Hall was the surprised call-up when Jamal Strong went on the suspended list, but in a sense, he was also surprise pick to begin the season in Wisconsin. That's no knock on Hall, who proved himself to be a capable doubles hitter in Peoria last year, but he didn't exactly put up the kind of dominating numbers that one might expect from a college hitter facing mostly high school pitchers. When Sebastien Boucher got over a minor injury that held him back in spring training, Hall got caught in the crunch and was sent back to Arizona. Expect him to continue his season with Everett once their season opens up.
Just as Leone was starting to settle into the lineup in Tacoma, this happens. The 28-year-old, who started off hot with the Rainiers, was trying to catch a hot line drive in a 2-3 loss to the Salt Lake City Stingers and ended up seriously bruising his hand. Being unable to properly grip a bat, Leone had to be put on the DL and will be watching from the sidelines until the 14-day limit passes. He'll be back in the lineup within the next couple of days.
Ear infections tend to be a huge inconvenience if you're a pitcher. Not only do you have to suffer through the pain, but once that's over with, it's possible that your equilibrium will still be thrown off. Whether it's just that or just the extended layoff, Lopez hasn't been pitching that well since coming back, and he's given up nine hits and seven earned runs in just five innings pitched. Hopefully he'll be able to straighten things out soon, because the Rainiers staff has a few question marks at the moment.
As quickly as it started, the Pizarro experiment is over. Pizarro only got an inning and two-third's worth of work in Tacoma, and he walked three in that short span. Not much of a sample size, but that and his relative inexperience got him sent packing once Albie Lopez was off the DL. Left-handed pitchers tend to have an incredible shelf life, so there's still a chance that he could turn up with some other affiliated club out there soon.
Everyone knew that, when Hansen was signed, he was only going to spend a short period of time with Tacoma. After six games with the Rainiers, just enough time to get his average up to .300, he got the call and is now a member of the Mariners bench. Hansen's a veteran pinch-hitter, and can play the corner infield positions, but his presence on the roster kind of makes rookie Greg Dobbs redundant. It will be interesting to see what moves are made when Scott Spiezio comes off the DL.
Choo spent two weeks on the Mariners roster, but only managed to milk three at-bats out of the deal. Fortunately for him, in his final at-bat before heading back down I-5, he managed to get his first hit, a pinch-hit single off of Angels' reliever Scott Shields. Bolstered by this accomplishment, Choo has come out swinging in his return trip to Tacoma, and recently had one of the best nights of his career, a 3-for-4 performance with a triple, two home runs, three runs and five RBI. If he can maintain this newfound power hitting, his position on the prospect charts will start to rocket up.
With Rene Rivera still working to adjust to a higher level of competition in Double-A and Ryan Christianson trying to get used to the position again after losing his arm strength, Gonzalez was the logical call-up when Dan Wilson went down, particularly because he's still under contract from his days with Padres. Unfortunately, in just his fourth game, he injured his hamstring and looks like he could be out for a month. Just as the M's were starting to get some production out of the eight spot in the lineup, too.
Valbuena better be getting frequent flyer miles for all his trips back and for between Peoria and Tacoma, because he sure isn't getting any at-bats. The 19-year-old was originally slated for short-season Everett to start the season, but with injuries in Tacoma and a lack of capable infielders available, he's been bouncing back and forth as the need arises. To this point, he's only made three game appearances and gone 1-4 with a walk at the plate. With any luck, the Rainiers infield is getting healthy now (knock on wood) and he should be able to spend the next few weeks training with his soon-to-be teammates.
Teams don't usually go out of their way to sign injured players, but with Wright, the Mariners made an exception. A veteran of six years in the White Sox system, four of them in the majors, Wright is a former second round pick that never quite delivered on the potential that had him selected so early. Wright uses an above-average fastball, a sinker, and a solid knuckle curve, but during his time with the Sox, he tended towards having the infamous "big inning". Even when he's healthy, he may be a bit of a project and might not see time with the M's this year, but signing him was a smart idea nonetheless.
