an April 10th start in Tacoma where he allowed just one run over seven innings and struck out six, he's back with the big club, hopefully to stay for the season.

Some players have a history of back problems, a sore hamstring might plague others, but Chris Snelling has seen a full range of injuries over his career. Damaged ligaments and broken bones in the left hand, a fractured right ankle, a torn ACL, a busted hamate bone in his hand, wrist injuries, Snelling has seen it all. And yet, after so much lost time in rehab, he still goes at it again the next year. As precaution, Snelling will be mostly playing designated hitter in Tacoma, with the possibility of some time in the outfield as the season wears on.

Looking at the name, you might assume that Cho is another one of the Mariners famed Pacific Rim signings, but in reality, he was born in Ontario and was just picked up after the 2003 season as a non-drafted free agent out of the University of Houston. Cho saw some limited time last year as a second baseman for Inland Empire and Wisconsin, batting near .300 at each level. The Rainiers were caught a man short to start their season, and Cho was called up, just in case they needed him. Expect him to start in Everett this year, if he doesn't manage to get a job at either of his stops from last season.

Injuries kept Austin Bilke on the sidelines for most of his three-year minor league career, and it was another injury this season that made him call it quits. Bilke signed on with Anaheim as a non-drafted player in 2002 and went through two years in the Angels system before they released him in the middle of last season. He quickly signed on with the M's and began pitching in Wisconsin, and much better than he had for quite some time. It seemed like things were looking up for a change, but a few days into the season with Inland Empire, his hip started barking at him and wouldn't quit. Rather than sit idly on the bench, Bilke decided to retire from professional baseball at the age of 25.

The top pitcher on the AquaSox staff last season, Nottingham was held back in spring training due to a sore shoulder. The injury to Olore has left the Sixers rotation a man short, and while Nibaldo Acosta has been filing in that spot, don't be surprised if Nottingham pushes him back to the ‘pen, once his shoulder is back to full strength. A 9-3 record and 87 strikeouts to 29 walks were part of what lead the M's to name Nottingham the 2004 pitching MVP for the AquaSox, so he certainly seems capable of handling the assignment.

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