Seattle Mariners Minor League Roundup: 5/3

Catch up with the M's minor league affiliates in the weekly roundup by Jason A. Churchill. Wisconsin is still soaring, Inland Empire is scuffling along, and both Tacoma and San Antonio are still trying to find the groove.

Tacoma Rainiers
11-13, 4.5 GB, Pacific Coast League, Pacific Division

Inconsistencies: The Rainiers jumped out of a slump last week on their 8-game road trip to Colorado Springs and Salt Lake City. The thin air aided in the club raising their team batting average to .284 through May 1.

Aaron Rifkin (.520, 4 HR, 14 RBI) led the way offensively last week but had a lot of help. Shortstop Michael Morse added 10 hits (.417 avg, HR) and Chris Snelling (big surprise) had another stellar week, hitting .524 with two home runs. Wiki Gonzalez and Bryce Terveen combined to hit over .400 on the trip and Dustin Delucchi and Ramon Santiago broke out of slumps; Delucchi of the small flavor and Santiago out of a season-long struggle. All this without even mentioning the two middle-of-the-order hitters, Abraham Nunez and Justin Leone - who combined to drive in 11 runs.

The Rainiers continued to have much more success away from Cheney Stadium, with a 9-6 record on the road.

In the absence of the suspended Jamal Strong, Santiago and Delucchi have been handling the leadoff duties, and with solid success. The duo has combined for a .306 average and a .377 on-base percentage, including eight runs scored in Strong's absence.

The Rainiers rotation is still struggling as a whole, missing Cha Seung Baek (elbow), and pining for strong outings from right-hander Rich Dorman. Dorman's first quality start came in outing No. 4, a five-inning stint at Salt Lake City on April 29. Left-handers Andrew Lorraine (2 GS, 12 IP, 5 ER) and Damian Moss (5 IP, 4 ER) have given the Rainiers a chance to win each time out. Right-hander's Jorge Campillo was pushed back a few days to give him extra rest after being hit in a line drive last week. Felix Hernandez tossed his second career shutout on April 25 at Colorado (7 IP, 10 H, 4ER, 5 K) and is now 4-2 with an ERA of 3.00 on the year.

In the bullpen, George Sherrill seems to have found a groove again, producing four straight scoreless outings and lowering his ERA to 2.79 after a rough start. Right-hander Jeff Heaverlo, on the other hand, has had trouble getting anybody out, surrendering 14 hits in his last 4.2 innings of work. Brett Evert is slated to come out of the pen and get his first start of the season on Tuesday, May 3.

Rainiers Leaders
Batting Average (Min. 48 PA) : C. Snelling, .458; A. Rifkin, .304
Home Runs: A. Rifkin, 6
RBI: A. Rifkin, 23
Steals: Four tied at 3
Doubles: A. Nunez,7; A. Rifkin, 6
Starters ERA (Min. 4 GS) : F. Hernandez, 3.00
Bullpen ERA (Min. 8 IP) : G. Sherrill, 2.79;
Innings: J. Campillo, 32.1; F. Hernandez, 29.0
Strikeouts: F. Hernandez, 33
Wins: F. Hernandez, 4
Saves: G. Sherrill, 2

San Antonio Missions
13-11, 2 GB, Texas League, West Division

Left! Left! Left!:With the addition of Ryan Rowland-Smith to the Missions starting rotation, San Antonio now boasts three quality southpaws in the starting rotation. Thomas Oldham (1-3, 3.30 ERA) and Bobby Livingston (3-1, 3.07 ERA) join Rowland-Smith (1-2, 3.48 ERA) and right-handers Jon Huber (1-1, 4.85 ERA) and Juan Sandoval (0-1, 2.81 ERA) to help the Missions post a team ERA of 3.97. The southpaws combine for a 3.27 ERA, and are responsible for nine of the Missions' 12 quality starts.

The Missions lead the Texas League with seven saves, six by closer Sean Green.

Offensively, the Missions are still searching for consistency and it starts at the top of the lineup with Yuniesky Betancourt. Betancourt has seen his average drop as low as .226 and is sitting at .267 in the on-base percentage department. Oufielder T.J. Bohn (.333/.423/.488, 6 SB) is still putting up numbers that could end up earning him a promotion later in the year. Ismael Castro has turned it up a notch, hitting his first home run of the year last week, and adding two doubles and three RBI.