After losing parts of the past two seasons with shoulder, knee, and hamstring injuries, missing more time was one of the last things that Strong needed, even if it was for only 10 days. He's still a little off his usual numbers, but he is batting .272/.375/.358 in 81 at-bats, and recently clubbed out his eighth career minor league home run. Speed, however, is still the name of his game, and he may want to improve on his ratio of six stolen bases to two times caught stealing if he wants to reestablish himself.
Jacobs got caught at the end of last season under minor league baseball's drug testing rules, and since it was his second offense, he had to finish his 30-day sentence to start out this season. Eager to put the matter behind him, the 28-year-old has a double and a home run as his first two hits since coming back. Jacobs would project as a Matt Stairs-type in the majors with a better throwing arm, but he'll have to get there first and the clock is ticking.
Delucchi acted as a spark plug at the top of the lineup for two different teams in the 2003 season, but as he moved up to Double-A, he started to get exposed a bit in various aspects of his game. Reaching Triple-A for the first time this season, he just couldn't do enough to stand out in a stacked Tacoma outfield. Since his release, he's signed on with the Padres' Double-A affiliate in Mobile, and may fare better in his second tour of duty at the level.
It's only been a few days since Baek came back from the strained flexor bundle, and he's been somewhat ahead of schedule compared to the other pitchers in the system that have suffered through the same thing. He struggled a bit in a three-inning relief stint on the 10th, giving up two runs after four hits, one of them a tater, while he struck out two, but that was to be expected. The Rainiers have pegged him as the starter for Monday night's game regardless, so he'll have to work things out from there.
When he joined the team late last season, Evert seemed like a solid pickup. He certainly had the talent, and on top of that, he was a native of Salem, Oreg., and had a chance to pitch for the team he had watched growing up. But the same problems that plagued him while he was a Braves prospect; he simply gave up too many hits for the kind of stuff he was throwing. Frustrated with his lack of results to start the season, despite his spending time in the Arizona Fall League, the Mariners released him and he has since resurfaced with the Brevard County Manatees, the Advanced-A affiliate of the Brewers.
Towards the end of spring training, Lopez was among the hottest hitters on the Mariners team and looked like he might pull off a coup and usurp the starting shortstop position from the veteran Pokey Reese. But in the end, he was sent to the minor league camp with all the others. By the time the front office concluded Reese wouldn't be ready for opening day, Jose was already out of the question as he broke a hamate in one of his hands during a minor league game. Hamate injuries don't tend to have permanent effects, but Jose might suffer a little bit of power loss for now, as his wrist will still be sore.
Since coming back in back from his flexor bundle strain at the end of last season, Pineiro hasn't been himself either during spring training or in the rehab stint that followed. He has been without his usual velocity or the bite his curveball was once known for. While the official press release states that he's in Tacoma, Pineiro will also be spending some time in Seattle with pitching coach Bryan Price, trying to work out his mechanics and get them back to where they once were.
As for pitchers on the cusp of a call-up, you can't ask for much more than what Sherrill's already provided at the Triple-A level. Though he started slow after being told to layoff his usual pitching plans in the off-season, he's come back and returned to the level he was pitching at last season, and opponents are only hitting .213 off of him. More than that, he has four times as many strikeouts as walks and would be averaging over 11 per nine innings of work. Sending Pineiro down may be somewhat unconventional, but bringing another versatile pitcher into ‘pen is never a bad idea.
If there's one thing that strikes fear into the hearts of baseball managers everywhere, it's being caught shy a catcher and forcing some inexperienced player to don the gear and take over behind the plate. Thus, with Gonzalez following Dan Wilson to the DL, the Mariners were left with one option, to call up the only remaining catcher on their 40-man roster: Rene Rivera. Though he's fared pretty well in his first tour of Double-A, he's not likely to make the catcher's spot in the lineup any less of a hole than it has already been. There's a possibility that the M's will try to find another veteran backup to share the duties if Gonzalez's injury proves to be serious.
