M's Minor League Players of the Week

Each week, some players step up and make their presence felt. At times, it's only for a game or two, or for a pitcher, maybe a few innings at a time. Last week was a good week for Tacoma Rainiers hitters as they spent the week in the thin air of Colorado Springs and Salt Lake City - but their whereabouts could have been discovered by a simple glance at the boxscores.

InsidethePark.com's Position Player of the Week

Aaron Rifkin, 1B - Tacoma
Rifkin was selected by the Mariners this past winter in the minor league portion of the rul 5 draft and while he was showing a steady bat and glove for the Rainiers, last week was pretty much unbelievable. Rifkin knocked the cover off the baseball on the entire road trip, collecting 13 hits in 25 at-bats (.520) and piling up 14 runs batted in on four home runs and three doubles. The left-handed hitting first baseman had five multi-hit games, including a four-hit night at Colorado Springs in which he belted two home runs.

Rifkin also scored 10 runs en route to his unanimous player of the week effort. The former New York Yankees draftee and Cal State Fullerton product is hitting .307 with a team-leading six home runs and 23 RBI.

Honorable Mention

Chris Snelling, OF - Tacoma
Snelling continued his assault on Pacific Coast League pitching this past week, tallying 11 hits in 21 at-bats (.524), including his first two home runs of the season. Snelling had five hits against Colorado Springs in the 21-7 massacre of the SkySox, and added two more mult-hit games in his five starts. Snelling drove in seven runs in his six starts, scored seven more and hit three more doubles to bring his season total to five in 12 games. The 23-year-old is playing more regularly in the field, which could push Snelling into a promotion to Seattle wuicker than anticipated. For now, he'll take his gaudy .467 batting average into the homestand .

Michael Morse, SS - Tacoma
Morse hit .417 (10-for-24) for the week, had at least one hit in each of the six games, and four multi-hit efforts. Morse added his third home run of the season and raised his average to .294 on the season. The 23-year-old sports a .352 on-base percentage to go with a solid slugging percentage of .450. Morse continues to thwart the tought that he can't play shortstop beyond the minor leagues and has committed just one error in the field all season. Displaying soft hands, improving range and understanding of the position, and a strong throwing arm, Morse has impressed in his first month in Triple-A.

Asdrubal Cabrera, 2B/SS - Wisconsin
Cabrera returned early from a sprained ankle and didn't miss a beat. The 19-year-old defensive wizard had nine hits in 23 at-bats (.391), including his first home runs of the season and tallied two 3-hit games and one 2-hit game for the week. Cabrera ripped two doubles and drove in five runs in five games and spent time in three different spots in the batting order – including the leadoff spot.

Keep An Eye On...

Josh Womack, OF - Wisconsin
Womack continued his solid season as he repeats with the Rattlers this year. The 21-year-old went 10-for-26 (.385) with his first home run, a double, three RBI and raised his season batting average to .333 and stole his seventh base to take the team lead. Womack has vastly improved his strike zone judgement and plate discipline and heads into May with 13 walks and a .406 on-base percentage.

Matt Rogelstad, UT – Inland Empire
Rogelstad has cooled off a bit but still totaled eight hits in 24 at-bats for a .333 average. The utility man is hitting .409 for the year after two more 3-hit outings this past week. Not bad for a guy who was a bench player on opening day, eh?

InsidethePark.com's Pitcher of the Week

Aaron Jensen, RHP - Wisconsin
The M's 16th rounder in 2003 is making the transition from "thrower" to "pitcher" look quite easy. Coming into this season, Jensen was known for being a strikeout pitcher in his high school days, using a low-to-mid 90s fastball and a plus curve to blow away the competition. With Everett last season, Jensen struggled to reach 90 miles per hour and his command was average at best. After five starts, the 20-year-old right-hander has walked just nine batters in 27 innings, and pitched the best game of his career this past week to earn him pitcher of the week honors.

Jensen went the distance versus South Bend on April 29, shutting out the the Silverhawks on four hits. The Utah native walked two and struck out two, while yielding just one extra-base hit on his way to facing just three batters over the minimum. Jensen is now 2-1 with a 2.33 ERA on the year.

Honorable Mention

Jason Mackintosh, LHP – Inland Empire
Mackintosh went eight strong innings versus Visalia, allowing an unearned run on just four hits and a walk. The left-hander struck out just one, but allowed just two extra-base hits in the 66ers victory.

Shawn Nottingham, LHP – Inland Empire
Don't you get the feeling that Nottingham is going to be showing up here every single week? Me too. The 20-year-old southpaw put together a solid week in his two starts. After shutting down the Visalia Oaks on four hits over seven innings, Nottingham surrendered four earned run in five frames against Rancho Cucamonga, but his secondary numbers were impressive in each outing. Versus Visalia, the 6-foot-1, 190 pounder struck out five without issuing a walk in the 66ers 4-0 win. In the loss to the Quakes, Nottingham gave up nine hits, but walked just one and struck out eight batters with his fastball-changeup combination. Quickly becoming one of the top lefties in the system, the Sixers' ace is 2-2 with a 3.43 ERA for the year.

Chris Key, LHP – Inland Empire
Key continues to be a very valuable relief option for manager Daren Brown and kept up his end of the roll this past week. Key went 3.2 innings, allowing an earned run four hits while striking out four. Key is 3-0 on the season with a 2.25 ERA and just one walk in 16 innings pitched.

Keep An Eye On...

George Sherrill, LHP - Tacoma
Sherrill has been sharp since the first week of the season and now has four straight scoreless appearances – that would be six if it weren't for a defensive error versus Fresno mid-month. In his past four games, Sherrill has allowed three hits in 4.1 innings of work. The Rainiers' closer has walked one and struck out six while lowering his ERA to 3.12 for the season. Sherrill leads the Rainiers with two saves and eight games finished.

Bret Evert, RHP – Tacoma
Evert has flown under the radar this season but after a sluggish start, the former Braves prospect has picked up his game. The right-hander went three innings last week in two appearances, allowing an earned run on four hits. Evert struck out two and did not issue a walk. For the year, Evert has no record but a solid 3.75 ERA and just three walks in 12 innings pitched.

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