Missions Leaders
Batting Average (Min. 48 PA) : T. Bohn, .333;
Home Runs: Four tied at 3
RBI: J. Nelson, 20
Steals: T. Bohn, 6
Doubles: T. Bohn, 8
Starters ERA (Min. 4 GS) : J. Sandoval, 2.81; B. Livingston, 3.07
Bullpen ERA (Min. 8 IP) : J. Harris, 1.93
Innings: T. Oldham, 30; B. Livingston, 29.1
Strikeouts: B. Livingston, 19
Wins: J. Harris, B. Livingston 3
Saves: S. Green, 6

Inland Empire 66ers
9-15, 6 GB, California League South Division

More of Those Southpaws: Inland follows suit with the rest of the system; "We have stud left-handers, too." Ryan Feierabend (4.15 ERA, 23 K), Jason Mackintosh (3.03 ERA, 21 K) and Shawn Nottingham (2 W, 3.43 ERA, 19 K) are carrying the Sixers, along with right-hander and 2004 draftee Aaron Trolia (1-1, 3.57 ERA).

Lefty reliever Miguel Martinez has one of the most puzzling stat lines in the system. In 12.2 innings of work, Martinez, 21, has struck out 17 batters and allowed just 12 hits. But of the 12 hits, eight are for extra bases, including two home runs, which would explain his 6.39 ERA for the year.

Utility man Matt Rogelstad continues to smack the baseball, hitting .402 for the season. If the rest of the lineup can find any level of consistency and help Rogelstad, OF Wladimir Balentien (7 HR, .289 avg) and IF Erick Monzon (.277, 3 HR) , the 66ers might put together a few victories and climb out of the cellar in the California League. Inland is hitting just .252, third worst in the circuit and don't have the pitching to make up for the difference, ranking in the middle of the pack with a team ERA of 4.27. The 66ers have recorded only two saves on the season, a sign that the offense isn't handing too many leads to the bullpen.

66ers Leaders
Batting Average (Min. 48 PA) : M. Rogelstad, .402
Home Runs: W. Balentien, 7
RBI: M. Rogelstad, 15
Steals: W. Balentien, J. Gonzalez, 4
Doubles: M. Rogelstad, E. Monzon, 5
Starters ERA (Min. 4 GS) : J. Mackintosh, 3.03
Bullpen ERA (Min. 8 IP) : G. Wear, 0.87
Innings: J. Mackintosh, 35.2
Strikeouts: R. Feierabend, M. Moorhead, 23
Wins: C. Key, 3
Saves: Two tied at 1

Wisconsin Timber Rattlers
16-8, 2 GB, Midwest League, Western Division

Offensive Rattlers: The Timber Rattlers have a roster full of capable bats and the results are proof that the lineup will produce, even when a few of the hitters struggle.

Matt Tuiasosopo has fallen into a bit of a funk, dropping his average to a mortalistic .343, but while Tui was cooling, Josh Womack stayed hot (.341 avg, 2 HR, 11 RBI, 7 SB) and Asdrubal Cabrera returned to go 9-for-23 with a home run and four RBI.

Yung-Chi Chen has been consistent, hitting .300 or better in each of the three full weeks of the season, and now sits at .330/.366/.451 wtih six steals. As a team, Wisconsin leads the Midwwest League in hitting at .284, after struggling to stay above .250 last season. Part of the reason has been the difference in weather. In 2004, Appleton Wisconsin average a high of 42.2 degrees and often produced rain, frozen rain, hail and storms that delayed and postponed several games. This April, the city averaged a high of 56.4 degrees with 37% less precipitation. What was a terror to hit in last spring, hasn't been so tough on the Rattlers this season.

Wisconsin's balanced attack continues on the mound with right-handers Aaron Jensen (2-1, 2.33 ERA), Mumba Rivera (3-0, 3.27 ERA) and Jason Snyder (3-2, 3.69 ERA) leading the way. Jensen's complete game shutout on April 29 was only the latest of strong starts by the Rattlers' rotation. The nine-inning masterpiece was just the second shutout of the season in the Midwest League, and propelled the T-Rats into the top five in ERA, now at 3.42.

Timber Rattlers Leaders
Batting Average (Min. 25 PA) : M. Tuiasosopo, .343; Y. Chen, .330
Home Runs: Four tied at 2
RBI: Y. Chen, 21
Steals: J. Womack, 7; Y. Chen, 6
Doubles: J. womack, R. Johnson, 6
Starters ERA (Min. 4 GS) : A. Jensen, 2.33
Bullpen ERA (Min. 8 IP) : C. James, 0.00; E. O'Flaherty, 0.84
Innings: J. Snyder, 24.2; M. Lowe, 22.1
Strikeouts: J. Snyder,18; M. Lowe 17
Wins: J. Snyder, M. Rivera, C. Abrams 3
Saves: E. O'Flaherty, 4

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