At the end of last season, Oliveros got tagged with a mysterious suspension that had him out for the rest of the season. Even after that, he was a no-show for most of spring training, running into issues with immigration into the U.S. from his native Venezuela. Now that the issue has been resolved, he rejoins the San Antonio Missions, the same team he played with last season. The 21-year-old was previously one of the top backstops in the organization, so it will be interesting to see if he can get back on track this season.
IF Hyung Cho called up from extended spring training
Monzon was having one of his best games of this season, going 3-for-5 with a couple of doubles, a run scored, and an RBI, when he collapsed with an apparent hamstring injury while rounding second in the eighth inning. Unable to leave the field on his own power, he had to be helped off by the 66ers coaching staff and was promptly replaced by a pinch-runner. Hamstring injuries tend to be nagging things that take a while to heal, so it should be at least a month until he'll be able to return to the lineup.
Like Valbuena, Cho has bounced around various stops this season as the Mariners have scrambled to fill roster spaces. The 22-year-old is no stranger to the California League, or the idea of being the go-to guy whenever an affiliate needs and extra infielder. Last season, he spent 18 games with the Sixers, along with current Missions third baseman Jesus Guzman, as Michael Garciaparra and Ismael Castro both went down with serious injuries with a few days of each other. Now Cho will get a chance to prove himself with some regular playing time with Inland Empire.
Gonzo was the odd man out to start the season, repeating in Inland Empire instead of getting the call to San Antonio with some of his teammates. He didn't have a bad season in his first try at Advanced-A ball, hitting .290/.353/.371 in 520 at-bats, but he did start to struggle a little bit towards the end of the season. To make matters worse, he started off this season ice cold and was only starting to warm up to a .212/.247/.306 clip by the time he was sent packing. Since his release, he's signed on with the Tigers organization, the same team that originally sent him to Seattle in the Carlos Guillen trade. Maybe he'll fit in better over there.
Sometimes the game isn't fair. With the Tacoma and San Antonio outfields packed with older or more touted prospects, Arroyo was left behind in Inland Empire, despite leading the system with a .323 average last season. The 23-year-old Columbian had surgery on his shoulder to remove some cysts, but the procedure was fairly minor and he shouldn't be hampered by it. In the meantime, he'll have to bide his time waiting for a promotion by doing what he does best: getting base hits. In his first four games back, he's hitting .350/.381/.400.
Caught in a similar roster crunch, Craig should probably be in the starting lineup for one of the full-season teams right now. He certainly wasn't having any trouble adjusting to the higher level California League competition, batting .345/.406/.448 in eight games played, but the Sixers already had five outfielders (and a few infielders capable of playing there) before Arroyo came back. Instead of limiting Craig to handful of game per week on the Sixers bench, they cut the number back down to five and sent him back to Peoria, where he should get more live practice.
Even though Schweiger provided a serious offensive threat in Everett last year and Wisconsin to start this season, the Mariners are committed to giving the bulk of the playing time to last year's fourth round pick, Robert Johnson. Their decision has paid dividends so far, and Johnson has been one of the top hitters in all of the Midwest League to date, but with Omar Falcon coming off the suspended list, Schweiger was left without any playing time. Right now, it looks like he'll start the season with the Aquasox come June 19th.
EXTENDED SPRING TRAINING
Coming into the 2004 draft, Saunders was regarded as one of the top prep prospects in all of Canada. Considering that, he had played for the Canadian national team at the age of 16 and was promising two-way player. With the ball in his hand, he threw with excellent mechanics and was thought to be capable of a big increase in his velocity later in his career. When he wasn't pitching, he played the hot corner and swung a powerful lefty bat. Adding another trick to his arsenal, he played mostly in the outfield this season for Tallahassee Community College. Right now, it's hard to tell what the Mariners have planned for him, but it's hard to go wrong with a player of his talent level, and he should start his pro career with one of the short-season clubs in mid-June.